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Our Turn: Are You Listening? Teenagers Need You, Right Now

Recently, the CDC released the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results for 2021 and the news is concerning. Sixty percent of teen girls are reporting persistent rates of sadness compared with teen boys (30%). Teen girls are also more likely to experience every type of violence at a higher rate than teen boys. More than 10% of female students and 3.5% of male students have been physically forced to engage in sex. Twenty percent of LGB+ youth experienced forced sex as well (data for transgender youth were not included in this study).

The increased mental health issues and rates of violence reported compared to previous years are alarming, and COVID likely worsened the situation. Adults in our community should take note: Students are in crisis. How can we respond effectively?

We can help support young people who may be experiencing trauma, isolation, or depression by listening when they ask for help—even if it’s not with words. In teen boys, depression can often present as irritability or, worse, aggression. Schools can offer supportive programs focused on preventing harmful behaviors and other pro-social skills such as empathy, respecting boundaries and consent.

The YRBS results also showed a correlation between the drop in teen well-being and the rise of smartphones and social media. One in 5 girls in this survey indicated they had been the target of electronic bullying, almost double the rate of boys. School connectedness has been shown to be a critical protective factor against harm and abuse. By promoting healthy relationships at school and home, we can improve adolescent mental health.

Adults can support teens and youth by being approachable, curious, non-judgmental, and consistent. Teens are more resilient to stress and adversity if they have at least one trusted, accepting adult. You don’t have to have all the answers, and it’s okay to acknowledge life is complicated. Together, we can help support youth and teens in building healthier relationships and improving overall well-being.

If you are experiencing abuse or any type of coercion—call or text us at Turning Points Network. We are here to listen and to help. You will find safety and respect as you explore your options.

OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and sex trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools and communities. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move toward living with respect, healing, and hope that we all deserve. We can be reached 24/7 on our crisis and support line at (800) 639-3130. Between 9-4 Monday-Friday, we are available on our chatline at www.turningpointsnetwork.org or by text at (603) 506-6553.

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