The state of teen mental health in Virginia

The state of teen mental health in Virginia

This post is sponsored by Newport Healthcare.

The nation is facing a youth mental health crisis, as the U.S. surgeon general and President Joe Biden have made clear in recent months. Virginia is no exception. The state faces devastating challenges in the arena of teen mental health, in particular an alarming spike in suicide rates.

Furthermore, resources to address this crisis in Virginia are sorely lacking. According to Mental Health America’s 2022 statistics, 55% of youth with depression in Virginia do not receive mental health services. Talking about this ongoing crisis, William Andrew Hazel Jr., the current Virginia secretary of health and human resources, explains, “We have these problems all over healthcare. We have a system, in my mind, that is just set up to be ineffective.”

Virginia mental health statistics for adolescents

Statistics from the Office of Adolescent Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that Virginia is faced with a flood of teenagers needing help and lacks treatment options to provide those services.

The Virginia Department of Health’s Youth Survey reports the following Virginia mental health statistics:

  • 32% of high school students in Virginia reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row.
  • Among that group, 39% reported having seriously considered attempting suicide.
  • Three in 10 students said they rarely or never get the help they need when they are in emotional distress.
  • Nearly 40% of this group reported self-harming behavior.

The statistics above are compounded by the report of a 29% suicide rate increase among Virginia children and teens. As a result, legislators are considering how to expand the number of behavioral healthcare providers, while also facilitating enhanced prevention programs and education initiatives related to mental health. 

NAMI statement on Virginia mental health 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a nationwide grassroots group that educates, supports and advocates for people affected by mental illness and their families. Examining the challenge that has plagued Virginia since the start of the 21st century, the experts at NAMI state:

 “Children and adolescents with mental health disorders deserve better access to services and treatment. There are several approaches for addressing Virginia’s shortcoming to serving this important population. The first is early detection and adequate services that can ameliorate the long-term effects of mental health disorders.”

Paired with early detection and assessment, treatment through weekly therapy, outpatient programming or residential programming is considered most effective. The best treatment centers for teens use a comprehensive, integrative approach that address the root causes of anxiety, depression and maladaptive behaviors like substance abuse and eating disorders.

Warning signs of teen depression 

In Virginia, as in every U.S. state, awareness and early assessment are key in addressing teen and young adult mental health. Parents and guardians need to understand the warning signs of teen depression, including the following symptoms:

  • Avoidance of social situations and loss of interest in favored activities
  • Exhaustion, constant fatigue and general lack of energy
  • Sense of despair, sadness and hopelessness, sometimes escalating into suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of motivation, resulting in feelings of guilt and/or failure
  • Unexplained aches and pains, headaches and stomach problems
  • Hard time concentrating (particularly for teens who used to be focused)
  • Feeling worthless, irritable, frustrated or having an extreme case of low self-esteem
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (taking naps during the day, insomnia at night)
  • Changes in appetite and weight, including not eating on a regular basis or binge eating

Like young people across the country, many teenagers in Virginia are living with mental health and co-occurring challenges. And they lack quality mental health treatment options. As a result, many Virginia parents don’t know where to turn for help. Parents, schools, policymakers and insurance companies need to work together to ensure that Virginia teenagers receive the effective and compassionate treatment they need, so they can go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.