In the past several months I have noticed article after article about the mental health of teenagers in America. The articles have come from media sources with every political bent. This blog post is an effort to summarize several of those articles dating back to December, and to add my own thoughts as to what is contributing to this problem.
“Understanding the mental health crisis afflicting American teens” was aired on NPR on December 23rd. A reporter who has studied this subject was interviewed about his latest findings. Early in the interview, the host of the show made this statement:
“While there’s no clear consensus among experts on the root of the problem, there is research that provides important insights into the nature of teens’ suffering and some treatments that show promise.”
In this interview the major guess at the cause of these problems is that environmental factors have become too overwhelming for teens to process. Loneliness was cited as common and the discussion detailed how resources to handle such issues are nowhere near sufficient.
Teenage mental problems are now considered a “common” problem.
In February, Reuters published “Teen girls seeing ‘dramatic’ rise in poor mental health.” The government numbers showed:
“Nearly three in five high school girls reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2021, representing a 60% increase over the past decade, and fared worse than boys of the same age across nearly all measures of mental health, U.S. government data showed.
The data shows a “dramatic” rise in experiences of violence, poor mental health and suicide risk in teens, especially in girls, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said…”
In late February, CBS posted an hour-long video on this problem. Although the program was titled “Inside America’s youth mental health crisis,” it did touch on the issue worldwide. Early in the episode, a speaker who travels and speaks to teens in schools says “I want to get to the root of it (teen mental problems)” and follows that up with “I can’t really save anybody. I can just do my part.” The program is a collage of experiences shared by teens.
In March, a WBUR report quoted the same government numbers. The article is entitled “Why mental health is declining for teenage girls in the U.S.”
“U.S. teen girls are experiencing record high levels of sadness and depression.”
“The pressure of social media is often cited as a leading cause. But that’s not the full story behind the mental health of teenage girls in the U.S. These things have been designed specifically to grab our attention. And it’s hard for adults to resist, but it’s an order of magnitude harder for a teen to resist. And that’s because their self-control toolbox isn’t as well-developed as (it is in) adults.”
March saw this headline: Teen girls are struggling with mental illness at record levels, with many ‘persistently sad,’ data reveals.
CDC numbers were again published in this Fox report:
“Some 57% of female teens in the U.S. struggled with feeling ‘persistently sad’ in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
Another report was published by U.S. News and World Report last month: “Many American Teens Are in Mental Health Crisis: Report.”
“’While lack of access to mental health services may have contributed to increased suicide risk, many other factors, including substance misuse, family or relationship problems, community violence, discrimination, among others, may have also contributed to the increased risk,’” Mack ( Karin Mack, associate director for science in the CDC’s Division of Injury Prevention) added.”
The Covid pandemic and social media were noted as major contributors to the problem.
So much for the problem. It is real and it appears to be getting worse. It is a complex issue and there appears to be many reasons for it. None of these articles mentioned the first cause that comes to my mind as I continue to watch these articles multiply.
One Bible verse sums up my thoughts as to the main reason for so much confusion:
“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the godly accomplish?” – Psalm 11:3
Some foundational principles that once helped define and stabilize our society have been jettisoned in favor of ungodly practices and “freedoms” that only create bondage. Many of these foundational principles are rooted in Christianity and its tenets which are found in the Bible.
The breakup of the family, something ordained by God, has had a disastrous effect. Here is one of many charts I found which details only one factor that has changed in a short time:
In 1940, the vast majority of American children were being raised in a home that had a father and mother. The dramatic change in this statistic has opened a Pandora’s box of other issues.
The neighborhood I delivered about 120 papers to in 1970 has completely changed. In 1970, only two of my customers, one a widow and one a single man, differed from the normal man and wife who almost always had children. Things were certainly not perfect nor will they ever be in this world, but they were much more conducive for children to have a decent upbringing. Today, that same neighborhood has a number of various family arrangements many of which are radically different from those of 50 years ago.
As the years have passed, I have watched as every mainstream Protestant denomination has had squabbles over easily understood Biblical principles and doctrines. Many people left to go to “non-denominational” churches which have now had enough time to see the same types of problems as the mainstream. People from all parts of the country are finding it harder than ever to find churches that hold the same positions on a variety of issues that they held in 1940 and even 1970. Anyone who reads the Bible knows that churches have had problems since soon after Jesus left the planet. Church issues are the subject in many of the letters of Paul.
At the same time, it seems to me that any moral high ground that the U.S. held before and during WWII came from the strength that came from foundational positions on Biblical issues. As those foundational principles have eroded, society has weakened to the point where there is all types of fall out. How can these changes not effect the young?
We would do well to listen to the words that Jesus spoke at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:
24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation had been laid on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed—it was utterly destroyed!”
When the foundations are destroyed, what can the godly do? Those who wish to help the young should study to understand who Jesus was and what he taught. The eternal foundations that He has laid are found only in the Bible.
Thanks, Chris. This is an excellent post on a sad topic. Western society is losing/shedding its Biblical underpinnings. Children are raised in homes and schools with no “moral compass.” We’re seeing a societal unraveling. The church is weak and becoming weaker and does not proclaim the pure Gospel.
You’re welcome, Tom, and thank you for your encouraging words.
We seem to be living in a time similar to when the Judges ruled Israel. Many are doing what seems right in their own eyes. Their “foundation” is whatever works for them. “The genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone,” (to use true words from your blog, Tom) is becoming more corrupted by all kinds of “churches.” It is no wonder that confusion is rampant.
We have more resources now than ever to help us understand what the true gospel is and, at the same time, we seem more Biblically illiterate than ever before.
Much of this confusion and lack of interest is probably contributing to the rise in the number of atheists.
“In recent reports, Barna (and other researchers) have noted that Christianity is on a steady decline while Americans’ identification with atheism continues to increase.”
The same article where I found the above quote went on to say:
” Barna tracking data show that in 2003, just a little over one in 10 Americans claimed to be atheist, agnostic or of no religion (‘none’) (11%).”
Even though the number of “nones” is higher than ever in America the majority of misunderstanding seems to be among theists. The vast majority believe in some sort of god but the God described in the Bible is getting less interest than ever.
The correlation between this lack of interest and societal issues is striking in my view. Yet, none of the articles I read on the subject of this blog post game any indication of a possible link. I suppose that is our secular media for you. It is sad, indeed.
Chris, I appreciate the additional good thoughts. Our churches have generally become powerless with a shallow, vapid message. One need only turn on TBN for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Tom. “Powerless” is an appropriate word to describe so many churches these days.
I was growing up in Southern California as TBN was building its empire. I’ll never forget Walter Martin’s last (maybe only) appearance there. He was never allowed back because he dared to tell the truth about false teaching.
This is a Tsunami of a crisis
That is a good word for it, Pastor Jim. Sadly, I’m sure you see a good deal of this in your ministry.
I think we probably all do to some extent these days with the news, hearing about family and loved ones or from them about those they know…
Indeed. It is wonderful when we know young people in this age group who seem to be doing well in spite of the environment they are growing up in. At the same time, we all know of example(s) of young people who fit the profile mentioned in all of these reports. They need our prayers for sure.
I appreciate your comment, Pastor Jim.