In January, the National Center for Education Statistics released a study on student mental-health issues, finding that about 3.6% of high school students had reported at least one incident of a mental health crisis.
That’s up from 2.4% in 2014 and 1.9% in 2011.
The latest data, which was released to coincide with the National Day of Action for Mental Health, also showed that there was a significant increase in the number of students reporting mental health challenges in the past five years.
And it seems that the national uptick is even bigger now than it was last year.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 5,857 incidents of mental health problems among high school seniors.
In 2017, that number increased to 6,854.
The new data also found that nearly a third of students said they had attempted suicide in the previous year, up from 28% in 2016.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit that advocates for mental health and substance abuse issues, said it has seen a spike in suicide attempts and mental health crises in the last year, as well as an increase in student suicides.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in suicides, a sharp increase in youth suicides, and an increase of student suicide,” said James Stolzenberg, director of research at the alliance.
“And in the first five years of the school year, we have seen the highest suicide rate in a decade.”
But Stolz said the increase in mental health incidents is a function of two factors: a growing population of students and a new approach to treating the condition.
“Students are more likely to seek help because they have a lot more resources available,” Stolzon said.
“They are being exposed to a lot of things that have not been previously addressed.”
For students, that means they are less likely to receive help from a primary care provider.
But for some parents, those resources are limited.
“If a child is struggling and their parents don’t know what to do, what they should be doing is taking them to a mental- health professional,” Stoltz said.
The most common mental health conditions that are experienced by students are depression and anxiety.
They also have higher rates of self-harm and substance use disorders.
According to the CDC, depression affects one in four U.S. high school freshmen and 15% of middle school seniors and has been linked to suicide.
Anxiety affects one out of six high schoolers and is also a risk factor for suicide.
And mental health disorders like depression and substance dependence have also been linked with suicide.
Stolzik said the CDC data is not a full picture of what causes student mental illnesses.
But he believes the rise in student mental illness is a direct result of changes in the way mental health services are funded, as students are increasingly reliant on the government to pay for mental-care services.
“I think the school-to-prison pipeline has gotten so much more entrenched and so entrenched that students are going to have to go through that process more than they were before,” Stolizenberg said.