Teens in Crisis: The concerning increase in sadness, depression among teen girls

May 12, 2023, 3:01 PM | Updated: May 14, 2023, 11:48 am

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Aubri Jensen is passionate about dance, football and dinosaurs.

“I love dinosaurs. Oh my gosh!” she enthused.

Aubri, 16, is a student at Bingham High School. She plays football for the Miners and dances for a local studio.

At first glance, you would never know she lives with anxiety and depression, but it’s something she and her family have worked on together since she was about 10 years old.

“It definitely feels very heavy, like if you were to wear a weighted blanket all the time, everywhere you go,” Aubri said when describing the physical weight of sadness she often carries.

“I get tired doing stuff because my brain is telling me, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ And then it’s like a bunch of LEGOs getting stacked up on each other that are really heavy,” she added.

“There was a lot of dip in energy for her, a dip in motivation,” Aubri’s mother, Tina Jensen, said when reflecting on the first signs of depression. “You could feel the unhappiness.”

For several years, Jensen has helped her daughter manage the emotions with the help of mental health professionals, therapy, and medication. But now, the two are navigating a crisis among teens they never expected.

“I’ve had a couple friends commit suicide the past two/three years because of their mental health, and I know that’s taken a toll on a bunch of my other friends with their mental health and mine,” Aubri said.

According to new trend data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Survey collected in 2021, teen girls are experiencing the highest levels of sadness and hopelessness ever reported to the YRBS.

The data, collected from more than 17,000 high-school-aged teens (ninth-12th grade) at 152 public schools nationwide, revealed more than 1 in 4 girls reported seriously considering attempting suicide in 2021 — an 11% increase from 2011. More than 1 in 10 girls reported attempting suicide in 2021 — a 3% increase from 2011.

“Since the pandemic, we have seen a big increase in the amount of young people seeking psychiatric care — specifically young women seeking care for suicidal thoughts, self-injury behavior, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety,” said Dr. Kristin Francis, a psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

Frances said the isolation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic ties directly to the concerning statistics in the survey that teen girls are experiencing today.

“We know that school was interrupted, sports were interrupted, normal daily life was interrupted, people were stressed in ways they’d never been stressed,” Francis said. “Parents lost jobs. People died. Huge, huge changes, and these changes were during a very important part of a young person’s development, and so we just think it was extra hard on young people.”

As an expert in adolescent mental health, Frances said her biggest concern with teen girls is secrecy. She said now more than ever, teen girls need a safe space to share their feelings.

“We want to help you know that these deep feelings are a strength and they’re not something you should be embarrassed by, and you don’t have to hurt yourself or hurt other people or push people away. You can experience these strong feelings safely,” Francis said. “And later, you’re going to learn that they’re your superpower — basically, you are an empath, you can help people, makes you a great helper.”

By being open with her mom about feeling anxious and depressed, Aubri has learned tools to manage her emotions. She colors when she’s sad, and her therapist has given her sensory bracelets for those stressful moments at school. She also stays active, letting friends and coaches know when she’s having a hard day.

“When I go to practice for dance, track, football, anything I’m doing, it’s a nice place to just release everything that is going on,” Aubri said.

The journey hasn’t been easy for Aubri, and it’s far from over. But by taking it one day at a time and putting in the work, she knows the feelings of stress and sadness won’t define her.

“I’m not perfect yet, no one is, but I’ve just got to work on it every day and find ways to feel better, because every day feels different, and so when there are the harder days, I have to put in more work and think about it more to help myself than when I have easy days and I feel perfectly fine,” she said.

Aubri hopes that by sharing her experience of living with anxiety and depression, she can help other young women know that they’re not alone and that help is available.

“If someone else out there is going through the same thing but is scared to say something because they feel like, ‘I’m the only one that feels like this,’ then I feel like it’s giving them someone they can relate to and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’m not alone.’”

For the full CDC report, click here.

Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.

Additional resources

  • SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-3388)
  • SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
  • SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
  • Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
  • is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.

Other community-based resources

KSL 5 TV Live

Healthy Mind Matters

Diego Luna discusses his mental health struggles during his second season as a midfielder for Real ...

Emma Benson

‘It’s very difficult’: RSL’s Diego Luna opens up about mental health struggles

Luna, a California native and Olympic hopeful, is in his second season as a midfielder for Real Salt Lake. He admits the season was off to a rocky start. Pressures on and off the field, including becoming a father, were affecting his mental state.

9 days ago

Anton Nootenboom, "The Barefoot Dutchman", walks across the country to bring awareness to men's men...

Ken Fall

‘The Barefoot Dutchman’ and his remarkable trek for men’s mental health

Anton Nootenboom, "The Barefoot Dutchman", makes his way across the U.S. to spread awareness for men's mental health.

9 days ago

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 04:  Sesame Street characters Ernie, Bert, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Zoe and Cookie M...

Emma Benson

‘Elmo loves you!’ Our favorite red Muppet stars in mental health campaign

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we all deal with stress and different emotions. In January, Elmo asked a simple question online that sparked a huge conversation.

9 days ago

A psychiatrist at the Huntsman Mental Health is recommending to build a "mental health toolkit."...

Peter Rosen and Emma Benson, KSL TV

Building a mental health toolkit

When life overwhelms you, sometimes there's not just one solution; which is good to have a variety of tools in your "mental health toolkit."

9 days ago

Lehi seventh grader took this gun to his middle school...

Lindsay Aerts

Lehi school resource officer, middle schooler prevented Utah student’s planned suicide

The Alpine School district said a seventh grader who brought a gun to his Lehi middle school last November, planned to take his own life. A school resource officer and a fellow student stepped in.

2 months ago

Hope Hero Foundation Logo on key chain...

Karah Brackin

Utah’s Hope Hero Foundation is saving teen lives

Discover how The Hope Hero Foundation empowers teens and prevents suicide. Be the hero of your own story!

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Teens in Crisis: The concerning increase in sadness, depression among teen girls