May is Mental Health Awareness Month, highlighting a worrying decades-long trend of worsening rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide, especially among children, teens, and young adults.
As much as we might not like it, experts say that discussing mental health is one of the surest ways to help improve it. And in Idaho, we have a pressing need to discuss it: We’re among the worst states for mental health, and it’s only getting worse.
Idaho is the 39th worst state for adult mental health, according to Mental Health America. For youth, only Nevada is worse. That’s based on studies considering the prevalence of substance use, major depressive episodes (MDE), availability of treatment and services, and more.
Another study found that, in the Boise School District:
- 30% of junior high and 44% of high school students are moderately or severely depressed.
- 29% and 34% of junior and high school students respectively have experienced suicidal ideation within the last six month.
- The percentage of students who said they wouldn’t ask for help from anyone is just slightly lower than that for each age category.
- In Boise and across the nation, young women are more depressed and experiencing more suicidal ideation than has ever been recorded.
Mental health worsened during the pandemic, as did requests for therapy and counseling. Idaho also recently joined a small number of states that withdrew from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior survey, the largest survey of mental health available. That could present challenges for knowing how to respond to shifting mental health needs.
However, and it’s no silver lining, the increase in attention on mental health did lead to some increase — albeit slowly in some cases — in the response by government agencies.
For example, last summer, Idaho’s Crisis and Suicide hotline was transferred to a 988 number that you can call or text.
The Department of Health and Welfare also announced in March that there will be four new youth crisis centers opening in Idaho later this year, one each in Caldwell, Boise, Twin Falls, and Idaho Falls. Those will offer youth a place to stay, eat, and get assessments for up to 24 hours, with the ultimate goal of reducing the hospitalization and incarceration of youth in crisis.