Alexandria, VA – A record 5.4 million people in 2021 took a mental health screening using the Mental Health America (MHA) Online Screening Program, a 103% increase over 2020 and a nearly 500% increase over 2019.
Specifically, MHA saw more youth looking online for help with their mental health. Screeners in 2021 skewed younger than ever in the history of MHA’s Online Screening Program. Youth aged 11-17 represented 45% percent of individuals in the U.S. who took a screen in 2021, a 3% increase over 2020 and a 16% increase over 2019.
These youth screeners were more likely to score with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression than any other age group, and more likely to report frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than any other age group. In addition, 9 out of 10 U.S. youth who took a depression screen scored with symptoms of moderate to severe depression. For the same age group, more than 8 out of 10 screeners who took an anxiety screen scored with symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety.
“This new analysis supports what we already know – we have a significant youth mental health crisis on our hands,” said Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America. “There are many contributors to this crisis – from social media to social isolation to fears and uncertainties about the state of the world. Our youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth are in particular distress. Community and school-based supports are critical to providing the needed resources.”
Across demographics, the percentage of people who reported frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm in 2021 was higher than ever recorded in the MHA Online Screening Program, which launched in 2014. Overall, 39% of these screeners reported frequent suicidal ideation and thoughts of self-harm. This was 2% higher than the rate in 2020 and 8% higher than the rate in 2019.
Suicidal ideation increased more for Black screeners from 2019-2021 than for screeners of any other race. Rates of moderate to severe anxiety also increased most among Black screeners during this period, compared to other races/ethnicities. The percentage of Black individuals screening with symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety increased 5% from 2019-2021.
Other alarming statistics that show more work must be done to educate and fund increased mental health resources include:
- Across all screens, 76% of users in the U.S. scored positive or with moderate to severe symptoms of a mental health condition in 2021. This was a 1% increase over 2020 and a 2% increase over 2019.
- Our parent and youth screens measure emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties among youth. These screens saw the largest increase in percentage of people scoring at risk from 2019-2021.
- Emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties among youth also continue to rise, with 80% scoring at risk, 9% higher than the 2019 average and 3% higher than 2020.
- Rates of frequent suicidal ideation were higher among people who identified as LGBTQ+, with 56% reporting suicidal ideation more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks in 2021. Rates are even higher among LGBTQ+ youth.
- Over 300,000 people took a psychosis screen in 2021, with 78% scoring at risk for psychotic-like episodes in February and March.
In 2014, MHA created its Online Screening Program, a collection of 10 free, anonymous, confidential, and clinically validated screening tools. Since its launch, over 14 million people have taken a screen to check on their mental health concerns online, making this program the nation’s largest ongoing, real-time mental health early identification program.
Read the full analysis here.
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal. Learn more at MHAnational.org.