Wisconsin youth health survey shows stress up since COVID-19

MILWAUKEE (AP) — More than half of Wisconsin high school seniors surveyed in the fall of 2021 reported having significant problems with feeling very anxious, nervous, tense, scared or like something bad was going to happen, according to a health risk survey.

Rising numbers of students also reported symptoms of depression, self-harm and thoughts of suicide, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey released Tuesday.

The results are the first picture of Wisconsin students’ mental health since the onset of the pandemic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The results were publicized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which called for “drastic action.”

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey goes out every two years to a sample of schools across the country selected to inform county, state and national reports, including 43 Wisconsin high schools. The national results have not yet been shared for 2021.

As of fall 2021, about 54% of Wisconsin high school students said they knew at least one person who was hospitalized or killed by COVID-19. Students of color were more likely to know someone.

About 25% of Wisconsin high school students said their parent or another adult in their home lost their job during the pandemic, out of those whose parent or other adult had a job before the pandemic.

At the same time, about half of Wisconsin high school students said they worked jobs during the pandemic.

In 2017, about 40% of Wisconsin high school students said in the past 12 months they had significant problems feeling anxious, nervous, tense, scared or like something bad was going to happen. That figure rose to 49% in 2019 and 52% in 2021.

About 34% of state high schoolers said in the last 12 months they’d felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities — considered symptoms of depression. That’s up from 29% in 2019.

Rates of self-harm also rose, with about 22% of Wisconsin high schoolers saying they had done something to purposely hurt themselves in the past 12 months, without wanting to die.

About 18% of high school students said they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, and 9% said they had attempted — the highest numbers in at least a decade.

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