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Survey: Nearly 1 in 5 teens have made suicide plans

Even as early as 2011, surveys show disturbing student mental health data. Dr. Bob Lorinser, MD, MSW, MPH, says new trends demonstrate the need for urgent local, state, and national action.

Anxiety, depression, suicide, and other emotional problems have increased sharply over the last decade. Dr. Bob Lorinser says there's a distinct role for state and federal legislation that can aid in prevention and treatment.

MARQUETTE, Mich. – Over 17,000 students nationwide participated in a national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a school-based survey conducted biennially by the CDC. The last survey, completed in 2021, included a 'Mental Health and Suicidality' section. Here are the disturbing findings.

  • During the past 12 months, 42% of students felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more, stopping them from participating in usual activities. This figure has increased by 14% since 2011.

  • During the past 30 days, nearly one-third of students experienced poor mental health, stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • More than one in five students considered suicide, and 18% of students made a suicide plan.

  • 10% attempted suicide.

Lorinser says local data from one of the largest counties in Michigan's First District suggests similar increases.

"Experts often debate the reasons for the gradual but observable rise in teenage/youth mental illness, but all seemingly center on societal issues and social changes," said Lorinser.

“School shootings and gun violence exacerbate the problem, making teen mental illness the nation’s most preventable public health crisis.” - Dr. Bob Lorinser

According to Dr. Lorinser, suicide risk factors include:

  • Family stress

    • Persistent poverty, conflict, and other harmful environmental issues

  • Recurrent abuse or chronic neglect

  • Domestic violence

  • Parental mental health or substance abuse problems

  • Bullying

  • Mass media

  • Increased stress, fear, and anxiety

  • Loss of school, sport, church, and community routine

The problem is considerably more alarming for teen girls.

Lorinser reiterates policy initiatives listed on the website "Mental Health America" and says that effective and efficient government solutions can allocate resources to providers to ensure a healthier future, especially in the wake of the February mass shooting at Michigan State University.

Dr. Lorinser encourages local organizations, health departments, schools, and municipalities to support focusing on the following:

Federal priorities could include:

Access to Mental Healthcare and Support

Lorinser insists mental healthcare should be accessible and affordable and supports a "non-profit, national health insurance program to help cover medical costs for all Americans."

Early Intervention

Lorinser says prevention is essential to treating youth long before reaching critical points in the disease process.

Access to Crisis Care

Additional funding for crisis and diversion services — including peer support and respite services — can save countless lives, claims Lorinser.

"Community leaders need to lead in prevention efforts," said Dr. Lorinser. "Public attention increases with tragic events such as suicide and school mass shootings. We need to understand and address the root causes and what interventions are effective before these events occur.”

"We can't accept preventable suffering in children, and we can't accept the status quo. According to the CDC, death by suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in teens, and general gun violence is now the leading cause of death in young adults. Without our attention, these two issues combine, tear at the fabric of our society, and take far too many lives far too early."

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Dr. Bob Lorinser, MD, MSW, MPH, is a candidate for US Congress in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.. He has advanced degrees in medicine, social work, and public health. Dr. Lorinser has worked with at-risk children and teenagers who have struggled with emotional disorders and mental illness for over 30 years. For more information on this topic, visit


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