Survey shows increase in Maine students feeling “hopeless”
PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Newly released data shows a rise in the number of Maine teens who say they’ve felt “hopeless” or seriously considered suicide.
The 2021 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey asked more than 26,000 high school students about things such as weight, self-harm, drug use, sexual orientation and identity, mental health, social media use and living situations.
Another survey focused on Maine middle school students.
Among high schoolers, the survey found that 18.5% seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months, an increase from 16.4% in 2019.
“I am always going to be shocked when I see that number,” said Kristel Thyrring, the youth mental health programs director at the Maine office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The survey also found among high schoolers 35.9% felt so sad or hopeless almost daily for a weeklong period that they stopped some usual activities, an increase from 32.1% in 2019.
“Given the amount of change that our young people have been through, over these last years particularly, I can understand how that number has grown,” Thyrring said.
The data set is becoming circulated at the same time members of the Freeport community are grieving the death of 14-year-old Theo Ferrara.
His body was found in September following a five-day search.
His family announced Sunday, ahead of a celebration of life service, that they believe he died by suicide.
Ferrara’s family is urging teens who may be in crisis to reach out for help.
“Theo came from a deeply loving family. Theo had friends who also loved him dearly. As he moved into the teenage years, we negotiated, as do all parents, the boundaries between his need for privacy and our parental need to keep him safe,” a family statement read.
“It is really important for people to be aware of changes in behavior, changes in thought pattern, appearance, hygiene,” Thyrring said.
NAMI Maine encourages parents and teens to consider the range of services they offer.
This includes their Youth Mental Health First Aid training and the Teen Text Support Line.
“If there are stressors showing up for young people, they’re not really sure how to navigate that, there are young people that they can connect with and talk through what is showing up for them,” said Libby Wright, a coordinator at NAMI Maine.
The group acknowledges that for clinical help and residential care, there are wait times in Maine.
They add, however, that many resources such as the state crisis line are always available.
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