Study suggests mental health issues in teen boys often go undetected

It's been well-documented that teens are experiencing an ongoing mental health crisis. Still, a recent study found that mental illness in young men, specifically, usually goes unnoticed and left without help.

In a recent study published in Pediatrics journal, researchers found that despite a dramatic rise in antidepressant prescriptions for teenage girls and women in their twenties, the rate of such prescriptions for young men "declined abruptly during March 2020 and did not recover."

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician at the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center at the University of Michigan, who led the study, expressed skepticism about the possibility that the decline in antidepressant prescriptions for young men reflects improved mental health.

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"In males, it’s theoretically possible that this reflects improved mental health, but I’m struggling with that explanation," Chua said. "Given that everybody’s mental health got worse, I would have expected that boys’ antidepressant dispensing would have at least remained stable, not decrease."

Although there's a possibility that the mental health of male adolescents improved during the pandemic, leading to a decreased need for antidepressants, researchers point out that data suggests otherwise. 

They note that emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts in male adolescents were higher in early 2021 compared to early 2019, contradicting this explanation.

In Dr. Chua's view as a pediatrician, a more plausible explanation is that boys generally reduced their interactions with the healthcare system during the pandemic. This decline likely resulted in fewer detections and, subsequently, less treatment for mental health issues in young men.

These new discoveries align with earlier data indicating an ongoing crisis in teen mental health nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which surveyed high schoolers in 2023, corroborates this evidence.

According to the survey, approximately one in three high school girls in the U.S. have seriously contemplated attempting suicide. Moreover, a record high of 57% of teen girls reported feeling "persistently sad or hopeless."

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In contrast, the survey revealed that 14% of high school boys reported seriously considering attempting suicide, a slight increase from 13% in 2011.

For LGBQ+ students, the statistics are alarming: nearly 70% experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year, over 50% reported poor mental health in the last 30 days, and almost 25% attempted suicide in the past year.

If you need help

If you're facing mental health-related distress or concerned about a loved one needing crisis support, reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988, or chat at