May 5, 2021
In 2019, 40 percent of Latino High Schoolers Reported Feeling Sad or Hopeless for More than Two Weeks
The number of Latino adolescents who report depressive symptoms has risen, according to the most recent data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). In 2019, 40 percent of Hispanic high schoolers reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row so that they stopped doing some usual activities. This was a significant increase from the 34 percent who reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2017 and represents the group’s highest level recorded by the YRBS within the last 20 years. Hispanic adolescent females were especially likely to report feeling this way, with 50 percent reporting these symptoms compared to 29 percent of Hispanic adolescent males. Symptoms of depression are linked to poor academic and social outcomes and can increase the risk of suicide. In 2019, 17 percent of Hispanic adolescents reported having considered attempting suicide, with females likelier than males (23% and 11%, respectively).
The mental health status of Hispanic youth should be considered in the context of minority- and immigration-related stressors that can affect their mental health, including discrimination, acculturation stress, family separations, and fear of deportation, as well as an increased likelihood of living in poverty and being exposed to community stressors (e.g., violence). The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Latino communities, which suggests that the 2019 YRBS data underestimates Hispanic youth’s current mental health status. Hispanic populations often face multiple barriers that limit their access to mental health care, such as a lack of health insurance, limited availability of Spanish-speaking mental health professionals, and stigmas around mental illness. Addressing the mental health needs of Hispanic adolescents requires an increased focus on culturally competent mental health services and policies that increase the availability of such services.