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More than 40 percent of Maine high schoolers report mental health problems, new survey says

About 19% of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months, including more than 40% of gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual students.
Credit: The Maine Monitor

MAINE, Maine — Nearly 43% of Maine high school students reported their mental health was not good “most of the time” or “always” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a 2021 survey released Wednesday.

Female high school students reported worse mental health than male students. Nearly 57% of female students said their mental health was not good  “most of the time” or “always,” compared to nearly 29% of male students. The question stated that “poor mental health includes stress, anxiety, and depression.”

Many of the survey results were weighted to account for missing data. 

Nearly 36% of students said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more — an increase from 32% in 2019, the last year the survey was conducted.

About 19% of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the last 12 months — an increase from 16% in 2019. More than 40% of gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual students said they had considered suicide.

The results of the 2021 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey were posted Wednesday afternoon by the state Department of Education and the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The biennial survey of students in grades 5 through 12 was conducted among students last fall. It monitors health behavior and attitudes regarding alcohol, tobacco, nutrition, substance use, mental health, and physical activity.

The survey also found that about 66% of high school students agreed or strongly agreed that schoolwork was more difficult during the pandemic.

Smoking rates declined from 7% of students in 2019 saying they smoked at least one cigarette a day to 5.5% of students last year.

Vaping rates dropped sharply from 45% to nearly 32%.

The percentage of students who had tried alcohol dropped from 51% to 43% last year. And the frequency declined: 19% of students had one drink in the past 30 days, compared to nearly 23% in 2019.

Marijuana use also declined. The percentage of students who said they had used marijuana at least one time declined from 36% to 30.5%.

Students who have had sexual intercourse declined from 38.4% to 30.6%.

Students also were more physically active last year. The percentage of students who were active for at least an hour five days a week increased from 44% to 50%.

Rose Lundy covers healthcare for The Maine Monitor. Reach her with other story ideas: rose@themainemonitor.org.

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