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Sad at alarming rates, teen girls in crisis turning to Hope Squad


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    NORTH TEXAS (KTVT) — Teen girls are in crisis, facing higher levels of sadness and hopelessness than ever before, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A CDC report found nearly three in five teen girls in the U.S. felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, which is an almost 60% increase in the past decade.

The data also revealed 24% of high school girls had seriously considered suicide.

“I see it everywhere, so no it doesn’t surprise me,” said Zanaya Bailey, a 16-year-old student at Everman High School. “Because it’s everywhere.”

Bailey is a member of her school’s Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program.

“It’s easier to talk to somebody that’s your age because they might have gone through what you’ve gone through or they can relate to it,” said 16-year-old Kayla Graham, another member of Everman High School’s Hope Squad.

Both girls have listened to classmates who were struggling and connected them to trusted adults who could help.

“Our Hope Squad members are the eyes, ears and maybe even heart of a school,” said Kristi Wiley, the director of programs for the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation, which has helped set up Hope Squad in 114 schools across 20 districts in North Texas.

Forty more schools plan to implement the program this fall.

Wiley said Hope Squad has saved countless lives.

“When we can be direct about suicide and say, ‘I saw you post this – are you thinking about suicide?’ what we know is that it lowers anxiety, opens up communication, and reduces the change of a suicidal act,” she said.

Initiating conversations about mental health and suicide is hard, but psychologists said they’re key to reaching young people dealing with anxiety and depression.

“People do want to be there for you,” said psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Newton, who also serves as the Chief Medical Officer at SonderMind. “As lonely as it may feel sometimes, it’s not something that will last forever, and someone can help you.”

That support from someone at home or at school can make young girls feel less alone.

“Now students, they know I can have somebody I can talk to, I have somebody I can go to for this, I don’t have to do it alone, there’s people I can trust,” Bailey said. “We provide that.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can call 988 to connect with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

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