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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Youth and Mental Health: Troubles Vary by Geography and Gender

Many students deal with stress brought on by academic expectations, peer pressure, bullying and other factors. All that stress can take a toll on a young person’s mental health.
Date last upated: March 12, 2015

A handful of regions across Colorado have the highest level of mental health problems among their youth between the ages 5 and 18, according to the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). More than nine percent of young people in the San Luis Valley, southwestern Colorado, Mesa County and El Paso County reported at least eight days of poor mental health in the previous month (see map below). 

However, fewer than 3 percent of youth reported poor mental health in many areas of Colorado. Weld County (HSR 18 on the map below) leads the state in youth mental health, with 1.2 percent of children reporting eight or more days of poor mental health.

The consequences of poor mental health can be severe and can affect everyday life. More than one of four (26.0 percent) middle school students and nearly the same proportion of high school students (24.3 percent) felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks that they stopped doing some of their usual activities, according to the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

Nearly 19 percent of Colorado’s middle school students and 14.5 percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide, according to that survey. By comparison, 17 percent of high school students across the county have seriously considered suicide use. However, while Colorado seemingly has lower tendencies of suicidal thoughts among high school students, certain populations are at a greater risk. More than one in three (31.4 percent) of Hispanic students and 28.3 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native high school students in Colorado has seriously considered attempting suicide, well above the national average. 

Among high school students, 12 percent of Colorado students have reported having made a plan for how they would attempt suicide in the past year, compared with 13.6 percent nationally. And, over the past year, 6.6 percent of Colorado high school students reported attempting suicide at least one time, a rate slightly lower than the national average of 8 percent.

High school girls are more likely than boys to struggle with mental health problems. About a third of girls (32.3 percent) reported feeling sad or hopeless, twice the rate of boys (16.6 percent). Nearly one of five girls (19.6 percent) reported seriously considering suicide, again about twice the rate of boys (9.7 percent). About 15.2 percent of girls said they had made a plan for attempting suicide compared to 8.9 percent of boys. And 9.1 percent of girls said they had attempted suicide compared to 4.1 percent of boys.