More Northern California teens than ever before are experiencing a mental health crisis. Exacerbated by the impact of social isolation and pandemic-related trauma and distress, rates of teen depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in this region are rising rapidly. The problem is compounded by limited access to teen treatment centers in Northern California.
In San Francisco, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital has seen a 75 percent increase in youth requiring hospitalization for mental health services, according to a lawsuit filed in February 2021 by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Responding to the high numbers of children and teens struggling with anxiety and depression as a result of isolation during remote schooling, Herrera took the unprecedented step of suing the city’s school districts to reopen for in-person classes.
Treating Tech Addiction in California Youth
Long-Term Effects of Virtual Schooling
Virtual schooling and more time on screens have increased device-related dysfunctions, such as gaming disorder and social media addiction, among Northern California youth. This population was already at high risk due to its proximity to Silicon Valley, and the resulting number of parents who work in the tech industry. In fact, many former technology industry executives have spoken out about the industry’s use of artificial technology that encourages teen tech addiction. The problem has become so extreme among all age groups that a trend known as “dopamine fasting” was popularized in Northern California.
Healthy Device Management
“Constant scrolling or gaming appears to create dopamine-related changes in the nervous system,” says Newport Executive Director Don Grant, PhD, a media psychologist who specializes in healthy device management. “These actions target our limbic system through its engaged susceptibility to intermittent variable rewards—the same basic idea behind slot machine design—that get us ‘hooked’ and coming back for more.” The teen brain is particularly vulnerable to these changes in brain functioning, as the prefrontal cortex is not yet mature. Research shows that teen tech addiction can catalyze or amplify a wide range of negative mental health effects, from poor self-image and eating disorders to depression and anxiety.
“The medical evidence is clear that keeping public schools closed is catalyzing a mental health crisis among school-aged children in San Francisco.”
—Dr. Jeanne Noble, director of COVID Response for the UCSF Emergency Department
Northern California Behavioral Health Statistics
Each year, Mental Health America (MHA) ranks all 50 states and Washington DC in terms of mental health, substance abuse, and access to care. MHA’s 2021 report put California’s overall youth mental health ranking at number 33 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The rankings also showed that close to 14 percent of California teens—415,000 teens—had at least one major depressive episode during the year. In addition, 256,000 teens had severe major depressive disorder.
The state of California ranked 45th in terms of access to care.
MHA’s California statistics also show that two-thirds of teens aren’t getting care for their depression or other mental health concerns. Moreover, only a quarter of teens received any consistent mental healthcare at all, and 100,000 teens did not have any insurance coverage for mental or emotional problems. The 2020 California Children’s Report Card, published by the Oakland-based advocacy organization Children Now, illuminates a corresponding lack of access to care within schools. The organization gave California an F grade for its ratio of students (both children and adolescents) to counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses on school campuses.
Looking at substance abuse statistics in California, MHA found that 4.6 percent of California teens—140,000 adolescents—suffered from substance abuse disorder. In addition, a Community Health Needs Assessment examining Marin County mental health found that this region’s rates of substance abuse among adolescents are notably higher than the rest of the state. For teen drug use, the rate was 49 per capita in Marin vs. 38 in California as a whole. The county also had higher suicide rates per capita, further illustrating the need for Marin County mental health services and teen treatment centers in Northern California.
“Constant scrolling or gaming appears to create dopamine-related changes in the nervous system.”
—Don Grant, PhD, Newport Executive Director
Suicide Rates and Male Mental Health Statistics in Northern California
In tandem with rates of depression and substance abuse, suicide rates among teens in California have steadily increased between 2016 and 2020, especially among male adolescents. Research by the United Health Foundation found that California’s rate of teen suicide was 3.5 deaths per 100,000 female adolescents (ages 15–19). That number tripled for males, to 10.5 out of 100,000.
According to data from the California Healthy Kids Survey and California Department of Education, about 20 percent of female high school students and 13 percent of males have seriously considered attempting suicide. For lesbian, gay, and bisexual students in California, the proportion was much higher, with close to half seriously considering suicide.
Why do male mental health statistics show less suicidal ideation than female teens, and yet more deaths by suicide? Research shows that teen boys are less likely to talk to parents, peers, or teachers about their emotional struggles, and more likely to use deadlier methods to attempt suicide.
of California teens had at least one major
teens had severe major depressive disorder
suffered from substance abuse disorder
2 out of 3
teens aren’t getting care for their
depression or other mental health concerns
of female high school students and 13
percent of males have seriously considered attempting suicide
Newport Academy’s Teen Treatment Centers in Northern California
Newport Academy is responding to the need for teen treatment centers in Northern California by expanding our programming in this region. Our comprehensive and individualized approach addresses anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and other maladaptive behaviors by healing the underlying trauma and attachment wounds that catalyze mental health and co-occurring disorders.
Each client in our teen treatment centers in Northern California is given a tailored treatment plan, designed by a team of medical and behavioral healthcare experts, which includes a variety of evidence-based clinical, experiential, and academic modalities. Treatment is provided in a supportive, compassionate environment where teens can connect with peers and mentors, ending the isolation and loneliness that is so prevalent among today’s young people.
Our licensed clinicians specialize in treating trauma and related issues through proven modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EFT, and EMDR. Our approach also involves family in the healing process, and our clinicians use the groundbreaking Attachment-Based Family Therapy model to repair parent-child relationships, an essential component of sustainable recovery. Our beautiful Northern California behavioral health locations also have dedicated spaces for experiential modalities such as music and art therapy, yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices.
Newport Academy’s Approach as Compared to California Wilderness Therapy Programs
In both our Residential Program and Partial Hospitalization Program, clients spend structured time in the classroom each day, and with tutors as necessary, so they can continue to make academic progress while receiving the treatment they need.
Learn More About Our Treatment Centers in Northern California
Whether a teen needs the healing environment provided by residential care, or the structure and support of an outpatient program, we can help you find a Northern California behavioral health program that will best support them. Call us today on 877-929-5105 to find out how we can help your teen, we’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our Admissions experts work with families and referring professionals to find the right fit for teens who need comprehensive care. Contact us today to get started on the path to healing.