The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) has released the results of the 2021-2022 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey and Youth Tobacco Survey (YRBS/YTS). This year, the survey included questions on mental health status, COVID-19, screen time, disability, and additional information on adverse childhood experiences for the first time. The findings show that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the mental health of Maryland youth.
The survey also finds a reduction in the use of tobacco products, alcohol, and marijuana for high school students. However, there was an increase in alcohol initiation and prescription drug misuse at the middle school level. Female students were significantly more likely to report feeling sad or hopeless or that their mental health was not good compared to male students. Middle school students identifying as LGBTQ+ were more likely to report more of the risk behaviors measured on the survey compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.
“While we see some encouraging results, there is clear data indicating a need for continued comprehensive approaches to support mental health and limit tobacco, alcohol, and drug use,” said MDH Secretary Dr. Laura Herrera Scott. “Now that students have returned to schools after navigating arduous challenges heightened by the pandemic, we can address findings through youth-centered health programming, education, and outreach.”
School-based services that promote mental health support and positive childhood experiences are critical for students. MDH continues to expand youth-specific crisis services across the state, including through the Mobile Response and Stabilization Services intervention for children and caregivers in the early phase of a crisis and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for anyone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.
The Maryland YRBS/YTS is a CDC-sponsored survey that was conducted in the fall of 2021 among nearly 60,000 students in 366 public middle and high schools across the state. The survey tracks behaviors contributing to the leading causes of death and disability.