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OPI: Montana Teens Experiencing Higher Rates Of Depression

Therapist writing, patient sitting on couch

A new state report outlines that Montana teens are experiencing increasing rates of depression and other mental illnesses.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction conducts a youth risk behavior survey every two years to track high-school students’ mental health conditions, physical health, and alcohol and tobacco use.

In 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey revealed a sharp increase from previous reports in the number of students feeling symptoms of depression and other concerning conditions, like anxiety and stress.

A third of students surveyed said in the past 30 days their mental health was not good most of the time or always. More than 40% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row. About 20% of respondents said they had considered suicide.

The survey found female students are more likely to experience poor mental health than male students. The survey did not include data on students with different gender identities.

State budget cuts in 2018 led to limited mental health care services for youth and adults in Montana. A committee of lawmakers is tasked with studying gaps in the state’s mental health system for children ahead of the 2023 legislative session.

Shaylee began covering state government and politics for Montana Public Radio in August 2020. Originally from Belgrade, Montana, she graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program and previously worked as a reporter for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and UM’s Legislative News Service. Please share tips, questions and concerns by emailing