‘It’s Life or Death’: The Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens

One evening last April, an anxious and free-spirited 13-year-old girl in suburban Minneapolis sprang furious from a chair in the living room and ran from the house — out a sliding door, across the patio, through the backyard and into the woods.

Moments earlier, the girl’s mother, Linda, had stolen a look at her daughter’s smartphone. The teenager, incensed by the intrusion, had grabbed the phone and fled. (The adolescent is being identified by an initial, M, and the parents by first name only, to protect the family’s privacy.)

Linda was alarmed by photos she had seen on the phone. Some showed blood on M’s ankles from intentional self-harm. Others were close-ups of M’s romantic obsession, the anime character Genocide Jack — a brunette girl with a long red tongue who, in a video series, kills high school classmates with scissors.

In the preceding two years, Linda had watched M spiral downward: severe depression, self-harm, a suicide attempt. Now, she followed M into the woods, frantic. “Please tell me where u r,” she texted. “I’m not mad.”

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