If you have been reading my blog and other public information about students, youth and children you have been informed that we have a significant mental health crisis. This is significant in that we seem to be facing a rather large national perspective on this that could leave us in a crisis.
I thought it would be helpful to hear the opinion of our Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Here are a few excerpts from with Steve Inskeep.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
I’ve been reading an advisory this morning from the U.S. surgeon general. The paper from Vivek Murthy is called “Protecting Youth Mental Health.” It argues that the pandemic multiplied the mental health challenges facing young people all the time. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is on the line. Surgeon General, welcome back to the program.
VIVEK MURTHY: Well, thank you, Steve. Good to be with you again.
INSKEEP: OK. So anecdotally, I think we all understand the price of isolation, of remote learning, of general stress or even of a death in the family, which many people have faced – millions of kids have faced over the past couple of years. But is it clear to you statistically or academically that there is a problem here?
MURTHY: Well, the simple answer is, yes, Steve. There’s a problem now. And there was actually a great crisis with youth mental health that we were facing before the pandemic. And consider these numbers, Steve. Before the pandemic, one in three high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. That’s a 40% increase from 2009 to 2019. In a similar time frame, suicide rates went up 57% among youth 10 to 24. And we’ve also seen that during the pandemic that rates of anxiety and depression have gone up. So this was a challenge before. The challenge has gotten worse. And I believe that this is a critical issue that we have to do something about now. We can’t wait until after the pandemic is over. And that’s why I decided to issue this surgeon general’s advisory.
INSKEEP: I’m almost afraid to ask why you think the numbers are going up so dramatically even before the pandemic. I’m sure there are many causes. But can you zero in on one that’s on your mind?
MURTHY: Well, I do think that many children and young adults who are struggling with loneliness and isolation before the pandemic arrived, that it worsened for many. But it was a problem that was in the shadows, one that was affecting people across the age spectrum. But I think, Steve, if you really want to understand what is driving, we also have to recognize that kids increasingly are experiencing bullying, not just in school but online, that they’re growing up in a popular culture and a media culture that remind kids often that they aren’t good-looking enough, thin enough, popular enough, rich enough – frankly, just not enough.
And there’s an extraordinary amount of stress and trauma that children are experiencing these days, whether it’s the stress of gun violence, the specter of climate change, the polarization and conflict that seems to be growing in society or racism and the racial reckoning, especially in the last couple of years, that we’ve been going through as a country. So you put all of this together, along with the growing influence of social media, which has been positive for some but harmful for others, and you have, unfortunately, the negative impacts on youth mental health that we’ve been seeing.
Here is the link for the rest of this interview. There is much to do to support our youth and their mental health. Lakeside is working with about 4,000 students per year who are struggling with these types of issues. We have much to consider, much to understand and so much more to do to help our youth community.