Canada Markets open in 4 hrs 46 mins

Surgeon General Warns of 'Devastating' Youth Mental Health Crisis as Depression and Suicide Rise

·2 min read
Vivek Murthy
Vivek Murthy

Samuel Corum/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Dr. Vivek Murthy

Young people in the U.S. were already facing increased mental health struggles prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and after nearly two years with the virus it's becoming a crisis, the surgeon general said Tuesday.

In an extensive, 53-page advisory, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned of the "devastating" consequences to young people's mental health if the issue continues to go unaddressed.

Between 2019 and 2021, emergency room visits for suicide attempts went up 51% for young girls, and 4% for boys. Rates of depression and anxiety doubled during that time, with 25% of kids reporting depressive symptoms and 20% with anxiety.

"It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place," Murthy wrote. "Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are treatable, and often preventable."

RELATED: Teens Across the Country Share Their Mental Health Struggles During COVID-19

Mental health issues like depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts were already on the rise prior to the pandemic — between 2011 and 2015, emergency room visits for those and similar conditions went up 28%. But the pandemic has only added to the crisis, Murthy said.

"Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade," he said. "The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating."

RELATED VIDEO: Matthew McConaughey Clarifies Statement on COVID Vaccine Mandate for Kids, Says Son Levi Has Received Shots

The report noted that the cause of the rise cannot be pinpointed exactly, but that social media and global news both play a role.

"Young people are bombarded with messages through the media and popular culture that erode their sense of self-worth — telling them they are not good-looking enough, popular enough, smart enough or rich enough," Murthy said. "That comes as progress on legitimate, and distressing, issues like climate change, income inequality, racial injustice, the opioid epidemic and gun violence feels too slow."

RELATED: Facebook Pauses Work on Kids' Version of Instagram After Report About App's 'Toxic' Effect on Teens

Murthy said that this crisis needs to be addressed now, and outlined steps, including recognizing that mental health is an "essential" part of overall health, expanding access to mental health care, adding more help in schools and increasing research into the issue.

"The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation," Murthy said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting