U.S. Surgeon General Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

Photo by Dev Asangbam on Unsplash

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new advisory to highlight the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. The Surgeon General pointed out that before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people, with up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the U.S. having a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder. 

According to the Surgeon General, the pandemic added to the pre-existing challenges that America’s youth faced. It disrupted the lives of children and adolescents, such as in-person schooling, in-person social opportunities with peers and mentors, access to health care and social services, food, housing, and the health of their caregivers.

The pandemic’s negative impacts the most heavily on those who were vulnerable to begin with, such as youth with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ youth, low-income youth, youth in rural areas, youth in immigrant households, youth involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and homeless youth. 

This advisory points out the risk factors contributing to youth mental health symptoms during the pandemic:

  • Having mental health challenges before the pandemic
  • Living in an urban area or an area with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks
  • Having parents or caregivers who were frontline workers
  • Having parents or caregivers at elevated risk of burnout (for example, due to parenting demands)
  • Being worried about COVID-19
  • Experiencing disruptions in routine, such as not seeing friends or going to school in person
  • Experiencing more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, community violence, and discrimination
  • Experiencing more financial instability, food shortages, or housing instability
  • Experiencing trauma, such as losing a family member or caregiver to COVID-19

For more information, parents should read the Advisory to understand more about the factors that cause many young people to experience negative mental health during the pandemic.

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