U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis

This week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory calling attention to the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. The advisory outlines the pandemic’s unprecedented impacts on the mental health of youth and families in the U.S., as well as mental health challenges that existed prior to the pandemic.

The Surgeon General’s advisory calls for a swift and coordinated response to the issue. 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, and behavioral disorder. Suicidal behaviors among high school students have also risen during the past decade, and early estimates show more than 6,600 suicide deaths occurred among youth ages 10-24 in 2020.

The Surgeon General further discusses the pandemic’s impacts on the lives of children and adolescents, including changes to in-person schooling, in-person social opportunities with peers and mentors, access to health and social services, food, housing, and the health of their caregivers. Topline recommendations of the Surgeon General’s advisory include:

  • Recognize the mental health is an essential part of overall health.
  • Empower youth and their families to recognize, manage, and learn from difficult emotions.
  • Ensure that every child has access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally competent mental health care.
  • Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings, and expand and support the early childhood and education workforce.
  • Address the economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health for young people, families, and caregivers.
  • Increase timely data collection and research to identify and respond to youth mental health needs more rapidly. This includes more research on the relationship between technology and youth mental health, and technology companies should be more transparent with data and algorithmic processes to enable this research.

Additional information on the Surgeon General’s advisory is available here.