Surgeon general warns of emerging youth mental health crisis

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a rare public health advisory on mental health challenges confronting youth. Much of the pressure comes from the pandemic.

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National News

December 8, 2021 - 10:26 AM

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy tours King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, California on Dec. 6, 2021, before talking to a panel of students about mental health issues. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

LOS ANGELES — Citing mounting evidence of ongoing harm, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy on Tuesday issued a public health advisory on the mental health challenges confronting youth, a rare warning and call to action to address what he called an emerging crisis exacerbated by pandemic hardships.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms, according to Murthy’s 53-page advisory. There also appear to be increases in negative emotions or behaviors such as impulsivity and irritability — associated with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

And, in early 2021, emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019, according to research cited in the advisory.

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