U.S. surgeon general warns of emerging youth mental health crisis in rare advisory

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

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

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.

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

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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