The U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has said that an already existing youth mental health crisis has been amplified over the course of the pandemic. Targeting lockdown restrictions directly, Murphy referred to the “devastating” impact which school closures and a lack of socialisation have had on the mental well-being of America’s children and young adults. The Mail has more.
While youth mental health had been a growing concern before the pandemic with increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, Covid has exacerbated this trend into a crisis, Murthy said.
For example, during the pandemic, the number of children and teenagers reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety doubled, according to one study of 80,000 youth around the world.
Children from minority communities and those at socioeconomic disadvantages, as well as those who lost a parent or caregiver to Covid, are at higher risk for Covid-related mental health conditions, the Surgeon General’s report found.
The Surgeon General’s advisory provides recommendations for improving mental health through increasing mental health care access, addressing economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health, and more.
In the decade prior to Covid, youth mental health has become a growing concern for doctors and public health experts, and the pandemic exacerbated this concern.
A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office (released Tuesday) provides statistics on youth mental health, as well as recommendations for how to address this challenge.
“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a statement about the report.
“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.”
For young people, mental health conditions may be caused by both biological factors and environmental factors.
These environmental factors can include relationships with family members, relationships with peers, neighbourhood safety, and social and economic inequalities, according to the Surgeon General’s report.
Prior to Covid, up to one in five children between the ages of three and 17 years-old had a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioural disorder.
This number has increased sharply over the last 10 years, according to the report.
From 2009 to 2019, the share of high school students who reported feeling sad or hopeless increased by 40%, to more than one in three students.
The share of high school students seriously considering a suicide attempt increased by 36 percent, while the share creating a suicide plan increased by 44%.
The Covid pandemic has added further hardship and stressful experiences for America’s young people.
“The Covid pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating,” Murthy said.
Covid caused schools to close across the country, disrupting opportunities for learning and socializing with peers.
In addition, many children who relied upon school for access to healthcare and social services had those services disrupted.
Numerous children also faced housing and food insecurity as their parents and caregivers went through job loss due to the pandemic.