U.S Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated in a preface to the advisory that “it would be tragic if we beat back a public health crisis and allow another to grow in its place.” “Mental health problems in children, adolescents, or young adults are real and widespread. They are often preventable and treatable. The document stated that advisories were reserved for “significant public health challenges that require the nation’s immediate attention and action.”
Murthy issued the advisory after visiting King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, Willowbrook, Los Angeles. Students there said that they had struggled during the pandemic.
Jesus El, a senior at school, stated that “a lot of people still feel like everything is virtual”. “A lot more students have not been motivated to go to school. You know, they miss school more. I am seeing more students leave the classroom and go to the bathroom.
According to Murthy’s 53-page advisory, symptoms of anxiety and depression have increased by two-thirds during the pandemic. Twenty percent of youth are experiencing symptoms such as depressive symptoms while twenty percent experience anxiety symptoms. Also, there appears to be an increase in negative emotions and behaviors like impulsivity or irritability — which can be associated with ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
According to research in the advisory, the number of emergency room visits to the United States in early 2021 for suicide attempts was 51% higher in cases of adolescent girls than in those in early 2019.
Murthy stated that children of all backgrounds had faced mental health problems even before the pandemic. Nearly two years of disruption caused severe mental health problems for children from all backgrounds, especially students of color and students with disabilities.
It was also stated that it is harder for isolated youth to spot signs of child abuse, mental illness, or other difficulties.
L.A. Unified School district has a shortage of mental health professionals. The goal for 500 social workers is not met. For the 2019-20 school year, the national average caseload for school counselors was 424 students. According to professional guidelines, 250 students should be counseled.
Tanya Ortiz Franklin, a school board member, stated in the Times report that “One positive thing is people are asking for assistance and trying to give it to each other even informally without professional expertise.” “But, we also recognize the need for professional expertise.”
It was reported that while the surgeon general may have limited power, he has traditionally spoken with medical expertise to be the voice of the executive branch. This role can be amplified by the person in the office and the issues they take on. “The surgeon general’s warning about tobacco products is a well-known illustration.”
This is Murthy’s second advisory under President Joe Biden. The first advisory was about “medical misinformation” and was “urgently threatened.” Murthy is also serving as the second Surgeon General. He was appointed by President Barack Obama to the position and served in it from 2014 to 2017.