The AAP published an article on December 7th stating that the Surgeon General is calling for action to protect children’s mental health. Following is an excerpt from that annoucement:
The surgeon general is calling attention to widespread mental health challenges among youths and laid out expansive actions to protect them.
These issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and will take a whole-of-society effort to address, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., said in a new advisory that includes recommendations for health care providers.
“I believe that, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity as a country to rebuild in a way that refocuses our identity and common values, puts people first, and strengthens our connections to each other,” Dr. Murthy said in the advisory. “If we seize this moment, step up for our children and their families in their moment of need, and lead with inclusion, kindness, and respect, we can lay the foundation for a healthier, more resilient, and more fulfilled nation.”
The advisory comes on the heels of the AAP, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declaring a national emergency in children’s mental health.
Mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorders have been reported in about 20% of children ages 3-17 years, and many are not receiving adequate treatment, according to the surgeon general’s advisory.
Children’s mental health can be impacted by biological and environmental factors, including genetics, relationships with family and friends, community support and societal challenges. Adverse childhood experiences can cause toxic stress, which can lead to long-lasting physical and mental health issues.
In recent years, mental health challenges have been increasing. Roughly one-third of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, up 40% from a decade prior, according to the advisory. Likewise, the rate of those seriously considering a suicide attempt and those creating a suicide plan increased 36% and 44%, respectively.
The pandemic has exacerbated these challenges by increasing fear, grief, isolation and economic hardships. Some children spent months out of school, and their access to health care and social services has been even more limited.
Dr. Murphy laid out steps and action items to address youth mental health and proposed actions for young people, family members, educators, media companies, social media/gaming companies, community organizations, philanthropic organizations, employers and governments.