This pandemic effect has been 'devastating' for youth, US surgeon general says

The pandemic has had a "devastating" effect on the mental health of young people, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, told the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 8, as reported by ABC News.

"I'm deeply concerned as a parent and as a doctor that the obstacles this generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate and the impact that's having on their mental health is devastating," Dr. Murthy said.

Senators voiced bipartisan support for addressing mental health issues among American youth, specifically raising alarm over recent increases in suicide attempts. According to the CDC, emergency department visits reported for suicide attempts among teen girls rose more than 50 percent at the start of the pandemic, compared to the same period in 2019.

Access to care is a key issue, according to Dr. Murthy, who said it takes an average of 11 years from the onset of symptoms before a child receives treatment. 

"Our country is in danger of losing much of a generation if mental healthcare remains business as usual," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said. "And that means the Finance Committee has got to come up with solutions."  

Dr. Murthy recommended ensuring access to "high-quality, culturally competent care," focusing on prevention with school and community programs, and better understanding the effect technology and social media have on young people.  

"Our obligation to act is not just medical, it's moral," Dr. Murthy said.  


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