U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told lawmakers on Tuesday that the pandemic has had a “devastating” impact on the mental health of America’s young people.
“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,” Murthy told the Senate Finance Committee.
Senators expressed bipartisan support for addressing mental health issues among young people, with chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, raising alarm over recent increases in suicide attempts among American youth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that emergency department visits for suicide attempts among teen girls were up more than 50% at the beginning of the pandemic, compared to the same period in 2019.
“Millions of young Americans are struggling under a mental health epidemic, struggling in school, struggling with addiction or isolation, struggling to make it from one day to the next. Our country is in danger of losing much of a generation if mental health care remains business as usual,” Wyden said. “And that means the Finance Committee has got to come up with solutions.”
A main issue, Murthy said, is access to care.
He said that on average it takes 11 years from the onset of symptoms before a child begins receiving treatment.
Murthy’s main recommendations are to ensure access to “high-quality, culturally competent care,” focusing on prevention with school and community-based programs and developing a better understanding of the impact technology and social media have on young people.