The US surgeon general warned that young people are facing “devastating” mental health effects as a result of the challenges experienced by their generation, including the coronavirus pandemic.
The message came as part of a rare public advisory from the nation’s top physician in a 53-page report noting that the pandemic intensified mental health issues that were already widespread by the spring of 2020.
The report cited significant increases in self-reports of depression, anxiety and emergency-room visits for mental health challenges. In the US, emergency room visits for suicide attempts rose 51 percent for adolescent girls in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019. The figure rose 4 percent for boys.
Globally, symptoms of anxiety and depression doubled during the pandemic, the report noted. But mental health issues were already on the rise in the United States, with emergency room visits related to depression, anxiety and related issues up 28 percent from 2007 to 2018.
The surgeon general’s advisory adds to a growing number of calls for attention and action around adolescent mental health. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association joined to declare “a national emergency” in youth mental health.