Young people are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis thanks to a confluence of factors. Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, explained that many children suffer in the shadows. A recent survey showed that 44% of high school students feel hopeless, and children struggle for an average of 11 years before getting help. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, children were suffering from a lack of access to mental health assistance.
Dr. John Torres, Senior Medical Correspondent for NBC News, noted that children today are particularly affected by increased use of technology. They cannot simply leave the school grounds and get away from their bullies as older generations did. Dr. Murthy agreed that growing up today is uniquely difficult, with a relentless barrage from social media. The pandemic also exacerbated mental health issues, especially for those with fewer resources.
There is a brighter spot, Murthy explained, in the lessening of the stigma around mental health. While people are more willing to talk about it, we still suffer from a lack of access to care. We need to think more broadly about the mental health workforce, Dr. Murthy explained. Psychiatrists and psychologists are necessary, but we should also enlist guidance counselors and peer counseling programs. Telehealth can also help to relieve some of the bottlenecks.
Even in the workplace, employers can encourage intrapersonal connections that make people happier, more productive, and more creative, Murthy said. Even simply asking people about how they are doing can make a difference. Despite our continuous social connection, loneliness is a growing concern that has consequential effects on our physical and emotional wellbeing.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
“There seems to be an overwhelming number of people who need help versus people that can give them help.”
Dr. John Torres, Senior Medical Correspondent, NBC News