Coronavirus News: U.S. Surgeon General warns about youth mental health crisis amid pandemic

RONKONKOMA, Long Island (WABC) -- As the nation grapples with another COVID variant, the U.S. Surgeon General is sounding the alarm about another crisis: the nation's youth mental health.

The U.S. Surgeon General released a harrowing 53-page report Tuesday about the devastating state of mental health in our nation's young people.

"The pandemic era's unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced," Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote.

The report provides recommendations that individuals, families, community organizations, technology companies, governments and others can take to improve the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults.

"It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place. Our obligation to act is not just medical - it's moral," Dr. Murthy said.

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Recent research covering 80,000 youth globally found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms.

ER visits for suspected suicide attempts have increased by over 50% among girls.

"Early clinical data are also concerning," Dr. Murthy wrote. "In early 2021, emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019."

Long Island clinical psychologist Dr. Stephen Taylor said the long term mental health effects of the pandemic for young people have just started to show themselves.

Taylor said psychological experts learned after 9/11 that post-traumatic stress in young people didn't manifest until six to 18 months after the traumatic event.

"I don't think we're quite done with the trauma," Taylor said, referring to the pandemic.

Taylor is part of a nonprofit organization called Tru Outreach, which was created last year in response to the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.

Tru Outreach, based in Ronkonkoma, provides teletherapy mental health services to families and is trying to reach out particularly to underserved communities.

"You can't find a therapist in certain communities," Taylor said. "And now, through teletherapy, you don't need to."

Rapper 50 Cent recently made a $100,000 donation to Tru Outreach to help in its mission.

"Call us," Taylor said. "We will get you a therapist. We are not going to say 'no.'"

To reach Tru Outreach, visit their website truoutreach.org or call 631-522-7997.

You can read the entire U.S. Surgeon General's report. It includes a vast list of helpful mental health resources for parents, families, organizations and more.

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