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Surgeon General addresses 'critical issue' of children's mental health

Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory in December to draw attention to youth mental health challenges and provide recommendations on how they should be addressed.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy says the challenges today’s generation of young people face are "unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate."

Add to that, some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, including school closures, isolated and quarantined friends, and the loss of a family member.

In October of 2020, a coalition of medical organizations that included the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. The statement reported "soaring rates of mental health challenges among children, adolescents and their families."

The surgeon general issued an advisory in December to draw attention to those mental health challenges and provide recommendations on how they should be addressed.

In an interview with 10TV's Kevin Landers, Murthy said while depression and anxiety among children have increased during the pandemic, kids were struggling before the emergence of COVID-19.

Suicide rates among younger people increase more than 50% in the decade prior to the pandemic, Murthy said, and a 44% increase in high school students who felt "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness."

"Our kids were struggling before, the pandemic has made it worse for some kids. Especially the 140,000+ young people who lost a caregiver," the surgeon general said.

Murthy also discussed the gap in treatment seen nationwide, including the need for more healthcare providers and technology to bring services to more rural areas.

You can watch the complete interview in the video below player below. 

The surgeon general's report offered online resources for youth, parents, professionals and educators. For someone in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers immediate help at 800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat

The crisis line telephone number is scheduled to be shortened to three digits – 988 – in July.

Watch Kevin Landers' full report Thursday at 6 p.m. on 10TV News: Why experts say Ohio’s child behavioral health system is at a breaking point and what parents need to know about getting help for their kids.

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