Young people face ‘devastating’ mental health issues in pandemic, surgeon general warns

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In an alarming report released Tuesday, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned that the pandemic and other “unprecedented” challenges were having “devastating” impacts on the mental health of young Americans.

The report follows a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and MTV who discovered that the pandemic has had a pronounced impact on adolescents and young adults in education, dating and relationships.

Here are some key points from the Surgeon General’s report:

  • Several groups of young people are at higher risk for mental health problems during the pandemic, including those in rural areas who do not have access to education and mental health services, as well as young people from racial and ethnic minorities who have been victims of racial hatred as a result of the pandemic or live in communities that have suffered an inordinate number of Covid-related deaths.
  • Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts in early 2021 were 51% higher for teenage girls and 4% higher for teenagers than during the same period in 2019.

A recurring theme in the report is the potential of social media to worsen sadness and depression in young people. As you might have guessed from previous articles, I share Murthy’s concern about the ongoing pandemic-induced migration of Americans into the digital world. This exact thought has worrying me for almost two years now, In reality.

Check out this passage from the report on the increased use by adolescents of social media platforms and digital spaces:

Over the past two decades, more and more of our lives have shifted to social media platforms and other digital public spaces. The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly accelerated this trend. During the pandemic, the time teens spent in front of screens for non-school-related activities more than doubled from 3.8 to 7.7 hours per day.

Here’s how much of that time is spent:

[W]hen technology platforms have improved our lives in significant ways, increasing our ability to create new communities, provide resources and access information, we know that for many people they can have detrimental effects as well. When not deployed in a responsible and safe manner, these tools can pit us against each other, reinforce negative behaviors like bullying and exclusion, and undermine the safe and supportive environments young people need and need. that they deserve.

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