The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared the mental health of our children a national emergency. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy met with students from Lincoln High School at the Jackie Robinson YMCA in Mountain View to talk about it.
One of the keys to addressing children’s mental health is changing the stigma surrounding it, making sure children are driving the strategy for change and that they know resources are available, Dr. Murthy told students.
Especially after their lives were turned upside down by the pandemic. Rady Children’s Hospital treated a staggering 3,000 children between September 2020 and August 2021 who’d thought about suicide, according to a spokesperson.
Dr. Murthy's visit to San Diego comes after he sounded the alarm about children’s mental health in an advisory in December. He’s hoping his visit will help Lincoln High students understand there are people available to help.
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“You don’t have to be a mental health professional to be able to make a difference in the mental health of a young person. You just have to be able to approach them with openness, with kindness, and with a willingness to be there for them in their moment of need,” Dr. Murthy said.
To address that need after Dr. Murthy’s advisory, President Joe Biden proposed $1 billion in federal funding to help schools hire more counselors and strengthen suicide prevention programs.
The need isn't lost on San Diego Unified Schools. The district says it’s focused on hiring more counselors to help students recover from the academic and mental health toll of the pandemic, which Dr. Murthy says that’s heightened feelings of loneliness.
"As many friends and followers that [children] have on social media, they don’t have anyone in their life they feel truly knows them, where they can show up as themself and be vulnerable and open and honest,” Murthy said.
He even shared his own personal struggles with mental health, saying he felt lonely, anxious and depressed when he was younger but never told anyone, including his parents, because he was ashamed.
The Surgeon General said he hopes his story will help change the stigma so people can seek the help they need.
"You may not have a medical degree or be a mental health therapist, but you can help other people in terms of mental health by changing how we think of mental health, and not see it as a source of shame," Murthy said.