US Surgeon General issues rare public health advisory this week warning of emerging youth mental health crisis

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, issued a public health advisory Tuesday, citing evidence of a mental health crisis in young people during the pandemic.

“He shows the data that confirms that the situation is actually getting worse,” says Maureen McFadden, the director of child and adolescent programs for Gateway Community Services.

Local mental health professionals say this confirms what they’ve seen over the course of the pandemic.

“We know this to be true, from what’s happened in the pandemic, from what we’re seeing in the programs we provide, I mean children and families are really struggling,” McFadden said.

In a preface to the advisory, surgeon general Vivek Murthy writes, “…the challenges today’s generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate. And the effect these challenges have had on their mental health is devastating.”

Early information from the National Center for Health Strategies Statistics suggests there were more than 6,000 deaths by suicide among people ages 10 to 24.

“We’re seeing children who are very anxious and feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression and it’s really sad because we all only have one shot at being a child,” says McFadden.

Experts say, while the problem is serious, it can be addressed if we act now.

“I’m hopeful that that will mean good things coming forward as far as funding and keeping it on people’s minds,” McFadden said.

As this issue is brought to the national stage, local organizations are also addressing mental health concerns in Chatham County.

“I’m happy to report that we have school-based mental health in 10 Chatham County Schools, including several high schools, middle schools and elementary where children who need to go to therapy can do so at their schools,” says McFadden.

Some of the recommendations outlined in the advisory include expanding healthcare access, promoting social-emotional learning and raising awareness about mental health issues.

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