US Surgeon General: Youth mental health crisis needs to be addressed

covid kids mental health
Posted at 4:37 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 00:12:34-05

IDAHO — The US Surgeon General is urging the country to address the youth mental health crisis in a new advisory issued Tuesday morning.

From 2009 to 2019, 1 in 3 high school students reported feeling persistent sadness or hopelessness, a 40% increase from previous decades according to the Surgeon General, and the pandemic has only made things worse for students.

In addition to the pandemic changing the daily lives of kids and teens, it's estimated more than 140,000 children have lost a caregiver to COVID-19.

Additionally, symptoms of anxiety and depression have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing symptoms of depression and 20% experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

A child clinical psychologist for St. Luke's said these national trends are also true in Idaho.

"Even in the last month or so there's just been really high acuity and urgency in terms of depression, anxiety, struggles with suicidal thoughts," Dr. Gretchen Gudmundsen

In the last year, it's been harder to get mental health care in Idaho.

"There was a noticeable lengthening of waitlist," Gudmundsen said.

This trend continues a year later.

The Surgeon General said everyone has a role to play in supporting kids' mental health. One step is to reduce the stigma around mental health.

Tips for parents include being a good role model by taking care of your own mental health and looking out for warning signs of distress.

"A change in sleep, a change in eating habits, a change in how much they're communicating with their friends," Gudmundsen said.

Dr. Gudmundsen said these behaviors can signal a change in mental health when they last a week or more. Because of long waitlists, she suggests getting an appointment with a trusted doctor as soon as you start noticing these warning signs.

"I encourage parents to trust their gut and trust their judgment. They know their kids well," Gudmundsen said.