Robust teen mental health initiative urged amid rise in drug deaths, suicide

Connecticut surgeon general declares ‘the escalating crisis of mental health among youth is an urgent issue that requires immediate attention’

The surgeon general has issued a call to action against youth mental health.

Conceived when the first World Health Organization chief created a draft report to address a growing drug addiction crisis and the need for civil servants to address the global health crisis around public health, this special proclamation from the surgeon general is meant to encourage action from local, state and federal officials across the country.

The report takes aim at the growing issue of mental health and wellness in this country, and claims that the dearth of reliable data puts public health efforts at risk.

The report, published on Thursday, states that the increase in gun violence and domestic violence is the result of rising rates of adolescents and young adults killing themselves and experiencing harmful behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse, suicidality and sexual activity.

“The escalating crisis of mental health among youth is an urgent issue that requires immediate attention,” wrote Dr. Jerome Adams in his proclamation. “In order to reduce or eliminate these health risks, we must first understand the roots of these risks and then act to improve youth mental health and wellbeing.”

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In recent years, the US has experienced a surge in children and young adults diagnosed with anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal tendencies. The rate of mental health disorders in American children and young adults is 50% higher than it was in the 1990s. As well, youth suicide is up – from 20,000 in 1980 to 41,000 in 2015. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death among American children in 2010. And just last week, 23-year-old police officer Brent Alexander Kemmerer – a National Football League player who had been diagnosed with depression – was found dead in his home.

A study published in 2016 found a seven-fold increase in the number of boys diagnosed with anxiety and depression. While the increase in the rate of suicide in young people might not be as startling as in older people, experts are concerned that there may be a link between depression and suicide, which researchers are beginning to find might be linked to an increasing binge drinking culture in America.

In response to those findings, a group of big pharmaceutical companies have created what they are calling an “impatient coalition” to address the issues of depression and youth suicide. The coalition, which features representatives from 13 big pharmaceutical companies, announced last year that they are taking steps to develop new treatments for depression and create more support services in schools and online to combat youth suicide.

But Thursday’s report from the surgeon general, which states that the US has made progress in addressing young women’s mental health issues, has given states and communities the idea that the best way to deal with rising rates of mental health in youth and the working in the community is to identify and treat these problems early.

According to the report, measures that have been underway for years – like youth mental health services training for teachers and parents, and efforts to reduce youth alcohol and drug use – could help offset rising rates of mental health and wellness among younger generations.

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