This month the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory (entitled Protecting Youth Mental Health) in response to the alarming increase in mental health problems among American kids. Such advisories, according to the Surgeon General, “are reserved for significant public health challenges that need the nation’s immediate awareness and action.”

The Surgeon General’s advisory makes clear that the measures used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have had a negative impact on our children’s mental health.

Since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, have increased.  Recent research covering 80,000 youth globally found that depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms…In early 2021, emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019.

Graphic from Surgeon General’s advisory.

The advisory is very similar to a study published by the U.S. Department of Education last month.  That report also found a large spike in pandemic-era youth suicides, depression, anxiety, and a number of other psychological issues.

Here in East Longmeadow, we’ve seen an across-the-board decline in our kids’ social and emotional development.  That fact was brought to light by a recent survey of elementary school teachers from grades K to 2.  The survey’s findings were presented to the school committee in November.  The presentation was followed by little to no critical discussion regarding why we’re having these issues and what we can do to fix them.