Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Paget Hetherington
on December 22, 2021

Back in October, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has now weighed in on the issue, releasing a public health advisory on the mental health challenges confronting today’s youth. This advisory highlights the need for immediate awareness and action, offering recommendations for supporting youth mental health across the nation. 

In his introduction, Dr. Murthy states that “Ensuring healthy children and families will take an all-of-society effort, including policy, institutional, and individual changes in how we view and prioritize mental health.” According to the advisory:

  • High school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40% from 2009 to 2019
  • Youth psychiatric visits to emergency departments for depression, anxiety, and behavioral challenges increased by 28% between 2011 and 2015
  • Suicide rates among youth ages 10–24 increased by 57% between 2007 and 2018
  • More than 6,600 youth ages 10–24 died by suicide in 2020
  • Black children are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide than white children
  • More than 140,000 children in the U.S. lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19 (as of June 2021)

How can we help? The advisory calls for action, starting with the importance of recognizing and prioritizing mental health. We must also empower youth and families to manage emotions and address challenges early, address economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health, and support mental health in educational settings. It’s also crucial that we ensure every child has access to high-quality mental health care that’s both affordable and culturally competent. Timely data collection to identify and respond to the mental health needs of today’s youth more rapidly is also recommended by the Surgeon General.

“Our obligation to act is not just medical—it’s moral. I believe that, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity as a country to rebuild in a way that refocuses our identity and common values, puts people first, and strengthens our connections to each other.”

Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. 
Vice Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service
Surgeon General of the United States

If you or someone you know is in need of help, there are a variety of resources available that offer support. It’s more important than ever to identify struggling students and provide services for those in need. 

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America: AADA’s anonymous peer-to-peer online support groups (with English and Spanish options) offer a safe and supportive place for individuals and their families to share their experiences with depression, anxiety, and other related disorders. 
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free 24/7 support with a trained crisis counselor for a variety of concerns, including anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide. 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you or a loved one are in crisis, access free and confidential support 24/7 (via 1-800-273-8255) as well as prevention and crisis resources. 
  • One Sky Center: A National Resource Center for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, Education, and Research. Access a variety of mental health and substance abuse resources geared toward supporting Native people. 
  • RemedyLive: Free suicide prevention chat center geared toward teens and available all day, every day. They offer direct support to students who are struggling with mental health challenges or considering an act of suicide.
  • The Trevor Project: Free, confidential support via phone (1-866-488-7386), text (text START to 678-678), or online chat with trained counselors who understand the challenges faced by young LGBTQ individuals.
  • Therapy for Latinx: Working with licensed therapists across the country, Therapy for Latinx provides resources for the Latinx community to heal, thrive, and become advocates for their own mental health. 
  • Trans Lifeline: Peer support hotline (877-565-8860) ran by and for trans people, available seven days a week from 5:00 PM to 1:00 AM ET.   

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