U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently issued a groundbreaking advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health. Murthy cites the rise in youth mental health challenges over the past decade and points out the significant concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for children, teens and young adults.
The pandemic has led to mental health challenges for youth and exacerbated the challenges for those already living with mental health concerns. Youth at even higher risk of mental health challenges include those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, youth of color, LGBTQIA+ youth, youth living in low-income families, immigrant youth and those in special populations such as in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems or youth who are missing from care or are homeless.
The report includes some startling data regarding the pervasiveness of mental health challenges for youth. In a study of 80,000 young people, their experience of depression has doubled to 25% and anxiety has doubled to 20%.
While the facts in this report are concerning, the surgeon general provides strategies that can help. The actions and tools he recommends call for a “whole-of-society effort” to educate, empower and promote access to high-quality mental healthcare with strategies for young people, family members and caregivers, schools, health-care organizations, media, community organizations, funders, employers and federal, state, local and tribal governments.
With 10% of our positions vacant, responding to the demand is challenging across all of our programs. Providers have waiting lists of six months or longer or aren’t adding clients to their waiting lists. Fewer providers are accepting Medicaid, adding to the access issue.
How do we improve access? We have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, which has a negative impact on filling positions with quality candidates. The applicant pool has diminished, and candidates are selecting from multiple job offers at a record pace.
We need to prioritize the mental health needs of our youth by diminishing stigma, paying rates to providers that will attract quality candidates, eliminating red tape whenever possible and prioritizing prevention services.
The needs are great, and the committed behavioral workforce is weary given the events of the past 22 months. Mental health challenges are real, common, and treatable. Please continue to seek services and know that providers are doing their very best to accommodate your needs.
As we work together to meet the growing demand, we are acutely aware that lives depend on our success.
Read the original article from the Lincoln Journal Star: Local View: Youths, system under strain