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A youth mental health crisis was already brewing. The pandemic made it worse, surgeon general says.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are treatable, and often preventable.”

The situation painted across the U.S. surgeon general’s 53-page advisory is dire, the Washington Post reports.

Compared with 2019, emergency room visits for suicide attempts rose 51 percent for adolescent girls in early 2021. Among boys, there was a four percentage point increase. Depression and anxiety doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, with 25 percent of youths experiencing depressive symptoms and 20 percent suffering anxiety symptoms, according to the report published Tuesday.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy wrote in an advisory published on Tuesday. “Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are treatable, and often preventable.”

Combined with an uptick in gun violence, a reckoning on racial justice, a climate emergency and a divisive political landscape, the coronavirus-related hardships have taken a toll on young Americans’ mental health at a time when it was already in decline. More people seeking help have strained the ability of practitioners to provide treatment, underscoring, experts say, the need to radically change how mental health is addressed in the United States.

For young people across the country, the pandemic has taken away milestone events and the semblance of normal life. Professors speaking from their screens supplant in-person classes. Watching players tumble behind a ball on the television replaces football games at packed stadiums. Gatherings have become smaller, confined to a bubble of friends. Study abroad, a lingering question.

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