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LA Is Not Immune To Youth Mental Health Crisis Cited By The Surgeon General

A kindergarten classroom at L.A. Unified's Walgrove Avenue Elementary School in Venice. Staff have removed furniture, toys and books from the room to comply with COVID-19 guidelines. The classroom is empty with overhead lights illuminating a glossy, clean floor and light blue walls.
A kindergarten classroom at L.A. Unified's Walgrove Avenue Elementary School in Venice. Staff removed furniture, toys and books from the room to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
(Chava Sanchez
/
LAist)
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The U.S.’s top doctor is warning of a mental health crisis among the nation’s youth – a crisis he says has been made worse by the pandemic.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy put out an Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health Tuesday.

He points to climate change, racial injustice, income inequality -- and now COVID-19 -- as well as other factors, all of which have had a “devastating” effect on young people’s mental health.

Murthy cites global research that found “depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic.”

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Stephanie Murray, a psychologist with the Whittier Union High School District, said it’s not surprising to her that the Surgeon General is making youth mental health a priority.

“We have been seeing a lot of depression,” she said. “It’s hard to say what part of the pandemic may have led to that: whether it’s the trauma of losing family members [or] whether it was the trauma of being isolated.”

Murray says that isolation means some students have forgotten how to socialize in person.

Reynaldo Vargas, legislative committee chair for the California Association of School Psychologists, said he’s glad Murthy is drawing attention to youth mental health, but he already knew that this was a “huge area of need.”

Vargas said he’s happy to have wellness centers where he works in the Downey Unified School District. Students know they can come to the centers to get support, he said, noting that “as soon as one person walks out, two more students walk in.” Vargas said the recent flood of federal and state funds to address some of these issues is nice, but more sustained money is needed so he can hire mental health professionals and keep them on staff.

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Some of the recommendations in Murthy’s advisory include ensuring every child has “high-quality, affordable, and culturally competent mental health care.” The Surgeon General also called for more research on how technology affects young people’s mental health.

The Surgeon General’s advisory comes just a couple months after the Children’s Hospital Association and other experts on pediatric health declared the children’s mental health crisis a national emergency.

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