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Youth Mental Health Leadership from the Surgeon General

December 6, 2021
Youth Mental Health Leadership from the Surgeon General

Today, the Office of the United States Surgeon General released Protecting Youth Mental Health, an advisory targeted at the children’s mental health crisis — which has been made worse by the pandemic. From our perspective at the Child Mind Institute, this document is a wake-up call for the country and a long-overdue statement of leadership from the federal government.

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

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA.

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

To those of us in the children’s mental health field, these are basic facts. But it is inspiring that the Surgeon General is using his platform to speak simple truths about an issue that often goes unmentioned due to stigma and misunderstanding.

Mental health is an essential part of overall health

We are encouraged that the advisory includes information from many expert researchers and organizations. The document cites ongoing research that Child Mind Institute scientists have been conducting on mental health and the pandemic, as well as our 2021 Children’s Mental Health Report about the impacts of the pandemic on young people. It also points caregivers to the comprehensive resources available in our newly launched Family Resource Center.

Our obligation to act is not just medical. It’s moral.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA.

The Surgeon General’s advisory is a helpful and comprehensive list of suggestions and resources that anyone can use right now, from young people, caregivers and educators to media, community organizations and local governments. But it’s also a potential turning point in the message on children’s mental health from the highest level. “Our obligation to act is not just medical,” Dr. Murthy writes. “It’s moral.”

I will continue to devote myself to spreading this message, just as we have at the Child Mind Institute for more than a decade. Dr. Murthy writes 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.” We’re proud to stand with the Surgeon General, and we hope more individuals and organizations will join our movement to transform children’s lives.

Harold S. Koplewicz, MD
Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, is the founding president and Medical Director of the Child Mind Institute. One of the nation's … Read Bio