U.S. Surgeon General joins Cleveland’s Mayor to address the youth mental health crisis

Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 10:48 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy traveled from Washington, D.C. to Cleveland on Wednesday to join Cleveland’s Mayor in calling the youth mental health crisis in this country, an ‘urgent public health priority.’

In a news conference, Mayor Justin Bibb along with Surgeon General Murthy talked about the valuable insight they received on youth mental health by talking to CMSD high school students.

“What we’ve got to do as a country is expand access to care. We’ve got to talk more about mental health, eradicated the shame and stigma that still surrounds it, so that people don’t feel ashamed to ask for help,” Surgeon General Dr. Murthy said.

Contributing as one of the root causes of the youth mental health crisis according to CMSD students, mental anguish caused by the pandemic, “A lot of the young people we talked to today - they started high school on Zoom and a lot of the emotional maturity you develop as a high school freshman -- they couldn’t do that.”

But, being back at school is now also a source of stress because of issues like peer pressure, the toxicity of social media, bullying and family financial stress.

All challenges sadly driving up the youth suicide rate according to the U.S. Surgeon General, “Among kids there was a 57% increase in the suicide rate in the decade prior to the pandemic.”

The anxiety and depression rate among children and teens, escalating even more, especially among young girls.

“We’re finding that 1 in 3 girls according to recent data from the CDC are saying that they have considered taking their own lives,” Surgeon General Murthy said.

But, children are also worried about the potential for school shootings, and overall gun violence on city streets, and the Surgeon General said gun violence is now the number once cause of death among children.

Mayor Bibb said students at Cleveland Schools have their own plan to do something about it, “Many of our young people across CMSD are so concerned about the proliferation of guns in our city -- several of them went down to Columbus to lobby the state legislature to do a better job of giving us in Cleveland more tools that cut down on violent crimes.”

So, what’s the answer to sadly what’s become the new normal?

Both the Surgeon General and Mayor agree, an increase in telehealth or virtual counseling services, as well as expanding the number of mental health providers are both critical. American Rescue Plan dollars will be used in the city to invest in treatment and prevention.

But, Mayor Bibb is also focused on finding something to keep young people’s minds and bodies active in a positive setting, “We’re exploring how to build a children’s cabinet in our administration to ensure that we have robust out of school time activities for all young people in our city.”