Home mental fitness Are the Kids Alright? The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory Answers the Question on Youth Mental Health In a New Report

Are the Kids Alright? The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory Answers the Question on Youth Mental Health In a New Report

by Marianne Navada
youth mental health surgeon general

Four main takeaways from Protecting Youth Mental Health, a report from the US Surgeon General’s Advisory.

  • Psychological stress for young people have been increasing since 2009.
  • The pandemic has exacerbated the stress along with other social factors, such as racial injustice. 
  • But there are young people who thrived during the pandemic.
  • We all have a part to play in nurturing the youth’s mental health. 


Rates of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression increased long before the pandemic among America’s youth. The report cites a CDC study with data from 2009 to 2019: 

More than 1 in 3 high school students said they had experienced such persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year that they couldn’t participate in their regular activities.

Almost half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Nearly 70% of students with same sex partners report these feelings.

In Protecting Youth Mental Health, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy outlines the trends and state of youth mental health in the US. The report explains who is most at risk, and what we can do as individuals, professionals, family members, and community members.

It’s estimated that as of June 2021, more than 140,000 children in the US had lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19.

In a global survey, answers gathered show that 25% experience depressive symptoms and 20% anxiety symptoms. In early 2021, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls.

Society affects our mental health. Aside from interactions with individuals, large-scale social events, those we have little control over, disrupt our lives. The challenge is learning how to cope with these social events. And it seems that some have done just that.

The Good News

But not all is hopeless. Even though psychological stress and depression levels increased during the pandemic. There are young people who “thrived during the pandemic”. 

The pandemic allowed some kids to get more sleep, spend more time with family, experience less bullying and academic stress, enjoy flexible schedules, and develop coping skills. 

Another good news:

According to more than 50 years of research, increases in distress symptoms are common during disasters. Several measures of distress that increased early in the pandemic appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels by mid-2020.

Protecting Youth Mental Health

Humans generally are resilient. They develop coping mechanisms during social disasters and it doesn’t seem to develop into mental health disorders. 

More than a Virus

As a society, the pandemic was not just about the virus. From social protests, political bickering, to natural disasters, the time during the pandemic exposed us to larger social problems. It doesn’t help that issues are presented in a binary fashion—it’s either right or wrong. Or that negativity bias persists in most of the content we consume, be it from news conglomerates or smaller outlets.

Our worldview influences our mental state. Nowadays, with access to information, young and old are exposed to all that humanity has to offer. Access and convenience comes at a price. This highly connected world exposes us to the harsh and the gentle side. Our task is to always remember that humans are complex. And there are always people who act with tolerance and understanding for others. 

Commit to living.