Surgeon General Warns Children’s Mental Health in Peril

Surgeon General Warns Children’s Mental Health in Peril


A grave warning

This past December the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory concerning the critical state of kids’ mental health. In short, signs that children, teenagers, and young adults are suffering have been around for years. Before the pandemic, we touched on this subject when we reported on rising rates of suicide in these age groups. Additionally, we talked about the specific struggles that have come from the COVID pandemic.

The 53-page announcement gave a number of ideas for how to help the crisis. They involve everyone from local and state governments to private companies and non-profits.  Even more, it speaks to healthcare professionals, educators, families, and individuals on how to help.  Here, we highlight the most important points and discuss key issues.

For young people:

  • Ask for help and ask your friends if they need help.
  • Track and limit your time on social media.
  • Focus on connections that promote your mental health, such a volunteering to help others.
  • Above all, know that you are unique and valued.

If you’re in crisis, get immediate help: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  Additionally, you can chat with trained counselors 24/7 or get help in other ways through the Lifeline.

How Right Now: These CDC resources help people cope with negative emotions and stress, talking to loved ones, and finding inspiration.

Youth Engaged 4 Change: This government site offers ways for youth to make a difference in their lives and in the world around them.

For families:

  • Be a role model for kids by taking care of your own mental health.
  • Talk honestly about effects and dangers of drug and alcohol use.
  • Stay proactive, offer support, and keep watch for warning signs of trouble.
  • Reduce access to methods of self harm, like guns or dangerous medications.

Children’s Mental Health and COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit: These are resources for helping children’s social, emotional, and mental health. This site supplies parenting tips and other resources.

What’s On Your Mind?: This organization has a good guide for talking to children about mental health.

For educators:

  • Make school a safe space with anti-bullying programs.
  • Train teachers to recognize signs of mental health struggles early. Meanwhile, build programs that teach students the basics of emotional health.
  • Use public resources to hire more school-based mental health providers.  Moreover, aim for one counselor per 250 students.
  • Help families enroll children in healthcare that covers mental health through Medicaid, CHIP, or

Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Needs.  This site provides guidance for schools, school districts, and education departments.

National Center for School Mental Health: These are resources to promote a positive school climate.

Safe Schools Fit Toolkit: This toolkit helps educators build safe and healthy schools.

For healthcare professionals:

  • Use trauma informed care and mental health education as preventative measures.
  • Screen children at all visits for mental health issues and surroundings that could cause problems.
  • Assess the mental health needs of whole families as part of the children’s mental health.

Mental Health Initiatives: This information from the American Academy of Pediatrics gives guidance on supporting the healthy mental development of children, adolescents, and families.

HealthySteps Model: This is a primary care model that brings together a host of specialists. Additionally, they combine child growth experts and pediatric primary care providers to promote healthy child development.

ACEs Screening Tools:  Here’s a set of tools to screen children, adolescents, and adults for ACEs.

For employers:

  • Offer healthcare plans with low out-of-pocket costs for mental healthcare services.
  • Provide paid family leave and family-friendly flexible work hours.
  • Ensure that the workplace is a safe space that promotes mental health.
  • Train bosses to monitor and assess mental health needs.

Center for Workplace Mental Health: Employers can use these resources to create a more supportive workplace environment.

Work and Wellbeing InitiativeEmployer toolkit to help improve workplace conditions and list of employee assessment tools.

Mental Health Toolkit: This provides tools and resources to help employers learn more about mental health.  Moreover, it helps them cultivate a welcoming and supportive work environment.

For state and local governments:

  • Promote access to mental healthcare for children in poverty and tough social situations. Additionally, expand telehealth resources.
  • Pass laws to protect children in the digital world.
  • Increase enrollment in health insurance that covers mental healthcare.
  • Fund more school-based mental health resources and education.
  • Provide mental health resources to children in the juvenile justice system and in the child welfare system.
  1. U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis Further Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic. (2021, December 27). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  2. How Right Now. (2022, February 12). Retrieved from on 2/5/22.
  3. Youth Engaged 4 Change. (2022, February 07). Retrieved from on 2/5/22.
  4. What Is Children’s Mental Health? (2021, September 23). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  5. COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit. (2021, December 13). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  6. – From the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022, February 11). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  7. What’s on your mind? (2022, February 11). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  8. National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH) | University of Maryland School of Medicine. (2022, February 04). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  9. Safe Schools FIT Toolkit | The National Center for Healthy Safe Children. (2022, February 12). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  10. Mental Health Initiatives. (2022, February 12). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  11. van Wagoner, C. (2022). ZERO TO THREE HealthySteps – Early Childhood Development Experts in Pediatrics – HealthySteps. HealthySteps. Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  12. Screening Tools – ACEs Aware. (2021, November 22). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  13. Recruit. Hire. Retain. Advance. (2022, February 12). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  14. The Work and Well-Being Initiative. (2022, February 12). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.
  15. Workplace Mental Health – Employer Resources. (2022, February 12). Retrieved from on 2/8/22.

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