*By Julie Barrett, Founder, Conservative Ladies of Washington
Yesterday the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, issued a public health advisory regarding the mental health crisis impacting our youth. He issued a 53-page document discussing the reasons why this is an issue for our youth and what we can do about it.
He noted in this report that 1 in 3 teenage girls reports feeling “sadness and hopeless” on a regular basis. This is a 40% (FORTY PERCENT!!) increase since 2009. That’s HUGE!
“We know that mental health is shaped by many factors, from our genes and brain chemistry to our relationships with family and friends, neighborhood conditions, and larger social forces and policies. We also know that, too often, young people are bombarded with messages through the media and popular culture that erode their sense of self-worth—telling them they are not good looking enough, popular enough, smart enough, or rich enough. That comes as progress on legitimate, and distressing, issues like climate change, income inequality, racial injustice, the opioid epidemic, and gun violence feels too slow.”
As a mother of 4 teenagers, all of them with different mental health challenges, I can confidently say that climate change, income inequality and racial injustice are not among the leading reasons our youth are in crisis. But it certainly isn’t surprising that the left would use this opportunity to bolster their narrative of racial injustice and climate change…and of course, they threw gun control into the mix.
One need to look no further than TikTok to see the mental health decline in our young people today. Ben Shapiro does a very good segment discussing this on his podcast today. Take a look at LibsofTikTok if like me, you don’t use the app but would like to get an understanding of what I mean.
Social media, gaming and virtual reality are all technologies that have negatively impacted the mental health of our youth. Walk into any high school and you will see teenagers walking the halls with a phone in their hand, staring at the screen as they scroll through Instagram or Snapchat. There is substantially less time spent engaging face-to-face with other humans than there was in 2009. We know that human interaction is a critical part of child development in our children and youth. As we have made “progress”, our children are missing a sizable amount of human interaction in lieu of screentime.
Murthy continues: “The pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced.”
The fearmongering and “forced” physical distancing by our government has been far more detrimental to our youth than Covid-19 itself. Forcing young people to physical distance, wear masks for several hours a day, spend hours in front of a computer for school and now forced vaccinations is a major cause of anxiety and depression. If you are a parent, you can probably attest to this firsthand. Our children have been bombarded with messages that if they do not wear their mask properly, get jabbed and stand 6 feet from other humans, they could possibly kill someone…God forbid it be grandma. How could we possibly expect them to be anything other than anxious and depressed?
From the advisory: “From 2009 to 2019, the proportion of high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40%; the share seriously considering attempting suicide increased by 36%; and the share creating a suicide plan increased by 44%.19 Between 2011 and 2015, youth psychiatric visits to emergency departments for depression, anxiety, and behavioral challenges increased by 28%.20 Between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates among youth ages 10-24 in the US increased by 57%.21 Early estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest there were tragically more than 6,600 deaths by suicide among the 10-24 age group in 2020.”
These statistics are alarming. As a mother of a child who is currently in residential treatment for mental health care, I have seen firsthand all over the country the high demand for services for adolescent care. I have heard stories of so many other teens and their parents. This is a very real crisis and I believe, much of it is preventable.
Since 2009 we have seen a huge rise in the LGBTQ movement. Every year the movement expands – new genders and sexual identities are introduced. Students of all ages are being asked by teachers and school administration for their preferred pronouns. Not only does this cause confusion but it tells our children that they are not okay the way that they are. Most children will go through many phases as they grow where they feel uncomfortable and even confused in their own bodies and eventually, they grow out of it, although a small percentage do not. We have over-sexualized our children. Make no mistake, this was very intentional.
In addition, we have the implementation about anti-racist training, the widespread implementation of social emotional learning (SEL – also known as CRT or DEI or REJ or Ethnic Studies). These lessons are designed to teach our children that they are either victims or oppressors and that they are to be defined by the color of their skin. “Whiteness” has become like a disease. If you are white, you are automatically deemed a racist. In a recent article, I wrote about the challenges facing our teen boys, especially if they are white. Teaching youth that they are to be defined by their race is divisive and demoralizing.
If we can’t address the real issues that have created and are contributing to our youth mental health crisis, how will we ever help them get healthy? The policies and narratives of the radical left have played a significant role in this crisis. The move from teaching academics to teaching wokeism in our government schools has also been a serious factor in growing this into a full-blown crisis. I do not have much hope that our government and elected officials, nor our school administrations will take these contributing factors into consideration and therefore, correct course.
I believe that we the parents and we the people are the ones that must step up to the plate to help our youth get mentally healthy. We need to go back to being “that mom/dad” – you know, the one all the neighbor kids knew they could come to for a hot meal or just to talk. We need adults to become mentors to our youth – to nurture them and teach them useful life stuff like how to change the oil in the car or how to sew a button (because they took those out of most schools). Our youth need to have the sense of community that was such an integral part of the American society.
I am grateful to see the attention given to this mental health crisis. As a family, we have walked through a lot of mental health crises over the years and especially this year. We’ve learned a lot about Washington laws regarding youth and mental healthcare. I am personally committed, and Conservative Ladies of Washington is committed, to making this issue a top priority.