Suicide is a major public health crisis – we need a federal plan to reduce it | Jonathan Munroe

More children, teens and young adults are dying from suicide and committing suicide than ever before. Suicide, depression and eating disorders are widespread in America and their wide-spread and effective public health crisis is…

Suicide is a major public health crisis – we need a federal plan to reduce it | Jonathan Munroe

More children, teens and young adults are dying from suicide and committing suicide than ever before.

Suicide, depression and eating disorders are widespread in America and their wide-spread and effective public health crisis is still largely unaddressed.

Today, 16.5% of American kids aged 12 to 19 reported experiencing thoughts of suicide in the past month, compared to 11.9% in 2008.

According to U.S. Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy, suicide and cutting are the leading causes of death in America for 18-24 year-olds. These statistics represent “an epidemic of suicide among youth.”

The numbers are far higher. Each year we lose an estimated 40,000 children, teenagers and young adults to suicide, and the CDC estimates that less than one percent of adults have received treatment for depression.

America’s youth, teens and young adults are at the risk of suffering from a range of debilitating mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, ADHD, bulimia, substance abuse, eating disorders, and body image issues.

Currently, around 2 million adolescents are receiving some form of counseling because of depression or anxiety. Lack of access to quality mental health services and knowledge about the importance of seeking treatment are often the leading reasons why these young people do not seek help.

This past week the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on ways to promote youth mental health. I was pleased to learn that today more than three out of every four children go to school in schools that have policies that explicitly endorse and promote mental health in schools. This supports recent findings that show schools improve students’ cognitive functioning and social relationships.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy has been pushing for mandatory mental health screenings in public schools.

While these policies are incredibly important, children and teens are on their own when it comes to dealing with some of the most difficult mental health issues – dealing with their issues in their homes, communities and through school. Studies suggest that a large segment of America’s youth and teens know someone who suffers from mental health disorders. Mental health screening in schools can be one of the ways we can help identify teens who may need mental health services. This will prevent children and young adults from becoming “the next to take their own lives” as the Surgeon General reminded the nation on Thursday.

Today, we know what we need to do to help save young lives. We also know how to prevent suicide and potentially prevent related health conditions. Instead of treating people with mental health conditions for mental health issues, the greater focus should be on finding effective ways to prevent these diseases and injuries. The report by the Surgeon General brings attention to the public health crisis of untreated mental health conditions in our country. This does not deserve a “complacency” attitude.

Dr. Vivek Murthy is urging Americans to take the pledge to take action on these issues. The US Surgeon General Calls for Prevention of Suicide and Bullying on Mental Health Day

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