WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Calling it the “defining public health issue of our time,” the U.S. surgeon general on Thursday told before Congress about the root cause of what he has labeled a youth mental health crisis.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that the suicide rate for Americans age 10 to 19 jumped by 40% from 2001 to 2019.
“The bottom line is our kids can’t afford to wait longer,” he said.
He said that Congress must do more to help a surge of youth people battling loneliness, anxiety and depression. He said kids need more access to resources like psychiatrists and more protections online.
“I talk to parents all over the country and to kids as well who say that they’re exposed to content that’s violent and sexual in nature, that they’re often bullied and harassed online,” Murthy said.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are already pushing legislation that would enact age requirements for social media and block websites from collecting data about and targeting ads to minors.
“This is the No. 1 threat to our children’s health right now,” Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said.
He also suggested the surgeon general add an electronic warning label for parents. Murthy agreed that “would be appropriate,” but also said Congress would need to pass legislation to make it happen.
Last year, Congress approved millions in new funding to expand mental health resources at schools. Now, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said, the focus should be on social media.
“Unless you get at the root causes of unhappiness and isolation and loneliness, there is almost no amount of money that can make up for that inattention,” he said.