The surgeon general says a mental health crisis is growing among teens

In the wake of this week’s school shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the nation’s surgeon general is issuing a warning about a growing mental health crisis among young people.

Dr. Jerome Adams says that today, in addition to childhood bullying, families also face pressure from friends and the media that begin to pressure them to “feel better about their lives and their outcomes.”

“Too many young people grow up in a culture that pressures them to define themselves and each other through narcissism and personal accomplishment,” Adams said in an interview with The Washington Post. “They also grow up in a culture that pervades their everyday lives — whether on social media, in music, advertising, or in school — that impels young people to compare themselves to each other, reducing themselves to standards of beauty, ratings of accomplishments, praise or rejection, and judging the success of others based on such standards.”

Adams is asking for an end to this culture, saying that the solution will take social media and other technologies away from youth.

“We must begin to think of the introduction of new technologies like social media and other emerging means of connectivity as tools to deliver great health-promoting, life-enhancing impact to young people, or as tools that have adverse impact on health,” he said.

Adams is asking Congress and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare a national health emergency on youth mental health, describing it as “a widespread and pervasive public health crisis.” He wants the federal government to do more in promoting access to mental health resources as well as developing interventions to address the mental health challenges young people face today.

Adams recently commissioned a report about “Teens Turning to Heroin Over Alcohol” to gauge national trends in the use of opioids. The report shows that more and more young people are turning to opioids, especially heroin, because they perceive them as an “alternative to feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and despair.” The use of heroin, though largely a problem in the mid-Atlantic states, is growing nationwide, the report said.

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