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An associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF: We have a real increase in the number of kids who are suffering from depression and anxiety

In an unusual advisory on Tuesday, the US Surgeon General warned of an oncoming child mental health crisis. According to the data, adolescent girls’ emergency room visits for suicide attempts increased 51 percent in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.

“We have a real increase in the number of kids who are suffering from depression and anxiety; we’ve had suicide attempts,” said Jeanne Noble, an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF.

During the pandemic, depression and anxiety symptoms have doubled, with 25% of youth having depressive symptoms and 20% feeling anxiety symptoms.

California hasn’t avoided the grip of this alarming trend, with Noble estimating that five times as many children will die from suicide in 2020 as will die from COVID-19.

“We saw a more than 20% increase in the number of kids who completed suicide.”

According to Dr. Loretta Whitson, executive director of the California Association of School Counselors, she knew of a student who took a Spanish language class online and was now required to speak the language when she returned to class.

“He had the feeling that he wasn’t going to be successful or that he was going to be behind in his academics and that seems to be a universal anxiety,” Dr. Whitson told.

She believes that resolving the issue will be difficult, particularly when additional counseling staff is required in schools to help students cope with anxiety, sadness, and, in some cases, suicidal ideas.

“I find that school counselors are becoming very busy. It’s almost becoming instead of dealing with a comprehensive program, it’s almost become an urgent care system with the kids where they’re going next, next and they’re sometimes trying to put Band-Aids on a very big wound,” said Whitson.

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Although the surgeon general has limited direct authority, it is hoped that his announcement will prompt increased attention, including federal and state funding, to address the problem.

Individuals, families, community organizations, tech corporations, and governments should all put more effort into fighting this problem, he says, because if they don’t, it will only get worse.

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