Surgeon General: Youth Mental Health Crisis And Teletherapy

The US surgeon general's youth mental health crisis advisory and how teletherapy can help

Addressing The US Surgeon General Youth Mental Health Crisis Advisory

The youth mental health crisis is a growing problem in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 children experiences a severe mental health condition. This means that 20% of American teenagers are dealing with serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and the numbers are only increasing as children transition back to school.

What's Causing The Youth Mental Health Crisis?

Of the many factors that contribute to the youth mental health crisis, one of the most significant is the lack of access to mental health care. 

According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, nearly 60% of young people with mental health conditions do not receive treatment. The lack of mental health treatment for children has only become more prevalent, post pandemic, and the statistics about children's mental health are alarming.

  • 44% of high school students report feeling “persistently sad or hopeless”
  • 80% of parents are worried about their child's mental health
  • Even before COVID, suicide rates for youth ages 10 to 24 years old increased nearly 60% from 2007 to 2018
  • For every 100,000 children in the U.S., there are on average only 14 child and adolescent psychiatrists, and as few as 4 in some states.

Calling attention to this national crisis in youth mental health, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a Surgeon General's Advisory in late 2021. He is actively advocating for action and change across all sectors, from parents and educators to health care providers and social media companies.

Among his priorities are to recognize that mental health is essential to overall health and to develop strategies to tackle the social and economic barriers that cause poor mental health among children and their families. The Surgeon General is also intently focused on making sure that every child can access and afford high-quality mental health care, which will require scaling up evidence-based interventions, technologies, and services. Teletherapy plays a huge role in expanding accessibility.

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy is a form of therapy that is conducted over the phone or online. It can be just as effective as in-person therapy, but it has the added benefit of being more accessible and convenient. Teletherapy is a great option for young people to get the treatment they need without having to leave home or miss school.

How Teletherapy Can Make a Difference 

“Teletherapy will play a critical role in addressing the mental health crisis in our country,” acknowledges Paul Graf, CEO and founder of Healthy Young Minds. “Not only can teletherapy ensure easy, remote access to quality care, it's highly effective for the assessment and treatment of mental health among teens – and they seem to prefer it. We applaud Dr. Murthy for calling attention to this national crisis and for prioritizing access to mental health.”

Is Teletherapy Effective For Children?

Teletherapy is effective for children and young people in many ways. It can provide them with a safe and confidential space to talk about their problems. It can also help them in developing coping skills and strategies for dealing with stressors in their life. Teletherapy can also be a great way to connect young people with other resources, such as support groups or psychiatric medication.

Research Proves That Teletherapy Is Effective For Children

  • A review of 126 studies found that teletherapy is effective in preventing, assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health disorders for children and teens
  • Research shows that telehealth is proving to be as effective as face-to-face psychotherapy, and retention rates are higher. 
  • Computerized and online therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective for treating anxiety and depression. 

Is Teletherapy Effective For Teenagers?

Teletherapy is effective for treating many different mental health conditions in teenagers. These issues include anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD, and PTSD. Teens are also more likely to stick with teletherapy treatment than in-person therapy, making it a great option for those who need long-term care.

What Are The Benefits Of Teletherapy For Teens

At Healthy Young Minds, we provide personalized, research and results-driven, inclusive and accessible care for children and teens. We offer teletherapy that is deeply engaging, and that removes the geographic and financial barriers to quality mental and behavioral health care.

  • Teens are comfortable with technology and are used to interacting online.
  • Teletherapy is less intimidating with a therapist over a screen versus face-to-face.
  • Teletherapy allows for flexibility and convenience, as teens can fit it into their busy schedules without spending time driving to an appointment, waiting, and meeting in person.
  • With teletherapy, it's easier to preserve privacy when a teen can meet with a therapist from home or phone.
  • “The pandemic exacerbated and increased mental health issues in many children and teens. With targeted, evidence-based treatment, kids can improve their psychological well being and develop the necessary skills to cope with current and future challenges.“

    Cari Whitlock, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Healthy Young Minds

Written by Dr. Cari Whitlock

Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist at Healthy Young Minds

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