Takeaways from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory

“Everyone has a role to play in combating this mental health pandemic. This is the moment to demand change—with our voices and with our actions.” – U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA 

In December of 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office released Protecting Youth Mental Health, an advisory urging immediate action to address the mental health crisis young people are facing.  

The report includes a comprehensive list of actionable steps that everyone can take to combat this crisis, affirming our core belief that it takes all of us—teens, parents, educators, health professionals and the community—to remove the stigma of mental health, foster community support, improve education and increase awareness to prevent teen suicide.  

Below are key strategies highlighted by the report that closely align with our prevention efforts. We encourage you to read through them and consider what steps you can take to create a world where young people can thrive. 

Strategies for Young People 

  • Ask for help. Find trusted adults, friends, or family members to talk to about stressful situations. 
  • Be intentional about your use of social media, video games and other technologies. 
  • Be a source of support for others. Talk to family and friends about mental health, listen and connect them to helpful resources. 
  • Learn and practice techniques to manage stress and other difficult emotions. 
  • Remember that mental health challenges are real, common and treatable. Struggling with your mental health does not mean you are broken. 

Strategies for Parents and Caregivers 

  • Be a role model for young people by taking care of your own mental and physical health. 
  • Look out for warning signs of distress and seek help when needed.  
  • Be attentive to how youth spend time online. Digital technology can help young people connect, but it can also be a harmful space for bullying, misinformation and negative self-comparison. 
  • Be a voice for mental health in your community.  

Strategies for Educators 

  • Expand social and emotional learning programs and other evidence-based approaches that promote healthy development. 
  • Learn how to recognize signs of changes in mental and physical health among students and take appropriate action when needed. 
  • Provide a continuum of supports to meet student mental health needs, including evidence-based prevention practices and trauma-informed mental health care. 
  • Expand the school-based mental health workforce and prioritize students with mental health needs. 

Strategies for Communities  

  • Educate the public about the importance of mental health, and reduce negative stereotypes, bias and stigma around mental illness. 
  • Address the unique mental health needs of at-risk youth, such as racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ youth and youth with disabilities. 
  • Elevate the voices of children, young people and their families. Youth are experts on their own lives, so it is important to engage youth in community-based mental health efforts. 

Read the full advisory: Protecting Youth Mental Health: The US Surgeon General’s Advisory