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U.S. surgeon general attends Colorado youth mental health panel

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.jpg
Posted at 5:02 PM, Mar 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-03 20:53:40-05

AURORA, Colo. - U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy visited Children’s Hospital Colorado Friday morning to take part in a panel discussing the current state of youth mental health in Colorado and throughout the county.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has reported a 57% increase in youth patients coming to the emergency department for mental health concerns in 2022 compared to 2019. Friday's discussion focused on solutions to address the youth mental health crisis.

“There's a unique set of challenges that, I think, kids are facing today. Challenges that have to do, in part, with the environment in which they grow up. Many kids are actually experiencing both online and offline bullying, right. Many are growing up in environments where they're experiencing violence and racism in their communities, and neighborhoods, and even schools, which chips away at their sense of self, and impacts their mental health and well being. Our kids are also growing up in a 24/7, nonstop information environment,” Murthy said.

Children’s Hospital Colorado Mental Health-in-Chief Ron-Li Liaw said she’s seeing the devastating impact.

“Suicide is the number one cause of death starting at age 10 in the state. It's number two nationally,” Liaw said. “For most kids who have attempted suicide, or completed suicide, they've seen a health care professional within the month before.”

Kari Eckert has first-hand experience of the devastating impact of the youth mental health crisis.

“On October 1, 2018, I lost my 15-year-old son to suicide. Robbie was, what appeared to be, a thriving young person,” Eckert said.

Eckert started Robbie’s HOPE, which stands for “Hold on, pain ends“ to help parents and kids navigate mental health issues.

Murthy said there is certainly hope for every child.

“We are seeing, for example, that when we use technology in the right way to provide virtual care, vrtual mental health can really help expand access to care,” Murthy said. “We're also seeing a lot of the funding that has gone towards certified community behavioral health centers — these are centers which provides 24/7 emergency care which anyone can get care from, regardless of their insurance coverage — that these are making a real difference in communities.”

Murthy, Eckert, and Liaw said they’ll continue searching for more solutions until every child receives the care that they need.

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