Companies, organizations address youth mental health

A major entertainment studio says it will feature mental health storylines in teen-focused shows. Celebrity athletes say they will help destigmatize the mental health conversation among young people. A Los Angeles nonprofit is expanding the training of professional youth mentors.

Big tech, media companies, local groups, youth leaders, basketball players and educators are pledging to join forces in response to the US Surgeon General’s public health advisory last December, which warned of an “urgent” need to address a national youth crisis.

During a visit to Los Angeles on Tuesday, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy a list of at least 30 companies with promising intentions.

“What led to the adolescent mental health crisis was complex,” Murthy said, “and it would require many different sectors to pull together — from educational institutions to policymakers to foundations to technology companies and many more.

“However, it is a first step of many that we must take,” he added, to address higher suicide rates, untreated mental disorders, and anxiety and stress that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation firm founded by Melinda French Gates “to advance social progress,” will work to expand access to mental health care for young people of color as well as for LGTBQ youth and their families.

Additionally, Black Sheep Agency will design a “youth-centric branding campaign” to destigmatize mental health conversations; The Miami Heat will use basketball players for the same purpose.

“When I talk to young people and I ask them, ‘Why don’t you feel comfortable telling someone you feel down?’ They’re like, ‘Well, you know, I just don’t want people to think I’m kind of broken. I don’t want them to think there’s something wrong with me, that I’m not worth hanging out with anymore,'” Murthy said.

That stigma needs to be broken, he added.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation will collect mental health data to better inform policy, while the Healthy Gamer Foundation is committed to developing products that encourage positive behavior online.

The CW has committed to addressing the issue on its shows, “which will be very powerful in changing the mental health narrative for young people and demystifying mental health treatments and conversations,” Murthy said.

Locally, the California Endowment is providing $1 million in new funding for an “Adolescent Mental Health and Coalition Building Campaign,” and Friends of the Children-Los Angeles is expanding its training and clinical support for professional youth mentors.

Some of these contributions are new or work in progress, while others represent ongoing efforts that Murthy would like to encourage to continue and expand.

Funding for the effort can be difficult to quantify. In some cases, the contribution is an increased focus using existing resources, although the Vistria Group, an investment firm, has pledged $250 million to fund adolescent mental health service providers.

In December, Murthy released the Surgeon General’s Advice on Protecting Adolescent Mental Health and called for “a swift and comprehensive response” from individuals, families, community organizations, foundations, the media, governments and technology companies.

In some cases, solutions would have to come from technology companies, which are probably part of the problem.

The Surgeon General commended Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, for its ongoing efforts, including the launch of “Nudges,” which encourage teens to “take a break” from social media or move into other areas of potential interest. These “are based on expert guidance, as well as internal and external research, suggesting that nudges can help change online behavior,” according to a statement from the Surgeon General.

In one study, 65% of respondents said nudges have a positive effect on how teens use social media by making them more aware of how they spend their time on the platforms.

Meta has come under fire for allegedly suppressing internal research suggesting that Instagram “worsens body image issues in one in three teenage girls,” according to an internal presentation verified by The Wall Street Journal.

“We just didn’t see enough transparency there,” Murthy said of Big Tech. Independent researchers “have struggled for years to understand and study the impact of technology and adolescent mental health. They tell us clearly and consistently that they don’t have access to the data they need from tech companies to fully understand the impact on adolescent mental health. … The longer we wait, the more young people suffer.”

Tech companies are under fire on multiple fronts, including Congress, where antitrust laws could crush them or otherwise change the way they do business.

Google to Stream 2022 Youth Mental Wellness Now via YouTube on Tuesday! Summit that will take place in San Pedro. Google has also pledged to publicize the upcoming 988 hotline, intended as a national emergency lifeline for those suffering from mental health crises.

A surgeon’s recommendation is a public statement intended to draw national attention to an urgent health issue and make recommendations on how it should be addressed. The Surgeon General has limited direct power but traditionally speaks as the medical voice of the executive branch.

Murthy is on his second tour of duty, having served as the surgeon general appointed by President Obama from 2014 to 2017.

Under President Biden, his first health advisory highlighted the “urgent threat” of medical misinformation and urged tech and social media companies to act more responsibly. Less than a month ago, he issued his latest advisory, warning of health worker burnout and the dangers it poses.

“All three pieces of advice — health misinformation, adolescent mental health, and the well-being of health workers — all focus on issues that have been made worse by the pandemic, but they all also predate the pandemic,” Murthy said. Companies, organizations address youth mental health

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