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Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on July 15. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. surgeon general warned on Tuesday young people face "unprecedented" mental health challenges — and the pandemic has only made matters worse.

Why it matters: Depression, suicidal ideation and emergency room visits for mental health reasons have risen significantly in young people, according to the 53-page advisory from the country's top physician, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.

  • "It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place," he wrote.

Details: Mental health challenges were already climbing before COVID, the report says, but: "The pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses."

  • Murthy acknowledged other challenges to children's and teens' wellbeing, including a national reckoning over the killings of Black Americans by police, violence against Asian Americans, gun violence, and growing concerns about political polarization, climate change and misinformation.
  • Emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts in early 2021 rose by 51% for adolescent girls and 4% for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in 2019.
  • Reduced in-person interactions also made it more difficult to identify signs of child abuse and mental health concerns, the report said.

What he's saying: "To be sure, this isn’t an issue we can fix overnight or with a single prescription," Murthy wrote in his introduction. "Ensuring healthy children and families will take an all-of society effort, including policy, institutional, and individual changes in how we view and prioritize mental health."

  • "Our obligation to act is not just medical — it’s moral."

Go deeper: Axios AM Deep Dive: Our mental health crisis

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker