Opinion | A Mental Health Crisis Among the Young

To the editor:

Regarding the “Mental Health Alarm for Young People” (news article, Dec 8th):

There is a serious mental health crisis for America’s youth, said Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States. There is a huge amount of evidence to support this.

Children’s hospitals are overwhelmed with mental health cases. There is a lot of hand wringing but a little more. There is a serious lack of comprehensive analysis of our cultural flaws.

These children and teens are bombarded with a toxic mixture of vicious social media, harmful violent video games, TV shows and movies. In addition, this is the only developed country in the world where going to school has turned into a form of Russian roulette.

The state of dissonant politics ensures that nothing will change for these unfortunate young men. Our culture that emphasizes winning in sports, selfishness, and amassing wealth creates a weak society incapable of absorbing and dealing with its most serious problems. The COVID-19 pandemic appears.

The mental health crisis of American youth is the result of a culture that encourages ignorance, self-indulgence, and self-aggrandizement with little sense of decency, mutual respect or self-reflection. How do you fix a flawed culture? I’m not sure, but you should start with a serious examination of its intrinsic flaws.

Arnold R
Philadelphia
The author is a physician, a senior adjunct fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics and an adjunct fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives.

To the editor:

Regarding “Schools in Trouble Like a Council of Bitter Hostility and Paralysis” (first page, December 2):

With schools across the country facing a “range of urgent challenges,” we are failing to address the most systemic, most worrisome and most dangerous of all: the youth mental health emergency. The lack of a significant national response is staggering.

Not only do we need to shift our collective focus, but we also need to change the culture of our schools if we are to address this mental health crisis in a meaningful way that is overwhelming and overburdening entire school communities.

This means putting an end to the toxic school stresses that have long caused anxiety and depression in young people, and beginning to create humane environments for students, teachers and families. Rather than being driven by a narrow vision of achievement and success, our schools must prioritize experiences that support health – such as connection, agency, and purposeful learning.

If we can finally bring humanity into our schools, perhaps not only will our children be healthier, but we as a society can begin to heal together.

Vicky Apples
Lafayette, California.
The writer is the author of Beyond Measure: Saving an Overscheduled, Underrated, and Underestimated Generation, and director of the documentary Race to nohere and Beyond Measure.

To the editor:

Regarding “Democrats’ Serious Appetite for Eating themselves” (in English), by Frank Bruni (Newsletter, nytimes.com, Dec 9):

I have an emergency alert for the Democrats. The form of democratic governance of our nation is in sight. The political moment is dangerous. It is not clear whether our brilliant democracy will survive the vicious and organized attack from the right, nor is it clear whether the Democrats will have the clarity and stamina to save it.

opinion conversation
The climate and the world are changing. What challenges will the future bring, and how should we respond to them?

Remember that you are politicians, elected to stand up to the political moment, equipped and focused on what is now the greatest threat to our country since the Civil War. Critical issues of climate change, equity and health care must be addressed.

But if we lose the country as we know it, how will it be possible to fight for these things? It’s a terrifying prospect.

Susan Teacher
Urbana, Illinois.

To the editor:

“Homes Pass Defense Bill in Rare Show of Unit to Save Shared Priority” (News article, Dec. 8) didn’t do justice to the sheer size of the Pentagon’s budget. After months of intense wrangling over the president’s $1.8 trillion plan to build back better over 10 years, the Pentagon’s budget with annual spending ($768 billion) four times that of domestic investment is staggering.

The US military budget is larger than the budget of the next 11 countries combined, and more than twice the military budget of China, a frequently cited justification for more spending. Twenty years later, the end of the war in Afghanistan has resulted not in a decrease in the budget, but in an increase in increases. Congress cut ‘Build Back Better’ in half, but added to the president’s request for the defense budget.

The majority of Americans do not support increasing the Pentagon’s budget indefinitely. But congressional double standards combined with low media coverage tip the scales toward this outcome, time and time again.

Lindsey Kochgarian
Northampton, Massachusetts.
The writer is program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

To the editor:

Regarding “a sticking point in the climate plan” (Business, Dec. 13):

The proper job for Republicans (and Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat) is to transition directly to clean energy plans from the start, ensuring not only transitional benefits and wages, but also a robust retraining program for displaced workers—a program designed and monitored in collaboration with these workers and their advocates.

In the current polarizing age of dysfunction, coal miners’ political advocates have abdicated this vital responsibility. By denying, obfuscating, obstructing, and slowing down the decarbonization needed for the economy, it has created a double catastrophe.

Coal miners will be cut short by poorly thought democratic policies, while climate catastrophe will advance by leaps and bounds.

Jeff Freeman
Rahway, New Jersey

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