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Beyond advisories: NYC urgently needs youth mental health services

Bruce Matsunaga

In his State of the City annual address on Jan. 24, New York City Mayor Eric Adams called social media use among teenagers and young adults a “mental health crisis hazard.”

Adams prompted Commissioner Ashwin Vasan of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to issue an advisory with guidance for parents and educators to encourage social media use “in a manner that is protective of youth mental health.”

“We cannot stand by and let Big Tech monetize our children’s privacy and jeopardize their mental health,” Adams said. “That’s why today, Dr. Ashwin Vasan is issuing a Health Commissioner’s Advisory officially designating social media as a public health crisis hazard in New York City.”

The advisory, while raising valid concerns and offering some support to parents, teachers and organizations, is a band-aid solution to the mental health emergency facing the city’s young people, who won’t be helped until affordable and accessible mental healthcare services are made available to them.

Mental health services offer numerous benefits and are uniquely situated to solve this problem.

One such benefit is that mental healthcare professionals can prevent more severe mental health issues from developing further, addressing issues before they escalate. These services can also be tailored to the child’s needs and their current state of brain development.

Social media’s tendency to isolate young people and children from their peers also makes the sense of community fostered by group therapy sessions, support groups and community-based programs helpful to show young people they are not alone in their struggles.

The advisory comes as officials and policymakers pressure top executives at tech companies to fix the addictive and lucrative design of social media algorithms, including multiple lawsuits. But young people cannot wait for those efforts to bear fruit, and a solution is needed now.

The Adams administration and the city government are on the right track by declaring the public health hazard, but addressing the issue without offering support in the form of mental health services will only continue to endanger youth on social media.

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    Diane PagenFeb 14, 2024 at 4:10 pm

    Dr. Vasan is a reckless individual. He created the mental health crisis with his Covid vaccine mandate, which caused children to have their trusted and familiar teachers, counselors and school safety officers removed from schools without any notice in October of 2021. The vaccine mandate firings also caused staff shortages that harmed the students. Vasan did not provide any guidance on how to explain the teachers leaving to the kids, so schools just pretended the teachers left voluntarily, and didn’t offer the kids any support to adjust. Vasan is now hiding from the public and his discomfort answering questions is evident. He needs to be removed before he does any more harm.