Sally Yates, Army veteran, says mental health problems are pervasive in America

ANNAPOLIS — Surgeon General Jerome Adams delivered a warning about the state of America’s mental health system, calling for a revamped mental health safety net and saying almost 5 million Americans are in need of help and one in five are at risk for a crisis.

Adams, making his first visit to Maryland, said the “overwhelming majority” of Americans don’t have access to quality mental health services and that 25 million people won’t seek care for a lack of resources. He said that despite being about 6 months removed from his service as surgeon general, he and his staff have detected “a sense of urgency” about helping young people and adults understand the realities of mental health challenges and obtaining help.

The remarks came at an annual youth violence prevention symposium for youth led by Adams, which looked specifically at how both state and local governments can support and fund youth mental health and substance abuse prevention initiatives.

“When we address the biggest challenge in the nation, the great challenge, it’s going to take a government, it’s going to take a community, it’s going to take everyone,” Adams said. “And we’re starting the conversation about preventing mental health harms and connecting people to services. We need to be moving ahead and building resilience in all of our communities.”

Tuesday’s event, hosted by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, includes youth, their parents, community leaders and other experts on violence prevention. Topics include youth mental health and substance abuse, topics that Adams has been discussing as surgeon general since the 2018 publication of his first-ever report on the topic.

Still, the surgeon general said he has seen a need for more aggressive action on mental health and substance abuse prevention beyond what he said is the current federal focus on substance abuse prevention.

The conference is considered a leading example of youth-led efforts to protect and empower youth.

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