U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy discussed the rise in suicides among the nation’s youth, and the mental health crisis they’re facing due to COVID-19 on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday (Dec. 26). He mentioned that school closures and ongoing mask mandates have contributed to the current state of affairs.

“I’m so concerned about our children because there is an epidemic, if you will, of mental health challenges that they’ve been facing, and it’s partly because of the pandemic,” Dr. Murthy said. “You know, a decade before the pandemic, we saw a 40% increase in a number of high school students who said they felt persistent feelings of hopelessness or sadness. We had increases in suicides among kids, to alarming levels.”

Murthy, who has two young children of his own, emphasized the importance of parents letting their kids know it’s not a sign of weakness to struggle during a tough time, and to seek help if they need it.

“Starting that conversation is important, so kids know that it’s okay for them to come to you for help. It’s also important for parents to encourage kids to seek out help, even if it’s not from them,” he said. Earlier this month, Murthy issued an advisory on the youth mental health crisis being further exposed by COVID-19. He mentioned several of the recommendations he outlined in the document on Sunday’s (Dec. 26) episode of “State of the Union.”

In addition to discussing how the country’s youth have responded to the pandemic, Surgeon General Murthy also said that he can understand the “fatigue” and “frustration” many adults have regarding the way things have been for nearly two years.

“We’ve lost so many people and our lives have been changed fundamentally,” he said. “But those struggles shouldn’t obscure one critical thing, which is that we have made tremendous progress in this last two years as well.“

“We have saved more than a million lives because of vaccination efforts this past year alone. I know it may not always feel like the progress is enough. But we’ve also gotten tools and developed tools to learn to live our lives, to gather with family and friends,” he continued. “We will get to the end of this pandemic. It’s gone through twists and turns. But we will get there and we will get there together.“