PORTLAND, Maine — The U.S. Surgeon General issued a new public health advisory Tuesday declaring loneliness an epidemic.
Social connection is as essential to our long-term survival as food and water. But today, loneliness is more widespread than other major health issues in the U.S. Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation is a major public health concern, according to the Surgeon General's report.
It found half of adults in the U.S. experience measurable loneliness. The number is higher for young adults. Social connection reduces the risk of early death, the report found.
Data released in late April from the Maine Children's Alliance "Maine Kids Count" data book show in Maine and the nation that comprehensive surveys of high school students indicate increasing mental health distress among high school students.
"In 2021, 52 percent of Maine students answered yes to the question, 'In your community, do you feel like you matter to people?' This is important because students who feel that they matter report better mental health overall. The rate for LGBTQ+ students was significantly lower – just 36 percent," the report found.
In Maine, visits to the emergency room for suicidal ideation or suicide attempts increased by over 500 in 2021 and did not decrease in 2022.
Maine’s teen suicide rate has remained above the national rate: More than 200 Maine youth visit emergency rooms each month with suicidal ideation or having made a suicide attempt.
NEWS CENTER Maine sat down with a group of panelists to talk about the struggles teens in the state face.
- Christine Morris: Clinical supervisor for the NAMI Teen Text Line
- Grace Brenner: NAMI Peer Support Specialist
- Casey Maddock: Student at the University of Maine
- Dana Anderson: Executive Director of Valo
We discussed what struggles Maine teens face, what they look like, how adults can help, and how social media exacerbates feelings of anxiety and depression.
We also discussed the importance of therapy and counseling and disconnecting from devices to increase in-person social connection.