Opinion | A Mental Health Crisis Among the Young

To the Editor:

Re “Alarm Sounded on Youth Mental Health” (news article, Dec. 8):

There is a serious mental health crisis for the youth of America, according to Dr. Vivek Murthy, surgeon general of the United States. There is a mountain of evidence supporting this.

Pediatric hospitals are overrun with mental health cases. There is a lot of hand-wringing but little more. A thorough analysis of our cultural flaws is seriously lacking.

These children and adolescents are bombarded with a toxic mix of vicious social media and harmful violent video games, television shows and films. In addition, this is the only advanced nation in the world where going to school has turned into a form of Russian roulette.

The discordant state of politics guarantees that nothing will change for these unfortunate youth. Our culture, which emphasizes winning at sports, egotism and accumulation of wealth, creates a weakened society unable to comprehend and deal with its most serious problems. The Covid pandemic is exhibit A.

The mental health crisis of American youth is a function of a culture that promotes ignorance, self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement with little sense of decency, mutual respect or self-reflection. How do you repair a defective culture? I am not sure, but it needs to start with a serious examination of its substantial flaws.

Arnold R. Eiser
Philadelphia
The writer, a doctor, is a senior adjunct fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and an adjunct fellow at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

To the Editor:

Re “Schools in Bind as Bitter Feuds Cripple Board” (front page, Dec. 2):

As schools across the country confront “an array of urgent challenges,” we’re failing to address the most systemic, the most alarming and the most dangerous crisis of all: a youth mental health emergency. The lack of a significant national response is stunning.

Not only do we need to shift our collective focus, but we also need to shift the culture of our schools if we are to meaningfully address this mental health crisis that is exhausting and overstretching entire school communities.

That means putting an end to toxic school stressors that have long caused anxiety and depression in young people, and starting to create environments that are humane for students, teachers and families. Instead of being driven by a narrow vision of achievement and success, our schools must prioritize the experiences that support health — like connection, agency and meaningful learning.

If we finally bring humanity to our schools, maybe then not only will our kids be healthier, but also we as a society can start to heal together.

Vicki Abeles
Lafayette, Calif.
The writer is the author of “Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation,” and director of the documentaries “Race to Nowhere” and “Beyond Measure.”

To the Editor:

Re “Democrats’ Dangerous Appetite for Eating Their Own,” by Frank Bruni (newsletter, nytimes.com, Dec. 9):

I have an Emergency Alert for Democrats. Our nation’s democratic form of government is in the cross hairs. The political moment is grave. It is not clear if our remarkable democracy will survive the vicious and organized assault from the right, nor is it clear if the Dems 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 meet 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, equality and health care must be addressed.

But if we lose the country as we have known it, how will it be possible to fight for those things? It is a terrifying prospect.

Susan Teicher
Urbana, Ill.

To the Editor:

“Houses Passes Defense Bill in Rare Display of Unity to Salvage Shared Priority” (news article, Dec. 8) didn’t do justice to the sheer size of the Pentagon budget. After months of intense debate over the president’s Build Back Better, at $1.8 trillion over 10 years, a Pentagon budget with annual spending ($768 billion) four times as much as those domestic investments is astounding.

The U.S. military budget is larger than that of the next 11 countries combined, and more than twice that of China, a constantly cited justification for more spending. After 20 years, the end of the war in Afghanistan resulted not in a budget decrease, but more increases. And Congress cut Build Back Better in half, but added to the president’s defense budget request.

The majority of Americans don’t support an endlessly increasing Pentagon budget. But double standards in Congress combined with low media coverage tip the scales toward that outcome, time and again.

Lindsay Koshgarian
Northampton, Mass.
The writer is program director for the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

To the Editor:

Re “A Sticking Point in Climate Plan” (Business, Dec. 13):

The proper function of Republicans (and of Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat) is to jump right in on clean energy plans from the get-go, ensuring not just benefits and transition pay, but also a robust retraining program for displaced workers — a program conceived and monitored in cooperation with those workers and their advocates.

In the current polarized era of dysfunction, coal miners’ political advocates have abdicated this vital responsibility. By denying, obfuscating, obstructing and slow-walking the necessary decarbonization of the economy, they have fostered a double disaster.

Coal miners will be shortchanged by poorly thought out Democratic policies, while climate catastrophe will proceed apace.

Jeff Freeman
Rahway, N.J.

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