In new national role, Murphy launches effort to boost youth mental health

Taking over as president of the National Governors Association, Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday announced a nationwide effort to strengthen the mental health of young Americans, calling it a crisis “that we must face together now.”

Officials and experts say the United States is facing a mental health crisis made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Murphy’s office pointed to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found 37% of high school students reported poor mental health during the pandemic, while 44% reported lingering feelings of sadness. or desperation.

Each president of the NGA — a group that includes governors from both major political parties — takes one primary initiative, and Murphy’s will be the “Strengthening Youth Mental Health” program will be his primary initiative. The Democrat unveiled it shortly after being sworn in as president on Friday morning.

Murphy said he chose this issue because “as difficult as the previous two years have been for us adults, we know the pressure is nothing compared to what too many American children were under.” That, he said, includes distance learning and students who lack socialization among classmates, as well as graduations, proms, and more.

“As governors, one of our most important and sacred responsibilities is to the children of our state,” he said in a speech to fellow governors gathered for the summer meeting of the NGA in Portland, Maine.

“It is our duty to keep them safe,” Murphy added. “It is up to us to ensure their education. It is our job to ensure their health and well-being, both physically and mentally.

Details on the initiative were scarce, but Murphy said it would be based on four pillars: prevention and building resilience; increase awareness and reduce stigma; access to and affordability of quality treatment and care; and training and support for caregivers and educators. He said each state “will find its own way to achieve these goals” and called on fellow governors to share their insights.

AFTER: Murphy could boost national profile as he prepares to lead group of governors

Murphy closed in-person classes in New Jersey in March 2020 as the coronavirus began to spread rapidly. It reopened school buildings in September that year, although pupils remained in mask for months to help curb the spread of the virus and many schools were forced to go away for periods due to epidemics.

Republicans and some parents have regularly criticized the governor for closing schools and imposing mask mandates for too long, adding to student stress.

Murphy’s new role as NGA could help boost his national profile as he is seen as a possible candidate for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination if President Joe Biden does not seek re-election.

In his Friday speech, Murphy noted that the NGA’s goal is to “facilitate bipartisan solutions” and “recognize that we are supporters third, governors second, and Americans first.”

“To be honest, most of our constituents don’t really care what party we represent,” he said. “They elected us to provide solutions. They asked us to lead our states to make their lives, their families and their neighbors a little better. And, again, to be honest, they, like the majority of Americans, just want us to find common ground.

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Brent Johnson can be attached to bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on @johnsb01.

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