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Surgeon general visits ASU to talk mental health, social connection

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2023 - 2:55pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 14, 2023 - 2:57pm

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A projection screen in front of a seated crowd of people shows a picture of Vivek Murthy. Text next to it reads "We Are Made to Connect" and "Arizona State welcomes US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy"
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Earlier this year, Surgeon General Doctor Vivek Murthy released an advisory on what he says is an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the US. To raise awareness on the issue and solutions, Murthy visited ASU's Tempe campus.

Earlier this year, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory on what he says is an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the U.S.

“We have had a growing problem with mental health in our country for a long time,” said Murthy. “One that it's high time we finally address and not just address through more access to treatment, but also that we address through dealing with the root causes.”

To raise awareness on the issue and solutions, he’s visiting universities across the country to talk about it, including an event at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Monday.

A seated crowd in a dark room raises their phone flashlights toward the front of the room. Screens at the front show the crowd from a different angle.
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Earlier this year, Surgeon General Doctor Vivek Murthy released an advisory on what he says is an epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the US. To raise awareness on the issue and solutions, Murthy visited ASU's Tempe campus.

“By show of hands, how many people in here know somebody who’s struggling with loneliness or isolation in your lives?” Murthy asked the audience.

Out of the hundreds of students there, almost every hand went up. Murthy said that’s the answer everywhere he goes.

The advisory, published in May, stated that despite being a common problem, less than 20% of people who “often or always feel lonely or isolated” recognize it as a major problem.

ASU student and Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles also spoke at the event. She opened up about her own struggles with mental health and how sharing them with others eased some feelings of isolation.

Vivek Murthy and Emma Broyles pose for a photo in front of a backdrop with the ASU logo printed on it repeatedly. Murthy is wearing a uniform jacket with a pin that bears his name. Broyles is wearing a simple brown dress. They were both smiling.
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Dr. Vivek Murthy visited ASU's Tempe campus to talk with student and Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles about social connectedness and mental health on November 13, 2023.

“Those types of conversations and those types of connections that you can build with your peers really can allow you to feel like you're not alone,” Broyles said. “That's another incredibly important part of this conversation that we're having. Taking away that stigma and making people feel like their emotions are validated and that their experiences are valid. It doesn’t have to be a horrible thing. Every experience, good or bad, is a notch in your belt that can allow you to connect with somebody else that can allow you to be a more well-rounded human being.”

Murthy said mental and physical health challenges are not just equally important, but they also influence each other.

“The overall mortality impact of social disconnection is on par with smoking daily,” he said.

Murthy is launching the 5-for-5 Connection Challenge as one way to start addressing the issue. It encourages at least one act to connect with others every day for five days.

“I want people to feel not just aware about this subject, but to also feel empowered,” Murthy said, “to know how you can make a difference.”

Being mindful of social media usage is another way Murthy said everyone can start feeling more connected.

Vivek Murthy and Emma Broyles stand on either side of a student wearing glasses and a hoodie. They are posing for a picture on the student
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Dr. Vivek Murthy visited ASU's Tempe campus to talk with student and Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles about social connectedness and mental health on November 13, 2023.

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