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Elmo wrote a simple tweet that revealed widespread existential dread. Now, the president has weighed in.

Helping kids in a mental health crisis
How to help children going through a mental health crisis 06:12

On social media this week, Elmo – yes, the red fuzzy Sesame Street character – posed a question to his followers, with nothing but good intent. "Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?" the X page for Elmo posted. A barrage of responses – tens of thousands of them – were brutally honest and downright cynical about the dread people are feeling.

"I'm at my lowest. Thanks for asking," one person replied. 

"Elmo I'm depressed and broke," another wrote.

"Elmo I'm suffering from existential dread over here," another replied.

"Elmo get outta here it isn't safe," one person warned. 

Soon, brands and celebrities were replying to the post. "ran out of milk. do the math," the account for Oreo replied.

"well... it is Monday..." the account for the Garfield movie wrote. Garfield, the animated orange cat, famously hates Mondays.

"well it's the 800th day of January so," the account for Jimmy John's sandwiches replied.

Not all of the replies were sarcastic, dark or dreadful. "It was a great day in Florida, Elmo," a photographer replied, sharing a photo of turtles sunning themselves.

"Honestly, I'm in a really good place [right now]," Chance the Rapper replied.

About 20 hours into the barrage of comments, Elmo's account tweeted: "Wow! Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you. #EmotionalWellBeing"

And that tweet gained attention from a big name: President Joe Biden, who said he knows "how hard it is some days to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days."

"Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it. Even though it's hard, you're never alone," Mr. Biden's post reads.

While many of the replies about existential dread were tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic – common in online and meme humor – the bombardment of gloomy comments revealed the angst and strife many people express online. So, the Sesame Street account replied to Elmo with a link to emotional wellbeing resources.

Sesame Street's resources are mainly videos and activities geared toward promoting well being for children. Childhood depression and anxiety rates doubled during 2020 to 2021, according to the website. 

In 2020, 29% of U.S. adults reported a depression diagnosis at some point in their life. That's nearly 10 percentage points higher than in 2015, according to Gallup.

In 2021, an estimated 20.1 million U.S. adults – about 8.3% of all U.S. adults – had a depressive episode in the past year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. About 5 million kids between the ages of 12 to 17 in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode. These major depressive episodes last about two weeks and it can result in severe impairments that limit one's ability to carry out activities, according to NIMH. 

Anxiety often accompanies depression and an estimated 6.8 million adults – 3.1% of the U.S. population – have generalized anxiety disorder. Only 43.2% are receiving treatment, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Anxiety and depression can both be treated with psychotherapy and medications.

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