Report: Mental health crisis worsening with COVID-19, response

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The number of American adults dealing with anxiety or depression has tripled in 2020.

There’s your lasting COVID-19 response impact, in a nutshell.

The data show the COVID-19 pandemic is having a profoundly negative impact on the mental health of our communities and is expected to worsen over time. It’s going to take strong leadership and a coordinated effort to tackle this mental health crisis. We need to work together to help create a community where no one feels alone in their struggle,” said Dan Gillison, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Thirty-seven percent – more than one in three – American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to a large recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.

And this was just among the disturbing, heartbreaking findings in a report released a new report on how America’s efforts to contain the coronavirus are taking a toll on Americans’ mental health.

Sixty-five percent of Americans surveyed report that they fear that they or their loves ones will contract the coronavirus, and 70 percent surveyed report that they fear that the coronavirus will negatively impact their household income.

The former is what the incessant media coverage and political rancor has wrought in terms of advancing a narrative; the latter, conversely, is almost certainly true.

Twenty-two million jobs disappeared this spring, more than 12 million workers remain unemployed, and another 5 million have given up and left the labor force.

One-third of adult Americans surveyed report having trouble paying usual household expenses.

The pressure is having particular impacts on those most in the crosshairs economically. Nearly half of those ages 18 to 29, for instance, report having symptoms of depressive and/or generalized anxiety disorder – the highest rate of mental illness of any age group.

Also impacted adversely: blacks and Latinos, who are twice as likely as whites to have seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.

All told, more than 1 in 10 U.S. adults (10.7 percent), from a June survey by the CDC, had considered suicide in the past 30 days, more than double the share in 2019 (4.7 percent).

“Mental Health America has seen an unprecedented rise in the numbers of people taking our online mental health screens since the start of the pandemic, with equally unprecedented numbers – more than a half million – experiencing anxiety, depression, or psychosis,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America. “These effects are worse in young people and among people of color. And a higher percentage of our help-seekers with depression – 37 percent – are regularly thinking of self-harm or suicide than ever before.”

And Congress is … doing nothing.

Which is not a surprise. Americans’ attitudes toward mental health tend to fall more in the realm of stigmatization than treating mental health as one already does physical health.

Public policy is just falling in behind where society is, unfortunately.

“Congress must do much more to help before it is too late,” said Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA-08), the co-chair of the Bipartisan House Suicide Prevention Task Force. “This means ensuring that mental health providers can keep their doors open and that access and affordability issues do not prevent those in need of their care from walking through those doors. In addition to their financial security, the health and wellbeing of Americans should be our top priority right now. If it is, then we will need a much stronger pandemic response. The country deserves nothing less.”

Story by Chris Graham


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