Mental problems have become America’s shadow epidemic

America’s mental health crisis began long before the coronavirus pandemic did, but a year and a half of loss, stress, isolation, and treatment disorders has only increased the number of Americans struggling with their mental health.

Why it is important: As demand rises far beyond pre-pandemic levels, the system is facing burnt-out providers and staff shortages, and even more people in need of care are not getting it.

The big picture: Mental health care was already unequal and in short supply before the pandemic.

  • However, the number of people who reported symptoms of anxiety or depression increased during the pandemic and has remained high.
  • Drug use has also increased, and an alarming number of children and young people show up in emergency rooms to seek mental or behavioral treatment.
  • “The pandemic has created an extraordinary sense of loss in many people’s lives, and it has created abrupt changes with great uncertainty about when that change will end. And it has really turned many people’s lives upside down,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in an interview.

Driver news: A group of child health organizations declared a national emergency for children’s mental health this month.

Status: Not everyone will return when the stress of the pandemic disappears.

  • “The pandemic has been a source of trauma for many people, and when you think about it in that context, the effects of trauma take time to resolve,” Murthy said. “And they do not always resolve themselves – they do not always resolve themselves by removing the source of the trauma.”
  • “When things start to go normal, the full trauma they’ve been through starts to show up in their lives and they have to deal with it,” he added. “So that’s why I think it’s the right time for our country to have a conversation about mental health.”

What we see: Many people struggling with anxiety or depression will be OK if they learn effective coping skills or access treatment.

  • But government experts fear that if left untreated, some people’s mental health problems will only get worse.
  • “All mental illnesses tend to make people more vulnerable to addiction, in part because people find that many of these addictive drugs and substances are helpful in dealing with the mental problems they have,” says Marcus. Plescia, chief physician. officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers.
  • And not everyone has equal access to care. In fact, some of the same people who are hardest hit by the pandemic stress – such as low-income or colored families – may be most at risk of not getting the mental health care they need.

Bottom line: We may be coming out of the worst part of the coronavirus pandemic, but we are just starting to struggle with the ensuing mental health epidemic.

  • We now have the opportunity to do better than just go back to how things were in 2019, Murthy said.
  • “If we just return to how we were pre-pandemic, we will have lost a strong and important lesson from this pandemic, which is [that] we need to invest in our mental well-being. ”


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