America’s Wake-Up Call
COVID-19: The Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Landscape
Prior to the arrival of the novel coronavirus in the United States, millions of Americans were already struggling with mental health challenges and rising rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts, which were made worse by stigma, denial, and lack of access to quality treatment. With the advent of COVID-19, consider the following findings.
CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 24–30, 2020 found that:
of respondents reported struggling with pandemic-related behavioral health issues.
of respondents reported anxiety or depression.
of respondents reported seriously considering suicide in the previous 30 days.
Among specific groups of respondents, the percentages of those who seriously considered suicide were significantly higher among unpaid caregivers for adults (30.7% ), respondents aged 18-24 (25.5%), essential workers (21.7%), Hispanics (18.6%), and Blacks (15.1%).
of respondents say that as a result of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to make suicide prevention a national priority.
of respondents are more aware of the importance of taking care of their mental health.
of respondents find it more difficult to access needed mental health services.
COVID-19: A Perfect Storm and a Beacon of Hope
No one is immune to isolation, financial strain, increased substance use, and physical health challenges—all risk factors for suicide. According to a recent study, “53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.”
Today’s public health pandemic has tested an already burdened health care system and magnified the potential negative impacts of mental health and suicide. We have entered a perfect storm: a virus that is spreading; an upended economy; social unrest fueled by systemic racism; and inequality that plays out not only in education, housing, and employment but also in health.
While we don’t know the true impact of this pandemic on mental health and suicidal behavior, we do know that people and communities are resilient. And there are things we can all do now—whether we are an employer, a school administrator, a health system leader, a journalist, a payer, or a policymaker—to strengthen mental health and suicide prevention in the wake of the pandemic. We must take steps now to meet the needs of all Americans and identify opportunities to build long-term resiliency.
This is our mandate:
In response to COVID-19, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention—the nation’s distinguished public-private partnership for suicide prevention—formed the Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19 (National Response). The National Response seeks to change the way the nation views, talks about, and treats mental health and suicide prevention by strengthening systems, programs, and policies to address urgent and long-term needs and restore hope in our nation. All Americans and all sectors of society can take action to promote mental wellness and resilience as we grapple with pandemic-related challenges.
The need has never been more urgent. The time is NOW.