Since the COVID-19 pandemic, another medical crisis has occurred and is now reaching epidemic proportions, mental illness, and substance use disorders. Prior to COVID-19, approximately 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Since July 2020, that has increased to 4 in 10 adults. They are also reporting other negative impacts on their mental health, such as difficulty sleeping (36%), increase in alcohol or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to stress and worry regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Since July 2020, those numbers are continuing to grow.
There are several populations at risk for negative mental health or substance abuse consequences during the current pandemic, including health care workers, essential workers, those facing job loss, communities of color, young adults, and parents and children. While the COVID-19 virus itself creates some general stress, it appears that an even greater factor impacting mental health and substance abuse as this pandemic continues has been social isolation. Many may be experiencing mental health or substance abuse disorders for the first time and will need to seek services which could pose its own challenges. Health care provider will need to adapt and expand their services to meet this growing need.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Impacts of COVID-19 (Stats from Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll)
- Health Care Workers – Over 56% screening positive for at least one mental health disorder, with alcohol use, insomnia, and depression the most prevalent.
- Essential Workers – facing greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, over 42% of essential workers report anxiety and depression symptoms, 25% starting or increasing substance use, and 22% suicidal thoughts.
- People with Job Loss – increased depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicide. Over 50% report symptoms of mental illness as opposed to the 32% who have not experienced job loss.
- Communities of Color – Over 48% of Black adults, and 46% of Hispanic or Latino adults are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression than White adults (41%).
- Young Adults – with colleges closing over 50% are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, and over 25% are reporting substance use, and over 26% suicidal thoughts.
- Parents and Children – with school closures and lack of childcare, over 40% of parents are reporting anxiety and depression. Over 50% of high school students are reporting symptoms of depression, and there has been over a 25% increase in emergency room visits in children ages 5 to 17 for mental health reasons.
There have been two stimulus bills approved since the pandemic began that have increased funding for mental health and substance use services. The CARES Act in March 2020 provided funding, including $425 million to SAMHSA, funding for increasing telehealth services, and expanded veterans’ coverage. The Appropriations Act in December 2020 provide $4.25 billion for mental health and substance use services. Some of these provisions are aimed at expanding coverage for telehealth services allowing health care providers to help their Medicare and private insurance patients needing remote services.
While the vaccinations against COVID-19 are continuing, and likely this pandemic will be under control soon, history has shown that the mental health impact of disasters always outlasts the physical impact, so the need for increased mental health services will continue long after the virus is gone. Genesis Medical Management, your healthcare solutions experts, encourages their clients to adapt and expand their services to meet this growing need.
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