The Washington Post ran a story last week headlined, “The coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis.” It cited a Kaiser Family Foundation survey finding nearly half of Americans say the pandemic is harming their mental health.
The Post went on to point out that the federal hotline for those in emotional distress has seen calls jump 1,000 percent last month from the same month last year, and roughly 20,000 texted the hotline operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Other crisis hotlines across the country have reported an overwhelming surge in calls from Americans growing ever more anxious under the great uncertainty society’s response to coronavirus presents. Financial devastation and extreme isolation compounded by constantly moving goalposts for even a semblance of return to normalcy have created the perfect storm for a different epidemic not seen in the nation’s hospitals.
Well Being Trust, a national public health group, released another study this week projecting upwards of 75,000 additional people will succumb to suicide and substance abuse due to coronavirus anxiety and shutdowns. This total is nearly as many who have died from the virus so far.
President Donald Trump predicted this more than a month ago when he spoke of a desire to reopen the country in March.
“People get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies,” Trump said.
The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. More resources are here.
Even after the Associated Press botched fact-check of the president’s comments, other outlets eventually caught on to the pandemic’s psychic consequences. “The Coming Mental-Health Crisis,” headlined an article in The Atlantic Thursday. “The coming coronavirus mental health crisis,” headlined another in Axios. “U.N. Warns of Global Mental Health Crisis Due to COVID-19 Pandemic,” reported The New York Times.
Yet this is only half the story, at least in the United States, which already faced a mental health crisis long preceding the pandemic. It’s only now just being more widely realized that the coronavirus crisis exacerbates an existing problem.
“We already had a mental health crisis prior to COVID,” says Allysen Efferson, a therapist in East Tennessee who writes for The Federalist. “COVID is a factor in what we’re seeing, but this existed prior to this coronavirus pandemic.”
Suicides skyrocketed 35 percent between 1999 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 48,000 people killed themselves in 2018, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.