Mental health and substance use challenges range from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction and more. Though some of these issues are visible, many can be harder to see when you’re not looking for them. In 2018, it was estimated that around 26 percent of those in the U.S. aged 18-25 and 23 percent of those aged 26-49 dealt with some form of mental illness in the past year. A 2020 report by the National Academies of Sciences found that even before the coronavirus, almost 24 percent of older adults fit the definition of socially isolated, and 43 percent said they felt lonely. According to a 2016 report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 43,000 deaths each year are said to be suicides. With an increase of 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, rates grew in both female and male populations between the ages of ten and seventy-four. Due to the decreasing mortality rates in other areas while suicides rates steadily increase, suicide is now among the ten most common causes of death. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak with over 100,000 deaths, 40 million jobs lost and months of isolation, these trends are bound to be exacerbated.
In recent weeks, the U.S. Census Bureau launched an emergency weekly survey of U.S. households to measure the pandemic’s effects on employment, housing, finances, education and health. In the most recent data release, 1 million households were contacted between May 7 and 12, and more than 42,000 responded.The findings suggest a third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression; doubling that which was found in a 2014 national survey. Startlingly, in terms of share of adults showing symptoms nationwide, Mississippi ranks number 1 with nearly half (48%) of Mississippians screening positive for anxiety or depression. For context, New York which saw the worst outbreak in the U.S. and arguably the world, ranked 12th with 37% of New Yorkers screening positive for anxiety or depression. The findings also reflect national trends, with mental health impacting youth, elderly and low income populations hardest.
Loneliness and isolation have skyrocketed as Americans practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The deterioration of basic social infrastructure is arguably an inevitable byproduct of following the much needed public health recommendations. However, as throughout history, with adversity comes opportunity. Just as a variety of businesses have moved to work from home models and teleconferencing to balance social distancing and the need for continued collaboration, mental health professionals can explore virtual options to tend to the wellbeing of those most in need. Most recently, Mississippi State’s Psychology Clinic has instituted the “Telehealth at the Psychology Clinic” initiative, a new service offering help to community members in need of access to mental health assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. This service will be provided via the university’s Department of Psychology. Programs and services like these provided statewide can be the front lines tools in mitigating mental health issues for the Mississippians who need it most.