It should come as little surprise that the pandemic triggered a surge in mental health issues. Millions lost their jobs, life-threatening illness lurked at every corner, and socializing in person became dangerous. Indeed, the CDC recently reported that since the pandemic started, 41% of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depression — up from about 11% in 2019. The trends were even more alarming for children. Compared to 2019, mental health-related visits to the emergency room for children ages 5 to 11 and 12 to 17 increased a relative 24% and 31%, respectively.
Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that behavioral healthcare professionals are struggling to meet the demand for their services. To be sure, mental health resources were stretched thin before the pandemic. But a February survey by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing found that over two-thirds of member organizations have seen increased demand for their services, and a similar proportion have had to turn patients away.
These trends are concerning in their own right, but they have grave consequences for America’s physical health as well.