Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental and Behavioral Health Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to fuel a major mental and behavioral health crisis that is having a significant impact on the well-being of our citizens. Sixty-two percent of Americans have reported feeling more anxious in 2020 compared with the year before, according to a public opinion poll released recently by the American Psychiatric Association.1 This is compared to data over the past three years, which demonstrates that between 32% and 39% of Americans report feeling more anxious compared with prior years. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, at the end of June 2020, 40% of Americans reported experiencing significant emotional upheaval with anxiety, depression, trauma-related symptoms, increased use of substances and even suicidal ideation (11% reported seriously considering suicide), which was a higher percentage than in the previous year.2 Mental illness can develop in as little as 9 days of quarantine and can last for years.
What is not known is the magnitude of mental illness that will be experienced as a result of lockdowns extended durations seen during this pandemic. However, based on existing scientific research, we can expect that millions of Americans will need mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatments for years to come.
In order to address this, it is critical to focus on emerging and acute mental and behavioral health needs, as well as to take preventative action to avoid additional suffering. Psychological distress is widespread due to the immediate health impacts of the virus and the consequences of physical isolation. Many people have been distanced from loved ones due to the risk of infection, and are fearful of contagion, death, and losing family and friends. As state and local governments mandated prolonged stay-at-home orders and forced non-essential businesses to close, the economy was put into decline, and millions of people also have been faced with the loss of their jobs, income, and homes. The impacts of these actions have been far reaching and had varying effects on vulnerable populations, including minorities, seniors, veterans, small business owners, children, and individuals potentially affected by domestic violence or physical abuse, those living with disabilities, and those with an existing substance use disorder.
The health of racial and ethnic minority groups and economically disadvantaged persons have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. Individuals in these communities remain at higher risk for COVID-19 infection, death and increased psychological distress. Frontline healthcare workers and first responders have also been exposed to numerous stressors, such as exhaustion, patient illness and death, risk of infection, and separation from loved ones. Ensuring and maintaining the mental health of healthcare workers is a critical factor in sustaining COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery. Our seniors and people with pre-existing health conditions have been infected at higher rates, experience greater risks of fatality, and are often left afraid and alone. Children and adolescents feel the stress in the family and are impacted by social isolation, some facing increased abuse and disrupted education, putting them at risk for emotional problems and behavioral disorders. Women, particularly single mothers, are being affected disproportionately which further exacerbates the negative emotional impact on their children.
As a result of the isolation caused by social restrictions and the inability to access treatment and community recovery supports, people with substance use disorders are placed at significantly higher risk for relapse and subsequent fatal overdose. Further, the CDC recently reported that one in ten individuals responding to a recent survey indicated that they had initiated substance misuse as a means of coping with stress induced by COVID-19. These individuals are at increased risk for developing alcohol use disorder and other substance use disorders, experiencing overdose and other substance-related adverse events. It is critical to move quickly, building on the infrastructure in place and using best practices to lead to a sustained, efficient, and equitable delivery of behavioral health services tailored to the needs of each group to help us through the pandemic and beyond.3
Northlake Behavioral Health System is answering this call to action amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Northlake is a nonprofit psychiatric hospital and has expanded mental health programs, offering support and services for adults and adolescents needing immediate psychiatric care.
As our community continues to experience incidences of isolation, financial crisis, hopelessness and depression, Northlake has both acute in-patient as well as intensive out-patient (IOP) programs specifically designed to meet the needs of adults and adolescents experiencing these existing issues.
If you or a loved one is experiencing an acute psychiatric episode, please don’t hesitate to call us at 985.626.6300.
3 Brooks SK, Webster RK, Smith LE, et al. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. Lancet 395: 912-920, 2020.