There is no denying that for most people around the world 2020 was a very difficult year to live through. As a society, humans are largely social creatures, prone to large gatherings in tight quarters. Last year, however, COVID-19 caused the world to stop in its tracks, forcing nearly everyone into a state of social isolation.
Since 1949, the U.S. has observed Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The campaign originated with Mental Health America — then known as the National Association for Mental Health. In both 2020 and 2021, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Month is Tools 2 Thrive. A toolkit available at mhanational.org/mental-health-month provides information regarding adapting after trauma and stress; dealing with anger and frustration; getting out of thinking traps; processing big changes; taking time for yourself; and radical acceptance.
According to MHA’s 2021 “State of Mental Health in America” publication, before COVID-19, 19% of adults in the United States experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million from the previous year. Suicidal ideation among adults has increased by 0.15% in 2021 from the year prior as well. Twenty-four percent of the nation’s adults with a mental illness report an unmet need for treatment.
Mental illness in children is rising as well, with 9.7% of the youth in the United States having severe major depression. This rate increases to 12.4% if the youth identifies as more than one race. Sixty percent of youth with depression receive no treatment. Even in states with the best access to mental health treatment options, one in three youth goes without. Only 27% of youth with severe depression receive some sort of treatment, according to MHA.
Utilizing 1,560,288 replies to its online screening program, the MHA concluded the number of people seeking help for anxiety and depression has “skyrocketed.” Between January and September 2020, 315,200 people took MHA’s anxiety screening, a 93% increase over the 2019 total. Additionally, 534,784 people took the depression screening, a 62% increase over 2019’s numbers.
The number of people who were revealed to have severe symptoms of depression and anxiety in MHA’s screenings also increased throughout 2020 and remains higher than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re experiencing anxiety and depression brought on by the pandemic, you’re not alone. You’re also not alone if you’ve experienced these or any other mental illness prior to the pandemic. If you or someone you know needs mental health assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
Visit coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/mental-and-emotional-well-being for more information.