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  • The Mental Health Crisis In America | Facts, Causes, & How To Fix It

    According to a recent survey, 9 out of 10 adults believe the United States is facing a mental health crisis. Indeed, in recent years, Americans have endured a variety of stressors that cause or worsen mental health issues. 

    To end this crisis, we must expand access to mental health treatment and address the root causes of mental suffering in this country. 

    Facts About America’s Mental Health Crisis

    While the mental health crisis affects all Americans, it’s particularly difficult for marginalized groups. More than 1 in 5 U.S. adults describe their mental health as only “fair” and “poor,” and many of these individuals identify as LGBT or make less than $40,000 per year. 

    Similarly, a third of adults reported feeling constant or frequent anxiety over the past year, including over half of LGBT adults. About 1 in 5 adults also reported constant or frequent depression or loneliness. 

    In addition, about half of adults have faced a severe mental health crisis in their family, such as a family member requiring in-person treatment for self-harm.

    Substance Abuse

    During the mental health crisis, many people have turned to substance abuse. While abusing drugs may temporarily make you feel better, it poses a high risk of substance use disorder (addiction) and overdose. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual overdose death rate topped 100,000 for the first time in 2021. 

    Young People

    The crisis has also taken a toll on young people. In 2020, mental health-related emergency visits among U.S. adolescents increased 31%. Also, according to a recent CDC survey, almost 1 out of every 3 U.S. teens describe their mental health as poor. 

    Likewise, nearly 20% of high school students have experienced serious suicidal thoughts, and 9% have attempted suicide. In fact, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. citizens ages 15 to 24. 

    Causes Of The Mental Health Crisis

    Researchers have identified a number of stressors that play a role in the nation’s mental health crisis:

    The COVID-19 Pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant challenges for all U.S. citizens, regardless of age, wealth, or social status. Over a million Americans lost a close loved one to the disease, and many more saw their loved ones become seriously ill or hospitalized. 

    The resulting anxiety and grief wreaked havoc on the nation’s overall mental health. 

    In addition, stay-at-home orders left Americans isolated from their family and friends. Isolation can cause or worsen a number of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. It also leads to greater social media use, especially among young people. 

    Young people who spend too much time on social media often report serious self-esteem issues.

    Finally, the pandemic caused a surge of economic anxiety. Numerous Americans lost their jobs, suddenly struggling to pay for shelter, food, and medical care. Studies show that this type of poverty often leads to mental health concerns. 

    Social Issues

    Many Americans have developed anxiety due to devastating social issues such as climate change, racial inequality, and gun violence. These issues can also worsen preexisting mental health problems, especially in people directly impacted by them. 

    Lack Of Access To Mental Health Treatment

    About 56% of Americans seek or want to seek mental health treatment for themselves or a loved one. Unfortunately, many of them can’t access that treatment, often due to a lack of health insurance. Indeed, about 85 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured. 

    Even those who can afford treatment may have trouble finding it, as many mental health providers have lengthy wait lists. 

    How To Fix The Mental Health Crisis

    Because the mental health crisis affects so many U.S. citizens, it requires government intervention. Recently, the Biden Administration outlined a comprehensive plan to end the crisis. First, it aims to strengthen the mental health workforce by: 

    • improving the size and diversity of the behavioral health workforce
    • expanding access to peer support workers
    • improving access to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
    • helping states offer Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs), which provide 24/7, comprehensive behavioral health care to vulnerable Americans regardless of their ability to pay

    Connect Citizens With Mental Health Care

    In addition, the administration seeks to connect more U.S. citizens with mental health care services by:

    • launching FindSupport.Gov, a user-friendly online resource that helps people find mental health treatment 
    • providing mental health services in schools
    • launching services to support the mental health of workers, including the Mental Health at Work Initiative and the Workplace Stress Toolkit
    • decreasing stigma for service members and veterans
    • providing mental health services to caregivers
    • reducing disparities in maternal mental health
    • promoting behavioral health equity 

    Prevention Efforts

    Finally, the administration aims to create healthy, supportive environments to prevent mental illness from occurring in the first place by:

    • improving youth resilience
    • promoting the importance of social connection
    • investing in early childhood mental health
    • improving suicide prevention efforts
    • launching public call-to-action to support research
    • improving employee wellness
    • expanding access to long-term recovery support for people with substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders

    If you or someone you love struggles with poor mental health, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one build a fulfilling life.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on July 24, 2023
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