Alexandria, VA –The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a huge toll on the mental health of the nation. As of the end of June, more than 7,000 people each day were going to Mental Health America’s web site (www.mhascreening.org) to take a voluntary, anonymous mental health screen.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 170,000 total screeners screened positive (moderate to severe) for either anxiety or depression – over and above November to January baselines.
In addition, in June alone 18,000 additional screeners were positive (at risk) for psychosis, continuing a spike that began in May, when more than 16,000 screened positive for psychosis.
“We continue to see staggering numbers that indicate increase rates in depression and anxiety because of COVID-19,” commented Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America. “It is clear the mental effects are impacting people now – and will continue for those who mourn loved ones and for those whose anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other serious conditions are left untreated. The country and the world will pay a price if we don’t take all of this very seriously."
Also, more than 25,000 depression screeners reported having thoughts of self-harm or suicide on more than half the days of the week, also building on a dramatic spike in suicidal or self-harm thinking that began in May, when more than 21,000 people also reported this – four times the average numbers from November to January.
In June, 36 percent of positive anxiety screeners cited “current events” as a reason for their anxiety, up from 29 percent in May. Also, 29 percent of depression screeners cited “current events” as a reason for their depression, up from 22 percent in May. These percentage increases were directly mirrored by decreases in those choosing “COVID-19” as the reason for their depression and anxiety, suggesting that broader societal issues – not just concern about getting the virus – may now be playing a greater role in undermining the mental health of our people.
In addition, beginning on June 16, MHA included racism as one possible factor for people to choose voluntarily as contributing to their mental health concerns right now. In the last two weeks of the month, nearly 8 percent of positive anxiety screeners and more than 5 percent of depression screeners also selected racism. Both suggest a meaningful relationship between societal racism and mental illness that must be acknowledged and addressed in part by improving mental health delivery systems.
- Through June, more than 169,243 additional people (over pre-pandemic baselines) have screened moderate to severe for depression or anxiety since the start of the pandemic.
- In addition, far more people are now taking mental health screenings – 7,000 per day in May and June. The per day number of anxiety screenings completed in June was 406% higher than in January, and the per day number of depression screens was 457% higher.
- The mental health impacts of the pandemic are not confined to anxiety and depression. There has been a steep increase in the numbers of people screening positive (“at risk”) for psychosis, too. In June, more than 18,000 people screened at risk for psychosis, more than 4 times the baseline numbers we had seen through March.
- Mental health issues continue to be more pronounced in young people (<25): roughly 9 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe depression, and 8 in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe anxiety.
- “Loneliness and isolation” is cited by the greatest percent of moderate to severe depression (74%) and anxiety (65%) screeners as contributing to mental health problems “right now.” These percentages have been steady since mid-April.
- Despite a dramatic jump in screeners in May and June (230,822 in June versus 69,626 in April), severity continued to track equal to or higher than our pre-pandemic baselines.
- In June 2020, 25,498 depression screeners reported thinking of suicide or self-harm on more than half of days to nearly every day, with 14,607 reporting these thoughts nearly every day.
- Special populations are also experiencing high anxiety and depression, including LGBTQ, caregivers, students, veterans/active duty, and trauma survivors.
- For thousands of positive screeners, racism and current events are cited as factors in their screening results.
MHA’s online mental health screening program has been available since April 2014. To date, nearly 5.5 million screenings have been completed, making it the largest mental health screening program of its kind in the nation. It is providing real time data to help assess the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health. While the results are reflective of only a subset of the population – help-seeking people who find MHA’s website online – they are consistent with those that have been gathered and reported by the U.S. Census Bureau 2020 Pulse Survey of the entire population.
For a slide deck with additional results and trends in the MHA data, please click here.