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ALEXANDRIA, VA Mental Health America (MHA) today released data from the online screening tool, MHAscreening.org, showing that the number of people reporting signs of anxiety and depression since the start of the pandemic hit an all-time high in September. The new data accompanies the release of the annual State of Mental Health in America report, showing that nationwide, 19% (47.1 million) of people in the U.S. are living with a mental health condition, a 1.5 million increase over last year’s report. Vermont moved to the No. 1 spot, ahead of Pennsylvania, and Nevada remained last at No. 51.

“As the pandemic relentlessly persists, we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety and depression reported since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “This is a troubling trend being fueled by loneliness and isolation. We are also seeing alarming numbers of children reporting thoughts of suicide and self-harm. We already knew that not enough was being done to support people living with mental illness, but the State of Mental Health in America report confirms the trend that mental health in the U.S. continues to get worse. Many states are ill-prepared to handle this crisis and policymakers at every level of government need to act immediately.”

MHA Screening Tool Data

MHA analyzed data collected between Jan. and Sept. 2020 from the online screening tool, MHAscreening.org which is showing just how much mental health is being impacted as the pandemic continues. Screening data shows that:

  • More than half a million people have reported signs of anxiety and/or depression, with Sept. reporting the highest rate of severity since the start of the pandemic. Anxiety screens were up by 634% from January and depression screens were up 873%).
  • More than 1.5 million people have taken MHA’s online screening and looked for immediate resources and support at MHAscreening.org.
  • Nearly 180,000 people who took the screening reported suicidal ideation on more than half the days or nearly every day, with the highest reported number of 37% in September 2020.
  • Rates of suicidal ideation are highest among youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth. In September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks. From Jan. to Sept. 2020, nearly 78,000 youth reported experiencing frequent suicidal ideation, including nearly 28,000 LGBTQ+ youth. 
  • Between April and Sept., 70% of people reported that loneliness or isolation was the top contributing factor to mental health issues, followed by past trauma (46.1%) and relationship problems (42%).

State-by-State Rankings

In its seventh year, the State of Mental Health in America report includes national and state data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. State rankings reflect both adult and youth (age 12-17) data and are based on 15 mental health and access measures, including the prevalence of mental illness, substance use disorders and access to mental health services.

Vermont ranked No. 1 for overall mental health, followed by Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey. Nevada held its spot at No. 51, behind Idaho, Alaska, Oregon, and Colorado (see full list of rankings here). The data was collected between 2017 and 2018 (pre-pandemic) from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Department of Education. Key findings show that the nation was ill-prepared from the start to tackle the mental health effects of the pandemic, with worsening mental health leading up to it:

  • Nationwide, almost one in five people (47.1 million) in the U.S. are living with a mental health condition. That number increased by about 1.5 million over last year’s report.
  • About 10% of youth in the U.S have severe depression. This was highest among youth who identify as more than one race, at 12%.
  • Overall, 57% of adults with a mental illness receive no treatment and 60% of youth with depression do not receive any mental health treatment.
  • Utah ranked last in overall adult mental health, and Hawaii ranked first.
  • About 8% of people in the U.S. struggle with a substance abuse disorder. The District of Columbia had the highest rates of adult substance abuse disorders (13%), with Texas ranking lowest at 6.3%.
  • Just under 11 million people had serious thoughts of suicide, and that number increased by 460,000 from the previous year. Utah ranked last, with the highest percentage of adults with suicidal thoughts, while New Jersey ranked first with the lowest percentage.
  • Just under 11% of people in the U.S. with a mental illness are uninsured. This increased for the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed and they are the first numbers to reflect the Trump administration’s impact.

With the 2020 elections just a week away, Gionfriddo suggested three key takeaways related to mental health.

“First, we are all facing uncertainty and worry about the future, and these worries are compounded for people experiencing mental health challenges. Second, to counter these challenges we need empowerment, and one of the most empowering things we can do right now is to be a ‘mental health voter’ and help take control of our future. Third, we need policymakers to act to address this mental health pandemic, and we should choose those who pledge a commitment to doing this.”

The full MHA screening data analysis can be accessed here and the full State of Mental Health in America report can be accessed here. Learn more at MHAnational.org and get screened at MHAScreening.org.