ALEXANDRIA, VA – Mental Health America today released the August results from its online mental health screening program, mhascreening.org, showing that nearly 390,000 people – over and above those expected – screened since the start of the pandemic indicated moderate-to-severe levels of anxiety and depression.
“The mental health crisis facing our country as a result of the pandemic is growing bigger by the day,” commented MHA President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo. “As we move closer to Mental Illness Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day, and National Depression Screening Day – as well as Election Day – this is clearly the time for policy leaders and public officials to call immediate attention to this life-threatening matter.”
Both the House and the Senate have proposed stimulus packages in recent months that include billions of new dollars for mental health services. However, these proposals stalled as Congress and the President failed to come to agreement on additional stimulus measures.
“Meanwhile,” Gionfriddo commented, “another 41,000 people who reached out to MHA during August experienced thoughts of suicide or self-harm on more than half the days of the week, bringing the total to more than 131,000 since the start of the pandemic.”
In addition, he noted, “nearly 390,000 people over and above our baseline levels who have taken an MHA screen since the start of the pandemic have screened at moderate-to-severe levels for anxiety or depression. Because we only know of those who have come to us for screening, it is fair to say that these numbers reflect the tip of a growing iceberg.”
MHA’s findings from August include the following:
- From late February through August, 388,961 people screened moderate-to-severe for depression or anxiety over and above what would have been expected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- From late February through August, an additional 60,233 people screened at risk for psychosis over and above what would have been expected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Since March 1, 131,122 of those who screened for depression reported suicidal or self-harm thinking on more than half the days. In August 2020, 41,008 depression screeners reported thinking of suicide or self-harm on more than half of days to nearly every day, with 24,009 reporting these thoughts nearly every day.
- The impacts on mental health are more pronounced in young people (<25): more than nine in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe depression, and more than eight in 10 are screening with moderate-to-severe anxiety.
- The per-day number of anxiety screenings completed in August was 535 percent higher than in January before coronavirus stress began. The per-day number of depression screens was 709 percent higher in August than in January.
- There were more than 48,000 moderate-to-severe anxiety screens (79%) and more than 94,000 moderate-to-severe depression screens (85%). Anxiety also reached its highest rate of severity in August, with 79% of anxiety screens for moderate to severe anxiety and 48% screened for severe anxiety, which is also the highest rate the organization has seen during COVID-19. The rate of people screening with moderate to severe depression is also the highest it has been during COVID, with 85% scoring moderate to severe depression and 31% scoring severe depression. This was a higher rate than May, June and July 2020, but slightly lower than the rate in March (32%) and April (31%).
- “Loneliness and isolation” is cited by the greatest percent of moderate-to-severe depression (74%) and anxiety (64%) screeners as contributing to mental health problems “right now.” These percentages have been steady since mid-April.
- Despite a dramatic jump in screeners in July and August (314,600 in August versus 69,626 in April), the rate of people screening moderate-to-severe for mental health conditions continued to track higher than pre-pandemic baselines.
- Special populations are also experiencing high anxiety and depression, including LGBTQ+, caregivers, students, veterans/active-duty members of the military, and trauma survivors.
MHA also noted that there are clear differences emerging in racial/ethnic groups in response to the pandemic, noting, in particular, differences in the percentages of people with suicidal or self-harm thinking and differences in the reasons cited for current mental health problems.
For a copy of MHA’s full data presentation, click here.
For more information on the differing responses to the pandemic MHA is observing among racial/ethnic groups, please click here.