A majority of Americans believe the country is experiencing a mental health crisis, according to a new poll conducted by CNN in collaboration with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Nine out of 10 adults said they believe there is a mental health crisis in the US. Asked to rate the severity of six specific mental health concerns, Americans ranked the opioid epidemic at the top, with more than two-thirds of people identifying it as a crisis rather than just a problem. More than half identified child and adolescent mental health problems as crises, as well as serious mental illness in adults.
The survey captured the perceptions of a nationally representative sample of about 2,000 adults over the summer — 2 1/2 years into the Covid-19 pandemic and amid ongoing public health threats, including racism and gun violence.
The widespread concern is well-founded, rooted in both personal experience and national trends.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a number of social stressors that we know can increase both substance use and the risk of mental illness,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that drug overdose deaths reached a record high in 2021 and that suicide rates returned to record levels after a two-year decline. And in 2020, mental health emergency room visits rose 31% among teens ages 12 to 17.
According to the CNN and KFF poll, about half of adults say they have experienced a serious mental health crisis in their family, including personal treatment for family members who were a threat to themselves or others, or family members who were suicidal. harmful behavior
More than 1 in 5 adults describe their mental health as “fair” or “poor,” including high proportions of adults under 30, adults who identify as LGBT, and those with annual incomes of less than $40,000. A third of all adults said they always or often felt anxiety during the past year, including more than half of LGBT adults and those under 30. About 1 in 5 adults said they were often or always depressed or lonely in the past year. , also
The main sources of stress for one-third or more of adults are personal finances and current and political issues. About 1 in 4 adults also identified personal relationships and work, respectively, as the main sources of stress.
According to the new survey, about 1 in 5 adults received mental health services in the past year. The first data released by the CDC supports this and shows that mental health treatment became more common during the pandemic: nearly 22% of adults received mental health treatment in 2021, up from about 19% in 2019.
“Perhaps one of the only benefits of the pandemic and the change our country is going through is an increased willingness to recognize and speak up when we are struggling or need help,” said Sarah Brummett, director of National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention executive committee.
“People are willing to roll up their sleeves and talk about it and help people. And I think that’s progress.”
Although stressors have increased willingness and are commonly shared among people, most adults with fair or poor mental health say they don’t feel comfortable talking about it with loved ones — some to maintain privacy and others to avoid the shame and stigma associated with mental health. health problems
But a large majority of those surveyed – more than 4 in 5 – said that individuals and families should play a major role in addressing mental health problems in the US, as did health care providers.
Experts say there is scope for broadening perceptions about how mental health is part of overall physical health and how to respond to mental health crises.
“Not everyone is a cardiologist, but a lot of people are trained in CPR,” said Justin Baker, a psychologist and assistant professor at Ohio State University College of Medicine. “If we rely solely on the strength of mental health, we’re going to keep going in circles and never get anywhere. I think we see that as all of our problems.”
However, even the groups most likely to say they need mental health care in the US are least likely to say they can get it.
Nearly 6 in 10 adults who say their mental health is fair or poor say they haven’t been able to get the care they need, as do half of adults under 30 and LGBT adults.
For those who went without help, the most common reasons cited were being too busy or unable to take time off work, unable to afford the cost, and being afraid or embarrassed to seek care, according to the CNN and KFF poll.
In his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden outlined a multifaceted strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis, including goals to integrate mental health into primary care, investing in the workforce and new approaches to programs that provide care.
“Let’s get all Americans the mental health services they need, let’s reach more people for help, and let’s achieve full parity between physical health and mental health care,” he said in his speech in March.
According to the survey, most Americans see these issues as important problems. A majority, 55%, say not having enough mental health care providers is a big problem, about three-quarters say the fact that insurers don’t cover mental health the way they do physical health is a significant concern, and 80% say the same. about the cost of mental health care.
Through the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration has invested $5 trillion in mental health and substance abuse programs through the US Department of Health and Human Services, with billions more proposed in future budgets.
A significant change occurred this summer when the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline switched to a three-digit dialing code: 988. Early data suggests success, with calls up 45% in the first month compared to the same time last year.
But according to the new survey, there is still work to be done.
A vast majority of adults (85%) say they would be at least as likely to call the phone if they or a loved one were experiencing a mental health crisis, and it’s a good alternative to calling 911, more than a quarter of adults. Black and LGBT adults, they say, would do more harm than good in a mental health crisis situation.
It also has the potential to help Hispanics and the uninsured, who are more likely than average to not know who to call and where to find services in the event of a mental health crisis.
However, more than half of adults in a new survey say they have heard “nothing at all” about the new 988 phone number.
“This could be a preventable public health problem, and we all have a role to play,” Brummett said.
Fieldwork for the CNN/KFF Mental Health Survey was conducted by SSRS from July 28 to August 9 among a national random sample of 2,004 adults. The survey includes 1,603 adults who were surveyed online after recruitment using probability-based methods and 401 adults who were randomly dialed and reached by landline or cell phone by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.