America has a mental health crisis, according to a CNN study

(CNN) — An overwhelming majority of people in the United States believe the country is experiencing a mental health crisis, according to a new CNN poll in collaboration with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Nine in 10 adults said they believe there is a mental health crisis in America today. When asked to rate the severity of six specific mental health issues, Americans ranked the opioid epidemic near the top, with more than two-thirds identifying it as a crisis rather than just a problem. More than half identify mental health problems among children and adolescents as a crisis, as well as serious mental illness in adults.

The survey gathered the perceptions of a nationally representative sample of about 2,000 adults over the summer, two and a half years after the covid-19 pandemic and in the midst of current public health threats such as racism and gun violence.

Free California Children’s Mental Health Plan 3:47

The widespread concern is well-founded and based on both personal experience and national trends.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many social stressors that we know can increase the risk of substance use and mental illness,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that drug overdose deaths reached record levels in 2021 and suicide rates are back near a record after two years of decline. And in 2020, mental health-related emergency department visits jumped 31 percent among teens ages 12 to 17.

According to the CNN and KFF survey, about half of adults say they have experienced a serious mental health crisis in their family, including personally treating family members who were a threat to themselves or others, or family members who have engaged in self-medication. destructive behavior.

More than 1 in 5 adults describe their own mental health as “fair” or “poor,” including huge percentages of adults under 30, adults who identify as LGBT, and those with annual incomes below $40,000. A third of all adults say they always or often felt anxious in the past year, including more than half of LGBT adults and those under 30. About 1 in 5 adults say they also felt depressed either just often or always in the past year.

The main sources of stress for a third or more of adults are personal finances and political and current events. About 1 in 4 adults also identified personal relationships and work as major sources of stress.

About 1 in 5 adults received mental health services in the past year, according to the new study.

Previous data published by the CDC support this finding and show that mental health treatment
has become more common over the course of 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 has experienced is an increased willingness to admit and speak up when we may be struggling or need support,” said Sarah Brummett, director of the National Alliance’s Executive Committee. Actions for suicide prevention. “People are more willing to roll up their sleeves and talk about it and support people. And I think that’s progress.”

Despite the increased desire and stressors often shared in society, most adults with good or poor mental health said they did not feel comfortable talking to loved ones about it, some to preserve privacy and others to avoid shame and the stigma that comes with mental health issues.

However, a large majority, more than 4 in 5, of those surveyed say that individuals and families should play an important role in addressing mental health problems in the US, which is equivalent to the share of those who say the same about health care providers .

Experts say there is an opportunity to expand perceptions of how mental health is part of physical health overall and how to respond to mental health crises.

“Not everyone is a cardiologist, but a lot of people are trained in CPR,” says Justin Baker, a psychologist and assistant professor at Ohio State University School of Medicine. “If we only rely on mental health experts, we’ll keep going in circles and never get anywhere. I think we see that as all of our problems.”

However, the groups most likely to say they need mental health care in the US are also the least likely to say they can get it.

Nearly 6 in 10 adults who say their mental health is fair or poor say they have not been able to get the care they need, as do about half of adults under 30 and LGBT adults.

According to the CNN and KFF survey, the most common reasons cited by those who did not receive help were being too busy or unable to take time off from work, unable to pay for it, and being afraid or embarrassed to seek care.

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 deliver care.

“Let’s make sure all Americans get the mental health services they need, that more people can get help, and that there’s full equality between physical and mental health care,” he said in a speech in March.

According to the survey, most Americans consider these issues important. A majority, 55%, say not having enough mental health providers is a big problem, with nearly three-quarters saying insurers not covering mental health as well as physical health is a major problem, and 80% say the same about cost of mental health care.

Through the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration is investing $5 billion in mental health and substance use programs through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with billions more proposed in future budgets.

A major change came this summer, with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline switching to a three-digit dialing code: 988. Early data suggests success, with calls up 45% in the first month compared to the same period last year.

But according to the new study, there is more work to be done.

A majority of adults (85%) say they are at least somewhat likely to call the helpline if they or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, and it is a good alternative to 911, which a quarter reported , that some adults, especially Black and LGBT adults, 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 say they don’t know who to call if they have a mental health crisis and don’t know where to find services.

Yet more than half of adults in the new survey said they had heard “nothing at all” about the new 988 hotline.

“This may 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 random national sample of 2,004 adults. The study included 1,603 adults who were surveyed online after being recruited using probabilistic methods and 401 adults who were selected by random dialing and contacted by telephone by an interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

— Jennifer Agiesta and Arielle Edwards-Levy contributed reporting.

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