Americans continue to grapple with isolation, job loss, and uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Health experts say that’s taking a toll on mental wellness. KNAU’s Angela Gervasi reports.
In June, a nationwide survey reported more than 40% of adults were struggling with symptoms of at least one mental health condition, including substance use and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eleven percent of respondents said they’d seriously considered suicide in the past month.
Dr. Steven Barger of Northern Arizona University studies the association between people’s social relationships and mental health. He said financial insecurity and unemployment are driving forces for intense psychological distress. In Congress, potential COVID-19 relief bills are at a stalemate — further plunging some Americans into economic uncertainty. And although the CDC has placed a federal ban on evictions, many renters have yet to learn about the new policy, NPR reported this week.
“Certainly if people are worried about losing their home, or feeding their families, that is devastating and very difficult to cope with,” Barger says.
In 2019, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported an average of one suicide every six hours in Arizona alone. Health experts worry those numbers will increase with the stress and uncertainty of COVID-19. According to the Arizona Republic, some crisis hotlines are experiencing an increase in calls. Those centers, Barger says, are sometimes understaffed.
Still, he adds, it’s not necessarily bad news that hotlines are receiving more callers.
“I think that is people reaching out and seeking help I think it is wonderful and hopefully that can help people get through some of these tough times,” he says.
Free crisis counseling is available through Arizona’s 211 hotline, or through the website resilientarizona.org.