An overwhelming majority of people in the United States believe the country is experiencing a mental health crisis, according to a new survey by CNN in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Nine in 10 adults said they believe there is a mental health crisis in the United States today. Asked to rate the severity of six specific mental health conditions, Americans place 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 mental health problems in children and adolescents as a crisis, as well as serious mental illnesses in adults.
The survey captured the perceptions of a nationally representative sample of around 2,000 adults over the summer – 2½ years into the Covid-19 pandemic and amid continued threats for public health, including racism and gun violence.
The general concern is well founded, rooted in 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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows drug overdose deaths hit record highs in 2021 and suicide rates are back near an all-time high after two years of decline. And in 2020, mental health-related emergency room visits jumped 31% among teens ages 12-17.
According to the CNN and KFF poll, about half of adults report having had a serious mental health crisis in their family, including in-person treatment for family members who posed a threat to themselves or others, or family members who have left themselves to fend for themselves. harmful behaviors.
More than one in five adults describe their own mental health as only “fair” or “poor”, including very large proportions of adults under 30, adults who identify as LGBT and those whose annual income is less than $40,000. A third of all adults said they had felt anxious always or often in the past year, including more than half of LGBT adults and those under 30. About 1 in 5 adults said they had often or always been depressed or lonely in the past year. , too.
The main sources of stress for a third or more of adults include personal finances and political and current events. About 1 in 4 adults also identified personal relationships and work, respectively, as major sources of stress.
According to the new survey, around 1 in 5 adults have received mental health services in the past year. Previous data released by the CDC supports this finding and shows that mental health treatment has become more common during the pandemic: nearly 22% of adults received mental health treatment in 2021, compared to about 19% in 2019. .
“Perhaps one of the only benefits of the pandemic and the change our country has been going through is an increase in our willingness to recognize and talk about when we might be struggling or in need of support,” he said. said Sarah Brummett, executive director of the National Action Alliance 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 increased willpower and commonly shared stressors among the public, most adults who only have fair or poor mental health said they did not feel comfortable talking to their loved ones – some to preserve their privacy and others to avoid the shame and stigma associated with mental health. health problems.
But the vast majority — more than 4 in 5 — of those polled say individuals and families should play a major role in addressing mental health issues in the United States, on par with the share of healthcare providers. who say the same thing.
Experts say it is possible to expand perceptions of 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 only rely on the strength of sanity, we will keep going around in circles and we will never get anywhere. I think we see this as all of our problems.
Nevertheless, the groups most likely to say they need mental health care in the United States are also less likely to say they can get it.
Nearly 6 in 10 adults who say their mental health is only fair or poor say they haven’t been able to get needed care, along with about half of adults under 30 and LGBT adults .
For those who left unaided, the most common reasons cited were being too busy or unable to take time off from work, not being able to afford the cost, and being afraid or embarrassed to seek care, according to the CNN and KFF survey.
In his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden outlined a multi-pronged strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis, including goals for integrating mental health into care primary education, investment in the workforce and new approaches to programs that provide care.
“Let’s give all Americans the mental health services they need, more people they can turn to for help, and full parity between physical and mental health care,” he said. said in his speech in March.
According to the poll, most Americans view these issues as important issues. A majority, 55%, say it’s a big problem that there aren’t enough mental health care providers, about three-quarters say insurers don’t cover mental health like they do for physical health is a major concern, and 80% say the same about the cost of mental health care.
As part of the U.S. bailout, the Biden administration has invested $5 billion in mental health and addictions programs through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with billions more on offer in the future budgets.
A significant shift came this summer, with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioning to a three-digit dialing code: 988. Early data suggests success, with calls jumping 45% in the first month from the same period a year earlier.
But according to the new survey, there is still work to be done.
The vast majority of adults (85%) say they would be at least somewhat likely to call the helpline if they or a loved one were experiencing a mental health crisis – and it’s a good alternative to 911, that about a quarter of adults, especially Black and LGBT adults, would do more harm than good in a mental health crisis.
It also has the potential to help Hispanics and those who are uninsured, who are more likely than average to say they don’t know who to call in a mental health crisis and wouldn’t know where to find services. .
Yet more than half of adults surveyed in the new poll say they’ve heard ‘nothing at all’ about the new 988 helpline.
“This can be a preventable public health issue, 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 survey includes 1,603 adults who were interviewed online after being recruited using probability-based methods and 401 adults who were selected by random dialing and contacted on landlines or mobile phones by an online interviewer. direct. Results for the full sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.