A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey finds that nearly 1 in 4 young adults in the United States have been treated for mental health during the pandemic.

Nearly 22% of adults received mental health treatment in 2021, up from about 19% in 2019.

That jump is likely due to a combination of a growing need and better access to treatment, said Caliope Holling, a psychiatric epidemiologist and member of the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Measurement of Mental Health working group.

“The pandemic has stimulated an important conversation about the need to take care of ourselves. And in the population as a whole, we’re seeing that reflected,” she said.

Overall, the CDC report found that the increase in mental health treatment was largely driven by adults under the age of 45.

Adults aged 18-44 were the least likely to receive mental health treatment in 2019 but became the most likely in 2021. Nearly 1 in 4 adults (over 23%) in this age group received mental health treatment in 2021, a jump of nearly 5 percentage points from 2019.

“This group of young people is facing the epidemic at a very vulnerable stage in their lives,” Holingo said. “It is the stage when disorders such as anxiety disorders and depression are among their highest in life.” “So there’s this kind of natural vulnerability there, at the same time as the pandemic.”

The report also found that women were consistently more likely than men to receive mental health treatment, with a difference of more than 10 percentage points each year between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, more than 1 in 4 women (29%) reported receiving psychotherapy compared to In less than 1 in 5 men (18%).

The World Health Organization has drawn attention to a “massive” increase in anxiety and depression globally. Prevalence rose 25% in the first year of the epidemic, according to scientific summary – A discovery that WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has described as “just the tip of the iceberg” in understanding the toll the pandemic has taken on global mental health.

“This is a wake-up call for all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job in supporting the mental health of their populations,” he said.

& # 39;  strong split & # 39 ;  Between public health leaders on how to address Covid-19 messages

In the US specifically, Holling says, there was a “peak increase in mental distress” in the early months of the pandemic amid fear, uncertainty and change. That has diminished, but as the effects persist.

For example, deaths from drug overdose continued at record high levels until 2022.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the social stressors that we know can increase the risk of drug abuse and mental illness, along with significant changes in the illicit drug supply,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

But she said increases in mental health treatment as found in the CDC report “may not be a negative signal in and of themselves” because it could mean people are reaching out to the help they need.

“For many people, drug and alcohol problems begin as self-treatment of other mental health symptoms. Half of people with a substance use disorder have another mental illness at some point, and vice versa,” she said. “Fragmented and hard-to-reach mental health care means that these conditions and addictions often go untreated.”

Holingue said improving access to telehealth has expanded treatment options — but not for everyone.

According to the CDC report, whites were more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to receive mental health treatment. More than 30% of whites reported receiving mental health treatment in 2021, compared to 15% of blacks, 13% of Hispanics, and 11% of Asians. Although Asians have the lowest rates, they saw one of the largest increases in mental health treatment between 2019 and 2021.

In addition to the coronavirus, 2020 and 2021 brought increased hate crimes against Asians and protests against police brutality and racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death. In April 2021, the Director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walinsky, declared that racism poses a serious public health threat.

Holingo said people of color are less able to access mental health services due to things like economic inequality and a lack of diverse providers.

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“We’re seeing an increase in the white population, which is great, but we’re seeing a smaller increase in people of color. So what we need is a bigger increase that’s happening in those groups in order to be more confident that this disparity in care is shrinking,” she said.

Other studies The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is taking a heavy toll on children’s mental health as well. Mental health-related visits to emergency rooms jumped 31% in 2020 compared to 2019 for teens ages 12-17. And in early 2021, suicide attempts among teenage girls were more than 50% higher than they were in 2019.

Data for the new CDC report was collected by the National Center for Health Statistics as part of the National Health Interview Survey. Individuals were considered to have received mental health treatment if they reported receiving counseling, treatment, or taking prescribed medications for anxiety, depression, concentration, behavior, or other agitation within the past 12 months.

This summer, the US Department of Health and Human Services launched 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for Mental Health Crises.

This is a “fairly promising” step forward, but Holingo says improvements in mental health will only improve incrementally unless there is a renewed level of investment.

“While mental health services are really important, I think at a societal level they are not enough to truly protect the mental health of the public,” she said. “We need greater commitment from government at all levels for the causes of this poor mental health. This includes the ongoing pandemic, but also things like the housing crisis, the climate crisis, gun violence, and racism, to name a few.”

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