Mental Health Experts Say COVID-19 Is Creating Casualties of Depression
WASHINGTON — Mental health experts are warning that although the COVID-19 pandemic might be subsiding in the United States, it is leaving a legacy of depression and addiction that will linger long after the virus.
Now lawmakers are grappling for ways to confront what they describe as a mental health crisis.
Suicides are up 30 percent and drug overdose deaths rose 38 percent in the past year in Washington, the home state of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.,, she said during a hearing Wednesday.
A Centers for Disease Control survey in December found that 42 percent of respondents reported anxiety or depression, up more than 200 percent from the average in 2019.
“Healing those scars will not be quick or easy,” Murray said.
The Biden administration proposes integrating mental health treatment into primary care medical treatment, such as through Medicare and Medicaid.
The proposals could be adapted into the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Joe Biden signed into law last month. The stimulus plan is intended to help the nation recover from the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a separate move, a group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill to help schools and communities flag persons who need mental health support.
The bill would direct various federal agencies to create best practices for behavioral intervention programs to help communities identify persons at risk of violence to themselves or others.
“This pandemic is a painful reminder that our work is far from finished,” Murray said.
As the pandemic forced more people to stay home, some medical and mental health treatment was switched to tele-medecine, which normally means video streamed over the Internet or telephone calls.
Mental health experts who testified before the Senate subcommittee said expanding tele-medecine could be a practical way to address widespread emotional problems caused by the pandemic.
“The phone is a great way to do that,” said Andy Keller, president of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in Dallas.
In much the same way the pandemic’s emergency compelled a record pace for an effective new vaccine, “We can do that same thing with mental health and addiction,” Keller said.
However, it would require more government assistance, he said.
The alternative could be mentally distressed people behaving irrationally, perhaps ending up in jail, he said.
“These effects will not end as the pandemic recedes,” Keller said.
Sara Goldsby, director of the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, said she has seen an upswing in opioid addiction as some persons affected by the pandemic try to escape depression through the painkillers.
“We knew that isolation was going to drive addiction,” she said.
She mentioned the addictions as an example of a problem that will remain even if the virus is brought under control.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he was concerned that “vaccine hesitancy” would slow the U.S. recovery from the pandemic.
“We’re seeing the demand slow,” he said.
Vaccine hesitancy refers to a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or to have children vaccinated, usually out of medical, ethical or legal concern. People who refuse vaccines are commonly known as “anti-vaxxers.”
Burr described vaccinations as a “key metric” for the nation’s economy and Americans’ personal finances.
“It also means more jobs and more opportunities to restore their livelihoods,” he said.
The death toll in the United States from COVID-19 topped 573,000 so far this week.
In The News
A study by Chinese researchers examines the ability of acupuncture treatment to suppress inflammatory stress, improve immunity, and regulate nervous... Read More
A study by Chinese researchers examines the ability of acupuncture treatment to suppress inflammatory stress, improve immunity, and regulate nervous system function to help patients with COVID-19. “Acupuncture is widely used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases, such as osteoarthritis, pancreatitis, obstructive emphysema, but in China,... Read More
The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Online Global Summit, hosted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, is holding a... Read More
The Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Online Global Summit, hosted by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, is holding a week-long event, July 20-24, that brings together professionals from sexual abuse and exploitation sectors to discuss how to connect, educate and solve the tangled web of... Read More
In a medical first, researchers harnessed the brain waves of a paralyzed man unable to speak — and turned what... Read More
In a medical first, researchers harnessed the brain waves of a paralyzed man unable to speak — and turned what he intended to say into sentences on a computer screen. It will take years of additional research but the study, reported Wednesday, marks an important step... Read More
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday that the United States’ aging population will hit the economy “like a ton of... Read More
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday that the United States’ aging population will hit the economy “like a ton of bricks” without increased federal aid for at-home elder and disabled care. Raimondo made the comments during an interview with Reuters, in which she also said President... Read More
Feeling constantly under attack? According to a new report on the Mayo Clinic website, it may just be a case... Read More
Feeling constantly under attack? According to a new report on the Mayo Clinic website, it may just be a case of your body naturally treating minor hassles as full-blown threats. But you don’t have to let stress control your life, author Dana Sparks says. When you... Read More
The impact of COVID-19 has been traumatic for many, but for those living with HIV the pandemic may have reawakened... Read More
The impact of COVID-19 has been traumatic for many, but for those living with HIV the pandemic may have reawakened feelings of social exclusion and fear with receiving a positive status. “I'm an HIV positive person and I just survived COVID-19 infection. We positive folks can... Read More