In the United States, mental health support is more accessible than ever thanks to the expansion of telemedicine. Still, a survey of almost 54,000 Americans found that more than 1 in 10 respondents don’t receive the help they need. The barriers some people face in obtaining appropriate mental health care are overt—they’re financial, geographic, and socioeconomic. For others, their barriers are invisible, burdened by stigma and discrimination.
Despite greater access to support, albeit unequal access, America is facing a mental health crisis. Even in the best-case scenario, in which every American who needs support seeks it out, the U.S. health care system is overburned, understaffed, and unable to meet that demand.
While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased clinical depression and anxiety among Americans, reported cases and related symptoms decreased from peak pandemic levels as lockdowns and other restrictions eased. Those continuing to suffer from a lack of support today are historically marginalized communities like LGBTQ+ people and rural communities, or segments of the population assumed not to be at risk of mental illness, including young adults and children.
In December 2021, the U.S. surgeon general issued a public health advisory to specifically address the youth mental health crisis, citing a 40% increase in feelings of sadness and hopelessness among adolescents over the last decade. In 2022, the Preventive Service Task Force—an independent, volunteer panel of medical experts—recommended screening all children between the ages of 8-18 for anxiety. Nearly 8% of children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 17 presented with an anxiety disorder, according to the 2020 National Survey of Children’s Health, released in 2021.
States of loneliness, anxiety, or hopelessness are, of course, not uniquely manifestations of youth. The World Health Organization found a 25% increase in anxiety and depression across the globe amid the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. A study conducted by insurance provider Cigna found that, post-pandemic, nearly 3 in 5 adult respondents (58%) actively experience loneliness; these findings are not far removed from the estimated 61% of adults that reported the same feelings before COVID-19’s onset. Further research published in October 2021 in the Lancet suggests that depression now affects about 1 in every 3 American adults.
To find out more about how adult populations are being affected, Sana cited data from the Census Household Pulse Survey weighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine trends in who reports receiving the mental health care they need. The data used in this story was collected between April and May 2022. Although more recent surveys are available, they have not yet been processed to consider weighted sample sizes.