COVID-19 Dashes Hopeful Sign of Decline in Depression Found in 2019 Analysis

Overall, 40 Percent of Americans Are Struggling with Mental Health Issues 

Healthcare workers, essential workers, minorities suffering disproportionately

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study finds that 40 percent of Americans are struggling with mental health issues related to the pandemic.  Healthcare and other essential workers are disproportionately affected, as are minorities, according to the report.

The longer COVID-19 lingers, the greater the incidence of mental health issues, infers the report. Unfortunately, this makes sense.  The stress and strain wrought by the uncertainty of the pandemic in every facet of people’s lives contributes to increasing anxiety.  Mental health experts note that disasters, such as a pandemic, cause anxiety, depression, and overall feelings of hopelessness among many individuals.

Interestingly, the Long Island Health Collaborative (LIHC), a coalition of hospitals, county health departments, dozens of community-based health and social service organizations, physician groups, schools and libraries, and some businesses, looked at the topic of depression just before the pandemic hit.  The LIHC and its partners work to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases and to enhance prevention and treatment of mental illnesses and substance abuse.

Hopeful News

The group’s pre-pandemic analysis found some hopeful signs.  In 2016, 11.8 percent of adults in New York reported having a depressive disorder while 7.5 percent of adults in Nassau County and 10.2 percent of adults in Suffolk County reported having a depressive disorder.  Self-report data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) was examined.

The analysis further found that depressive disorders are increasing among children and teens.  This was not a surprising result, say the LIHC partners, as mental health experts have been watching an increase in mental health issues in recent years among this population.

Six-months Later, Different Story

Now, six months into the pandemic, the situation has only gotten worse for all populations.

A Pew Research Center analysis of adult responses to questions about anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness experienced during select weeks in March and April found that one-third of Americans have experienced high levels of psychological distress.  A forthcoming analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics’ Household Pulse Survey that began data collection about the frequency of anxiety and depression related to the pandemic on April 23, 2020 and concluded July 23, 2020 will no doubt corroborate the Pew analysis and similar studies.

Hospital discharge data reveals a similar story.  According to SPARCS data, discharges related to or including depression in both counties have decreased during the past eight years for all ages, with the exception of Suffolk County that saw a slight increase in children and teen discharges.  Mental health treatment specialists agree that depression, especially among teens, is rising.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2018 survey on drug use and health reports that 14 percent of teens reported depression in the previous year compared to eight percent reporting experiencing depression in the 2006 report.

The LIHC’s Community Health Assessment Survey (CHAS) January through December 2019 results reveal that when asked: “What is most needed to improve the health of the community,” 14 percent of Suffolk County respondents and 10 percent of Nassau County respondents said mental health services. The CHAS is a primary data collection tool that examines individuals and communities’ perceptions about health and barriers to health care on an ongoing basis. The CHAS survey is available online and paper-based. Anyone over the age of 18 is encouraged to complete the survey.

The data reports produced by the Long Island Health Collaborative are used by hospitals, county health departments, community-based organizations, and other social and health services providers to offer programs that best meet the needs of local communities.  The LIHC is an initiative of the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State’s Long Island-based division – the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council.

 If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  at 1-800-273-8255.  These calls are routed to 170 crisis centers closest to the caller. 

Local hospitals and local health departments also offer mental health assistance and can direct individuals to the appropriate care in the community. 

About the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State

The Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State advocates on behalf of hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Long Island regions. It engages key lawmakers and regulatory decision-makers in Albany and Washington to ensure reasonable and rational health care policy prevails.

About the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council (NSHC)   

The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals on Long Island. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NSHC serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals on Long Island.

About the Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association (NorMet)  

The Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association represents the not-for-profit and public hospitals in the Hudson Valley region. It works in conjunction with the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State to advance legislative and regulatory priorities.  NorMet serves as the local and collective voice of hospitals in the Hudson Valley.


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