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JEC Releases New Report on How the Coronavirus is Worsening America’s Mental Health Crisis

October 16, 2020
Press Release
More than 1 in 3 of American adults report symptoms of depressive and/or anxiety disorder. Rates of mental illness are at an unprecedented high, especially among Latinos, Blacks, young people and essential workers.

(WASHINGTON, DC) The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee released a new report this week on how America's failure to contain the coronavirus is taking a toll on Americans’ mental health.

Thirty-seven percent of American adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder—triple the percentage that reported such symptoms in 2019—according to a large recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase was especially high among Latinos, who have the highest rates of any racial group, as well as Blacks, young people and essential workers.

The likely causes of this high rate are the public health crisis and the resulting recession. Sixty-five percent of Americans surveyed report that they fear that they or their loves ones will contract the coronavirus and 70% surveyed report that they fear that the coronavirus will negatively impact their household income.

Meanwhile, the substantial economic pressures that Americans are facing have yet to subside: 22 million jobs disappeared this spring, more than 12 million workers remain unemployed and another 5 million have given up and left the labor force. One-third of adult Americans surveyed report having trouble paying usual household expenses.

A June survey conducted by the CDC found that more than 1 in 10 U.S. adults (10.7%) had considered suicide in the past 30 days, more than double the share in 2019 (4.7%).

Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Mental Health Caucus: 

“We have been sounding the alarm for months about how the COVID-19 pandemic has been worsening an existing mental health crisis. This new report brings greater visibility to the issue, giving it the attention it deserves, and proves why we must increase funding for mental health services nationwide."

"While Hispanic Americans, Black Americans, young people, and essential workers may be experiencing higher rates of mental illness during this pandemic, fear of the coronavirus, isolation from loved ones, and economic stress are taking a heavy toll on the mental well-being of all of our communities, and mental health effects are likely to have long-term consequences for children."

"I thank the Joint Economic Committee for releasing this report so the public can more fully understand the mental health challenges associated with the pandemic and that Congress can work together to ensure life-saving services for everyone in need.”

JEC Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA), Co-Chair of the Bipartisan House Suicide Prevention Task Force:

“Over 90 million Americans are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression—likely the result of fears that they or their loved ones will get sick and die from the coronavirus or be unable to pay their bills because of the resulting recession. Many of these Americans and others have not seen their friends or family for months or have had to attend funerals via video conference. It is no surprise that we are seeing unprecedented rates of mental illness."

“Congress must do much more to help before it is too late. This means ensuring that mental health providers can keep their doors open and that access and affordability issues do not prevent those in need of their care from walking through those doors. In addition to their financial security, the health and wellbeing of Americans should be our top priority right now. If it is, then we will need a much stronger pandemic response. The country deserves nothing less.”

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chair of the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: 

“The isolation and stress of the coronavirus pandemic is taking a mental toll on our fellow Americans. While the Trump Administration has failed to handle the dual crises of COVID-19 and rising suicide rates, the House Health Subcommittee that I chair is stepping up to the challenge by passing ten suicide prevention bills, including bills led by Congressman Beyer, to better identify and treat those at risk for suicide. While we face troubling times as a nation, this Joint Economic Committee report and the bills passed by the House provide a comprehensive plan to prevent suicide.”

Dan Gillison, CEO, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

“We appreciate Congressman Beyer’s leadership and applaud the Committee for highlighting the need for increased funding for community-based services. The data show the COVID-19 pandemic is having a profoundly negative impact on the mental health of our communities and is expected to worsen over time. It’s going to take strong leadership and a coordinated effort to tackle this mental health crisis. We need to work together to help create a community where no one feels alone in their struggle.”

Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America

“Mental Health America has seen an unprecedented rise in the numbers of people taking our online mental health screens since the start of the pandemic, with equally unprecedented numbers – more than a half million – experiencing anxiety, depression, or psychosis. These effects are worse in young people and among people of color. And a higher percentage of our help-seekers with depression – 37 percent – are regularly thinking of self-harm or suicide than ever before.” 

Additional findings included in the report are:

  • Although young adults (aged 18 to 29) are less likely to be hospitalized or die from the coronavirus, almost half report having symptoms of depressive and/or generalized anxiety disorder—the highest rate of mental illness of any age group.
  • Blacks and Latinos have reported some of the highest rates of mental illness during the pandemic likely because they are bearing the brunt of its health and economic effects. A CDC survey conducted in June found that Blacks and Latinos were about twice as likely, or more, than Whites to have seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days.
  • States in the South and the West that have the highest rates of people reporting symptoms of mental illness also have the highest rates of people reporting economic insecurity. 
  • The congressional response to the pandemic has included little funding for the prevention and treatment of mental illness. 

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee is Congress’s bicameral economic think tank. It was created when Congress passed the Employment Act of 1946. Under this Act, Congress established two advisory panels: the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and the JEC. Their primary tasks are to review economic conditions and to recommend improvements in economic policy. Chairmanship of the JEC alternates between the Senate and House every Congress. Currently, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is the Chair and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is Vice Chair. 

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