These are trying times to say the least and the intensity of the challenges Americans are facing is creating a toxic state. Day in and day out, news of violence, injustice, sickness and death is having a very real impact on the mental health of adults and children, alike.
As difficult as it’s been to watch the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer facing first-, second- and third-degree murder charges for the killing of George Floyd, many Americans are glued to their screens watching the daily recount of evidence and testimonies, including the horrific video, showing the heinous act that led to Mr. Floyd’s death. The hope for justice in this case is restrained by pessimism resulting from not guilty verdicts most in law enforcement receive, particularly for acts against Black people. But we sit, and watch, and cry, and relive the pain, while our children watch, too.
Then, there’s cause to celebrate the arrival of three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — that will make Americans safer against COVID-19. But, the promise of reopening, traveling and gatherings is tempered by the threat of a fourth surge and reluctance by many to take the vaccine. Life as we knew it has not returned, and when it will is unpredictable. Upcoming holiday celebrations and much-anticipated graduations will be put on hold or delayed once again. Instead of tossing tasseled caps with excitement in the air, graduates will sadly lower their computer screens to mark the momentous occasion in 2021.
The U.S. is among the leading countries with the highest prevalence of mental disorders. In the 2021 report on the State of Mental Health in America, mental health among adults is increasing and youth mental health is worsening. The stresses of life do not discriminate, and the response including drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide, don’t discriminate either.
The government’s response is stimulus payment. And while it addresses a financial crisis, it is not a cure for anxiety of depression. People need help and access to mental health care without stigma or shame. Let’s talk about it, and ensure affordability and accessibility for everyone who needs today.