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Americans on the brink of a mental breakdown, CDC study finds

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The mental health status of people across the U.S. is looking grim, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. 

Anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorders are at an all-time high. Not only that, but the number of Americans contemplating suicide is skyrocketing.

Scientists surveyed 5,412 people ages 18 years and older between June 24 and June 30. Forty-one percent of respondents indicated they had “at least one adverse mental health or behavioral health condition” in the past month – a number three to four times higher than this same time in 2019.

Specifically, 31% indicated symptoms of anxiety or depression while 26% said they have trauma and stress-related (TSRD) disorder as a direct result of the pandemic. Thirteen percent of those surveyed now turn to alcohol and/or drugs as a way to cope with their emotional turmoil and 11% seriously considered suicide in the past thirty days. 

Mental and behavioral health is declining rapidly in some populations more than others. Seventy-five percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 admit to struggling as are those with a previous diagnosis of anxiety (73%), depression (69%) and post-traumatic stress disorder (88%). Essential caregivers, unpaid family caregivers as well as those with less than a high school diploma are not far behind at 54%, 67%, and 66%, respectively. 

Report findings indicate Hispanics are being hit hardest showing a “higher prevalence of symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, COVID-19-related TSRD, increased substance abuse and suicidal ideation” compared to non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Asians. Blacks also reported higher levels of substance abuse and seriously considered suicide compared to others.

Suicidal thoughts were more prevalent in men than women irrespective of race and approximately 22% of essential workers and 31% of unpaid caregivers contemplated ending their lives at the time of the survey. 

Authors say pandemic-related factors such as social isolation, unemployment and the absence of school structure are possible causes behind the nation’s sharp mental health decline–all of which warrant further study. 

“Addressing mental health disparities and preparing support systems to mitigate mental health consequences as the pandemic evolves will continue to be needed urgently,” they conclude. 

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, click here.

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has appeared in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and on Facebook @DrMaryGillis.