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ARLINGTON, VA — Amidst a growing crisis, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is urging that we all come “Together for Mental Health” — NAMI’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Month in May — to fight stigma, raise awareness and advocate for a better mental health care system.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is ebbing, its effects on our collective mental health are proving severe and long-lasting, particularly among younger people and marginalized populations — effectively, a pandemic within a pandemic.
Some indicators are positive, such as the number of people who have been more open with others about their mental health since the pandemic started (52% in a 2021 NAMI survey).
But those statistics are far overshadowed by an undeniable and growing mental health crisis that demands both attention and action. Nearly 2 in 5 adults struggled with mental health issues in 2020, compared to about 1 in 5 adults before the pandemic. Among adults with mental illness, only 46% received treatment in 2020, a number that is far lower among Black Americans (37%), Hispanic/Latinx (35%) and Asian Americans (21%).
The crisis is especially acute among youth and young adults, as trends that had already predated the pandemic have turned even more ominous. In 2020, 75% of people aged 18–24 reported at least one mental health or substance use concern. In 2021, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher among adolescent girls than in 2020.
Between 2020 and 2021, calls to the NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-NAMI, or 6264) about depression and anxiety increased by 80%, calls about suicide increased by 185%, and calls about mental health crises increased by 251%. Overall, the number of people the HelpLine assisted increased 79% from 2019 to 2021.
But there is hope. NAMI has responded to the crisis by extending HelpLine hours twice in 2021 alone, now operating from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time, Monday–Friday. It also added a new live chat feature. NAMI has put significant resources in early intervention to address the youth mental health crisis and the organization has been at the forefront of envisioning a new crisis response system as the nation gets closer the July launch of 988, a three-digit number for those in a mental health crisis.
“During this Mental Health Awareness Month, we want you to know that NAMI stands together with you as we confront this unprecedented mental health crisis,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. “We are working harder than ever to meet people where they are — to offer education and support in ways no one else can match, with our 650 affiliates and 49 state organizations nationwide. It is a call we have answered every single day since 1979.”
NAMI’s Mental Health Awareness Month page features resources like shareable images and graphics, an Awareness Event Guide, a link to NAMI’s advocacy action center and personal stories about people’s own mental health journeys — along with the hashtag #Together4MH.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
Join the conversation at nami.org | facebook.com/nami | instagram.com/namicommunicate | twitter.com/namicommunicate #Together4MH
In a crisis? Call or text 988.