Find Your Local NAMI
Call the NAMI Helpline at
Or in a crisis, text "NAMI" to 741741
Resource-strapped call centers anticipate a burst of demand in July when the new 988 national suicide prevention hotline number goes live. But a lack of funds to help meet that demand is delaying efforts to publicize the service. The federal government must invest in public awareness, but the priority is to ensure that when people in need call there are the resources available to help, NAMI chief advocacy officer Hannah Wesolowski said. A nationwide public awareness campaign likely won’t take place until late 2022 or early 2023, Wesolowski said.
Hundreds of thousands of kids have lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19 and need support services, mental health experts say, with communities of color particularly devastated. Psychologists say this loss has caused an uptick in anxiety, depression, trauma- and stress-related disorders in some children. "As we move forward through this pandemic, I don't want people to feel as though, if the pandemic is getting better, then the youth mental health issue will go away," said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI. "The reality is that's not the case, because this crisis preexisted COVID. And it's even more dire in these rural areas because there is hardly any mental health support in place."
In an opinion piece, NAMI CEO Daniel Gillison wrote: The pandemic has hit people hard — especially their mental health. As the CEO of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, I know that we have to act urgently to avoid traumatic outcomes. Our failure to treat mental health crises leads to people cycling in and out of jails and emergency rooms, homelessness — or worse. The launch in July of 988, a new crisis hotline number, gives us a chance to put services into place that can help, but we have to act now. The NAMI HelpLine has experienced a 185% increase in calls related to suicide and a 251% increase in calls related to mental health crises compared with pre-pandemic times. After 20 months of COVID-19, there's never been a more critical time to invest in a new crisis response system.
By July 16, 2022, there will be a nationwide hotline to help with mental health crises and suicide prevention. “Once fully implemented, 988 will save lives and is a critical component to ensuring people in crisis are diverted from involvement in the criminal justice system and connected to appropriate services and supports,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports one in six U.S. youth, ages 6-17, experience a mental health disorder every year. NAMI claims half of those conditions start by age 14 with behavior problems, anxiety, and depression among the issues most commonly diagnosed. NAMI added only around half of students with mental health conditions actually received treatment in the past year. “Go to the pediatrician as the first place to start in order to get [kids] that mental health care that they need,” said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director for NAMI, who urged parents to watch for signs that their child is irritable or withdrawn. “Talk to your child about what’s going on, instead of just assuming that it’s normal teenage behavior or normal young people behavior,” she said. Crawford emphasized school districts are key in providing early identification and prevention as the pandemic presents new challenges for children who may feel isolated or anxious.
Americans may be dropping some of the stigma they once had toward depression, but attitudes toward other mental health conditions still seem stuck in the past, a new study shows. The research, based on interviews with U.S. adults conducted over 22 years, found a mixed bag when it came to mental health stigma. In recent years, people were less likely to want to avoid someone with depression, versus two decades ago. The picture was different with alcohol dependence and schizophrenia, however. The findings regarding depression are encouraging, said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI. "If people see that there is less stigma toward depression, maybe even more will be willing to talk about it, and seek help," said Crawford. In contrast, the regression in attitudes toward schizophrenia and alcohol dependence is concerning, Crawford said. "What people don't realize is, it's rare for people with schizophrenia to commit violence," Crawford said. "More often, they're victims of violence." Such stigmatization does matter, Lead Author Pescosolido said: For people living with psychiatric disorders, it can take a toll on their quality of life and be a major obstacle in recovery. Crawford agreed. "As a society, we need to shift our mindset about how we treat and talk about people with mental illness," she said.
For a live on-air interview, Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI, discusses the mental health impact of the recent TikTok threat and provided coping tips. She recommends parents and teachers have open conversations with students who might be experiencing concerns and stress about the threats on social media.
Between technology, the ongoing pandemic, and cultural conflict, it’s no surprise kids are feeling depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Christine Crawford, M.D., MPH and Associate Medical Director for NAMI, says there was already a mental health crisis in children before the pandemic, but COVID-19 exacerbated symptoms of anxiety, sadness, irritability, and increased levels of stress in young people, partly due to inactivity and lack of social connectedness. There are now more children needing mental health care than there are available providers, said Dr. Crawford, and psychiatric care for children is at a breaking point. “We lost the ability for kids to access outlets they were using to help manage anxiety or depression,” Crawford said. According to Crawford, there is ample scientific evidence that physical activity reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which causes physical symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate, nausea, and upset stomach. Not only does exercise decrease cortisol levels, physical movement releases feel good neurotransmitters that help elevate a child’s mood. “Kids who are able to be part of some kind of physical movement program on a regular basis are going to derive all of these benefits over time,” Crawford said. She recommends talking with children about both the physical and emotional health benefits of regular exercise to promote better overall health and instill better lifetime habits. “When we are emotionally well, we are physically well, too,” she said.
For Black Americans, unique challenges can contribute to the heightened feelings of stress, sadness, and loneliness that many people experience at this time of year. Feelings of grief may be more pronounced with the absence of loved ones from annual events. A disproportionate number of Black and brown people have become sick or died of COVID-19. Whether it's the absence of a loved one, financial insecurity, or a mental health condition that's contributing to anxiety, depression, or simply feeling off, there are things you can do to prevent a spiral during the holiday season. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five adults overall will experience mental illness each year, and African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological distress than members of other racial groups, the NIMHD reports. It’s important to find culturally competent care when possible. Someone with shared cultural and life experiences, including facing racism, discrimination, and structural inequities, can better understand and advise for your situation, according to NAMI. When looking for a provider, it’s normal and acceptable to ask questions of a few providers to find the right fit.
The U.S. has been grappling with a rise in anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. The government announced plans to tackle it head-on, with Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issuing a public advisory that flagged a “mental health crisis” among young people. The rise in mental health issues and suicides predates the pandemic. Still, the announcement represents the first time mental health has been identified at the federal level as a public health crisis. “We’ve been waiting for something like this,” said Jennifer Rothman, senior manager of the youth and young adulthood initiatives task force at NAMI. “The more leadership that speaks up and calls to the importance of looking at mental health as an overall health concern, the more people want to step up and help. It’s on all of us to make mental health more of a priority, because our kids are suffering.”
Call the NAMI Helpline at
In a crisis,