Resources, equitable community investments essential to support mental health and wellbeing
If the CRISES law had been enacted two decades ago, my family, my community and I would be less marked. As a young woman, I struggled with depression, grew up in a family with intergenerational trauma, and lived in a community where the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to conflict and crisis . Our ability to be resilient has been possible through generosity, grace and love; there was no policy to ensure that community responses to local emergencies were funded, coordinated, and available. For me, a public health approach to mental well-being requires us to address – through changing practices, policies and systems – the multiple threats that affect our ability to feel safe and cared for.
Today, we know that the mental health of our nation – and of ourselves, our families and our communities – is at risk.
In 2020, 1 in 5 adults suffered from a mental illness, and 50% of the 26 million adults who received virtual mental health services suffered from a serious mental illness. Mental illness is most prevalent among young adults and teens: 1 in 3 young adults has experienced a mental illness and three million teens have had serious suicidal thoughts. Although more is spent on mental disorders than on any other medical condition, including those who are institutionalized and often excluded from estimates, investment in mental well-being remains woefully insufficient.
Unemployment, economic instability, racial discrimination and stress exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on our mental health. Latino adults reported symptoms of depression nearly 60% more frequently than their white counterparts, and while white adults were more likely to report stress and worry about the health of loved ones, a higher percentage non-Latino multiracial adults reported stress. and worry about the stigma or discrimination associated with being accused of spreading COVID-19.
Although there are racial and ethnic differences in the use of mental health services, the cost or lack of insurance coverage is often reported by all racial and ethnic groups as the main reason for not using mental health services. mental health services. Compounding these gaps in access to mental health services is the painful reality that our health care providers are also not immune to threats to mental well-being. Public health workers reported instances of harassment, intimidation and threats, and more than half of public health workers reported at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Because mental health requires more than resilience, resource support and equitable community investments are essential. From climate instability to economic and housing insecurity, how we respond to threats to mental health matters. In northern California, for example, the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiatives (BARHII) works with local public health departments to implement equitable recovery strategies that emphasize community mental health and the commitment to healing as one of ten investment priorities. From Detroit to Salt Lake City, local public health officials from the Emerging Leaders in Public Health initiative are cultivating resources to tackle burnout among frontline workers, increase access to mental health services and establish organizational practices that promote emotional, psychological and social well-being. be.
Those of us who work in health philanthropy have a unique responsibility and opportunity to promote mental health as well. Beyond grants and program-related investments to support community efforts that promote mental wellness, we can streamline processes to reduce the workload of our grant-funded partners, establish practices to minimize stress work-related and demonstrate our commitment to the safety and mental well-being of the communities we serve.