Listed below is a story from Nick Reisman from Spectrum News’s Capital Tonight based on the recent survey that Siena college did in collaboration with MHANYS regarding the impact of the Pandemic to mental health and the general population’s perception of mental health services. Please feel free to reach out for more information.
STATE OF POLITICS
As pandemic restrictions ease, mental health impacts could remain
BY NICK REISMAN CITY OF ALBANY
PUBLISHED 5:03 PM ET MAY. 20, 2021
Pandemic restrictions in New York and around the country are starting to ease. Tens of thousands of people are vaccinated everyday, while the COVID-19 positivity rate continues to decline from a wintertime spike.
But a longer-lasting concern of the pandemic could be the mental health shock created by the year-long crisis.
Mental health advocates like Glenn Liebman, the CEO of the Mental Health Association of New York, are concerned a lasting legacy of the pandemic will be ongoing mental health struggles — and New York needs to respond.
“There are really two pandemics here,” Liebman said. “There’s the pandemic that we all know about where almost 600,000 people died. But there’s also the mental health pandemic and all that surrounds it.”
Liebman’s group this week released a survey of New Yorkers finding half of all respondents feel depressed or hopeless, 85 percent are worried they cannot afford access to treatment and 79 percent are worried they would be judged if they seek treatment. An additional 72 percent are reluctant to use mental health services provided by their employer.
The survey highlights the difficulty of people seeking treatment when they need help. But Liebman hopes the pandemic can change how mental health is viewed, hoping more people will see mental health as similar to seeking aid for a physical ailment.
“The one positive of COVID is people are talking about it more and people are hopefully are seeking treatment more in a much more normalized setting where they’re not feeling stigmaitzed by seeking treatment,” he said.
Lawmakers like state Sen. Peter Harckham said New York needs to bolster resources to solve the problem in part because so few were in place prior to 2020.
“New York needs to make a long-term commitment because our commitment before the pandemic was not enough,” he said.
New York is receiving federal funding to help strengthen a variety of mental health treatment programs. But that also comes as the need has grown during the last year, with a rise in “deaths of despair” from drug overdoses which have spiked across the state.
Federal funding has been made available to counteract the worst of the mental health crisis created by the pandemic.
“We’re now seeing the largest spike in history of recorded overdose deaths, but also depression, despair, mental health co-occurring disorders,” said Harckham, the leading lawmaker on the Senate Substance Abuse Committee.
State officials have also moved to support telehealth services, expanding access through insurance, as people sought help.
“Telehealth as we saw for substance use disorder and mental health disorders was great during the pandemic,” Harckham said. “We need to make that available.”
One key issue mental health advocates and lawmakers who have worked on this issue continue to underscore is reversing the stigma of seeking help — something that no one policy can immediately change.