Given the challenges of the last two years, it’s not surprising we find ourselves in a national mental health crisis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of depression and anxiety were four times higher during the first year of the pandemic compared to previous years. Nationally, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents ages 12-17 increased 31% compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In the U.S., one person dies by suicide every 11 minutes.
We’ve witnessed this firsthand at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). Psychiatric emergency room visits rose 20% last year, and demand for outpatient behavioral health care has been extraordinary (and nationally up by 6%).
The pandemic didn’t cause the crisis, but it definitely made it worse. We were already challenged well before COVID-19, for example, when years ago our state mental health hospitals shut down without adequate community resources to take their place. And it’s no secret there’s not only a regional but also a national shortage of mental health professionals to address the state of crisis. By 2030, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration predicts that the supply of adult psychiatrists could be short by 12,500.