Mental Health

KnowMore: Mental Health Today
Source: Mental Health in America I The State of Mental Health in America 2021 Report

Mental Health in America, a national community-based nonprofit, recently provided insight into how 2020 impacted the mental health of Americans.

“In 2014, Mental Health America created the Online Screening Program (, a collection of ten free, anonymous, confidential and clinically-validated screens that are among the most commonly used mental health screening tools in clinical settings.1 Through September 2020, over 6 million people have taken a screen, including over 1.5 million people from January-September 2020. This makes it the largest dataset ever collected from a help-seeking population experiencing mental health conditions. The screening results also comprise one of the largest datasets collecting national mental health information in real-time, allowing us to recognize and react to changes in the mental health of the nation as they occur, including the mounting mental health crisis throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pee Dee Coalition would like to thank Mental Health of America for conducting this important study, and for allowing us to share it here. The information below is taken directly from Mental Health of America’s 2021 Report. Please visit their website today to find out how you can participate in a mental health screening!

“In 2020, over 2.6 million people took a mental health screen, comprising the largest dataset compiled for a mental health help-seeking population during the pandemic, and representing a nearly 200% increase over the number of people who completed a screening in 2019.”

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The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression drastically increased.

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  • In total, 545,150 people took an anxiety screen in 2020, which was 234% higher than the total number of anxiety screens taken in 2019.
  • In November and December 2020, anxiety severity reached the highest levels recorded in 2020.
  • In total, 81% of individuals who took an anxiety screen scored with symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety, and half, 50%, scored for severe anxiety. These rates of anxiety severity were nearly 10 percent higher during the final quarter of 2020 than they were during the same quarter in 2019.
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  • Almost one million – 944,108 people – took a depression screen in 2020, which was 185% higher than the total number of depression screens taken in 2019.
  • Of those who took a depression screen in 2020, 85% scored with moderate to severe symptoms of depression. This was equal to the proportion of people who screened at risk for depression in 2019, although the number of participants was significantly higher in 2020.
  • November and December 2020 were the two months with the highest percentages of people with moderate to severe depression from January to December of 2020.
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“More people are reporting frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than have ever been recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread rapidly in March 2020, over 178,000 people have reported frequent suicidal ideation. 37 percent of people reported having thoughts of suicide almost daily in September 2020.”

“Young people are struggling most with their mental health. Youth ages 11-17 remained the highest age group reporting moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Eighty-four percent of 11-17-year-olds who took an anxiety screen in 2020 scored with symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety.

“Rates of suicidal ideation are highest among youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth. In September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm almost daily in the past two weeks. From January to September 2020, 77,470 youth reported experiencing frequent suicidal ideation, including 27,980 LGBTQ+ youth.”

“People screening at risk for mental health conditions are struggling most with loneliness or isolation. From April to September 2020, among people who screened with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety or depression, 70 percent reported that one of the top three things contributing to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation.”

“While rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are increasing for people of all races and ethnicities, there are notable differences in those changes over time. Rates of moderate to severe anxiety continue to be much higher than the 2019 average for screeners of every race/ethnicity. The proportion of people scoring with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety was highest among Native American or American Indian screeners in 2020 (84%). The largest increases in the proportion of people scoring for moderate to severe anxiety between 2019 and 2020 was for screeners who identified their race as Other (4.67% increase) and Asian or Pacific Islander screeners (4.53% increase).

Suicidal ideation and thoughts of self-harm reach a new high. Suicidal/self-harm thinking, especially among young people, was epidemic in 2020. Overall, 37% of individuals who took the PHQ-9 screening for depression reported frequent suicidal ideation (defined as more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks) in 2020.

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“When examined by age, youth ages 11-17 continue to have the highest rate of suicidal ideation. In December 2020, 53% reported having suicidal thoughts more than half the days or nearly every day, the highest rate recorded throughout the year.”

Increases in emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties among youth.”
MHA uses the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC-35) tool to screen youth for emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties. In total, 140,598 individuals took the Youth screen in 2020, a 261% increase over the number of Youth screens taken in 2019.

  • Of the individuals who took the Youth screen, 77% (N=108,344) scored at risk for emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties. This was 6% higher than the average rate in 2019.
  • In December 2020, the proportion of youth scoring at risk reached the highest levels recorded in 2020. 80% of youth scored at risk for emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties. This was 11% higher than the proportion of youth who screened at risk on the Youth screen in 2019 (69%).
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“Loneliness, Past Trauma, And Relationship Problems Continue To Be Main Concerns.”

“In April 2020, MHA added the question, ‘Think about your mental health test. What are the main things contributing to your mental health problems right now? Choose up to three.'”

“Throughout the year, feelings of loneliness and isolation were cited by screeners as a major reason for their mental health struggles. Among individuals who screened positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition in 2020, 71% reported that one of the top three things contributing to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation. This was followed by 53% reporting past trauma and 42% reporting relationship problems. On average, 26% of individuals who screened positive or moderate to severe in 2020 reported coronavirus, and 26% reported current events (including news and politics) as one of the top three things affecting their mental health.”

*Racism average percentage is derived from June-December, as Racism was not added as an option until June 2020
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How Does Mental Health Relate to Abuse and Assault?

Abuse of any type can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental health. While mental illness does not on its own cause abuse, there are some conditions that can increase the risk of abusive patterns. Outside stressors like those created in 2020 can cause pre-existing health conditions to resurface or become less manageable, especially if treatment is limited. Untreated mental illness may contribute to abusive behavior, including child abuse and domestic violence. Survivors of abuse may also be facing more challenges, for example, those diagnosed with PTSD might be experiencing more triggers due to increased stress; causing nightmares, flashbacks, or even physical pain.

“Trauma can affect how you feel about yourself and how you relate to others. Women who have gone through abuse or other trauma have a higher risk of developing a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

Experiencing abuse or other trauma puts people at risk of developing mental health conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs
  • Borderline personality disorder

The long-term effects of abuse or trauma can include:

  • Severe anxiety, stress, or fear
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-injury
  • Suicide

Not every abusive partner has a mental illness, and not every partner who has a mental illness will be abusive. If the abusive or negative behavior is solely directed toward a partner, and never to those outside of the relationship, it is less likely to be related to a mental illness.

The following questions may help clarify whether what your partner is doing is abuse or abuse with mental illness:

  • Does my partner yell or scream at others (friends, coworkers, family members) outside of our relationship?
  • Does my partner make others check in to see where they’re at and who they’re with?
  • Does my partner hit others outside of our relationship?
  • Does my partner minimize or verbally tear down others?
  • Does my partner pressure others to do things that they aren’t okay with?
  • Does my partner make threats to others when they say something my partner doesn’t agree with?

Regardless of mental illness, abuse is never acceptable.

Mental health has been a difficult topic of conversation in the past, but things seem to be looking up as more people are reaching out for resources. As a community, it is our duty to help one another overcome difficult challenges, and Pee Dee Coalition considers it a privilege to help those suffering from abuse, assault, and the impact they have on mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome the impact of trauma, please reach out to Pee Dee Coalition today.

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