With two years of a global pandemic and social isolation underway and an extra cold, cloudy winter, mental health needs are at an all-time high. People who were able to hold things together in 2021 are rapidly declining in their emotional wellbeing as we head into another year of the pandemic.
4 in 10 Adults Experiencing Symptoms
The burnout and mental health crisis so many are facing is impacting every aspect of life, from employment to social life to performing everyday responsibilities. In a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Census Bureau throughout 2020 and 2021, around 4 in 10 adults reported experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms, up from 1 in 10 in the first half of 2019. The study also showed that 13% of responders indicated that they started or increased substance abuse during the pandemic.
The increased wait times for mental health services are perpetuated by understaffing and safety concerns with COVID numbers fluctuating every few months. Mental Health America reports that almost 25% of adults have an unmet need for treatment of mental health issues, and 1 in 3 youth with mental health concerns do not receive treatment.
“We have been seeing a steady uptick of calls since the beginning of the colder weather,” says Stefanie Small, Director of JFCS Clinical Services. “People who were able to withstand the pandemic up until now have reached their saturation point and are reaching out for help. Winter is a difficult time of year every year due to the lack of sunshine and lessened ability to go out and do what you might want to do. This year it is compounded by another year of pandemic, another year of uncertainty, another year of ‘just too much.’”
Effect on the Job Market
This mental health crisis has also had an impact on employment, with many feeling unable to do their jobs well or, in some cases, at all. “People want to find balance between their work and personal lives, especially if it did not exist pre-COVID, and they are accessing a wide range of services and resources to help them get there,” says Becky Johnson, Director of JFCS Career Development Center. In addition to career counseling services, JFCS clients are also looking for referrals to brief support counseling and are considering their mental health more during the job search process.
“Jobseekers and workers are feeling more empowered to prioritize their mental health needs while looking for a job and after they land it,” Johnson explained. “They want flexibility in work hours and the option to work virtually at least some of the time. It’s clear that jobseekers, when able, are putting themselves and their own mental health at the top of their priorities list when searching for a job.”
Those Caring for Others Feel Burnout
Adults caring for dependents, whether children or family members with disabilities or elderly parents, are also experiencing challenges beyond what they’ve had to face prior to the pandemic. “Caregivers have found themselves to be struggling,” Small says. She explained that their monthly caregiver support group has increased from one to two times a month since COVID hit, with anywhere from 8 to 16 attendees each time. “People who feel they need to shoulder everything on their own are the ones that suffer most and suffer silently. We need to help them understand that they are not alone and there are people who can help.”
From teens to senior adults to parents to professionals, the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is widespread. Staffing issues and changes from in-person to virtual services have also lessened accessibility of these services for many people, but as the problem increases, more services are adapting to try to meet the need.
Services Available in Allegheny County
If you find yourself in need of mental health support or know someone who needs mental health support, here are some resources that can help:
- Resolve Crisis Services – Contact resolve Crisis Services at 1-888-796-8226 or visit our walk-in center for 24-hour crisis and mental health help, free to all residents of Allegheny County.
- UpStreet – UpStreet offers free brief chat support and individual counseling to anyone ages 12-22. We also provide peer mentoring and resources. Get started talking with a therapist now at upstreetpgh.org
- Peer Support & Advocacy Network – PSAN runs the Allegheny County Warmline, which provides peer support (not for emergencies) to people in Allegheny County over the age of 18. Call 1-800-661-9276 any day from 10am-midnight to be connected with someone to talk with. PSAN also has programs that provide assurance and reminder calls or Certified Peer Support Specialists. Learn more at peer-support.org.
- Duquesne Psychology Clinic – Duquesne Psychology Clinic offers affordable counseling to the Pittsburgh community through this unique training program for doctoral students in the psychology program. Fees are based on income, on a sliding scale. The clinic can provide referrals and recommendations for additional services as needed. Learn more at https://www.duq.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/psychology-clinic
- JFCS Counseling Services – JFCS provides counseling services for people of all ages throughout the Pittsburgh area. We have therapists that specialize in a variety of areas, including trauma, child psychotherapy, family therapy, domestic abuse, and more. Contact us at email@example.com to learn more or receive services.