The increased in health services means more funding is desparately needed.
Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tim Kaine of Virginia are planning to roll out the Covid-19 Mental Health Research Act, which will offer $100 million annually for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health to fund research on the pandemic’s the mental health toll. Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko and Republican Rep. John Katko, of New York will introduce the House version, and the bill would provide funds for research studying the impact of the pandemic, especially for health care workers, as well as post-pandemic mental health and suicide prevention support.
“Health care workers have led our communities through this crisis, with many feeling acute stress and anxiety,” Klobuchar said. “Children, adolescents, and seniors have also been uniquely impacted. To understand how we can best support them — and all Americans – through this difficult time, we must assess the scope of this mental health crisis and take steps to promote recovery and healing.”
“This bipartisan, bicameral bill will fund targeted research to strengthen our nation’s mental health response and examine the toll of this pandemic on frontline healthcare workers,” Katko added. “The bill will also provide crucial funding for suicide prevention research and assess the long-term impacts of COVID-19 stressors on mental health.”
Tonko explained that mental health support will be part of “rebuilding America, especially for medical professionals and emergency responders” as the U.S. recovers from the devastating impact of the pandemic. “Every day they show up to work, they risk exposure to this deadly virus and shoulder an unimaginable emotional burden for us, all to keep our families and communities safe. We need to do more to support them and make sure we work to understand even the hidden costs they are bearing.”
The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act was introduced earlier in 2021 to the House and Senate. It awards grants to mental health and addiction service providers, as well as $100 million to create or expand thsee services.
One study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that emergency department visits related to mental health, suicide attempts, overdoses, intimate partner violence and suspected child abuse were generally higher last year than during the same period the year before. The study, from researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, examines the number of emergency department visits from December 30, 2018, to October 10, 2020.
The researchers concluded that social distancing and uncertainty about the future factored into the increase and “the shutdown of businesses, schools, and other public entities resulted in reduced or modified access to mental health treatment, addiction and recovery support services, and services designed to support families experiencing or at risk for violence victimization.”
“Youth suicides had generally been rising before the pandemic and it is too early to link an increase in deaths directly to school closures,” warned Katrina Rufino, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston but their does seem to be a link.
Either way, COVID-19 putting stress on healthcare workers to meet increased need, and more mental health funds need to be allocated towards meeting this need. Compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma have resulted, and limited resources hinders the ability for the public to continue to get access to adequate care.