The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently announced that it would be providing $3 billion in services to address the mental health crisis our country is currently facing due to the effects of COVID-19. In addition, a federal board will be assembled to effectively distribute these services across the nation. The events of the past few years have undeniably contributed to the ongoing crisis, with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse on the rise. In addition, the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequities in mental health, with African-American and low-SES households suffering more acutely from bereavement and unemployment, and Asian-Americans experiencing increased hate and discrimination.
The steps that SAMHSA is now taking to address mental health represent a huge leap forward. Not only is the new initiative an acknowledgement of the importance of the mental health effects of the pandemic, but it addresses the pandemic’s intersection with existing societal constructs such as race and socioeconomic status. The convening of a board demonstrates not just federal attention towards, but also proactive participation in this under-appreciated aspect of healthcare. Of course, mental health is not just an issue during the pandemic. Rather, it is a pervasive problem that has been festering for a long time, as the world transitions to the digital age and people struggle to keep up with the rapidly accelerating change marking our societies. Without a doubt, one unexpectedly positive outcome of the pandemic is that it has turned global attention to mental health.