All across the world, people are reeling from the effects of the past 24 months. As we have seen Covid-19 cases spread rapidly across the world, devastating global health, many people don’t know that 1 in 3 people diagnosed with Covid-19 are also diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within 3 months.
In many ways, young people are feeling the effects of the pandemic on their mental health more than anyone else. Nearly 25% of youth experience depressive symptoms and 20% experience anxiety symptoms. The situation has gotten so alarming that the U.S. Surgeon General has released a public health advisory to address youth mental health. The data is clear. Our neighbors are sick and weary and in need of hope and healing.
While certainly alarming on its own, what makes the current state of mental health so damaging is the lack of access to treatment. Often the primary barrier to care is affordability. Right now, 13% of Floridians are uninsured. Even among those who are insured, mental health services are 5 times more likely to be out-of-network than physical health services making them significantly less affordable and as a result, nearly half of those who did not receive treatment for their mental illness cited cost as the reason. While services like our Outlook Clinic, which provides psychiatric services to Central Florida’s uninsured, are working to help bridge the gap in coverage, there are still thousands in our community unable to receive services.
This is why the Mental Health Association of Central Florida views advocacy as an essential part of caring for our community. Organizations like ours need the support of well-crafted legislation to be able to reach those in our community who need it most.
One of the strongest tools we have in the fight against mental illness is legislation. Through strong leadership and legislation we can begin to heal the wounds the pandemic has caused and set our fellow community members on the path to recovery. The expansion of Medicaid, suicide prevention bills, specialized behavioral health crisis responses and the promotion of inclusion are just a few examples of legislation community leaders, with our support, are working toward passing which would benefit mental wellness. We need to show our support for bills such as these as a community to let our legislators know that they are a priority for their constituents.