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Mental Health Awareness Month:  Recognizing Efforts to Meet Growing Challenges

By Jonathan Lennartz

As research depicts increasing challenges surrounding mental health, CSG West recognizes the timeliness of Mental Health Awareness Month. Exacerbated by the pandemic, preexisting trends have taken new shape and yielded troubling data:

  • In 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that for the first time, drug overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 over a 12-month period – a 28.5% increase from the previous year.
  • Research involving 80,000 youth globally reveal depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic.
  • In spring 2021, emergency department visits in the U.S. for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher for adolescent girls compared to the same time period in 2019. 

With teens and adolescents particularly impacted, last year the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory about the emerging youth mental health “crisis,” while a coalition of leading pediatric experts declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

Compounding these issues, many areas are experiencing a severe behavioral workforce shortage. One in three Americans live in designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, and studies highlight significant levels of burnout among healthcare professionals. 

While communities and states face steep challenges, CSG West honors our partnering organizations – as well as those beyond our network – whose continued efforts aim to mitigate these issues.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center provides a wealth of resources and information pertaining to mental health, including upcoming events with the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Our partners with the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED) are dedicated to increasing labor force participation among individuals with disabilities, and to ensure that state legislators have the resources needed to develop policies related to disability-inclusive workforce development.

The Western Governors University recently launched its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) degree program. The program will be offered online in 40 states, with a stated mission “to address the nation’s critical shortage of mental health providers”. 

For detailed information about how state legislators can help address these current challenges, we encourage you to view the Mental Health Resource Guide for State Policymakers, published by the Council of State Governments. To inform the content of the guide, CSG formed a 19-member advisory group made up of state legislators from six states, state executive branch health officials and subject-matter experts across four focus areas in mental health policy.