Find Your Local NAMI
Call the NAMI Helpline at
Or in a crisis, text "NAMI" to 741741
Long before COVID-19, the U.S. healthcare ecosystem was under stress. Constant political debates ensued about the high costs of healthcare while lamenting incomplete coverage and accessibility for vulnerable populations. The Hill brought together public health officials, policymakers and leaders from across the healthcare ecosystem for an online summit on Thursday, July 9 including a segment on Next Steps for Mental Health that featured Daniel Gillison, CEO, NAMI. (Video of the conversation)
Opinion piece by Dan Gillison, Jr., NAMI CEO and long-time mental health peer advocate Bill Carruthers, Jr. outlining the changes needed to effectively respond to people in crisis. A mental health crisis can be a frightening thing to the individual experiencing it as well as to people witnessing it. Those in its throes need help, but all too often get handcuffs. Our country needs to do a lot of learning and painful growing that includes a real conversation — and a real intentional change process — around policing and mental health, including the disproportionate effects on communities of color.
Only 1 in 3 African Americans who need mental health care receive it. Psychiatrist Dr. Jess Clemons of "Ask Dr. Jess" talks about using social media to break down barriers and provide more access to help. Gayle King mentions the NAMI HelpLine at the end of the segment.
A secondary health challenge is sweeping the country due to a domino effect from the coronavirus pandemic, anti-racism protests and a recession: increased bouts of depression and anxiety. Calls from across the nation to the NAMI helpline increased 65% between March and June. “The data tells us that people were experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression,” said Dawn Brown, NAMI director of community engagement. “They were reaching out for information around treatment and resources, but nearly all needed support, reassurance and encouragement.” Common early indicators of depression are changes in sleep and/or appetite, Brown said. “Anytime a person’s daily life is being affected in a negative way, they should consider what’s changed,” Brown added.
In the June 4-9 survey, which polled more than 83,000 respondents, nearly half (49%) of Americans between the ages of 18-29 exhibited symptoms of anxiety or depression. Women, Black and Latino Americans, and those without a bachelor’s degree were also far more likely to display symptoms of depression or anxiety. Dawn Brown, director of community engagement at NAMI, wasn’t surprised by this disparity. “I think the stressors of COVID-19 are affecting those marginalized communities more than people who are affluent and can work from home,” Brown said. NAMI has seen a dramatic increase in overall call volume to its helpline this year compared to the same time in 2019, Brown said. “A lot of our callers don’t have a diagnosis of a mental illness, but they are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, so [COVID-19 is] actually creating symptoms in people otherwise not affected by mental health conditions.”
STAT spoke with teenagers, young adults, mental health providers and experts across the country to understand the experiences of young people with mental health conditions as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. Although NAMI is not prominently featured, we coordinated and connected the reporter with Kathleen Donohue, Teyah McKenzie and Lee Piechota, three young adults who work with NAMI and were interested in sharing their story.
Are we living up to the ideals and standards proposed by the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA)? According to some recent reports and measures, the answer is no. Why hasn’t the legislation done enough to halt disparity? Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy for NAMI, says it is largely a problem of enforcement. “There is a lack of oversight and efforts to make sure that health plans are compliant with not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of law,” said Kimball. This is one reason why NAMI undersigned a letter to congress on March 13, 2020, concerning the lack of parity oversight. As there is no single way to enforce parity, it is easier for noncompliant insurers to avoid getting caught.
The man on the other end of line, released from prison when the pandemic hit, battled mental illness and substance use. Desperate, he dialed the NAMI HelpLine, a free, nationwide support service for people who live with mental health conditions. “The guy was scared out of his mind,” recalled Ron Honberg, a volunteer peer support specialist, because several residents at the recovery home had contracted COVID-19. Honberg has answered countless calls in recent months that share a similar theme. The dramatic increase is straining the volunteers who support callers’ mental and emotional health even as the pandemic takes a toll on their own lives. NAMI HelpLine manager Quinn Anderson teaches her staff to imagine a swift stream flowing between themselves and callers that washes away emotional distress, and to take a break to relax as soon as they feel tense. The work is not all stressful. Helping others feel at peace and offering hope can be immensely rewarding.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects, and a new study points to yet another: It may be keeping people from seeking emergency care for suicidal thoughts. Across Cleveland Clinic emergency rooms, mental health visits were down 28% in the month after the stay-at-home order took effect, compared to the same month a year ago. The difference was even greater for visits related to suicidal thoughts -- which dropped 60%. "These findings are important, but they give a partial picture. It's a first step," said Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI. For one, he said, the full mental health impact of the pandemic may be farther out, rather than immediate. And the data that researchers need to study the situation have to be gathered.
As millions of people around the world are protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation. Many people are experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety as a result. “The effect of racism and racial trauma on mental health is real and cannot be ignored,” Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI said in a statement May 29. And a new survey from the CDC confirms what many people have felt throughout the Covid-19 crisis: the pandemic is affecting our mental health in significant ways.
Call the NAMI Helpline at
In a crisis,