Global Study Finds Young Adults At Higher Risk Of Mental Health Issues

A new report looks at the global mental health status in the age of COVID and found young people especially are struggling.

Global Study Finds Young Adults At Higher Risk Of Mental Health Issues
AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar

One way or another, all of us have been affected by the COVID pandemic. 

John Ellwood, owner of John’s Cleaners: “Sorry, um. ... We haven’t paid ourselves since June. And I never thought I’d collect unemployment. ... We’re collecting unemployment."

"You may be the last face someone sees before they’re intubated. They won’t see anybody else. They won't see their loved ones. It's the nurse. So it's hard," said Dawn Krueger, a COVID-19 staff nurse at the Milwaukee VA.

A new global report from Sapien labs and the Mental Health Million Project found more people all over the world are feeling pain related to mental health disorders like depression, PTSD and anxiety. 

"I’m willing to try anything just to feel like me again," Mickela Harris said. 

The percentage of respondents with clinical level risk increased from 14% in 2019 to 26% in 2020. Researchers broke it down by age group, and this problem was worst among people 18-24 years old. Forty-four percent of young adults were at risk of a clinical mental health diagnosis.

"That's a huge, huge fraction. You can't have a situation where almost half your population is struggling," founder and chief scientist Tara Thiagarajan with Sapien and Mental Health Million Project said.

The big question remains: Will that change over time? 

Some help is coming from the federal government. The newly passed COVID relief bill allocates billions toward mental health, including $3.5 billion for block grants addressing mental health and substance use disorders; $100 million for behavioral health workforce education and training; and $80 million to pediatric mental health services.

Mental health experts say the pandemic has lowered stigma about mental wellness, which could be a big help. Mental health providers can’t keep up with demand. While on one side it is troubling, they say it's promising to see more people open to getting care.

"We've been having more conversations about mental health more than just the identification of symptoms and when you should get treatment, but also just the importance of making sure that you maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent you from getting to some sort of more severe psychological disorders," said Erlanger Turner, psychologist and founder of Therapy for Black Kids.

"I am better equipped now to deal with my anxiety disorder and my clinical depression and stuff like that, knowing how I handled it during the pandemic and knowing the kind of coping mechanisms and the tools that I have at the ready," Frankie Millington, an essential worker said.

The saying goes "misery loves company." But with a pandemic, so much of that is already shared. That company just could be the thing to help heal.

Lindsey Theis, Newsy, San Francisco.