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Those suffering the most are least likely to have access to professional help
It’s been a year since the world locked down and our mental health has been relentlessly tested. For many, the pandemic removed the stability, familiarity and routines that kept many of us emotionally stable and replaced it with widespread fear about losing our lives, livelihood, and purpose. It put a spotlight on society’s universal need for emotional support as the number of Americans suffering from mental illness tripled during this time. However, it revealed an even bleaker reality: those suffering the most from mental illness were the least likely to have access to professional help.
As our data shows, two groups - the LGBTQ+ community and people of color - are seeking help in growing numbers.
This troubling data is consistent with other reports surfacing since the pandemic started.
Two out of five LGBTQ+ youths, or 40%, said they had suicidal thoughts in the past year. They are at a higher risk of suicide than their peers. The pandemic has also affected communities of color disproportionately with 48% percent of black adults and 46% of Hispanics or Latino adults more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to 41% of white adults.
For anyone, social isolation can be twice as harmful to mental and physical health as obesity. Yet due to the lock down, the two minority groups felt the brunt of the forced isolation. For the LGBTQ+ community, isolation took away their ability to find the like-minded community they needed to stay emotionally resilient. Meanwhile, COVID lockdowns exacerbated the feelings of loneliness for people of color because they’re more likely to have close-knit relationships with extended families.
COVID intensified other hardships for these two groups as well, namely access. Prior to the pandemic, the LGBTQ+ community was less likely to have health insurance and jobs, which some attribute to discrimination. Prior to COVID, people of color had trouble getting access to mental or behavioral health services as well. One study showed that 69 percent of black adults with mental illness received no treatment at all. This is largely due to socioeconomic disadvantages as the median wealth for a white family is eight times greater than that of people of color.
Another challenging aspect of these escalating needs is closing the demand-and-supply gap of qualified mental health providers. In the last year, we added to our network more than 5,500 therapists who have the experience and expertise working with the LGBTQ+ community. During this time, we have also added nearly 3,200 therapists of color. Today, nearly one-in-four of BetterHelp therapists identify as a person of color which is staggeringly higher than the national average. We have also donated $100,000 in financial aid to people of color to give them access to therapy.
As a society, we have to be committed to supporting people from all walks of life, making sure that everyone can get the help they need. All life is precious and deserving of equal care. We’re hopeful that we can be part of the solution to bring equity as we level out these disparities.
Editor's note: On May 19, Vator will be hosting the Future of Mental and Behavioral Health 2021 virtual event. We'll have top-level VCs and C-level executives from the leading mental and behavioral companies, such as Teladoc's BetterHelp, Amwell, Doctor on Demand, Kaiser Permanente, Bessemer Ventures and more.
Image source: BGDblog
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