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Living through a global pandemic, not seeing friends or family for weeks or months and having to work from the same place you sleep have caused increased global stress. Back in March, the WHO reported that depression and anxiety went up about 25% in just the first year of the pandemic. That report pointed out that, in addition to the whole ‘living through times of global crisis’ thing, the pandemic also meant that most mental health services were less accessible, and that might be part of the reason for the increase.
The other thing to consider is that young people and women are the two groups of people more likely to be dealing with increased stress, anxiety or depression. According to a poll by Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service and Education University, nearly half of Hong Kongers show moderate to severe signs of anxiety, and people between the ages of 18 and 30 were most at risk.
The problem, besides the increase in stress, anxiety and depression, is that mental health care around the world isn’t very accessible.
In the US, the cost of therapy, for example, shuts people out. On average, therapy costs about US$178 a month out of pocket, according to a survey from the mental health resource website Verywell Mind. Nearly a third of Americans in therapy say they’ve had to cancel a session to save some money, and nearly half say they’d have to quit therapy altogether if it got more expensive.
More broadly, many countries don’t have the policies or infrastructure to deal with a widespread mental health crisis. The treatment gap – or the percentage of people in need of treatment who don’t get it – in developed countries sits between 44% and 70% and goes up to around 90% in developing countries. Nearly a third of countries globally don’t have any sort of government mental health program, and in the ones that do, just less than half have been updated to reflect recent developments in mental healthcare. In many countries, again, the cost of mental health care infrastructure is one of the major barriers to entry.
All that is to say one thing: a mental health crisis isn’t looming – it’s already here.