Those who suffer the most are least likely to have access to professional help
It has been a year since the world was closed and our sanity was tirelessly tested. For many, the pandemic removed the stability, familiarity, and routines that kept many of us emotionally stable, replacing them with the widespread fear of losing our lives, livelihoods, and purposes. The universal need of society for emotional support has come into the spotlight as the number of Americans suffering from mental illness tripled during this period. However, an even more bleak reality emerged: Those who suffered 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 with color – are seeking help in increasing numbers.
These worrying data are in line with other reports that have surfaced since the pandemic began.
Two in five LGBTQ + teenagers, or 40%, said they had had suicidal thoughts in the past year. They are at higher risk of suicide than their peers. The pandemic has also disproportionately affected color communities, with 48% of black adults and 46% of Hispanic or Latin American adults having symptoms of anxiety or depression more often than 41% of white adults.
Social isolation can be twice as damaging to the mental and physical health of anyone as obesity. However, because of the lockdown, the two minority groups felt the hardest hit by the enforced isolation. For the LGBTQ + community, isolation has affected their ability to find the like-minded community they need to remain emotionally resilient. Meanwhile, COVID lockdowns exacerbated the feeling of loneliness for people of color as they are more likely to have close relationships with extended families.
COVID also exacerbated other difficulties for these two groups, namely access. Before the pandemic, the LGBTQ + community was less likely to have health insurance and jobs, partly due to discrimination. Before COVID, people of color struggled to access psychiatric or behavioral health services. One study showed that 69 percent of black adults with mental illness received no treatment at all. This is mainly due to socio-economic disadvantages, as the median wealth of a white family is eight times higher than that of people of color.
Another challenging aspect of these escalating needs is closing the demand and supply gap for qualified mental health providers. Over the past year we have expanded our network to include more than 5,500 therapists who have the experience and expertise to work with the LGBTQ + community. During that time, we’ve also added nearly 3,200 color therapists. Today, almost one in four BetterHelp therapists identifies as a person with a color that is astonishingly above the national average. We also donated $ 100,000 in grants to help people of color get access to therapy.
As a society, we must commit to supporting people from all walks of life and making sure everyone gets the help they need. All life is precious and deserves the same care. We are confident that we can be part of the solution to bring justice if we even out these differences.
Editor’s Note: On May 19th, Vator will host the Future of Mental and Behavioral Health 2021 virtual event. We will become senior VCs and C-level executives from leading mental and behavioral companies like BetterHelp from Teladoc, Amwell, Doctor on Demand, Kaiser Have Permanente, Bessemer Ventures and others.
Image source: BGDblog