By Leah Harris

A new CDC survey is raising awareness about the increased risk of mental health challenges, substance use, and suicide faced by communities hit especially hard by COVID-19. 

The CDC reported that “during June 24–30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19.”  Marginalized communities are at greatest risk. The survey found that “younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.” 25.5 percent of adults between the ages of 18-24 reported having “seriously considered suicide” due to the pandemic.

Mental health educator Brandon J. Johnson recently presented data on the various factors impacting Black mental health, including the higher death rates from COVID-19 in Black and Latinx communities. As a result, he says, they are experiencing more grief and loss than their white counterparts. He also notes that BIPOC are more likely to be essential workers, and thus to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Add in the ongoing exposure to racial injustice in the country, and a combination of risk factors affect the mental wellness of Black Americans and other minorities. He emphasizes that “We are not at greater risk because we are Black. We are at greater risk because of systems that have been put in place to harm us.”

While the news and recent data from the CDC should alarm us all, the good news is that there is an increasing number of free and low-cost resources created by and for communities at greatest risk of distress and suicide. New and innovative resources are coming out every day; see the resource section below. One new example is the Swervin’ through Stress Initiative, a set of tools designed to help Black youth “navigate mental wellness.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, anxiety or depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you’d like to talk to a peer, reach out to the California Peer-Run Warmline at 1-855-845-7415.