The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened mental health issues, especially for young people of color, a mental health expert said Monday.
Isha Weerasinghe, who leads mental health work for the Center for Law and Social Policy, said that poor support for mental health in many communities has been made worse during the pandemic. She cited a lack of connectedness due to isolation, economic hardships, increased stress due to police brutality and its impacts, and anti-Asian violence and bullying.
“You pair that with increased anxiety and increased isolation, it’s no wonder that there have been increased mental health conditions, adverse mental health conditions, which includes self-harm and suicide ideation and attempts,” Weerasinghe said at an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention briefing.
She added that the lack of access to health care in many communities extends to a lack of mental health care.
“There have been, of course, through the pandemic relaxed regulations in terms of telehealth, but when we're talking about people living in low income communities and households ... they are privileges that only some of us are able to access,” Weerasinghe said.
Many of these communities were burdened with higher levels of mental health issues before the pandemic began.
She cited data from recent years showing disproportionately high rates of suicide, self-harm, anxiety and depression among young people of color, whose communities have now been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’ve seen an egregious increase in suicide rates for Native young people, said Weerasinghe, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Fatal Injury and Violence data from 2016 to 2018. “We've seen an increase in suicide rates in Black and Hispanic young men, and we've seen an increase in rates of non-fatal self-harm for all young people, with an increase particularly among Black young people.”
The CDC recently released a report showing more people were thinking about suicide this June.