How Has Florida Been Dealing with Mental Health Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

During the height of the pandemic, at least four in ten adults in the United States reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. This is an increase from an earlier study from June 2019, which reported that only one in ten adults reported these same symptoms.

In June 2020, a KFF Health Tracking Poll revealed that the pandemic was having a devastating impact on the mental health of Americans. 12% of Americans experienced worsening chronic conditions, 12% reported increased alcohol and drug use, 32% reported worsened eating disorders, and 36% were experiencing bouts of insomnia.

Isolation, job loss, and the looming threat of a killer virus have left Americans understandably concerned. Florida was hit hard by the COVID-19 virus, and so too was its resident’s mental health. This article will tell you how Florida has been dealing with mental health issues during the pandemic.

Mental health

Mental Health Issues in Florida

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), between 2011 and 2015, 906,000 people in Florida interacted and sought help from mental health services. Florida’s annual average was lower than the national average, despite Florida being the third most populous state in the United States. This demonstrates that Florida’s mental health services previously worked hard to eliminate and treat mental health issues in the community.

However, this study does not reflect the condition of Florida’s mental health services currently. Research by Compare the Market Australia and presented in the infographic above has shown that the United States is among the global leaders in investing into mental health resources, but that the research was quite broad, so we need to dig deeper to see what has happened in Florida. Mental Health America’s 2021 report shows that Florida ranks at number five in the worst states affected by mental health issues, with approximately 2,889,000 Floridian adults experiencing some form of mental health issue.

It is important to note, these statistics only reflect the number of people interacting with (now or previously) mental health services. There are far more people suffering in silence.

What Has Florida Done About Its Mental Health Epidemic?

Florida’s investment into behavioral health conditions reached approximately $280 billion last year. It accounted for 5.5% of total healthcare spending in the state. Activists are calling for more to be spent on mental health, as the epidemic grows.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis also announced $23 million in funding to go straight to Florida’s mental health services system. He also announced further funding to support first aid responders who have been on the frontline during the pandemic.

Out of the $23 million dedicated to bolstering Florida’s mental health services, $18 million will be dedicated to services in the community. In September, Governor DeSantis announced the distribution of a $2 million grant for rural school districts. The money was designed to enhance access to mental health resources for schools and young adults.

With the new funding, community groups and crisis counselors have been on the streets attempting to fight back against mental health issues.

First Lady DeSantis also announced a public-private partnership with T-Mobile. This partnership hopes to provide over 600,000 Floridian families with free access to 100GB’s worth of internet a year, for the next five years. Not only will this help people to find work and education, but also to learn more about local mental health services in their communities.

One of Florida’s 24-hour crisis hotlines, 2-1-1 Big Bend, reported over 400 calls a day relating to COVID-19 and its impact on people’s mental health. These phone services have received a lot of government funding and are designed to help people to communicate their problems. They have proven quite effective, which is reflected by the sheer quantity of phone calls that they receive on a daily basis.

Coping With Mental Health Issues During the Pandemic

Here’s what to do if you are experiencing mental health issues:

  • First and foremost, contact a mental health professional and do not try to treat yourself. Suffering silently is not necessary, especially with the services available to you;
  • Feel confident about seeking help. Everybody experiences anxiety and depression from time to time, it’s nothing to be ashamed about;
  • Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. A lot of mental health issues are directly related to one’s physical health;
  • Practice meditation, take breaks from technology, and go for walks whenever possible;
  • Speak to your friends and family, and stay connected. Isolation is one of the biggest causes of depression during the pandemic.
Mental Health

Florida’s efforts to treat mental health issues are admirable. The state has had a long history of addressing its population’s mental health problems. With the new funding and its new community initiatives, we can expect to see Florida’s mental health levels drop in the coming years.

Photo credits – Compare the Market & Unsplash

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