The legislation will direct $100 million annually for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health to fund research about the psychological health consequences of the pandemic.
“Health care employees have headed our communities through this emergency, with many feeling intense stress and anxiety,” Klobuchar said in a statement to CNN.
“Children, teens, and seniors also have been impacted. To know how we can best encourage them — and all Americans — through this difficult time, we must evaluate the scope of this mental health catastrophe and take action to encourage recovery and healing,” she explained.
The proposed bill would provide support to research that assesses the pandemic’s toll on mental health, particularly for healthcare workers. Other funding would encourage post-pandemic mental health threat and suicide prevention.
“This bipartisan, bicameral bill will fund targeted research to fortify our state’s mental health response and inspect the cost of the pandemic on frontline health care workers,” Katko stated in a statement. “The bill will also provide crucial funding for suicide prevention study and evaluate the long-term impacts of COVID-19 stressors on mental health.”
Once released, the lawmakers will wait to see exactly how their planned laws will be received in the House and Senate.
Tonko said that focusing on mental health is going to be a part of”rebuilding America” following the pandemic, particularly for medical professionals and emergency responders.
“Each day they appear to work, they risk exposure to this deadly virus and shoulder an unthinkable psychological burden for us, all to maintain our communities and families safe. We will need to do more to support them and also make sure we perform to comprehend the hidden costs they are bearing,” he stated, adding that he recommends his colleagues in the House and Senate to push the legislation forward.
Companion laws, the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act, has been introduced earlier this year into the House and Senate that would award grants to areas offering mental health and addiction services, as well as authorize $100 million to expand or initiate these programs.
The study, by researchers in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, appeared at the amount of emergency department visits from December 30, 2018, to October 10, 2020, comparing the corresponding weeks in each year.
There have been almost 190 million emergency department visits during the entire research period, and over 6 million included mental health, substance abuse or domestic violence.
Unique challenges for children
Youth suicides had generally been rising before the pandemic and it’s too early to associate a rise in deaths directly to school closures, Katrina Rufino, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston, told CNN in January.
Nationally, the ratio of emergency room visits related to psychological wellbeing doubled between April and October for children between the ages of 5 and 11, and tripled for people between the ages of 12 and 17, compared to the same period in 2019, based on the CDC.
Rufino co-authored a study which found there had been a substantial gain in the amount of ER visits to some Houston children’s hospital linked to psychological health since coronavirus hit the United States.
Back in Houston, the growth in teenagers having suicidal ideas and damaging themselves collaborated with shutdowns linked to the pandemic, such as school closures, Rufino and colleagues published in the newspaper published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Our study found that there were considerably higher rates of suicide ideation in March and July 2020 — which is when you really saw the effects here in Houston,” said Rufino about the study, which analyzed ER admittance into Texas Children’s Hospital to youth aged 11 to 21.
“March was when things were first hitting, things began shutting down. Here in Houston, we had the rodeo closed, schools went home following Spring Break. And July is when we really started to see our explosion here in Houston.”