Behavioral Health Challenges Related to COVID-19


During late June 2020, 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use issues. Among those experiencing disproportionately worse behavioral health outcomes were racial and ethnic minorities, younger adults, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers. Negative outcomes included elevated suicidal ideation, worse mental health symptoms, and increased substance use.

Study authors, including a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that intervention and prevention efforts to address COVID-19-associated behavioral health conditions should be part of the public health response to the pandemic. Community-level efforts, including communication strategies, should target those at increased risk for psychological distress and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Elevated prevalence of reported adverse behavioral health conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the broad impact of COVID-19 and the need to prevent and treat these conditions.

The authors note:

To reduce potential harms of increased substance use related to COVID-19, resources, including social support, comprehensive treatment options, and harm reduction services, are essential and should remain accessible. Periodic assessment of mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation should evaluate the prevalence of psychological distress over time. Addressing mental health disparities and preparing support systems to mitigate mental health consequences as the pandemic evolves will continue to be needed urgently.