Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Last month, roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The fiscal year (FY) 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention (Short Title: COVID-19 ERSP) grant program will award $40 million to 50 awardees to spend over a 16-month period.
SAMHSA’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates that there were 57.8 million Americans living with mental and/or substance use disorder in 2018. The current national COVID-19 pandemic will certainly contribute to the growth in the number of Americans needing urgent care to address mental health needs, including suicidality.
SAMHSA is working to expeditiously award grants to aid the nation’s communities.
“Currently, suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in our nation,” said Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, Ph.D., the HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “We know the stressors that are accompanying this pandemic – job loss and financial instability, anxiety, grief, depression, and other factors – can lead to suicide and suicide attempts.”
The purpose of this program is to support states and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic in advancing efforts to prevent suicide and suicide attempts among adults 25 and older in order to reduce the overall suicide rate and number of suicides in the United States. The program also includes a special focus on victims of domestic violence.
“We know that for many Americans home is not the safest place,” Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz said. “Under the stay-at-home policies, these individuals are at greater risk for mental health conditions including suicidality. Therefore, SAMHSA has allocated funding specifically to victims of domestic violence.”
The $40 million will add to the $375 million that SAMHSA has previously awarded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on SAMHSA's efforts to strengthen treatment for mental and substance use disorders during the pandemic, visit www.samhsa.gov/coronavirus.
SAMHSA also operates the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/), a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number is 1-800-273-8255.