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Mental health encompasses a person’s emotional, psychological, and social state. Each year, one in five adults experiences a mental illness, and within their lifetimes, one in two will experience a mental illness in the United States. Mental health, substance use, and social needs are closely interlinked—those with poor mental health are in critical need of a holistic approach to care as they are four times more likely to have multiple unmet social needs and over twice as likely to have a substance use disorder. Moreover, youth who have experienced four or more categories of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are four to 12 times more likely to have alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and/or a suicide attempt.

As with physical health, disparities in mental health exist. For example, racial/ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services and are less likely to receive high-quality care. Additionally, adult Blacks are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.

The impact of mental disorders is even more concerning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has stressed our collective psyche. It is estimated that by 2021, half of the US population will experience significant traumatic stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic and, of those, nearly 35 million people could develop a new behavioral health condition (mental or substance use disorder).

Opportunities for innovation we are pursuing include improved ability to predict and prevent suicide, efforts to scale effective care models for those with serious mental illness, new approaches to foster the mental health of children, and innovations that integrate physical, behavioral, and social care. We are also supporting efforts to help individuals with new or preexisting mental health conditions get the care they need during the immediate COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.

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A holistic approach for the US behavioral health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Acknowledged but unaddressed

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National employer survey reveals behavioral health in a COVID-19 era as a major concern

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The implications of COVID-19 for vulnerable populations

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Changing views on mental and substance use disorders: An interview with Patrick Kennedy

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Returning to resilience: The impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use

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Insights on mental health from a 2019 McKinsey Consumer survey

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