New York City is the largest metropolitan area in the United States with an estimated population of 9 million people. The city is diverse with people of various ethnicities, cultures, and beliefs. As a busy city with such a large, diverse population, some of New York’s citizens suffer from mental health problems including mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. 25% percent of people in New York suffer from mental illness. According to a study by McKinsey and Company, on average the state spends $196 more per person for mental illness treatment than the rest of the nation. The Covid-19 pandemic made this situation worse. After the start of the pandemic, there was an increase in mental illnesses that affected the people of New York City. In May 2020, 30% of adult New Yorkers reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder and in the same period, 25% of the same group, reported symptoms of a depressive disorder. The statistics of these symptoms remained high during 2020 and a part of 2021. From March 2021, a notable difference in symptoms was reported. The numbers were decreasing, reaching their lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic in May 2021. In May, 27% of adults in the city reported symptoms of anxiety disorder while 22% reported symptoms of depressive disorder. The positivity in fewer people suffering from mental illnesses like those mentioned above may be attributed to citizens receiving the vaccine and the general opening up of the city.
While there was an improvement in the number of people reporting symptoms, the matter of mental health in New York is not one to be taken lightly. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. There are inequities and barriers to economic opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities including immigrants. This seems to have a domino effect with regard to mental health. Those populations have the highest need for treatment for their mental illnesses while they have the least amount of access to the care. Mental issues may lead to feelings of isolation, burnout at work, and the worsening of mental illness. When it comes to sentiments on mental illness, the McKinsey study claims that 73% of non-white respondents felt isolated compared to 45% of the white respondents. 80% of the non-whites lacked the energy to be productive while 69% of the whites felt the same. 25% of the non-whites felt they had a better mental state 3 years ago while 19% of the whites felt the same. When it comes to accessing mental health care, non-white people have a tougher challenge than their white counterparts. Non-white people would have to travel further than most white people to get access to mental health care. Minorities are also underinsured or uninsured.
On Friday, February 21st, Mayor Adams announced a plan to remove homeless encampments from the NYC subway and other public places. In collaboration with Governor Kathy Hocul, he intends to send NYPD officers and social workers into the subways to move them to shelters and give them the mental health treatment and help they need. In an interview with Pix 11, Adams said “Previous administrations may have looked at this and walked past them. We’re not doing that. I am sending the right message that our subway system must be safe and reliable for our riders.”
New York City is going through a tough period in different aspects. The various challenges in the city such as crime, unemployment, homelessness, and mental health issues need to be dealt with urgently and in a sensitive manner as well. The city needs it.