Mayors tackle mental health

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New programs in cities like New York, Chicago and London aim to tackle the growing loneliness, anxiety and unhappiness caused by COVID-19.

Why is this important: The emotional issues of the pandemic have been linked to everything from higher crime rates to rising teenage suicide rates. While it’s unclear how far a municipal mental health program can move the needle, a growing number of mayors — with pandemic relief funds available — are willing to give it a try.

Driving the news: Alarmed by what they see from their front row seats, “mayors are making investments and working with local nonprofits, businesses and community groups to create new initiatives that will help residents access services mental health and reduce stigma,” Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, writing on average.

Even the smallest municipalities are getting into the act: The Mayor of Macon-Bibb, Georgia presented “Mental Health Issues in Macon“, which offers free advice as well as yoga classes, etc.

  • It is funded by $600,000 from the CARES Act.
  • Pandemic relief money is also funding programs in places like California’s San Mateo County, where new “mental health first aid training” program is “intended to train residents to help others who may be experiencing a mental health crisis”.
  • A similar program in New Jersey “teaches everyday people about the warning signs of mental health and addiction disorders and how to offer initial help.” mentioned Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which awarded him a grant.

Where is it : “In many cities, there simply aren’t enough mental health professionals to meet the increased demand they’ve seen over the past two years,” Cochran writes.

  • A poll of 126 US mayors released late last year found voters’ emotional trauma was the top concern.
  • Some places encourage people to use mental health apps to combat symptoms of depression. Los Angeles County, for example, has made a deal for free services with the Headspace meditation app.

CEOs have some of the same concerns as mayors: Some companies are doubling down on mental health awareness programs for employees, though there’s plenty of criticism that Corporate America isn’t doing enough.

  • ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ is a new emerging title at some companies, according to the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Ernst & Young “recently surveyed 5,000 workers in the United States and four other countries and found that 82% were, or had been, working alone,” according to the Journal.

The bottom line: Many mental health campaigns are largely symbolic. But even those – like May’s designation as “Mental Health Awareness Month– have the power to help people, remove stigma and inspire leaders to act.

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