Breaking Down the Historic Mental Health Agenda Addressed in the State of the Union

In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Biden said it loud and clear: mental health is health. And, health impacts all Americans across the political spectrum. This is not only historic, but a monumental moment for this country. For far too long, mental health care has lived on the fringes of the medical mainstream. The increased $700 million investment in the mental health infrastructure, presented in the President’s agenda, will be a game-changer for mental health. We’re breaking down what this will look like in action. 

“Let’s take on mental health,” stated President Biden. “Especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down.  Children were also struggling before the pandemic. Bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media.” 

Our research suggests that mental health has deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for our youth. At the height of the pandemic, many young people were not able to attend school in-person and were isolated from their peers. In this time, texters using our service experienced more grief, eating disorders, and anxiety  than in previous years. Young texters were also 52% more likely to contact us overnight in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019. 

We also know that children of frontline workers reported higher levels of bereavement among many other stressors than the general population. Frontline essential workers and their families within the age group of 14-24 years old  were more likely to connect with Crisis Text Line  for self-harm, suicidal thoughts, depression, and abuse than workers in the age group of 25 to 44 years old. 

The White House’s mental health agenda also focuses on the mental well-being of frontline workers, strengthening the mental health workforce, ensuring parity of mental health conditions, and integrating behavioral healthcare in primary care settings, schools and colleges. This falls in line with Crisis Text Line’s priorities over the last several years:

  1. Building a mental health workforce. During the pandemic, Crisis Text Line partnered with several graduate university social work programs and launched the Student Learning Program. This program allows social work students to earn practicum hours by volunteering on our platform to help texters in crisis. This Student Learning Program has created a pipeline for social work students to enter the mental health workforce and provides a viable, remote working alternative. 
  2. Supporting students. Integrating mental healthcare screening and support in schools is a critical policy initiative. Our school supplies toolkit provides resources for students, teachers, and parents. The message that youth are struggling was heard by the President of the United States and the time to invest in prevention and support is now. 
  3. Reaching frontline workers. The President is expected to sign the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act into law, which would provide grants for mental health support for frontline workers and encourage health care providers to seek support and treatment for behavioral health conditions. During the pandemic, Frontline essential workers who engaged with Crisis Text Line had a higher number of conversations associated with depression than non-frontline workers. These workers were more likely to report higher rates of suicidal thoughts than similar demographics with no association to frontline work. 

This historic agenda calls for significant investment in proven and effective approaches that will undoubtedly increase affordable access to mental healthcare. You can be part of the solution. Join the movement to improve mental healthcare by becoming a campus advocate or volunteering as a Crisis Counselor. 

In President Biden’s words: “we can all play a part—sign up to be a tutor or a mentor.” At Crisis Text Line, we—and our 45,000 volunteer Crisis Counselors all across America—stand ready to be part of the solution.

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