Mayors: Mental health crisis an urgent issue for U.S. cities

By: Saskia Perks

Mayors from major cities across the United States are sounding the alarm about a growing mental health crisis within their communities. In a recent United States Council of Mayors survey, 88% of city leaders said they don’t have access to vital mental health resources. 71% said currently available resources can not be accessed by residents. The survey also found that the most significant mental health issues were substance use disorders, alongside COVID-19 and homelessness.
According to Council of Mayors CEO and executive director Tom Cochran, there has been a “staggering increase in stress, depression, isolation, [and] loneliness” across all age groups in the country.  The survey highlights what cities are doing to support their residents and what they urgently need to tackle the growing crisis.

Incoming USCM president and founder of the USCM mental health task force Hillary Schieve also added that the survey highlights “both the work that we have done to provide help to those in crisis and the work that has yet to be done.”

With younger age groups, 89% of mayors cited depression as the biggest concern, closely followed by loneliness and self-harm. 43.5% said that teen suicide was a significant concern.

In the survey, mayors also highlighted the positive changes implemented to support their communities’ mental health. Nearly all mayors said that mental health services increased within the last two years, with 82% of cities saying that they had developed and funded new programs to address the specific needs of their community.

In Modesto, California, city officials have established an initiative known as “Camp2Home” which works to bring individuals living on the streets to a shelter, where volunteers work alongside the individual to provide the necessary support they need, ultimately resulting in permanent housing and employment in the workforce.

Reno, Nevada, has diverted state funds to build partnerships with state hospitals and the local private health system, Renown Health. With this partnership, the city has established a 24/7 walk-in crisis clinic that helps residents struggling with mental health and substance use disorders.

99% of mayors said their cities are working towards improving emergency response systems, which can help put residents at ease when reaching out for help in a crisis. 92% of cities said they now include crisis intervention training for all first responders, with other cities establishing co-responder teams with law enforcement officers and behavioral health workers to tackle mental healthemergencies together.

Cities are also rerouting mental health calls from 911 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis lifeline. Anyone in the U.S. who calls or texts the number can be routed quickly to a trained crisis counselor who can provide support in a confidential setting. Since its launch last summer, the Lifeline has received over 1.7 million calls.

Read the full survey here:


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