ENID, Okla. — A recently released study shows mental health disorders are rising due to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing unrest in America, and Oklahoma now ranks 14th for the most mental health disorders in the country.

The study, Mental Health Incidents in 2020 by State, released by PSYDPrograms.org, is based on data from the nonprofit Mental Health America on anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Authors of the study point to stay-at-home orders and fear over the coronavirus and riots, and ensuing increases in substance use, as a cause of the rise in mental health disorders.

"Isolation, temptation for substance abuse, extreme anxiety and lack of access to mental health professionals provide all the makings of a mental health crisis," they wrote.

According to the report, 20.3% of adults in Oklahoma reported mental health incidents compared to the national average of 18.6%. For suicidal thoughts, Oklahoma ranks No. 36 with 4.1% of adults reporting issues compared to the national average of 4.2%.

The top five states suffering mental health issues in 2020, according to the report, are Idaho, 25% of adults; Oregon, 23.6%; Utah, 23.5%; West Virginia, 22.9%; and Washington, 22.8%. New Jersey ranks has the fewest reported incidents with just 16.2%.

A continued increase in the number of adults suffering mental health issues may be expected, the report finds, as the effects of financial strain and substance abuse take hold.

"So far, the data supports the view that the coronavirus outbreak will exacerbate mental health and substance abuse problems across the country," according to the report. "For example, a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate has been shown to increase opioid addiction by 3.5%."

The report holds up previous research, which shows the effects of mental health breakdowns and suicide have a greater impact in rural areas, where mental health resources have historically been less accessible, and less accepted.

According to CDC data, suicide rate increases between 1999 and 2014 hit hardest in rural areas, some of which see suicide rates double or triple the national rate.

A 2016 CDC study drew data from National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and examined annual county-level trends in suicide rates in all 50 states from 2001 to 2015, and compared rural counties, medium or small metropolitan counties and large metropolitan counties.

The study found rural counties experienced an average suicide rate of 17.32 per 100,000 people, compared to rates of 14.86 for medium or small metropolitan counties and 11.92 for large metropolitan counties.

For the full PSYDPrograms.org study, visit https://psydprograms.org/incidence-of-mental-health-conditions.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, text CONNECT to 741741 or chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Help also is available through the national distress hotline at (800) 985-5990. If someone poses an immediate risk to themselves, call 911.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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