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The Wall Street Journal

Apr 11, 2020


The federal government, states and advocacy groups are rushing to ramp up mental-health services as the coronavirus crisis threatens to place unprecedented demand on an already-strained U.S. health system.

A $2 trillion congressional stimulus package approved last month includes $425 million for mental-health and substance-use disorders as a result of the pandemic. It also provides $50 million for suicide-prevention programs. 

Employee-assistance and mental-health programs are reporting a surge in crisis calls. Social workers, therapists and psychiatrists on the front lines in hospitals say they are struggling to keep up as they help families deal with grief and loss.

ComPsych Corp., a Chicago-based provider of employee-assistance programs covering more than 118 million individuals, said it has witnessed a 30 percent increase in calls related to suicide, domestic violence and other mental-health issues.

"We're forced to live in a society no Americans are used to," said Richard Chaifetz, founder, chairman and CEO of ComPsych.

Historical data shows that suicide and rates of depression are associated with pandemics and economic downturns, and recessions are linked to more suicide, according to a June 2015 report in the World Journal of Psychiatry