Giving Compass' Take:

• Some cities struggle to prioritize and offer mental health services for those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

• How can donors step in to help with direct support for mental health services? What do organizations need during this time to provide this support? How will government aid and intervention possibly remedy this issue? 

• Read about the potential for COVID-19 to cause a mental health epidemic. 

As cities grapple with the direct public health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, they're also facing the slow build of a longer-lasting crisis: mental health fallout.

In recent years, cities have created new hotlines, substance abuse treatment plans and funding for community care to address rising levels of anxiety and depression. But the mass trauma of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the looming economic depression, has put even the most prepared cities into overdrive.

New York City’s ThriveNYC, for instance, has seen a significant increase in calls, texts and online chats for its NYC Well crisis support service. Weekly contacts were more than 30% higher in March 2020 than they were in March 2019, although the numbers dropped in April. Web sessions for ThriveNYC (including website visits to browse care options and app downloads) rose from 28,500 in February 2020 to 81,000 in March and 128,293​ in April, according to data shared with Smart Cities Dive.

"I think that the social isolation and the loneliness and the sadness of the situation, combined with the economic hardship that more and more people are facing, has created enormous distress and mental health challenges that our city is going to need to address,” Herman told Smart Cities Dive. "As a city, we are making sure that not only is access to care a priority, but that we have enough resources to serve those who need it."

According to an April poll from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 54% of Americans worry their mental health has been compromised by COVID-19 concerns, and more than 40% said they feel more anxious, afraid, helpless or overwhelmed than before the pandemic.

Social isolation and loneliness can also be linked to negative mental health, and experts have warned that the extended shutdowns and increased unemployment rates could lead to a rise in substance use.

Read the full article about mental health during COVID-19 by Jason Plautz at Smart Cities Dive.