We were just approaching the cusp of normalcy this summer when Delta, abetted by a silent revolt of the unvaccinated, pulled us back into a war against the coronavirus. Once again, now, COVID-19 cases are surging, hospitals are brimming, deaths are rising, and Americans across the country are being beseeched to don their masks.
For even the most resilient among us, this relentless tug between progress and regress on the pandemic is exhausting. But for thousands of Americans, this stress has morphed into something even more pernicious: According to a survey by the US Census Bureau, more than 42% of people last December reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, a dramatic increase from just 11% in 2019. Among 5,000+ US adults surveyed by the CDC, 13% reported starting or escalating substance use to cope with pandemic-induced stress. Young people, people of color, essential workers, and those previously diagnosed with mental illness have been disproportionately afflicted. But the challenge of this growing mental health epidemic transcends any single community: as Americans, we are all at risk. And the time to act is now.
Today, we talk with Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Fountain House, a national organization delivering services to and aiding the recovery of the seriously mentally ill. Dr. Ashwin Vasan is an epidemiologist, a social entrepreneur, and a physician who has committed his career to the advancement of health equity. And today, he shares why it’s necessary to treat the seriously mentally ill with respect and with dignity, how his organization has mobilized to meet their needs, and why the pandemic has only magnified the urgency and the value of building a movement to advance the civil rights of the mentally ill.
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