US lawmakers are calling for research into the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on mental health.
Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tim Kaine of Virginia exclusively told CNN that they plan to introduce the Covid-19 Mental Health Research Act on Tuesday afternoon. The legislation would direct $100 million annually for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health to fund research on the mental health consequences of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko and Republican Rep. John Katko, both of New York, will introduce the House version of the legislation, according to Klobuchar’s office.
“Health care workers have led our communities through this crisis, with many feeling acute stress and anxiety,” Klobuchar said in a statement to CNN.
“Children, adolescents, and seniors have also been uniquely impacted. To understand how we can best support them — and all Americans — through this difficult time, we must assess the scope of this mental health crisis and take steps to promote recovery and healing,” she said.
The proposed bill would provide support to research that examines the pandemic’s toll on mental health, especially for health care workers. Other funding would support post-pandemic mental health response and suicide prevention.
Tonko said that focusing on mental health will be part of “rebuilding America” after the pandemic, especially for medical professionals and emergency responders.
“Every day they show up to work, they risk exposure to this deadly virus and shoulder an unimaginable emotional burden for us, all to keep our families and communities safe. We need to do more to support them and make sure we work to understand even the hidden costs they are bearing,” he said, adding that he urges his colleagues in the House and Senate to push the legislation forward.
One study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in February, found that emergency department visits related to mental health, suicide attempts, overdoses, intimate partner violence and suspected child abuse were generally higher during the pandemic last year than during the same period the year before.