ST. PAUL — Minnesotans’ mental health during the pandemic is better than almost any other state’s.
That’s the finding of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks reported cases of depression and anxiety.
The CDC’s Household Pulse Survey found that less than 35 percent of Minnesotans suffered from those two conditions in the Jan. 6-18 survey period. By that measure, Minnesota was the most mentally stable state in the country, Wisconsin was third, and Mississippi was the least.
In 24 testing periods since April, Minnesota has been near the bottom of reported cases of anxiety and depression. In the most recent testing period, Jan. 20 to Feb. 1, Minnesota’s cases rose slightly to 38 percent, which was enough to make it 10th lowest in the nation.
Experts say that Minnesota’s mental health is still poor, even though other states may be suffering more.
“No one is in a position to say Minnesota is doing well,” said Shannah Mulvihill, director of Mental Health Minnesota, an advocacy nonprofit.
Through 2020, the number of mental health screenings on its website advanced steadily all year, jumping to about 3,000 by December. It has now skyrocketed to six times the level of a year earlier.
The group says that about 20 percent of its screenings were for anxiety, and 38 percent show depression — which are roughly the same findings as made by the Household Pulse Survey.
Apparently younger people are being hit harder by mental illness. People under age 24 entered two-thirds of the self-completed screenings of Mental Health Minnesota in 2020.
If Minnesota and Wisconsin are doing better than most states, it may be partially due to groups like the St. Croix Valley Outreach. Last week, the nonprofit announced grants to seven mental-health providers to help control mental illness.
Angie Pilgrim, director of Community Impact, said COVID-19 and the economic meltdown has made life worse for vulnerable populations.
“These are people already dealing with mental health issues,” said Pilgrim, “and now they are hungry, angry and stressed.”
Mental Health’s Mulvihill believes that Minnesota does provide better access to health care, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.
“Our current system does not have the capacity, and I think it’s going to get worse,” she said.
The state Department of Health does not yet have statistics related to mental health since COVID-19 swept into Minnesota last spring.
But it did say that Minnesota’s mental health is nothing to brag about, with 38 percent reporting anxiety or depression.
“That is a pretty high number for this point in time,” said Anna Lynn, of the department’s Children and Family Health Division, in an email.
The state Department of Health has a website offering help coping during the pandemic.
The nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health Minnesota operates three telephone hotlines:
- Mental Health Helpline, 800-862-1799, for anyone seeking access to services.
- Minnesota Warmline, 651-288-0400, for peer support to those struggling with mental health.
- COVID Cares, 833-437- 3466, for health care workers, teachers and others experiencing stress.