Pine Rest study: Michigan at risk of mental health crisis

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services released results from a study on Monday that predict Michigan could experience a mental heath crisis due to aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study predicts that suicide rates could rise by 32% statewide, but says actions can be taken now to reduce the risk.

Authors of the study offer solutions to address the potential risks and call on health care providers to take action immediately.

“The COVID-19 crisis will have a profound impact on the mental health of Michiganders,” said Mark Eastburg, Ph.D., president and CEO of Pine Rest. “Due to the swift emergence of the disease and its sweeping impact on our lives and economy, we’re experiencing a rise in many of the stressors that are known to increase risk for suicide.”

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Some research for Pine Rest’s report came from previous epidemics like the SARS outbreak.

Other factors studied include data on:

  • Isolation impacts
  • Unemployment and economic distress
  • Increased substance use
  • Physical health problems
  • Increased access to guns.

The study also shows that certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include:

  • Healthcare providers
  • Surviving caregivers
  • Children and adolescents
  • Older adults
  • People with preexisting mental illness

Previous research from the SARS outbreaks shows strategies on how the state can prepare for a mental health crisis.

“We can and must take immediate steps to improve access to care through awareness, affordability, telehealth technology and workforce development,” Eastburg said in a statement. “We also need to work with policy makers and the healthcare community to fix gaps in critical behavioral health infrastructure.”

Pine Rest says the public can take action on these issues.

“People experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts should not wait to seek help. They should contact their primary care physician, call the suicide hotline or Pine Rest at 800-678-5500,” Eastburg said. “Help is available.”

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is also available 24/7 for free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In addition, the report shows a need for more access to health care.

“Shortages in mental health services and providers – particularly in rural Michigan – continue to restrict access to care,” Eastburg said. “We can increase access by ramping up and reimbursing for teletherapy and telepsychiatry services and by employing readily-available training programs to retrain existing providers and even displaced workers to fill entry level positions in the mental health field.”

Pine Rest’s report has been shared with several health care providers throughout Michigan.

You can view the full report online.