Source: TapInto.Net NJ
When discussing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of New Jersey’s residents, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) Carolyn Beauchamp is concerned and wants to take action.
“We don’t have a big enough system of care. We don’t have enough centers, clinics, we don’t have enough understanding of what it means to have a mental health problem,” Beauchamp, says.
The MHANJ tries to improve conditions for people with mental illnesses. One of the things at the top of the list is access. Beauchamp said it’s too hard for people to get care, and that includes many people waiting a long time for care.
“Until the pandemic, people saw mental health and physical health separately,” Beauchamp said. “I think that’s shifting because of COVID-19, I think people are much more aware of the depression and anxiety.”
While Beauchamp admits that she’s not optimistic that things will happen in Trenton right away, but said just getting the discussion started is important. “I think opening the door is pretty fantastic,” she said. “There will be a few legislators that will stay for the long haul.”
Beauchamp said there’s a great need for mental health professionals in New Jersey: high schools and colleges need more counselors to help students. More state money is needed to develop more mental health professionals around the state. That will create more providers to help New Jerseyans, especially following more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beauchamp cited a MHANJ survey compiled this year on wait times for people looking to get psychological help. On average, she said, someone trying to get into a publicly-funded mental health center in New Jersey waited a month for intake. She said increasing the workforce will likely lower that time and get people the help they need, quicker.
“The crisis has gone on for more than two years and it’s not going to go away,” Beauchamp said. “It hits every aspect of our society, from school, to work, to all kinds of things. I think the opportunity is now and I think the chance of making change is now,” she added. “I always think change is going to happen. It just takes longer than you think it’s going to.”
Click here for resources from the State of New Jersey’s Department of Human Services – Mental Health.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Help is available 24 hours a day.