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Beyond the Perfect Storm - How Racism, Covid-19, and Economic Meltdown Imperil Our Mental Health Interview

Joel Miller and Angele Moss-Baker of the American Mental Health Counselors Association disclose details about the AMHCA’s newest publication—Beyond a Perfect Storm: How Racism, COVID-19, and Economic Meltdown Imperil our Mental Health—in a new interview with Ray Barrett. The authors integrated data from the US Census Bureau and the Center for Disease Control to emphasize the psychological, financial, and social repercussions of living through the COVID era. The AMHCA implores the behavioral health community to curtail the disruption fueled by COVID-19 through local and federal advocacy efforts. With a flood of challenges washing into communities, the AMHCA suggests the best way forward: a cohesive, integrative approach to mental health service delivery.

The numbers are hard to disregard. Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, cases of anxiety and depression have quadrupled (7-8% in April to a present rate of 30-40%). Social distancing mandates have created a tenuous relationship between individuals and their environments. In some cases, life disruptions have triggered substance use relapses, spikes in suicidal ideation (11% of adults in the last 30 days), and waning optimism across the nation. The AMHCA discovered that 41% of American adults now self-identify as having a mental health disorder, a figure that was only 33% back in April. Individuals find themselves grieving over the collective trauma of the present while worrying about uncertainties to come. 

Remaining faithful to government guidelines, while simultaneously caring for one’s mental health disorder, is a relatable struggle. Miller and Moss-Baker have used the COVID pandemic as a springboard for action to help clients reach trained clinicians. The driving narrative behind the Perfect Storm is giving a voice to everyone in the mental health system, regardless of their licensure level. Repairing hardships requires a deep network of collaborative activists held together by a universal ethic: the belief that trying times can bring lasting results. 

The AMHCA highlighted community health centers as being particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, but they are far from the only ones to feel the ripple effect. In the interview, Miller and Moss-Baker talk about destructive gaps in coverage. How modifying Medicare legislation could permit Marriage-Family Therapists and Clinical Mental Health Counselors to accept Medicare patients, adding 100,000 clinicians to the workforce in one stroke. Other effective points of entry include: 

  • Becoming energized to act and unite over a cause.

  • Spearheading discussions that could mend systemic disparities.

  • Persuading policymakers to consider the expertise offered by counseling professionals.

  • Collaborating across the industry to promote fair and equal services.

State senators and representatives can be contacted through the AMHCA’s Call to Action page. Miller and Moss-Baker encourage supporters to go to the AMHCA website and download a free copy of Beyond a Perfect Storm to understand the breadth of challenges impacting behavioral health practitioners.

In addition to her role as President of the AMHCA, Angele Moss-Baker is the owner of Comprehensive Addiction & Psychological Services LLC in Washington DC. Angele is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Master Addiction Counselor, Employee Assistance Counselor-C. She has over 25 years of experience in the behavioral health field. 

Joel E. Miller, M.S., Ed., is the Executive Director and CEO of the AMHCA. He leads over 7,200 clinical mental health counselors who play a critical role in the lives of Americans with behavioral health conditions. He is dedicated to strategic planning at the AMHCA and authors two in-house publications: The Journal of Mental Health Counseling and the Advocate newsletter.