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Arkansas ranks among most stressed/depressed states

May is Mental Health Awareness Month


May is Mental Health Awareness Month


Arkansas is facing a mental health crisis according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study ranked Arkansas as the fifth most stressed and second most depressed state in the country, challenging the perception of tranquility in the state. The study used 40 key indicators divided into four categories to generate a final score for each state, with Arkansas ranking as the most stressed state in health and safety-related stress, and fifth in money-related stress.

Factors contributing to Arkansas’s high stress levels include a high percentage of adults in fair/poor health, a significant population living in poverty, and a high crime rate per capita. In response to this crisis, the state announced a $30 million investment into mental health and substance abuse services, funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act. The plan includes creating a statewide crisis-response system with a 24-hour call center, mobile crisis teams, and expanded facilities for therapy. Additionally, the funding will provide housing for adults with mental illness to prevent homelessness and incarceration.

The mental health crisis in Arkansas is further exacerbated by high rates of depression and anxiety, which Arkansas was ranked second and seventh respectively, among its residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansans reported more poor mental health days compared to the national average. The state ranked second worst in the nation for depression symptoms and seventh for anxiety symptoms, based on recent CDC data.

Mental Health America’s “State of Mental Health in America” report highlighted barriers to accessing mental health care in Arkansas, particularly for children and low-income individuals. The state ranks poorly in providing mental health coverage for youth with private insurance and identifying students with emotional disturbances. Only 19.7 percent of children with severe depression in the state receive consistent treatment, further underscoring the need for improved access to care.

Local professionals in Arkansas, such as clinical therapist supervisor Emily Price and licensed marriage and therapy counselor Dr. Nioka Smith, emphasize the importance of destigmatizing mental health and providing resources for mental health education and support. Price’s virtual program, AR Connect-Now, offers remote mental health services to overcome access barriers in rural areas. Smith advocates for open conversations about mental health, especially with children, to promote early intervention and destigmatize seeking help.

With May being Mental Health Awareness Month it is important to confront, headon, the reality that Arkansas faces a critical need to address the mental health crisis gripping the state. Increased funding, expanded services, and community education efforts are essential to support residents struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. By raising awareness, providing resources, and promoting destigmatization, Arkansas is working towards improving mental health outcomes for all its residents.

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