Over a quarter of young adults aged 18-24 have seriously contemplated suicide over the last month, a new Centers for Disease Control survey has found. 

The report, titled “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020” was published on August 14. The data was collected from adults across the United States in late June. 

Tommy Tighe, a marriage and family counselor and host of the Catholic mental health podcast “Saint Dymphna’s Playbook,” told CNA that he found the data to be “really heartbreaking, though expected.” 

After months of extended lockdowns across the country, and anxieties about the coronavirus pandemic, Tighe said “our baseline level of anxiety has gone up during this experience.” 

According to the CDC, “40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).”

Those figures rose considerably among certain groups. Nearly three out of four adults aged 18-24 and slightly more than half of adults aged 25-44 reported “at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom” in the survey. Among Hispanics, 52.1% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental health symptom related to the pandemic, as well as two-thirds of respondents who had less than a high school diploma. 

Fifty-four percent of essential workers surveyed said they had experienced at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom related to COVID-19. 

Sophia Swinford, the founder of Catholic Mental Health, a nonprofit organization aiming to increase awareness and access to mental health resources for Catholics, told CNA that she is concerned that the stigma surrounding suicide prevents people, particularly those of a religious faith, from getting help. 

“It’s ironic–‘stigma’ comes from a word that refers to a mark or brand on a slave, and it is from this word that we get ‘stigmata,’” said Swinford. “So maybe it is precisely the ‘stigma’ around these people’s sufferings that should make it clear we are called to serve Christ in them.” 

People need to “pray for each other like everything depends on it,” said Tighe. He also suggested that people facing stress set aside time to “pause, breathe, pray, meditate,” and to take note of their feelings without judgment. 

“Social media really works against us. If we’re trying to work on our anxiety, we need to pay attention to the impact it is having on us and take breaks when needed.”

Full story at Catholic News Agency.