The Local Voice

Mental Health and the Pandemic in Mississippi


The coronavirus pandemic has altered our lives in countless ways. This has taken its toll on mental health in the state and the nation. The isolation, fear, and financial stress that has come from the pandemic ahs caused a stressful time for many people.

Mental Health During the Pandemic

The pandemic has forced us to socially distance and many people are working from home. It has caused financial strain for many people in the state. Many people have had to cope with the loss of a loved one. Finally, there is a fear of the virus itself.

These factors all contribute to increased cases of anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions. Mental health conditions may arise with a number of different symptoms. Some people are angry or irritable while others isolate even further and have invasive thoughts. Excessive worry or sadness is also common.

Some people who suffer from poor mental health will also have changes in their appetite or sleep patterns. They may even have a loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy. Others turn towards alcohol or drugs to cope with their negative, distressing thoughts and feelings.

It is important to manage these things in a healthy way. Try to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. You should also try to interact with your friends, family, and neighbors when possible, as long as you do it in a safe way that does not increase your likelihood of contracting the virus. This may mean that, for now, you should speak with neighbors while wearing a mask and to get in contact with family through video chat. However, hopefully as more and more people continue to get vaccinated the situation will continue to improve until we can safely hug our loved ones again.

If your wellbeing has been negatively impacted by your mental health, then you may benefit from therapy. You can find a therapist online at BetterHelp. They also have some great articles that may help you understand mental health and therapy.

Mental Health Impact in Mississippi

The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted the state of mental health in the state. According to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH), calls to their helpline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have increased since the beginning of the pandemic.

From July 2020 to December 2020, the Mississippi DMH helpline received 5,004 calls. During that same period in 2019, there were significantly less calls. In fact, there were around 2,000 less calls from July 2019 to December 2019. Calls to the Mississippi call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline substantially increased as well during that same 6-month period. There were 875 more calls during that period in 2020 than there were in 2019.

Furthermore, the pandemic may be increasing the amount of substance abuse in the state and overdose deaths have increased. This is true nationwide and in the state of Mississippi. The nationwide overdose deaths hit the highest ever number recorded at 81,000 overdose related deaths. 

Mississippi saw a 26 percent increase in overdose deaths. The number of deaths from June 2018 to May 2019 was 360. This amount rose all the way to 453 deaths from overdose in the period from June 2019 to May 2020. That is startling considering the pandemic has now raged on for nearly another year since those statistics.

The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics found that overdose deaths were on track to double in 2020 from the amount recorded just three years prior in 2017. The total deaths in 2017 in the state was 261.

There are many factors that contribute to the rise in overdose and calls to helplines, but there does seem to be a strong correlation to the pandemic. This is likely because of effects on our lives and mental health.

Increased Funding and Awareness

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health recently received funding from two federal grants that totaled more than $20.5 million. This funding was provided to contribute to resources designed for mental health and substance abuse services.

A portion of the money, totaling over $7.5 million, was provided to help adults with serious mental illnesses and children that suffer from serious emotional disturbances. This amount was provided by the Community Mental health Services Block Grant.

Another $12 million came from the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. This grant funds services that are designed to help pregnant women, dependent children, and IV drug users.

The funding will help the state increase access to mental health and substance abuse services. This will hopefully curb the mental health affects that stem from the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, it is important to note that in February and March, the University of Mississippi with the support of JED Campus conducted The Healthy Minds Study. This study emphasized the stigma that still surrounds mental health. Ole Miss wants to use the data to evaluate the needs of the community. They also want to prioritize programs that can help to provide mental health resources and education to students and citizens in Oxford.


The pandemic has been a challenge to all of us and the changes that has arisen have taken a toll on the mental health of people across the state. This makes it more important than ever before to provide access to mental health and substance abuse services. In addition, it is important that we aid in the reduction of mental health stigma by increasing knowledge and awareness about mental health conditions.

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