Powerful new survey from 117 cities paints a stark picture of mental health challenge

Columbus, OH— Today, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) released a new survey – The Mental Health Crisis in America’s Cities and Their Responses to It – which takes a close look at the mental health crisis impacting communities across the country as well as how mayors are working to address the various dimensions of this issue. The results show that in nearly all of the surveyed cities, demand for mental health services is on the rise, while few have the resources needed to respond. The survey results will help inform the work of the recently formed Task Force on Mental Health, collecting information on mental and behavioral health needs in cities, the most prominent mental health and behavioral problems, and the efforts currently in place to help address the crisis. The survey includes responses from 117 cities in 36 states.

“Mayors are sounding the alarm on the mental health crisis in the U.S.,” said incoming USCM President and chair of the Task Force on Mental Health Hillary Schieve, Mayor of Reno (NV). “This challenge is only growing; it has many forms; and it will not resolve itself. People in our communities are struggling, and it will take mayors along with state and federal leaders working together to get people the help they need. This survey highlights both the work that we have done to provide help to those in crisis, and the work that has yet to be done. The Conference will continue to prioritize this pressing issue, and I am committed to finding solutions in my time as president.”

Mental health became a more prominent topic over the past few years, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which left many without community or resources to support them. As mental health problems have increased, this lack of resources grows more evident.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 97 percent said requests for mental health services increased in their city over the last two years.
  • 88 percent said they do not have adequate access to the mental health resources needed to address this crisis.
  • Substance abuse was identified most frequently as the main cause of the increased need for services, in 85 percent of the cities, with COVID-19, in 75 percent of the cities; and homelessness, in 74 percent, ranked below substance abuse.
  • Depression leads the list of the primary mental health problems exhibited by young people, with 89 percent of the cities identifying it.
  • 82 percent of the cities reported that they have developed new initiatives or programs and/or increased funding to established programs to address growing needs for mental health services within specific groups in the community.

The full survey and report can be read here.