3 to 4 million Washingtonians will experience behavioral health issues in the next several months

A presentation to the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group indicated that upwards of three to four million Washingtonians will likely experience symptoms of behavioral health issues in the next several months.


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 Dr. Kira Mauseth, the Co-lead of the Department of Health (DOH) Behavioral Health Strike Team, said that this will include children, youth and young adults. Mauseth said we’re approaching the disillusionment phase of the disaster cycle, and this is when the behavioral health impacts of the pandemic will begin to appear.

“That’s typically the hardest time psychologically for folks, that’s when the symptoms tend to be at their worst. Unfortunately for us in Washington we had a variety of other factors that impacted us at the same time as the disillusionment phase.”


Image courtesy of the WA Department of Health


Mauseth said things like the election, the gloomy weather, the holidays and the spike in illnesses all contributed to the increase in behavioral health symptoms. 

“One of the consequences of that is as we come out of the disillusionment and move into reconstruction and recovery, different groups in our communities are going to be fairing much differently.”

Mauseth said because groups will fair differently, there will be an exacerbation of previous discrepancies between communities. She said they expect there will be a split in behavioral health symptoms depending on the community in the second and third quarters of 2021.

“You’re going to have folks that are doing a lot better, quickly. You’re going to have people that are feeling a lot more optimistic and have fewer symptoms as we get to late spring and early summer. And you’re gonna have other groups in our state, whether those are demographic separations or socioeconomic separations, who are on the bottom trajectory. Which indicates multiple layers of traumatic experiences or events associated with the pandemic that they are grappling with.”

She said the demographic of children, youths and young adults are particularly struggling due to the pandemic. She said the DOH is anticipating an increase in risk-oriented behaviors in the spring and summer due to the degree of psychological impact those groups have experienced.

Mauseth said the vaccines will bring hope to people but urged that patience will be essential moving into the spring and summer months.