Mitch Quaney
KU Statehouse Wire Service
The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenge economically for many, but one overlooked aspect of the pandemic is the toll it and its effects have had on mental health. In Kansas especially, funding for mental health treatment has often taken a backseat.
The Disability Rights Center of Kansas conducted an investigative report in 2019 that found that funding for community mental health centers decreased by 50 percent between 2007 and 2017. Despite an increase in the past few years, the funding allocated for 2020 is still a 16% decrease from the peak in 2007.
“I’m going to try to put it into a positive light and say that we could always use more funding,” said Sarah Kirk, director of the University of Kansas Psychological Clinic.
The clinic, located in Fraser Hall, has had to change to tele-mental health practices by utilizing video chat services to conduct their regular therapy sessions.
“We had to shut down until May in order to fully transition to tele-health services,” Kirk said. “We’ve been getting a steady intake of calls since we’ve reopened.”
Kirk says that the issues of patients in the KU Psychological Clinic echo what is being seen on a global scale. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres put out a policy brief on mental health on May 13 urging governments to focus on mental health during the pandemic.
“Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are some of the greatest causes of misery in our world,” Guterres said.
Guterres says that job loss, isolation and uncertainty of the future are some of the ways that the pandemic can cause psychological damage. KU students echo this problem as they finish out their college semester.
“There was a lot of anxiety at the beginning and an impending sense of doom the week everything shut down, then a depression-like state in April, I think I was mostly just drowning in schoolwork,” said Darian Martin, a junior in the university’s education program from Scottsdale, Ariz.
Although the semester has come to a close, students do not feel a sense of calm.
“[There’s] lots of anxiety and worry about if school will actually reopen in the fall,” Martin said, “and I feel robbed of all the memories I could have made.”
Mitch Quaney is a University of Kansas senior from Auburn, Kan., studying journalism.