Estimating COVID-19 Behavioral Health Outcomes

COVID-19 and the resulting public health response will have a dramatic impact on mental health and substance use in Massachusetts, even after the pandemic has passed. Based on models developed by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and Well Being Trust, MAMH estimates that Massachusetts could see the following in a single year during the post-COVID-19 recession:

  • 60 to 300 additional deaths by suicide;
  • 100 to 500 additional deaths by drug overdose; and
  • 15,000 to 55,000 additional people with a substance use condition.

These models are based on a significant body of research demonstrating a link between high unemployment rates and increased deaths from suicide, as well as increased substance use and overdose. Research also links traumatic stress, social isolation, and lower income to poorer mental health, higher rates of substance use, and suicide.

To mitigate these outcomes, MAMH recommends investing in stimulus and unemployment funding, protecting core behavioral health services, continuing access to tele-behavioral health, implementing systems to improve access to urgent care, and expanding substance use treatment and suicide prevention efforts.