Groups Urge Administration to Consider Mental Health as Coronavirus Response Develops | The Kennedy Forum

Groups Urge Administration to Consider Mental Health as Coronavirus Response Develops
March 5, 2020

Clear, Science-based Communications; Efforts to Minimize Post-Traumatic Stress; and Increased Access to Care Must be Prioritized

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2020 – Today, The Kennedy Forum sent a letter signed by more than 40 health advocacy organizations urging Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci to fully address the mental health implications of the unfolding Coronavirus public health crisis.

Amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and a potential, if not likely, pandemic, the groups implored top government officials to consider cognitive and mental health dimensions as they mobilize their response and communicate with the public.

“We ignore the mental health consequences of the Coronavirus crisis at our own peril,” said former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum and co-chair of Mental Health for US. “Not only is this a matter of preventing panic, which could stifle containment and treatment efforts, it’s about reducing psychological harm, including post-traumatic stress, which has a lasting impact.”

The joint letter outlines the following actions:

  • Recognize the potential for fear surrounding COVID-19 to transform into widespread panic and hysteria, which in turn may undermine public health authorities’ resources and response.
  • Communicate clear information based on science and facts to avoid the spreading of misinformation, while recognizing how cultural differences among communities may impact understanding and response to public health messaging.
  • Combat efforts to wrongly blame or link COVID-19 to already marginalized groups, which could perpetuate discrimination and deter people from seeking necessary testing or treatment.
  • Address the general mental health consequences of COVID-19 during and beyond its tenure. The letter cites a past study conducted in Hong Kong following the SARS epidemic which found widespread feelings of helplessness, mental health deterioration, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among residents.
  • Develop comprehensive online mental health services and resources in case significant portions of the population are quarantined or isolated and therefore unable to receive in-person services. Special attention should be paid to older populations, those with developmental disabilities, and any other group with limited access to resources.
  • Consider the needs of those with existing mental health conditions who may have heightened psychological distress over COVID-19 that can harm their health and well-being.

Click here to read the full letter.

The following organizations signed on to the letter: American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work; American Association of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; American Mental Health Counselors Association; American Mental Wellness Association; American Psychoanalytic Association; American Psychological Association; Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Big Cities Health Coalition; College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP); Community Care Alliance; Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance; Dil to Dil; Easterseals DC MD VA; Flawless Foundation; Foster’s Voice Suicide Awareness; Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice; Health Enhancement Research Organization; Health360 Inc; Lakes Region Mental Health Center, Inc.; Lobo Behavioral Health; Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation; Mental Health America; NACBHDD and NARMH; NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Association of Social Workers; National Association of Social Workers at the University of Southern California; National Eating Disorders Association; National Health Care for the Homeless Council; National Network of Depression Centers; National Network of Public Health Institutes; Neurofeedback Advocacy Project; Psych Central Community Connection; Psych Hub; Suicide Awareness Voices of Education; The Jed Foundation; The JEM Foundation; The Jewish Federations of North America; The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health; The Voices Project; Trust for America’s Health; Vibrant Emotional Health; Well Being Trust


About The Kennedy Forum
Founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), The Kennedy Forum leads a national dialogue on transforming the health care system by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law. Launched in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the landmark Community Mental Health Act, the nonprofit aims to achieve health equity by advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming for the treatment of mental health and addiction. The Kennedy Forum’s “Don’t Deny Me” campaign educates consumers about their rights under the Federal Parity Law and connects them with essential appeals guidance and resources. To learn more about The Kennedy Forum and donate, please visit

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Amber McLaughlin