WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s no secret the COVID crisis has resulted in a spike in mental health struggles in the U.S. But concerning levels of mental health struggles existed long before the pandemic.

The nation’s leading community-based nonprofit is just out Tuesday with its annual state of mental health report. It comes at a crucial time for mental health policymakers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.

Consider the 2022 state of mental health in America report a look ahead based on the past.

“It’s really a report about prevalence and access. So, the prevalence of mental health conditions and the ability of people with mental health conditions to access the supports and the help that they need,” said Schroeder Stribling, President/CEO of Mental Health America.

The report by Mental Health America looks at pre-pandemic mental health data from two years ago focusing on such areas as depression, anxiety and self-harm.

“Where it was in 2019 was already concerning enough, so this is something we have to keep our eyes on,” stated Stribling.

The “State of Mental Health” finds that nearly 50 million Americans, or 1 in 5, are experiencing a mental illness, and more than half are going untreated.

The report ranks Pennsylvania 8th best among all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the lowest prevalence of adult mental illness and highest rates of access to care.

It also reveals Pennsylvania number one in those same categories among youth. But Stribling says it’s no time for the Keystone State to rest on its laurels with mental health prevalence numbers rising.

“We must do as much as we can now to improve access whether that’s the expansion of Medicaid. We know expanding insurance and adequacy of insurance is important, whether that’s developing more telehealth options and insuring broadband access,” explained Stribling.

Stribling stressed the need for improved mental health treatment equity regardless of race and income. She also calls on Pennsylvania to pass legislation to participate in a 988 national mental health crisis hotline.

“All of these things are some of the levers that we can use to make sure that we’re ready for the oncoming crisis or the crisis that’s already at our doorstep,” said Stribling.

Pennsylvania faces a July 2022 deadline to have 988 infrastructure in place.