For Robin Miyamoto, a clinical psychologist in urban Honolulu County, Hawaii, the past year marked the hardest she’s ever worked. Telehealth, which she made use of during the COVID-19 pandemic, let her still reach clients in the absence of in-person visits. But she found it difficult to draw boundaries, as she and other providers agreed to offer weekend or late-night sessions with patients in need. On top of that, she says, she’s had more patients asking for help than ever before.
“We’re seeing much higher rates of anxiety – both COVID-related but also finance-related, employment-related,” Miyamoto says. The Hawaii Psychological Association, of which Miyamoto is a past president, saw a 60% increase in applications for pro bono care during the pandemic due to the loss of insurance, she says.
“A lot of depression, isolation,” Miyamoto adds. “And then I have a huge number of adults requesting assessments for (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) because of work from home … people are questioning their ability to stay focused and pay attention.”
When it comes to mental health, Honolulu County is the country’s top performer, according to the 2021 U.S. News Healthiest Communities rankings. The annual project assesses nearly 3,000 counties and county equivalents across the U.S. on dozens of metrics that show and shape health and well-being, in categories ranging from equity, housing and the economy to population health, public safety, and food and nutrition.
Honolulu, a consolidated city and county encompassing Oahu and outlying islands, lands among the top 500 communities overall in the rankings at No. 395, posting a score of 66 out of 100 points. In mental health measures in the analysis, it achieves a score of 100 thanks to its performance relative to other communities in metrics assessing deaths of despair in recent years, meaning deaths tied to alcohol, drugs, or suicide; share of adults who’ve experienced frequent mental distress; and percentage of Medicare beneficiaries with depression.
But the pandemic has meant significant challenges for Hawaii when it comes to mental health – ones that providers are now working to meet through comprehensive care.
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