Mental health issues need our full attention


The death of Jordan Neely on a subway train last month at the hands of a passenger who says he was trying to protect other frightened passengers says more about the state of mental health of people in New York City than anything else.

Neely reportedly walked around the subway car, talking about not being afraid to die as he invaded the personal space of passengers. Truly, that is not a crime in and of itself. But the level of anxiety does get ratcheted up when people face such a situation in closed quarters.

The incident shows how many may be ignorant of mental health issues and how to address them in a potentially dangerous situation. Over the past three years, for example, New York City — and really the rest of the world — experienced the anxiety and depression Covid-19 has brought upon all of us.

In Riverdale, Fieldston and Kingsbridge and Kingsbridge Heights, the inequity of proper behavioral health services is quite evident. A February 2022 McKinsey & Co. report found there are more behavioral health needs and less access to care for minorities.

McKinsey research has highlighted the inequities and barriers to economic inclusion for racial and ethnic minorities, and for immigrants. Nationally, higher rates of Black respondents — 52 percent, compared with 36 percent of the overall population — reported having a behavioral health condition.

The experience of receiving needed care also varied by racial groups in New York City. Half of the non-white respondents to McKinsey surveys reported challenges accessing counseling for mental health issues or substance abuse, compared with 42 percent of white respondents.

More than half of Black and Asian respondents — compared with 37 percent of white respondents — said they expected to face challenges in obtaining help if they were to have a behavioral health crisis.

Even prior to Covid-19, Riverdale and Fieldston psychiatric hospitalizations were 534 people per 100,000, compared to 818 per 100,000 in Kingsbridge Heights and Bedford, according to a New York City community health profile for 2018. Overall, the rate for the Bronx was 882.

While there are more recent reports connecting the decline of those suffering from anxiety and depression since the start of Covid to high number of vaccinations given, the health care access problem is still a major issue.

For those who lack proper access to mental health insurance, there are some not-for-profits designed to bridge that gap. Locally, there is Mosaic Mental Health at 5676 Riverdale Ave., Suite 202. You can call them at (718) 796-5300.

Some others include Behavioral Health Integrative Services at 3635 Johnson Ave.. Call them at (347) 577-9619. OLIV Mental Health Services at 3250 Arlington Ave., and at (929) 264-0922. And Montefiore Behavioral Health Center at 2527 Glebe Ave. If you need to reach them, dial (718) 904-4400.

mental health, Jordan Neely, McKinsey & Co., behavioral science