According to the CDC, Black and Hispanic Americans are approximately three times as likely as white Americans to be hospitalized due to COVID-19. But a new report by the New York State Health Foundation shows communities of color in New York are also experiencing higher rates of affected mental health as a result of the pandemic.

The report found 42 percent of Hispanic and 39 percent of Black New Yorkers reported symptoms of anxiety and or depression in October 2020.

"It’s a double whammy," said Dr. Lanre Somorin, the medical director for adult services for Access. "Their pre-existing medical conditions, social conditions, and then you now have the pandemic itself basically disrupting the way health is provided for them."

What You Need To Know

  • A New York State Health Foundation report found that 42% of Hispanic and 39% of Black New Yorkers showed symptoms of anxiety and/or depression when surveyed

  • Experts say it's important to monitor symptoms of anxiety and/or depression and speak with a professional if symptoms become serious

  • Access runs two mental health urgent care clinics in Newburgh and Middletown and a 24/7 mental health hotline at 1-888-750-2266

Access runs mental health clinics in Middletown and Newburgh.

"We opened an urgent care back in May of 2019, and since then, we’ve served about 7,500; we provided 7,500 services to date, but we saw a staggering increase in utilization in 2020," said Dr. Somorin.

Gay Lee, a therapist in Newburgh whose clientele is mainly of color, has also seen a huge increase in clients suffering from anxiety and depression.

"When you are poor and disenfranchised, you’re only further disenfranchised by the fear of not just losing a job or not getting a job, but dying," said Lee. "It’s become so real that I have treated people with anxiety more in the last year than I have ever in 26 years of being a clinician."

According to the NYS Health report, nearly half of New Yorkers in households that lost employment income since the start of the pandemic reported symptoms of anxiety and or depression. Lee says loss of employment is a major cause of anxiety in her own clients.

"They were feeling like they were going to lose everything before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, definitely in the city of Newburgh, [the] unemployment rate was very high; since the pandemic, they now have the fear of loss times 10," said Lee.

So what should you do if you’re feeling anxious or depressed?

"Monitor your symptoms and know when things are moving from regular stress to when you’re beginning to experience symptoms of real lack of motivation, feeling hopeless, suicidal thoughts; those would be indicators for you to speak with a professional," said Dr. Somorin.

Somorin and Lee also stress the importance of staying connected with friends and family during the pandemic for added support.

"When your friend tells you about their symptoms of anxiety and about their worries, tell them about yours, too. There’s strength in our numbers," said Lee.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, you can contact Access’ 24/7 mental health hotline by calling (888) 750-2266.