CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — 2021 proved itself to be another year that, for many, brought isolation, fear, and anxiety due to persisting COVID-19 concerns.

“The other pandemic is the mental health pandemic. All the people who are in isolation, all the people who are in despair, anxious, depressed, and who might be overmedicating,” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State.

Liebman said mental health first aid training is available so people can understand how to respond when someone they know is going through a crisis, and especially now, it’s important to know the resource is there.

“There have been, I think, over 2 million people in the country who have been trained in this, to have a basic understanding about mental health that a lot of people don’t have. There’s not a lot of mental health literacy out there,” Liebman explained.

Liebman added while it’s good that conversations about mental health have become less stigmatized, more tangible action is needed. He is among a number of mental health leaders calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to include funding for the mental and behavioral health workforce in the next budget, amid what’s been called an industry crisis for desperately needed services.

“We need to make sure that we have enough psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, clinicians,” Liebman said, “we just need a stronger mental health workforce out there. We need better services for these people.”

Mental Health America ranks New York third in the United States for prevalence of mental illness in 2021, and second for adults with serious thoughts of suicide.

Governor Hochul recently signed a bill that establishes a 9-8-8 hotline for mental health emergencies. The idea is to connect people having suicidal thoughts or other mental crises with compassionate, lifesaving services.

“This is a major step toward updating NY’s mental health infrastructure & I’m proud of what we accomplished with this legislation- from providing cultural competency training for operators to reporting measures that ensure the line is being used equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor Senator Samra Brouk.

The 9-8-8 hotline is a federal requirement under the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, and will be implemented by July 2022.