Updated Jan 30, 2024 - Health

Response to Elmo's "checking in" post underscores U.S. mental health crisis

Elmo on Friday, September 15, 2023

Elmo on "Sesame Street" in September. Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images

"Sesame Street" favorite Elmo's wellness check-in post on X asking "How is everybody doing?" has been met with thousands of responses this week.

The big picture: Many made clear in the comments section that they're not doing so well — with some citing being laid off, feeling tired or noting they're "depressed and broke."

Why it matters: The responses to Elmo's post that was seen an estimated 140 million-plus times underscore a growing mental health crisis across the U.S. and a national spike in anxiety and depression, with young people driving a rise in mental health spending in recent years.

  • American spending on mental health with private insurance surged during the pandemic, while Gallup polling in 2023 found 23% of U.S. adults visited a mental health professional in 2022, compared to 13% in 2004.
  • Three recent studies suggest overdose deaths, depression and barriers to care have weighed heaviest on disadvantaged and minority groups — and they're aligning to widen health disparities as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, per Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Meanwhile, about half of all adults in the U.S. have reported they feel lonely.

What they're saying: Samantha Maltin, the executive vice president, chief marketing and brand officer of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind "Sesame Street," told the New York Times she doesn't think "anyone anticipated how deeply this particular question would resonate."

  • But she's "thrilled" it did and noted the reaction emphasizes a critical need for "free, easy-to-access mental health resources," per the NYT.

Of note: President Biden wrote in a post to X on Tuesday night that Elmo was right.

  • "I know how hard it is some days to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days," Biden said.
  • "We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it. Even though it's hard, you're never alone."

Go deeper: Mental health and addiction care falls short because it's not profitable

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Samantha Maltin and new details throughout.

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