In a rare interview, President Joe Biden has said Americans are “really, really down” as they grapple with soaring inflation after two years of a pandemic.
He told the Associated Press the “need for mental health in America has skyrocketed”.
Mr Biden said he wanted Americans to “be confident. Because I am confident.”
The president’s popularity has plunged as November elections loom that will decide which party controls Congress.
“People are really, really down,” Mr Biden told the news agency in a half-hour interview from the Oval Office on Thursday.
“They’re really down. Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset.
“Everything they counted on upset. But most of it’s a consequence of, of, of what’s happening, what happened is a consequence of the, the Covid crisis.
“People lost their jobs. People are out of their jobs. And then, were they going to get back to work? Schools were closed.”
Mr Biden spoke to the news agency amid complaints from members of the White House press corps about their lack of access to him.
Asked about the possibility of the US economy dipping into recession, the Democratic president insisted it was “not inevitable”.
He also called arguments that his $1.9tn coronavirus aid package had sparked inflation “bizarre”.
Mr Biden had initially discounted warnings from economists that his spending could overheat the economy, before insisting when inflation arrived that it would be “temporary”, only to acknowledge in recent days that elevated consumer prices will persist “for a while”.
Last month, inflation in the US hit 8.6% – one of the highest rates in the world.
During the interview, the AP said Mr Biden became defensive when asked about this issue.
“If it’s my fault,” he said, “why is it the case in every other major industrial country in the world that inflation is higher? You ask yourself that? I’m not being a wise guy.”
A Fox News reporter challenged the White House press secretary about this claim on Thursday, pointing out that inflation is currently lower in other top economies such as Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and India.