Awareness of Americans’ mental health has heightened in the past year – and for good reason.
In response to a survey by the American Psychological Association, adults experiencing prolonged stress linked to the pandemic said it seriously affected their mental and physical health. More than two-thirds of respondents reported that their sleep habits had been affected, and 23% reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress levels.
Almost half of parents of teens shared that their child had shown signs of a new or worsening mental health condition.
But while the coronavirus pandemic has deepened the problem, mental health challenges are hardly new. For many people, for example, it doesn’t take a stressful event to cause depression or anxiety. More than 40 million adults live with an anxiety disorder.
Likewise, millions more live with schizophrenia and dementia-related mental health conditions. These conditions inhibit the way people think and behave. They also affect emotions and alter one’s sense of self.
Mental Health Month
Mental Health Month, observed annually since 1949, offers an opportunity to highlight conditions like these and to consider how patients can access optimal mental health care.
One thing is certain: Each patient’s case is unique and warrants a tailored treatment regimen. Poor mental health can worsen a wide range of other illnesses and conditions. Taking a patient-centered approach to care, on the other hand, allows patients and clinicians to work together to best manage a mental health condition.
While patients often start with their primary care provider, clinicians of all specialties have a vested interest in protecting and improving their patients’ mental health. Mental health care is often a team effort that involves several clinicians as well as the patient, whose input and involvement is essential for optimal outcomes.
Insurers and policymakers have important roles to play as well. Ensuring patients access to medications and complementary treatments, without subjecting them to cost-focused practices such as prior authorization or step therapy, is critical for optimal treatment.
To get help initiating conversations about mental health, explore the 2021 Mental Health Month Toolkit from Mental Health America, in addition to their ongoing Tools 2 Thrive series. Mental Health Month is an important opportunity to prioritize awareness and optimal care for the millions of Americans who need treatment and support for mental health conditions.