Mental Health Care Is Health Care
Mental Health Awareness Month
In recent years, mental and behavioral health have continued to climb to the forefront of modern healthcare after decades of taking a back seat to their physical health counterparts. With mental health awareness and access to care on the rise, great strides have been made in providing programs centered on overall mental health and wellness. However, there is still plenty of room to improve and with 1 in 4 American adults facing mental health challenges, no time is better than right now to push for positive change.
According to Johns Hopkins, at least 26 percent of American adults suffer from one or more diagnosable mental health conditions in a given year. Many of these adults experience multiple mental health challenges at once, something that is known as “co-occurring conditions.” However, only a fraction of these people, less than ten percent of the total population, are receiving the mental health care they need to thrive. Widespread substance abuse issues make addressing these needs even harder.
“There is a mental health crisis in America”, states Dr. Anthony Hassan, as reported by the National Council for Behavioral Health, “…more needs to be done to give Americans much needed access to mental health services… If we want to save lives, save families and save futures we must reimagine our behavioral health system and take concrete steps to improving consumer’s ability to find the care they need, when they need it, and on their terms.”
The need for better access to mental and behavioral health services within the United States has been made abundantly clear. Fortunately—and perhaps surprisingly for some—many of our nation’s leading health insurance policy providers, like Nippon Life Benefits, are heeding the call to action.
A Change in Public Opinion
For decades, one of the biggest barriers to widespread mental health care access has been the common stigmas associated with this type of care. As a result of numerous, ubiquitous social elements, many people have long assumed that mental health services were for “other people” and would ignore any signs that they might need help.
Since the turn of the new millennium, mental health care activists and advocates have helped the public overcome these stigmas and learn more about behavioral health. Currently, about 76 percent of Americans believe that “mental health is just as important as physical health.”
On the other hand, a similar portion—74 percent—of those surveyed “do not believe such services are accessible for everyone.” A lack of service not only harms the individual struggling with mental health challenges it also hurts those closest to them and can even directly affect the well-being of society as a whole.
This is why the sudden increase in demand for mental health care access has played an important role in national progress.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed many components of our life, including our ability to access health care. In many cases, these changes helped spawn necessary innovations. While the burden the pandemic has placed on the healthcare system, as a whole, should not be overlooked, one surprisingly bright spot has been the recent rise of telehealth services.
Currently, many innovative health care providers offer telehealth solutions for individuals experiencing mental health care challenges. For example, Nippon Life Benefits has introduced a program where patients can choose from several different telehealth options. While many people will return to in-person treatment options once things return to “normal” (whenever and whatever that might be), the very existence of telehealth has helped make health care more acceptable.
The availability of telehealth has caused many individuals to seek support, even in situations where mental health care is often heavily stigmatized. For example, the Veteran’s Association (VA) has reported an incredible rise in military veterans—especially those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—taking advantage of telehealth services available to them.
Some individuals feel that communicating digitally and communicating from the comfort of their own home actually makes these unique mental health care services much more effective than the services they received in years past. As more surveys and research demonstrates this—independent of COVID-19—to be the case, it appears we may have come across some significant mental health breakthroughs.
A New Era in Mental Health Care
Mental health care, like all types of health care, is rapidly evolving. Anyone who compares the state of mental health care in 2021 to that of 1921 is going to notice some huge, profound differences. Go back just one century further and the field of mental health care (at least as we currently recognize it) is essentially non-existent.
Like all worthwhile sciences, mental health care continues to change and refine itself over time. But in addition to new treatment modalities, theories, and medications, change has also occurred in the infrastructure that makes accessing mental health care possible.
This important change all begins with the acceptance of one simple truth: mental health care is healthcare.
While the terms “mental health care” or “behavioral health” will still be around into the foreseeable future, our misguided instinct to treat these practices as somehow “outside” the broader healthcare industry is beginning to disappear.
When health care is taken seriously by those directly involved in the industry—specifically, medical professionals and health care providers—access inevitably increases. Just as importantly, receiving mental health care becomes much less stigmatized. Though there is still plenty more work that needs to be done, it is clear we are moving into an era where, rightfully, seeing a psychologist to treat depression is looked at no differently or more absurdly than seeing a dentist to address a cavity.
For us to live well, we need to take care of our entire being. Having access to quality physical health care makes it much easier to live a physically healthier life. Just the same, having access to quality mental health care makes it easier for us to live a mentally healthy life—something that, we are all realizing, is just as important.
Over the next decade, we can expect to see a lot of changes in the healthcare industry as a whole. But without a doubt, one particularly bright point of progress has been the increased accessibility of quality mental health care services. That’s why Nippon Life Benefits has added mental health services to our telehealth offering because we believe mental health care is health care.