Mental Health Awareness Month–Continue the Conversation!
May 23, 2017
Mental Health Awareness month is coming to a close. Did you do anything to raise awareness? An estimated 46 percent of adults experience mental illness or a substance abuse disorder at some point during their lifetime. However, mental illness often goes untreated. Only about half of those struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression receive help.
What happens to those who go untreated? Mental illness is associated with higher health care costs, has a negative impact on other health care conditions, leads to poorer performance and missed days at work or school, and means an increased risk of suicide.
So, why do people often go untreated? One of the most prominent reasons is stigma. Stereotypes about mental illness in the media and a lack of education about mental illness contributes to a common feeling of shame by those who experience it. This leads many to refrain from seeking treatment. Beyond stigma, there is a shortage of mental health providers and those available are often “out-of-network” for many health insurance plans. Therefore, individuals seeking help often wait 60-90 days for care, or worse—they can’t find a single behavioral health specialist taking new patients. When they do receive care, seeing an out-of-network provider can mean paying a lot out-of-pocket.
But what can employers do about it? Employers and other health care purchasers can raise awareness and push for better access to mental health providers. Catalyst for Payment Reform is hosting a Mental Health Collaborative of eight large purchasers working together to develop ways to assess mental health solutions for adequate navigation and access, quality of care, and integration with other medical services. Their goal is to find ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their populations, increase productivity, and reduce both the direct and indirect costs of mental illness.
Mental Health Awareness month is a reminder of the need to push throughout the year for greater awareness, understanding, and support for those who need it—one in two of us at some point in our lives!