May is National Mental Health Month, a time when many organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), work to raise awareness about mental health in America. One in five Americans is affected by mental health issues like anxiety, depression, addiction, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Raising awareness and providing timely, appropriate treatments to address these issues are important strategies for supporting a healthier population.
Mental health issues are on the rise among America’s children, teens, and young adults. The NAMI notes that half of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and three-quarters of mental health conditions develop by age 24. A report from The Child Mind Institute reveals that anxiety affects 30% of children and adolescents. Untreated anxiety disorders have been linked to depression, academic failure, and double the risk for substance use disorder. According to a recent paper from the American Psychological Association, the rates of depression and severe psychological distress leading to suicidal thoughts and actions have more than doubled since the mid-2000s for young people between ages 12 and 25. Those who struggle with severe, untreated mental illness often experience homelessness and incarceration, environments that typically exacerbate their condition.
More psychiatrists are needed to help address the current mental health situation in America. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these specialists to meet the current demand, and the shortage will only worsen in the upcoming years. In response, healthcare organizations are exploring new strategies to connect patients to the help they need.
Telepsychiatry is one way to extend psychiatric care services, especially to remote or rural areas. Psychiatrists can use video conferencing to offer appointments, evaluate patients, and discuss their medication. They may also use technology to advise primary care providers who have patients in need of a mental health-related diagnosis or referral.
Collaborative care is another type of partnership model between psychiatrists and primary care providers. Developed at the University of Washington, this approach embeds psychiatrists in primary care practices. The psychiatrist sees only the most challenging patients and provides oversight and consultative services for the practice’s other cases.
Expanding the capabilities of other providers and specialists to treat mental health needs is an additional way to offer services. Nurse practitioner psychiatrists are registered nurses who have completed additional training in mental healthcare and pharmacology and may prescribe medication. A few states, including Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico, have passed legislation allowing appropriately-trained psychologists to prescribe certain drugs, such as antidepressants, to treat mental illness.
Mental Health Emergency Rooms were created to assist people experiencing a mental health crisis episode and help ease the patient burden on traditional ERs and hospitals. It is estimated that 1 in 8 emergency room visits stem from a mental health-related issue. Because traditional ERs don’t have the time or expertise to treat these patients, and the chaotic environment can worsen their symptoms, some patients can end up heavily sedated, restrained, or hospitalized unnecessarily. Mental Health Emergency Rooms aim to calm, treat, and release patients in under 24 hours and are staffed by nurses, social workers, and psychiatrists. Patients who are well enough to go home are discharged and those who need further care are transferred to an appropriate facility.
While many challenges remain when it comes to addressing mental health in America, healthcare organizations must continue to seek out ways to provide mental health services to those who need it, as well as support mental health care providers. If your organization needs help finding qualified candidates who specialize in mental health, give Jordan Search Consultants a call at 866-750-7231 or email us here.