Mental health care is an essential aspect of overall well-being, yet access to this care remains a significant challenge for many individuals. Fifty million adults in the United States have some form of mental illness, yet less than half receive treatment. This staggering figure highlights the need for change in the healthcare system.
Despite this, a number of factors are making positive changes in how mental health is being treated and understood. This article will explore these factors in more detail, highlighting how they are improving access and shaping the current landscape of mental health care:
Task sharing is a strategy that involves training non-specialist health workers such as primary care physicians, community health workers, and lay people to detect and manage common mental disorders. This approach has been gaining traction in recent years to increase access to mental health care, particularly in remote or underserved areas with a shortage of mental health specialists.
A study published by the Global Health Journal suggests that task sharing is a viable mental health approach, especially in the areas of psychotherapy and talk therapies. The research found that this strategy can prevent and treat conditions (such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and schizophrenia) with minor financial expenditures and similar accuracy as specialists. As task sharing becomes more widely adopted, we can expect more individuals to receive care in their communities this 2023 rather than having to travel to large care facilities.
The advancement of technology-based tools has helped increase access to mental health care. The use of digital technology for mental health care increased by over 30% in recent years. This has paved the way for more effective treatments while allowing individuals to receive their care from the comfort of their own homes.
Recent advancements in technology find application in the management of mental health conditions. Daydreaming in Paradise’s feature on augmented reality (AR) explains how this technology can help make quick and accurate diagnoses. In fact, AR programs such as ProjectDR are making their way out of testing. Programs like this can be used to create virtual environments that can be used to provoke symptoms in patients with neuropsychiatric conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. By observing patients’ behavior in these virtual environments, doctors can better understand how their symptoms are triggered. This example shows how technology can make mental health care delivery approachable as contemporary tech is more widely adopted in 2023.
In the past, mental health coverage was often limited or excluded entirely from health insurance plans. However, mental health coverage has become more widely available with the passing of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010. These laws require that health insurance plans that cover mental health services provide the same level of coverage for mental health services as they do for medical and surgical services. This means that individuals with insurance coverage can access much-needed mental health diagnoses and treatment plans.
In 2023 and beyond, we can expect more insurance providers to comply with the mandates of these two federal laws. Presently, major insurance providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield already offer mental health coverage in nearly 50 states. We can also see more companies adding mental health coverage to their benefits packages. With these developments, the reimbursement rate for mental health providers could increase and lead to more mental health providers participating in providing mental health care services. This increase in provider availability can improve access and quality of care while reducing financial barriers for vulnerable populations.
Reducing mental health stigma refers to efforts to change societal attitudes and beliefs about mental health conditions and promote understanding and acceptance of mental health conditions as a legitimate health issue. Recent efforts to reduce mental health stigma have encouraged people to reach out to relevant care providers for timely detection and intervention of mental health conditions.
For instance, the recent National Alliance on Mental Illness Provider Education Program (NAMI PEP) was implemented as a curricular requirement across medical students in an effort to integrate psychiatry into routine care and increase competence in principles of collaborative mental health treatment. Coincidentally, a study found that NAMI PEP reduced stigma and helped students avoid negative attitudes toward patients with mental disorders. In late 2022, surveys also found that the introduction of new mental health hotlines encouraged participation for 85% of respondents whose loved ones deal with mental health concerns. When the stigma associated with mental health conditions is addressed, people will be more comfortable discussing their mental health with healthcare professionals. Education-based initiatives like these can drum up support for patients seeking help, ultimately leading to better mental health care outcomes.
In conclusion, several factors are making mental health care more accessible this year:
With these new developments, we will see a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and the need for better access to care.
It is important to note that mental health is a complex issue and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, by continuing to focus on these key areas, we can hope to see a more robust and accessible mental health care system in 2023 and beyond.
Written by Amara Carver