Over the last decade, the world has seen one crisis after another, from job loss, foreclosures and financial impact of the Great Recession, to the turmoil of racially-charged events leading up to the Black Lives Matter movement, to the onset of a global pandemic that has, to date, resulted in nearly 3 million deaths worldwide. That’s not even factoring in significant political divisiveness and international tensions—or murder hornets, for that matter.
Times of crisis can cause even normally healthy and well-adjusted people to experience mental health concerns, and for those already suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental health disorders, it can be much worse. If one good thing has come out of all these crises, stacked one on to of another, it’s that we’ve had the opportunity to shine a spotlight on mental health—raising awareness, combatting age-old stigmas and making mental health resources more available to those who need them. Let’s take a look at what has happened in the last 10 years on the mental health front.
Passage of the Affordable Care Act
The cost of healthcare in the U.S. is enough to cause anxiety, even in those with relatively good insurance coverage. For the millions who went without health insurance prior to 2010, it was even worse, as they had to weigh the consequences of failure to treat illness and injury against the potentially outrageous cost of seeking treatment.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in March of 2010 marked a turning point in the accessibility of affordable health insurance for everyone. More importantly, it eliminated controversial practices like charging more or denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions and it created a list of essential health benefits that must be included in plans.
This list prioritized women’s and children’s health services, not previously considered essential, and it added mental health and substance use disorder services, including treatment options like counseling and psychotherapy. This was a huge benefit for those coping with mental health concerns, and a step in the right direction for mental health awareness and treatment.
Mental Health Legislation
There have been several legislative advances for mental health services in the last decade, including the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA), named after Senator Gordon Smith’s son, who committed suicide in 2003. This act first went into effect in 2004, with the goal of ending youth suicide by supporting suicide prevention and intervention programs on college campuses, and more widely, in every state and on Indian reservations.
In 2015, GLSMA was reauthorized and expanded to include not just youth suicide prevention efforts, but programs for people of all ages, with a particular focus on groups who are at high risk for suicide. The act includes “grants to establish research, training and technical assistance centers related to mental health, substance abuse and the justice system”.
2016 saw the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided for the establishment and codification of the following:
An Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and a Chief Medical Officer – responsible for implementing effective, high-quality services.
The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ) – to serve as the lead agency for behavioral health statistics, conducting surveys and tracking behavioral health issues at the national level.
The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) – to facilitate coordinated efforts across federal departments, which address “the needs of individuals with serious mental illness or serious emotional disorders and their families”.
The National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory (Policy Lab) – tasked with focusing on and promoting, developing and expanding evidence-based practices and service delivery models for serious mental illness and substance use disorders.
What these and other legislative advances illustrate, is a growing recognition that mental health needs to be prioritized, and that providing treatment and other resources is essential to improving overall health among the population.
The Growth of Telemedicine
Believe it or not, hospital-based telemedicine has been around since the 1950s, although, telehealth services date back almost to the invention of the telephone. Remote diagnosis and other medical services have always been a necessity in rural areas, and the growth of new technologies over the last couple decades has opened doors to an expanding range of telehealth treatment options, including virtual intensive outpatient programs for mental health, trauma, substance use disorders and more.
With options to seek mental health services or crisis intervention via calling, texting, emailing and video chat, there are now more opportunities than ever before for people dealing with mental health issues like depression or with suicidal thoughts, to reach out for help in the way they feel most comfortable.
Where We Are Today
It is estimated that in the U.S. alone, over 50 million adults suffer from mental illness, including a variety of conditions that could range from mild to severe. That’s almost one in five people. As of June of 2020, during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that “40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse,” and that’s probably just the people who reported and/or sought help, such as counseling services or addiction recovery treatment.
Of course, this spike in reported cases reflects the stresses of the time, so it’s possible some cases of anxiety, depression and so on, are temporary and will improve as vaccinations increase, stay-at-home orders end and life goes back to normal. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people dealing with mental illness not associated with such crises.
Depression remains one of the leading causes of disability, and among the 15-29 age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Considering over 20% of adults will suffer from some kind of mental illness at some point in their lives, it’s imperative that we continue working to remove the stigma associated with such illness so that treatment can expand, and more importantly, people will feel comfortable and confident taking advantage of recovery resources.
All Points North Lodge offers both residential and remote services for those seeking mental health, trauma and/or addiction treatment. Contact us today or visit us online to learn more about how we can help you.