In the shadow of the global health crisis caused by COVID-19 and its aftershocks, such as cost of living hikes, housing crises, inflation, and rising inequality, a new pandemic is emerging – one that concerns mental health. The urgency to address this silent pandemic has never been more pronounced. In 2022, the Mental Health America organization released statistics that over 50 million people suffer from mental health, equivalent to 19.86% of adults – and that’s only adults. Below, we’ll address the problem and unearth what America is doing to make a change.
The Magnitude of the Problem
Hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide are afflicted by mental health issues, which range from milder conditions like anxiety and depression to more serious ones like schizophrenia. According to estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every four people may have a mental or neurological issue at some point in their lives, making these conditions one of the main causes of illness and disability globally.
However, there are disparities in the distribution of the worldwide burden of mental health diseases. The likelihood of mental health issues can be considerably increased by social inequality, poverty, violence, and displacement. With its forced isolation, sickness anxiety, and economic consequences, the pandemic has exacerbated these problems, which has resulted in an alarming rise in the prevalence of mental health disorders.
The Pandemic Effect on Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed existing weaknesses in mental health treatment and served as a stress test for communities all around the world. The pandemic has taken a heavy psychological toll; stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, insomnia, denial, wrath, and terror have all increased globally.
Additionally, the necessary response to the epidemic, which included lockdown procedures and social exclusion, has resulted in a significant increase in social isolation. That has had negative effects on mental health that are particularly noticeable in older folks, young people, healthcare professionals, and people who already have mental health disorders.
Strengthening System Capacity
At the core of America’s national mental health crisis is a severe shortage of behavioral health providers. Areas with a shortage of mental health professionals are home to more than one-third of Americans. These communities have fewer mental health providers than what their population size would warrant. Even outside these zones, the fragmentation of the existing system makes it challenging for mental health providers to offer timely and adequate help.
One critical area that requires attention is the need to expand the supply, diversity, and cultural competency of our mental health workforce, which includes psychiatrists, psychologists, and other professionals. To address this need, companies like mascmedical.com play a pivotal role in bridging the gap and aiding health facilities in finding the right professionals.
To address this comprehensive challenge, President Biden is focusing on a few pivotal strategies:
- Investing in Training Programs: The President’s FY23 budget plans to invest substantially in programs that provide training, scholarships, and loan repayments to mental health professionals. That will not only expand the number of behavioral health providers but also ensure that they are well-distributed across areas with the most pressing needs.
- Diverse Training Approaches: Recognizing that doctors and nurses cannot tackle this challenge alone, there’s a push towards piloting new methods to train a varied group of paraprofessionals.
- Certification for Peer Specialists: An initiative to develop a national certification program for peer specialists is in the works. This move will promote the wider adoption and recognition of peer mental health workers across various healthcare facets.
Addressing this mental health crisis necessitates a collective effort, collaboration, and the realization that mental health is a fundamental human right. As the world continues to grapple with the global health crisis of COVID-19 amidst rising economic challenges, it becomes evident that the silent mental health pandemic cannot be sidelined. Prioritizing, investing in, and advocating for mental health is the need of the hour.