Mental health in the U.S. – is there enough support?

Mental illness is one of the main health concerns of today. It has become increasingly prevalent in the U.S., with nearly one in five U.S. adults with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019), according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some of the most common mental health disorders in America include anxiety, depression and bipolar disorders, which can all affect both men and women. Luckily, recent years have seen slight increasing awareness and discussion in youngsters who are willing to embrace and attempt to overcome these mental health conditions. A healthy mind is a happy mind after all – but is the U.S. providing enough support for those seeking it and those who aren’t educated on the importance of mental health?

Any mental illness (AMI) refers to a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, while a serious mental illness (SMI) is a smaller and more severe subset of AMI, which substantially interferes with or limits one’s life activities. Mental health is of course a very complex subject that many people aren’t sure how to approach. The World Health Organization recorded that a staggering 800,000 people commit suicide every year globally. Evidently, there’s a long way to go in terms of opening up conversation and providing enough support. 

While there is an abundance of counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists open to guidance, there are also options for those who can’t afford the hefty bill. Lifeline by the NIMH is a free, confidential crisis hotline open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The team refers callers to the nearest crisis centre in the Lifeline national network. Other free support services include LGBTQ suicide prevention, NAMI for free support and education for families and individuals and more. There’s also a plethora of online resources, communities and forums targeted at specific concerns and discussions.

Meanwhile, the private health sector has also been on the rise. According to an Open Minds Market Intelligence Report, spending on mental health treatment and services reached $225 billion, going up by 52% since 2009. Most of this was spent on prescription medication, therapy and rehabitlation. 

However, sometimes mental health care can be very expensive without insurance (and even with insurance there are sometimes loopholes when it comes to mental health). This setback can hinder individuals from seeking advice and help for any mental health concerns. Moreoever, accesibility has proven to be another big issue, with some regions offering better services than others. Rural areas tend to have less options compared to urban regions which feature more established clinics and specialists. 

So how can we improve the mental health services and accessibility in the U.S.?

Training and education is key. Having mental health align with the top priorities in healthcare is crucial for change. Schools and universities also play their part in educating and informing students of the importance of mental health – it’s a lifelong mindset. 

Another key focus is the expansion of effective online platforms. Although COVID-19 has undoubtedly wrecked havoc on all industries – including how it’s affected individuals’ mental health – it has also brought a wealth of new wellness-oriented apps and online communities designed to provide worldwide care. This can improve the inaccessibiity and allow for anyone, anywhere to reach out for help when they need it. Online services span meditation apps to video call counselling. Granted, these aren’t the same as in-person interactions but it certainly provides a sustainable alternative for the meantime.

Furthermore, there needs to be a heavier emphasis from the government for accessible clinics, practitioners and guidance. Although there tends to be a lot more variety in the big cities, smaller towns are generally lacking in options.

And finally, as an individual, what can we do to raise awareness? There’s plenty we can do to try and support those who need it – including ourselves. Sharing your views, emotions and feelings regularly is super important to maintain a healthy mind. Talk to your peers, friends, family to open up conversation in the topic. If you see someone show any signs of a mental health disorder, remember to speak with them and find out what they’re going through. There are of course deeper recommendations to refer to when in an uncertain situation.

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