As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, we took a critical look at the mental health progress and failures we’ve seen since last May. This report will also give you a sense of which issues mental health professionals are focused on and what might be in store for next year.
We highlighted four areas of progress:
- Increase in Access to Mental Health Care and Resources
- Raising Awareness About Mental Health Issues
- Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness and Treatment
- Research Relevant to Mental Health
Read through to see if any of these stories surprise you!
Increase in Access to Mental Health Care and Resources
More Telehealth and Mental Health Technology
In January, Medicaid began covering some telemedicine and telehealth services that will also increase access to mental health care.
Preventative Care for Mothers
In January 2016, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended doctors require depression screenings for pregnant women. The task force believes implementing this practice will reduce symptoms of depression by giving women the opportunity to proactively seek treatments.
In March, Sen. Lamar Alexander proposed the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, a bill that will increase spending on mental health care. It is on the senate legislative calendar and should be reviewed again soon. Here are some broad aspects of the bill:
Increasing in spending on mental health care by $500 million
- More services that respond to mental health crises
- Covering mental health conditions at a comparable level to physical health conditions
- Saving hospitals and prisons money by offering preventative care instead of waiting for mental health breakdowns
- Improving communications between mental health providers and the families of people with severe mental illnesses
This bill received unprecedented bipartisan support. It shows politicians realize our mental health system is failing us and needs to be modernized.
Raising Awareness Regarding Mental Health Issues
Here are some of the issues mental health professionals, advocates and journalists highlighted most between May 2015 and 2016:
- Using campaigns such as ThriveNYC to educate people on responding to and managing mental health issues
- Using social media campaigns and reporting on human interest stories to raise awareness regarding veteran suicide
- In April, the World Bank and World Health Organization convened hundreds of doctors, aid groups and government officials to make mental health a higher priority on their agenda. Mental health is usually at the bottom of the international agenda, so this effort marks a shift in attitude.
- Actor and mental health advocate Alan Rickman passed away, bringing newfound attention to his work supporting mental health organizations
- A character on “Jane the Virgin” suffered from postpartum depression
- A character on “You’re the Worst” suffered from depression; the show received praise from critics
Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness
Here are some prominent stories that helped fight the stigma of mental illness since last mental health month:
- Actress Hayden Panettiere opened up about her struggle with postpartum depression
- Actress Kristen Bell revealed her battle with depression and anxiety
- Police departments are increasing the amount of training officers need to deal with people with mental illnesses
- Other famous women such as Sarah Silverman and Ronda Rousey have opened up about mental illness
- There are a number of other celebrities who have continued to reduce the stigma of mental illness
- In interviews and op-eds, celebrities such as Kesha and Kerry Washington discussed their experiences in therapy, where they received treatment for eating disorders and body image issues
- Talkspace Co-Founder and Head of Clinical Services Roni Frank wrote an open letter against the therapist “Hate Bill” that discriminated against the LGBT community in Tennessee
- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson wrote an op-ed about encouraging more sensitive discussion of mental health
Research Relevant to Mental Health
Here are some relevant research trends and studies that became more prominent since last May:
- This study showed the efficacy of text-based therapy
- Neurocounseling, the practice of using neuroscience to inform therapy, has become a more prominent field
- Bright light therapy is continuing to show more efficacy, studies show
- Scientists are testing LSD to determine whether it can safely help with depression
- A study showed certain types of mushrooms might help people with treatment-resistant depression
- A study showed treating pregnant women for depression might benefit their babies as well
- Studies show improving hearing in older adults might alleviate depression
- Researchers advised a new approach for treating schizophrenia
The Biggest Failures
Despite the progress we listed above, these failures show our society still desperately needs to improve mental health care and the way we treat people with mental illness. Here they are:
Validating the False Narrative of People With Mental Illnesses Being Violent
The media has been complicit in validating the false narrative that people with mental illnesses are inherently more violent. This trend is especially apparent in the aftermath of mass shootings. Rather than pushing for gun reform, people with mental illness have become scapegoats.
Passing the ‘Therapist Hate Bill’
Gov. Haslam of Tennessee recently signed a bill that allows therapists to refuse services to clients based on their sexual orientation. This was a huge step backward for mental health progress and LGBT rights.
Police Shootings of People with Mental Illness
People with mental illness are still 16 times more likely to be killed by police. Police departments across the country need to step up their efforts to train officers to better respond to and approach people with mental illness.
What do you think? Was this past year a step forward or backward for mental health progress?
Did we forget to highlight any important progress or failures? Tweet at us to let us know! We will retweet you if we like the suggestion!