The Importance of Mental Health Awareness Month | $name

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The Importance of Mental Health Awareness Month

Thu, May 23, 2024  -  Comments (0)  -   Posted by Jodi Mitchell

Since its founding in 1949 by the organization Mental Health America (MHA), Mental Health Awareness Month has been helping raise awareness for the importance of mental health and mental illness education. Observed in May, this month is a time to discuss how to eliminate stigma and build an environment in which individuals can be accepted, comfortably share their stories, and find help without fear of judgment.

Prevalence of Mental Illness & Access to Care

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and only half of them receive treatment.
  • One in 20 U.S. adults experience a serious mental illness each year, and only two-thirds receive treatment.
  • One in six U.S. youth experience a mental health condition each year, and only half of them receive treatment.
  • 122 million people live in mental health professional shortage areas.
  • The average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.

Of adults with a mental illness who did not receive treatment in the past year, 26.7% indicated that they had experienced serious psychological distress in the past month. This lack of treatment can be due in part to stigma and fears of being treated differently or losing their jobs even though mental health conditions can affect people of all ages, genders, ethnicity and backgrounds. Insurance coverage also plays a role. Nearly 11% of adults with a mental illness are uninsured. An access-to-care ranking by Mental Health America ranks Ohio 21st based on measures including receiving treatment, insurance status, and workforce availability.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 5.8 million visits to emergency departments for mental disorders, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental as the primary diagnosis. In Ohio, 51.5% of residents with Medicaid who visit an emergency department for mental healthcare have follow-up care within 30 days.

As you can see in the graph above, follow-up care is an area in which many states need improvement. The National Committee for Quality Assurance states that research suggests follow-up care for people with mental illness is linked to fewer repeat emergency department visits, improved physical and mental function and increased compliance with follow-up instructions.

Mental Health Integration

Discussing the integration of mental and general healthcare, MHA states that “historically, behavioral health [which encompasses mental health] has been authorized, structured, researched, financed and regulated differently that general healthcare, and mental health and substance use disorders have been treated both separately from each other and primary care.” This is now understood to be counter-productive.

Integrated care encourages a team approach that brings behavioral health clinicians into general medical settings, including primary care, to achieve better outcomes at a lower cost. Believing “there is no health without mental health,” MHA advocates for mental health integration and supports the belief that every child, adult, and family should receive mental health and substance use prevention, early identification, treatment, and long-term support regardless of how and where the person enters the healthcare system.

Displayed in the above graph, primary care providers manage care for many people who are in treatment for behavioral health conditions. Nearly 70% of people with poor mental health do not seek help or only do so by seeing their primary care physician.

While many support integration, there are still barriers that need to be overcome. Some patients prefer to receive treatment from their primary care physicians or at least have their primary care physicians more involved. Unfortunately, high caseloads, the burden of billing and documentation, issues with data sharing, and lack of financial compensation and lack of education about evidence-based practice make it difficult for primary care healthcare systems to implement effective behavioral healthcare treatment strategies.

Recent policies such as Section 2703 of the Affordable Care Act created an optional Medicaid State Plan benefit for states to establish Health Homes to coordinate care for people with Medicaid who have chronic conditions. This allowed people with “one serious and persistent mental health condition” to be eligible for Medicaid Health Homes services.

You can learn more about integration of mental and general healthcare by visiting Mental Health America’s website.

Tips for Discussing Mental Health

Bringing up the topic of mental health can be difficult, awkward, and even stressful. Whether or not you are inquiring about someone else's mental health or discussing your own, remember to be respectful and listen patiently to what they have to say.

Unsure of how to approach someone who you think may be struggling? These tips may help:

  • Talk to them in a comfortable space and ease into the conversation.
  • Give them the opportunity to talk. They may not yet be ready to share, but showing you care can be a helpful step.
  • Let them know you care and understand. If possible, make yourself available to talk again.

    Things to avoid saying and doing:

  • Avoid being judgmental.
  • Do not criticize or raise your voice.
  • Never assume you know their situation.
  • Do not downplay what they are telling you. Understand that what they’re saying is important and should be treated as such.

Are You in Need of Help or Support?

Symptoms of mental health can be unseen to the people around you or even yourself. At times impacting our cognitive processes such as perception, reasoning and problem-solving, mental health can impact your physical health as well. If you or someone you know needs help or support, there are resources available:

  • The 988 Suicide & Crisis LifeLine provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The LifeLine is comprised of a national network of over 160 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.
  • The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health condition, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text “HelpLine” to 62640 or utilize their chat feature at
  • New or expectant mothers can call or text the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at 1-833-TLC-MAMA for confidential advice on mental health from a professional.

Mental Health America’s website provides excellent information on understanding mental health, treatment options, finding mental health support, and more.


Posted in Population Health

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