By Dr. Kirby Randolph, Stacy Davis, MA and OHM Staff
Two out of every five adults report feeling anxious or depressed. It is reported that the average delay from the onset of mental health symptoms to treatment is 11 years. That’s a long time of needless suffering. Any major stresses or recent life changes can trigger these symptoms.
The mental health crisis in this country affects people of all ages, gender identities and income levels. Our youth have experienced increased social isolation, anxiety and learning loss because of the pandemic. Even with students returning to full in-person learning, and society having opened back up, the effect on overall mental health has remained. The Federal government is making “critical investments to expand access to mental health services.”
Some key points of the plan include:
Strengthening System Capacity. Increase the number of mental health providers to address “mental health deserts”. These areas are formally defined as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. One-third of Americans live in these areas and are not receiving services they need or are being underserved. For a person dealing with serious mental illness, this can be a life-or-death situation.
Bringing more providers into behavioral health. The fiscal year 2023 budget will include an investment of $700 million in programs. Program examples include funding for the National Health Service Corps, Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training and the Minority Fellowship Program. All will provide training, access to scholarships and loan repayment to mental health and substance abuse practitioners committed to practicing in rural and other underserved communities.
Investing in behavioral health support staff. This fall, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is expected to award more than $200 million to increase the number of community health workers and other health support workers to work in underserved communities.
Launching the “988” crisis response line. With funding from the American Rescue Plan —$180 million — has been provided to support local capacity to respond appropriately to [mental health] crisis calls, and establish more community-based mobile crisis response teams.
One important part of the plan is to connect more Americans to mental health care. Fewer than half of Americans with mental health conditions receive treatment. Did you know that the average delay from the onset of mental health symptoms to treatment is 11 years? That’s a long time of needless suffering.
HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
Not all mental health symptoms require medical intervention once a situation or circumstance has changed. If symptoms persist and start to have a major impact on your daily life, consult a health care or behavioral health provider.
If you or a loved one need to access mental health services, contact your (or their) health care provider to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment. Describe your symptoms. Be specific about when they started and how long you have had them. Don’t forget to disclose if there have been any life events that may be contributors (stress, unexpected death, job loss, etc.).
If you are uninsured or do not have a primary doctor, several community health centers in the Kansas City area offer free to low-cost services and treatment. Visit www.mentalhealthkc.org to find a center near you. Also download the digital edition that has a list of mental health resources.
UNDERSTANDING MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS
A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. If you have — or think you might have — a mental illness, the first thing you must know is that you are not alone. Mental health conditions are far more common than you think, mainly because people don’t like to, or are scared to, talk about them.
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
- Since the pandemic, that number has changed to 2 in 5.
- 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
- 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
- 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple causes, such as family history, environment and lifestyle. Basic brain structure, or an imbalance in the brain may play a role, too.
There are different conditions that are recognized as mental illnesses. Some common types include:
Anxiety disorders: People with anxiety disorders respond to certain objects or situations with fear and dread, as well as with physical signs of anxiety or panic, such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating.
Mood disorders: Depression and mood disorders are the most common mental health conditions. These disorders, also called affective disorders, involve persistent feelings of sadness or mood swings from extreme happiness to extreme sadness.
Psychotic disorders: Psychotic disorders involve distorted awareness and thinking. Two common symptoms of psychotic disorders are hallucinations — the experience of images or sounds that are not real, such as hearing voices — and delusions, which are false fixed beliefs that the ill person accepts as true, despite evidence to the contrary.
Eating disorders: Eating disorders involve emotions, attitudes, and behaviors involving weight and food.
Impulse control and addiction disorders: People with impulse control disorders are unable to resist urges, or impulses, to perform acts that could be harmful to themselves or others. Pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania (stealing), and compulsive gambling are examples of impulse control disorders.
Personality disorders: People with personality disorders have extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and/or cause problems in work, school, or social relationships.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD are plagued by constant thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event, and tend to be emotionally numb.
None of this means that you’re broken or that you, or your family, did something “wrong.” Mental illness is no one’s fault. And for many people, recovery — including meaningful roles in social life, school and work — is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE. HELP IS AVAILABLE.
The most important thing is to get help. The 988 crisis hotline is staffed by trained professionals who are a phone call or text away, 24/7. They are available to help individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
As a community, we can do a better job of listening to those around us when they express how they are thinking or feeling. It’s important to take time to listen and find out ways to support each other — to help us all reach a happier place. •
Kirby Randolph, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Bioethics, Kansas City University
Stacy Davis, MA, Director, Mental Health Promotion, Mental Health America of the Heartland – mhah.org
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nimh.nih.gov
National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI.org
White House Statement on the Mental Health Crisis in America WhiteHouse.gov