Community health workers in Luxor, Egypt, practice their counseling skills through role play at a local clinic. (Photo courtesy of USAID Egypt via Flickr)
Several speakers at AHCJ’s Mental Health Summit lauded the Rand Corp.’s recently released “Transforming Mental Health Care in the United States,” a research brief whose 15 recommendations, among other things, call for:
- More formalized mental health education for schoolkids.
- More programs that keep homeless persons with mental illness in supportive housing.
- Increased efforts to stem incarceration of the mentally ill.
- Nationwide standards for prescribing and paying for mental and behavioral health services.
- Financial and other incentives that expand the number of medical school-trained. psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses who can prescribe medication, and so forth, while also raising the count of on-the-ground community-health workers who are critical to filling gaps in mental health care access.
The report comes as the nation’s mental health care system continues to struggle to meet many goals of the Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, passed in 2008 to expand the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996.
Amid current bipartisan efforts aimed at shoring up that system, how to build and adequately compensate a lay workforce of community health workers and peer, support specialists, is a question that increasingly comes up, said public health researcher Ryan McBain, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Photo by Alachua County via Flickr.
One of the biggest barriers to seeking mental health care is stigma. While I can point to some studies that show this all over the world, the scale of the problem is most evident simply by doing a keyword search in PubMed. Stigma is particularly discouraging for those living with substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder.
What if training and research related to mental illness involved the people who live with mental health conditions? Could that reduce at least some of the stigma that even many clinicians have, consciously or not, about their patients and the disorders they treat? Could it improve mental health care overall? According to a new pilot study that tested this, it appears it can.
Journalists might find the study’s findings interesting because it’s a rich area for story ideas:
- Do mental health facilities in your area explicitly do training to reduce stigma in clinicians?
- How are people generally trained in local mental health treatment centers in your area?
- Have patients who have been in treatment programs felt as though they were treated with respect and dignity?
- Could patients’ perception of stigma from their clinicians be discouraging them from continuing care?
- Are any local mental health facilities considering including people with mental illness in their training programs?
Any one of those questions or a half dozen others could lead to possible stories to explore on a local or national level. Let’s look at how the researchers conducted this study and what they found.
Photo by Alachua County via Flickr
Although people with schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder and other serious psychiatric disorders worldwide have been less likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, people with mental illness in one Georgia county got vaccinated at a higher rate than people without mental illness, according to a September 2021 survey conducted by the Washington D.C.-based Treatment Advocacy Center and Clubhouse International.
The latter, which does advocacy and programming for the mentally ill in 30 countries, marked that achievement in Floyd County, Ga. by persuading public health officials to do pop-up clinics at Clubhouse headquarters, said Lisa Dailey, executive director of The Treatment Advocacy Center. What Clubhouse accomplished in Floyd County — where 61% to 80% of Clubhouse members but 10.1% of all county residents were vaccinated as of mid-June 2021 — exemplifies what can happen when health officials and advocates for the mentally ill coalesce. Continue reading
I’ve written already about the mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic and associated management strategies, such as physical distancing, are having and will have on the population. Then I received a press release from the health information site Healthline that put some numbers to that toll, both from their internal data and from a nationwide survey from the public opinion company YouGov.
Healthline in May launched a special section on mental health during the pandemic that’s full of quick service pieces on managing anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks and similar experiences during the pandemic. Some of these stories can provide ideas for similar pieces for your publication, or be jumping off places for deeper dives into the medical research on mental health during major crises. Continue reading
Much advice has appeared in the media over the past two months about how to manage anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
Plenty of speculation, particularly on social media, has accompanied it: Will suicide rates increase? Will adolescent suicide rates decline with increased supervision? Will prescriptions for antidepressants rise? Will this trend revolutionize telemedicine in mental health? Continue reading