Mental health care is becoming increasingly important in the U.S. and across the world.
But it’s also becoming more complicated, as the pandemic has seen millions of Americans lose their jobs, homes and livelihoods.
The mental health industry is taking note.
On Wednesday, the mental health and technology industry association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is launching a national online forum to discuss the future of mental health.
“We’re at a point where the way mental health is being covered in this country has changed,” said Dr. Mary Jo Meyers, president of the National Association of Mental Health Advisors.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for people to understand what they need to know about their health care.”
Mental health advocates are taking aim at two major pillars of the mental illness landscape: coverage for mental health services and how people are treated in hospitals and clinics.
“If you’re not covered, you’re invisible,” said Susan Siegel, a mental health advocate and author of The War on Mental Health.
“You’re invisible to all the services that you need.”
To help make mental health a more accessible and effective area of care, the Alliance for Mental Health & Research released a report this week on the role mental health providers play in our society.
Its goal: to provide information and resources that can help improve the way we treat mental health issues and improve mental health outcomes.
Here are some of the issues covered in the report: The importance of mental illness coverage in the Affordable Care Act The law requires that people with mental illness receive mental health coverage and that it’s essential that they get it.
But that’s only part of the story.
Other provisions, such as the fact that people can’t be denied coverage based on their mental health status or lack of coverage, aren’t always well understood by consumers.
“Some people think mental illness is a condition of a person who doesn’t have mental illness,” Meyers said.
“But it’s actually a disease.”
For example, there’s a widely accepted definition of mental disorders that includes bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.
But mental illness isn’t just a mental illness.
“For some people, they are at risk for developing a serious condition like cancer or other life-threatening conditions,” Meyer said.
For that reason, the law doesn’t cover mental health in the same way it covers health insurance.
“When it comes to mental health [it’s] not just a health issue, it’s a health-related issue,” Meers said.
It’s also important to remember that people in mental health crises often have a history of mental illnesses.
“So the way that we treat people is really critical to them,” she said.
Mental health services have been a hot-button topic during the pandemics and the political debate surrounding it.
Some advocates say they’ve been unfairly targeted.
“The health care system has been the focus of many of the most vitriolic criticism during this crisis, and I think it’s important to have that discussion in a healthy way,” Meiers said.
There are also some barriers to mental illness in the private sector, Meyers added.
“There are not enough mental health professionals,” she noted.
“And if we have an economic downturn, the stigma associated with mental health can get very, very high.”
The mental illness industry needs to grow and thrive in order to survive, Meiers added.
But there’s another issue the mental healthcare industry is fighting: insurance coverage.
The U.N. estimates that at least 3.5 million Americans have lost their jobs or have lost jobs in the past 12 months due to the pandemia.
But a major factor in the pandemaker’s impact is the rising cost of health care.
The cost of care has grown significantly since the pandems peak in early 2009, with premiums rising more than 25 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health.
And the rising costs have been compounded by the increasing number of uninsured people.
“One of the main reasons that the number of people who are not insured has skyrocketed in this crisis is because of the way health care has changed and has not changed in a long time,” Meerers said.
While the mental and behavioral health industry and mental health advocacy groups have made great strides in the last several years, it remains to be seen whether the industry can take advantage of this pandemic and the changes it’s brought.
“I think we need to look at the future,” Meowers said.
Meyers’ message is one that is especially important to mental wellness advocates who are trying to expand access to mental care.
“What we need is a mental wellness industry that grows and thrives,” Meyses said.
A better mental health insurance marketplace will ensure that mental health patients have access to the services they need and will be able to afford them, she added.
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