It’s easy enough to justify seeing a doctor when you have a cold. However, many struggle to seek help for medical issues that lie deeper and do not always cause obvious physical symptoms. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when mental health was a taboo topic in the public consciousness. In fact, this stigma is still present in various communities to this day.
Thankfully, conversations about mental health and awareness for chronic mental conditions have gained widespread attention over recent years. More people are talking about mental illnesses and their experiences. And with suicide being the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34, these conversations need to continue. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, I would like to observe the ways mental health affects people across all backgrounds, and work to understand what can be done to help the millions of people suffering silently.
Up to 35% of Medicare-Eligible Adults Experience Mental Illness Each Year
Poor mental health affects people of all ages and across all walks of life, young and elderly alike. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 35% of Medicare-eligible adults experience mental illness each year. Among the general population, only 30-50% of patients with mental illness receive treatment for it.
Half of all mental illnesses found in adults are believed to originate from as early as the age of 14. With these issues presenting in half of the population so early, it is never too soon to encourage patients in need to seek care.
This is especially true for patients in disadvantaged communities.
20-35% of all adults in the United States are reported to experience mental illness. However, this figure is even higher in disadvantaged communities. Research shows that at least 43% of multiracial adults and 47% of LGBTQ+ adults experience an underlying chronic mental health issues. The difference between these numbers is staggering and draws further importance to the goal of achieving health equity.
Understanding the importance of a person’s mental well-being is crucial for not only their mood but also their physical wellness. With 1 in 8 of all total hospitalizations being attributed to mental and substance use disorders, addressing mental illness can have a profound impact on admissions and readmissions.
Mental Illness Impacts Patient Health, Engagement, and Much More
Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues are not conditions that someone can simply break out of or “get over.” When patients are depressed, they are less likely to adhere to their treatment regimens and tend to lose engagement, which can lead to disease progression. The same can be true when patients are anxious about their treatment, or their mental status prevents them from adequately caring for themselves.
It has also been reported that people suffering from mental illness—namely, depression—are also more susceptible to chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer. This is a double-edged sword because mental illnesses can be caused by other conditions. This includes chronic conditions, postoperative side effects, and situational circumstances like:
- Isolation or loneliness
The only way to “fix” mental illness is to receive treatment from a trusted source. Honest and transparent collaboration between patient and provider allows for accurate screening. Treatment for varies by the patient’s unique situation and typically involves medication therapy, counseling with a mental health professional, or a combination of both.
Technology Helps Mental Health Screening Reach a Wider Audience
The COVID-19 pandemic left its mark on people and health systems all over the world. Months of quarantining to preserve health became a necessary part of life, and with it came feelings of isolation, loneliness, and social disconnect—all of which are primary contributors to depression and anxiety. For patients already diagnosed with a mental illness, prolonged isolation may have exacerbated symptoms or caused new symptoms to appear. This is further complicated by the fact that patients were more difficult to reach and may have felt less engaged.
This is where technology can come into play.
Technology helps providers widen their reach beyond the four walls of doctor’s office. Assets like CareSignal’s Deviceless Remote Patient Monitoring® (RPM) allow physicians, community health workers, care managers, and more to engage patients experiencing depression and other mental illnesses. Alerts are then sent to care providers to intervene if the patient is at risk for a crisis or hospital admission.
As a population health management platform, Lightbeam identifies patients either already diagnosed with anxiety, depression, other mental health conditions or those at higher risk for developing them. The system automatically assigns these identified patients to the proper care resource, whether that be a community health worker, care manager, or physician, and initiates any associated workflows. CareSignal’s deviceless remote patient monitoring platform then reaches patients outside of care settings, sending questionnaires and mood checks that monitor for relapse or identify patients trending in the wrong direction. If a patient triggers an alert, care teams are notified in real time and can choose the appropriate intervention.
Resources are readily available for patients who may be struggling with depression and other mental illnesses. Below are some helplines with real people who can be reached 24/7 to provide immediate support to people in crisis.
TTY (teletypewriter): 1-800-799-4889
By Christine DiNoia, BSN, RN
Director of Clinical Programs