The Power of Using Digital Tools to Revolutionize Mental Health Care
Increasing Access to Mental Health Services with Telehealth
Mental illness continues to be a major concern here in the U.S. and across the globe. These illnesses can be debilitating for some patients, forcing them to miss out on work and key life experiences. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness here in the U.S. Globally; specifically, anxiety and depression account for an estimated $1 trillion in lost economic activity. But several obstacles prevent these individuals from seeking or obtaining treatment, including stigma, lack of access to mental health services, and limited public knowledge of mental health.
Telehealth can help address some of these obstacles and concerns by making mental health services more available to patients through remote video conferencing and other digital tools. Learn how telehealth is changing the way we think about mental health services.
The Global Mental Health Crisis
Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, but only half of these patients receive treatment. One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. While treatment is available, around two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. In fact, more than 40% of countries have no mental health policy, over 30% have no mental health program, and around 25% of countries have no mental health legislation of any kind, which means many of these individuals are largely on their own when it comes to receiving care.
The Obstacles to Receiving Care
Many obstacles remain in place for those living with a mental illness. Stigma continues to be one of the largest obstacles to receiving mental health services for some individuals. Stigma refers to the fear of shame associated with acknowledging a mental illness and seeking out the help of a professional. The less the public understands about mental health care, the more they’re going to scrutinize it.
A recent study shows around 80% of adults believe mental illness treatment is effective, but just 35% – 67% believe people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. Some population subgroups, including black, non-Hispanic adults, Hispanic adults, and those with less than a highschool education, were more likely to strongly disagree that treatment is effective. Women, adults with chronic disease, and adults who were unemployed or unable to work were more likely to strongly disagree that people are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness.
Lack of access to mental health services continues to be a concern as well. With so many countries lacking a mental health infrastructure, individuals all over the world lack access to these vital services. Here in the U.S., more people have health insurance than in years past, but 1 in 5, or around 9 million adults still report having an unmet need when it comes to mental health care. Around half of all U.S. counties have zero psychiatrists, and about 111 million people live in “mental health professional shortage” areas here in the U.S.
How Telehealth Can Address and Remove These Obstacles
But telehealth, or what’s known as tele-mental health, can help remove some of these obstacles. With digital tools and access to broadband internet, patients can now consult with a mental health professional remotely using live video. Patients living in these “mental health professional shortage” areas can use these tools to speak with a licensed professional without driving long distances. They can also receive care without bringing attention to themselves if their loved ones or colleagues fail to acknowledge their mental illness.
Mental health professionals can also send their patients appointment reminders, information about mental illness, and coping techniques like destress methods using low-bandwidth text messages, helping patients learn about mental illness and find care providers. Remote patient sensors can also be used to monitor a patient’s symptoms in real-time by using toolssomething such as a telemedicine app. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can use these tools to help patients cope with their symptoms, better prescribe medication, or prevent suicide.
Tele-mental health is changing the way we think about and access mental health services. Everyone should have access to the care they need without being stigmatized in their local community. These illnesses cost the global economy billions of dollars a year. More mental health care providers should consider adopting telehealththese tools, so they can better meet the needs of their patients. Learn more about the benefits of tele-mental health at InTouch Health.