Fast Forward into the Future of Mental Health
In parts of history in certain cultures, people used to view mental illness as a form of demonic possession or punishment. These old-age views lead to the stigmatization of mental illness that still persists in today’s society.
Those who struggled with mental health issues were confined to asylums with harsh and unhygienic conditions. These conditions often only amplified pre-existing mental health issues in patients. Eventually, in place of asylums, institutions were built. Some argued that these institutions were not any better, citing human rights issues and continued poor living conditions.
In recent years, perceptions on mental health issues have changed.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reported that 1 in 5 individuals experience a mental health illness in their lifetime. The need for a more appropriate and accessible mental health care system has never been more imminent than it is now.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mental health as “the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment, especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself.”
We know and understand more about mental health issues than ever before. Research and treatment centers have rapidly expanded. We encourage each other to seek help and talk to someone when necessary. It is almost unheard of that you or someone you know hasn’t seen a therapist at one point or another.
Discussing mental health is no longer taboo, but is an essential piece of every individual’s health and well-being. Our overall health relies on good mental, social, and physical well-being, with one not being 100% without the others.
But, what will the future of mental health look like?
We can expect a new mental health care approach to address the 3 biggest barriers to mental health care access. These barriers include the cost of the treatment, quick access, and the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
What will this look like?
An Accessible Mental Health Care System
70% of individuals struggling with mental health issues lack the access to services that could help them. How do we solve this problem?
The internet offers effective and efficient communication methods to ensure easy access for individuals worldwide. You no longer have to be in the same room at the same time (or even in the same part of the world!) as your therapist. Applications and software, such as Talkspace, connect individuals to therapists online. Such applications claim to be 80% cheaper than face-to-face therapy.
Another app, called happy, is based on providing emotional support to its users. The app connects you with a trained “listener” who can offer emotional support via listening skills, encouragement, and compassion.
However, some therapists argue a different story. Many trained therapists say that to best understand the needs of their client, a face-to-face meeting is necessary.
Nonetheless, online video chats do offer similar setups. As technology continues to evolve, so will unique communication and treatment methods. With more research and continued development, the problem of access may be solved through creative and affordable technological means.
An Integrated Approach to Healthcare
With more research comes a better understanding of the link between our physical health and mental health. When one deteriorates, the other follows suit.
A healthy lifestyle is encouraged for those struggling with mental health issues. During times of stress, many often resort to unhealthy eating habits. In conjunction with healthy diet recommendations, therapists prescribe exercise alongside traditional therapy. Regular physical activity produces endorphins and increases our energy levels and mo, od.
Sepideh Saremi, a psychotherapist in L.A., walks and runs with her clients while carrying out their therapy sessions. She noticed that some of her clients with PTSD or schizophrenia had trouble sitting in a room for their sessions. They found the eye contact intimidating. Walking side-by-side solved this problem. The physical activity aspect also significantly helped those with depression or anxiety issues.
An integrated approach also foresees more healthcare professionals working together across disciplines. In Canada, the healthcare system is getting better at this, with psychologists, physiotherapists, and doctors uniting to ensure each patient receives the best treatment for their unique and nuanced situations. We have started to realize that health is not specifically limited to different categories. Instead, it is a cohesive and holistic construct in which all aspects must be considered to address others effectively.
Improved Treatment Options
Today, there are more people seeking treatment for their mental health issues than ever before. There is more data to create improved treatment plans and options.
Generally, we know what works and what doesn’t—but that is not to say that current treatment models cannot be improved upon. As more data is continuously compiled, our collective knowledge grows, and so does our ability to properly help those with mental health issues.
Data-driven tools further provide greater insight into patient’s behaviours and moods. Therapists are increasingly able to pin down the root of the problem and address the causes as opposed to just the symptoms.
As technology continues to help us gather data, solutions for mental health patients will continue to develop and advance.
More and more people have begun to talk about mental health issues in their own lives. It is no longer a taboo topic. Our society has come to realize that the more open we are about these issues, the more that will and can be done about them.
Mental health is now being treated like any other health issue. Workplaces are now offering strategies and paid leaves to address mental health problems. It is no longer trendy to work 12 hour days and 7 day weeks. We know our mental health and well-being takes a hit. We know that working ourselves to the ground only decreases our productivity in the long-run. Employers are beginning to understand that a more positive and supportive environment promotes happier and better workers.
The future of mental health care is bright. It is exciting.
Technology has drastically changed the way we do things. In a way, it is the next step of evolution.
We strive to better ourselves and society as a whole. To do so, we have to take care of each other. Taking care of each other involves an accessible, affordable, and more open mental healthcare climate.
We are getting there.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, talk to someone and seek out the help you need. You do not need to suffer in silence, or alone. There are resources to help you, and there are people that care.You’d be surprised.
Find your happy and start living your life today.
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