Mental Health and treatment - American views are becoming distinctly more positive

By: Tom Cloyd - 3 min. read (Published: 2024-03-21; reviewed: 2024-03-24 Pacific Time (USA))

In the past decade, American views toward mental illness interventions and promotion of mental health have grown distinctly more positive.1 This trend can be seen up in attitudes, expenditures, utilization, social policy, and consumer supportive court action.2

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Compared to the attention and investment given to physical health, that given to mental health has long been meager almost anywhere one looks in the USA. But, “…recent steps in spending, policymaking and litigation offer three reasons to hope the United States is starting to take behavioral problems as seriously as medical ones.”2

This shift reflects a positive public view toward mental health intervention, documented in a major 2018 survey:

“A total of 87% of American adults agreed that having a mental health disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and 86% said they believe that people with mental health disorders can get better…”1

During the pandemic, visits to health care professionals increased almost 40%. Use of employer-sponsored health care increased over 50%.1 “These statistics reveal a nation determined to feel better.”2 That there was a distinct rise in demand for mental health services during the recent COVID epidemic is well documented. Less commonly recognised is that the demand post-pandemic is likely to be ongoing, for several reasons.3

“Recently published studies support the existence of an emotional epidemic curve, describing a high probability of an increase in the burden of mental health issues in the postpandemic era.”4

One response to this increased demand has been a rise in availability of telehealth services.5 Insurance companies have too often not been supportive of this, in good part, it appears likely, not because telehealth is a bad idea but because increased utilization costs them.2 Evidence of the comparative effectiveness of telehealth counseling exists6 and is growing, and this surely is one reason for increased usage.

Their concern is clearly not for the health of the people to whom they are so eager to sell policies. This is unwise, as untreated mental illness leads to additional health care costs which will without doubt impact insurance companies.2

The Biden administration is working to thwart these attempts to unfairly limit utilization of mental health services by “…closing loopholes in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act that insurers use to avoid covering behavioral health care as comprehensively as physical health care.”2

In recent months, both the giant United Behavioral Health company and Yale University have had significant losses in court, the effect of which is to generate greater financial and social support for those affected by mental illness. These victories are not enough, but they are a clear advance in the fight.2

American Psychological Association. (2019). Survey: Americans Becoming More Open About Mental Health (Press Release). https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/apa-mental-health-report.pdf

Bulkes, N. Z., Davis, K., Kay, B., & Riemann, B. C. (2022). Comparing efficacy of telehealth to in-person mental health care in intensive-treatment-seeking adults. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 145, 347–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.11.003

Costa, A. C. dos S., Menon, V., Phadke, R., Dapke, K., Miranda, A. V., Ahmad, S., Essar, M. Y., & Hashim, H. T. (2022). Mental health in the post COVID-19 era: Future perspectives. Einstein (Sao Paulo), 20. https://doi.org/10.31744/einstein_journal/2022CE6760

Molfenter, T., Heitkamp, T., Murphy, A. A., Tapscott, S., Behlman, S., & Cody, O. J. (2021). Use of Telehealth in Mental Health (MH) Services During and After COVID-19. Community Mental Health Journal, 57(7), 1244–1251. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-021-00861-2

Vadivel, R., Shoib, S., Halabi, S. E., Hayek, S. E., Essam, L., Bytyçi, D. G., Karaliuniene, R., Teixeira, A. L. S., Nagendrappa, S., Ramalho, R., Ransing, R., Pereira-Sanchez, V., Jatchavala, C., Adiukwu, F. N., & Kundadak, G. K. (2021). Mental health in the post-COVID-19 era: Challenges and the way forward. General Psychiatry, 34(1), e100424. https://doi.org/10.1136/gpsych-2020-100424

Woodsome, K. (2023, October 21). Anxious Americans are determined to feel better. Here’s proof. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/09/01/mental-health-wins/ - no paywall here: https://wapo.st/45OI01i

  1. American Psychological Association, 2019. ^ ^2 ^3

  2. Woodsome, K., 2023. ^ ^2 ^3 ^4 ^5 ^6 ^7

  3. Costa, A. C. dos S., et al., 2022. ^

  4. Vadivel, R., et al., 2021. ^

  5. Molfenter, T., et al., 2021. ^

  6. Bulkes, N.Z., et al., 2022. ^

 

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