Our need to address our mental health routines was always long overdue. Then the pandemic happened. As of 2022, 40% of adults suffer from some form of mental illness or substance addiction issue. Mental health progress has long faced hurdles of stigmatization and access. Additionally, the challenges of the early 2020s are further exacerbating the mental health epidemic. Let’s discuss the landscape of mental health challenges to understand opportunities for making long-overdue strides in addressing them.

Mental health is a complicated, sensitive, and truly important topic. An article of this nature can never capture the magnitude of the challenges we are facing. However, I am hopeful this prompts an understanding and framework that promotes thought, perspective sharing, and a solution mindset. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Exacerbating Factors of Public Mental Health

Mental health is always a daunting public health task but there are plenty of reasons it has been especially top of mind in recent years. The combination of the chaos of 2020 with the societal adjustments to social media is helping create a perfect storm.

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We are still coming to grips with the impacts of 2020 and everything that it threw at us. We are seeing communities more divided and people generally living more isolated lives. As we are driven further from each other physically, we are also driven further into the clutches of digital media. The impacts on children are already well-documented and resounding. We are only scratching the surface of its impact on adults and how it impacts our society further.

As we work through these 2020 growing pains, we also face future economic uncertainty. The impact of recessions on public health are well documented and something we need to proactively discuss in the coming months.

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Challenges in The Mental Health Landscape

A massive addressable problem in the mental health landscape is a lack of awareness and treatment. The vast majority of individuals with a substance use disorder in the U.S. are not receiving treatment. 15.35% of adults had a substance use disorder in the past year. Of them, 93.5% did not receive any form of therapy. The average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.

There are two reasons for these barriers to addressing mental health:

Stigmatization has long plagued the necessary conversations around better mental health routines. These are both public and self-stigmas. As a result, people have avoided treatment, or have denied the existence of any of their problems to start with. These stigmas have obvious impacts on exacerbating individuals’ mental health. However, these individual impacts have far-reaching societal implications as well.

The other main challenge is accessing. This is where institutional scars start to show in our mental health dialogue. Many of the steps industries have taken to reduce expenses have led to the tragic overprescription of various drugs that many argue make the issue worse on a macro scale (although this is a complex and debated point). Access to quality and personal care faces many issues of affordability.

What needs to be addressed is finding ways to provide easy and meaningful access to mental health care. Meaningful mental healthcare entails a complex focus on changing behaviors, routines, and systems that help us achieve inner peace and self-esteem.

Technology provides interesting avenues toward affordable and accessible solutions as evidenced by the rise of self-therapy start-ups.

How do we promote better mental health routines?

How do we solve the issue of access to affordable, personalized, and comprehensive mental health services that promote productive mental health routines? How have the needs for mental health services changed over the past two years? What are the most pressing external and internal stigmas around mental health that must be addressed?

Two Primary Components of Mental Health Routines

Mental health treatment requires both extreme nuance and unwavering consistency. Not every person has the same problem, or processes and treats said problems the same. Mental health treatment should hope to mimic both a therapist and a personal trainer.

One component entails an introspective process of understanding the root of our greatest emotional challenges and how they manifest negatively in our daily lives. After such, we must work tirelessly to change our habits, routines, and behavior to feed positive changes to our quality of life.

Deep Nuanced Introspection

Everyone has different issues derived from different causes, that manifests differently in each of our lives. One size does not fit all and to truly seek to treat mental health challenges, we must master this introspective process with the help of a therapist (or a similar figure).

Re-training The Way We Process Our Mental Health

Simple awareness is valuable but alone does us very little good. The root item we seek to solve involves a solution to something that is negatively affecting our quality of life. That could be our career trajectory, our relationship with our children, our issues coping with anger, or even our physical appearance.

Making these improvements come down to establishing strong habits and hard-coding behavior change. This is where the ‘trainer’ role of mental health treatment comes into play. Like building a new muscle, our mental health routines improve over time with consistent work daily.

The pursuit of a better life entails ups and downs but a steady positive trajectory over months (or years) of work. Ideally, our ‘trainer’ is there with us every step of the way to reinforce our goals, and track our progress.

The problem remains access to Mental Health Care

Access to mental health treatment remains the primary obstacle. There are not enough therapists to help us through the introspective process that lays our foundation for growth and said therapists do not have the time to be there with us every step of the way.

There are also the financial and logistical components of access which inevitably affect some groups of people over others. Finding the right access is crucial to creating more effective and equitable mental health care in the future. But how do we create accessible, affordable, and effective tools to drive better mental outcomes? Is technology a viable avenue to pursue? Let me know in the comments!