Individuals battling mental illness often face a two-pronged challenge: one against the illness itself, and the second against the stigma of admitting they need help. Fortunately, over the past several years, tremendous strides have been made in technology, medical research, and public education to improve the quality, convenience, and social acceptance of mental health treatment.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults are living with some form of mental illness. With tens of million affected, making strides in mental health care is a national imperative. Here are three trends in mental health treatment that are likely to change the outlook for patients in the years to come.
Mental Health Technology
Technology has changed every facet of modern life, including the way we shop, work, learn, handle our finances, consume entertainment, and even how we access medical care. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual office visits became a widely available option for routine medical concerns. Not only do virtual visits help protect patients from infection, they also provide a convenient, time-efficient way for patients to confer with their doctors on medical issues that do not require a physical examination.
For mental health treatment specifically, the availability of online resources is a major advantage. An article from Maryville University (https://online.maryville.edu/blog/future-psychiatry/) notes that virtual therapy sessions are particularly helpful for patients who might feel uncomfortable with the idea of walking into a mental healthcare facility. Virtual options are also a big convenience for residents of rural communities, where mental healthcare facilities are less plentiful than they are in urban areas.
The adoption of digital health technologies accelerated tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NIMH reports how easy it has become for consumers to receive mental health support on their smartphones or tablets through an ever-growing number of apps. There are apps that track your moods and behavior patterns, others that can connect you quickly to a counselor or healthcare professional, and still others help you manage stress, anxiety, or sleep problems.
Mental Health Research
The Maryville University article describes several breakthroughs that have helped in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Among the most promising developments, mental health researchers are now able to identify genes that correlate with specific mental illnesses. Based on this information, psychiatrists and other practitioners can pinpoint the causes of mental illnesses and provide specialized treatment plans.
Ongoing NIMH-supported research includes leveraging mobile and other technologies to develop, test, and deliver preventive and treatment interventions for anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other mental disorders. Additional innovations use patient- and clinician-facing digital monitoring devices, smartphones, and various applications or dashboards to detect changes in patient status that might signal the need for services to prevent relapse or hospitalization.
Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness
Historically there has been a stigma associated with mental illness, which too often has led to people suffering in silence out of fear they will be judged harshly if they reach out for help. Fortunately, greater access to educational resources is helping to reduce this stigma. Widespread education is helping to change the public’s perception by helping people realize that mental illness is common and treatable. It should not be a source of shame but, like a physical illness, something to address and resolve with the help of qualified professionals.
Additionally, more and more people are speaking out about their mental health challenges. Numerous celebrities have talked openly in television interviews and on social media about their battles with alcohol and drug addiction, depression, and anxiety. With so many prominent people describing how they have dealt with their mental health issues, the hope is that they will be an inspiration to others to seek help for their issues as well.
A Hopeful Future
These three trends have led to advancements in mental health awareness and treatment that are producing positive outcomes for greater numbers of people. The latest technology and diagnostic tools, coupled with a lessening of the stigma that has thwarted people from seeking help, point to a brighter and more hopeful future.
Mental health challenges should not be a source of shame. Turn to the compassionate professionals at Beachside Rehab to discuss your mental healthcare needs. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to learn more.
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