The topic of mental health and mental disorders is an often less discussed issue and still often stigmatized issue. While mental health disorders are affecting millions of people in the United States, it should be something addressed and not overlooked. It is important to address this topic because mental health disorders are one of the most common causes of disease for Americans. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 43.6 million (18.1%) of U.S. adults ages 18 years or older suffered from any mental illness and 9.
8 million (4.2%) suffered from a seriously debilitating mental illness. While mental health disorders affect a variety of people, new mental health issues have been emerging between the veteran and older adult populations. One of the Healthy People 2020 goals is to improve mental health through prevention and by ensuring access to appropriate, quality mental health services (Mental Health and Mental Disorders, n.d.).
The amount of people with mental health disorders who do not receive treatment is quite alarming.
According to the data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 35% of adults with serious mental health issues are not receiving treatment. The majority of those that do seek treatment, 65%, are mostly for the mental health issue of depression. Utilization of these mental health services varies by race, with 17% Whites and Native Americans utilizing, 9% Blacks, 7% Hispanics, and 5% Asians (Mohan et al., 2006). According to research done on utilization, females were most likely to use mental health services and those in the 25-44-year-old age population were significantly more likely to use the services (Narrow et al.
, 2000). Veterans are a specific population we can look at to quantify those living with mental health disorders, and how many of those are actually utilizing services. Since 2001, there have been about 1.64 million service members deployed. An estimated 31% of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health condition or reported experiencing a traumatic brain injury (Tanielian et al., 2008). It is alarming to say that only about 50% of returning vets who need veteran mental health treatment will receive these services according to a study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There are many barriers such as access, money, and stigma that contribute to why those who need mental health treatment are not seeking it.
Some social determinants that play a role in why many people have mental health disorders are socioeconomic status, gender, prenatal and early childhood experiences, and employment status. As with many other circumstances, those that are poor and less advantaged suffer disproportionately than their counterparts. Prevalence of depression and anxiety, common mental health disorders, are shown to be 2.5 times higher for those with low socioeconomic status than high status. Gender also plays a major role and women tend to have higher rates of mental disorders compared to men at every level of household income (Allen et al., 2014). One’s prenatal and early childhood experiences are often overlooked when determining causes of mental health disorders. Children of depressed mothers are at a greater risk of being underweight and pre-term and low birth weight babies may well themselves develop depression later on in life (Allen et al. 2014). Children that are from emotionally unstable homes and experience physical and emotional neglect are also likely to experience mental health conditions as adults. Unemployment status and job security and a sense of satisfaction and control at work are also factors that play a role in mental health disorders.
There are numerous ways we can improve mental health by using prevention strategies and providing better access to treatments. There are some programs currently in place to provide services for mental health illnesses. HopeWay is an accredited nonprofit mental health treatment center that provides the best practices in mental health care and education for adults and their families. HopeWay offers many programs within their facility to help those with depressive disorders, bipolar, anxiety, trauma and stress disorders, and those struggling with substance abuse. Their services include art therapy, individual and group therapy, music therapy, and physical recreational activities. A new and upcoming intervention to mental health diseases is the use of music therapy. There is evidence-based research done on the effectiveness of the incorporation of music therapy for those struggling with depression. In a study conducted by Aalbers and colleagues, a meta-analysis showed that music therapy plus treatment, as usual, is more effective than treatment alone (Aalbers et al., 2017). They suggest music therapy should be considered in combination with standard care to provide the most beneficial treatment. Another policy we can implement is providing mental health interventions in early childhood education systems. This should be a priority as with conditions such as mental health disorders, prevention is key. Preventing mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression early on will reduce the amount of people this disorder will later impact. Early identification and treatment become imperative to mitigate risk factors and increase protective factors, which in turn affect early brain development and ultimately the adaptations of growing children (Carrey et al., 2014). Another policy that should be implemented is to increase funding for the Veterans Administration healthcare system, as this is a program/resource available to veterans with mental health disorders such as PTSD. It is available, but the lack of funds makes this service not as assessable and many veterans don’t seek help. It’s also important for primary care providers to become educated in accessing and screening veterans for military service and PTSD. Provider’s lack of education on veteran’s health and provider’s failure to assess for post-traumatic stress disorder is why veterans are not seeking the help they need (Harrigan, 2018).
It is important to implement the current programs and interventions for mental health disorders. By using prevention strategies and programs, we can begin to reduce the amount of those who will get a mental illness later on in life. Implementing mental health interventions early on in the school system will help to prevent children from developing these disorders. Pro is this is cost-efficient and can easily be incorporated in the classroom setting with classes and education. Implementing music therapy is another cost-efficient program we can incorporate to treat mental health. It has great results and proven effectiveness in treating these diseases in addition to regular treatment. A con to making the Veterans Administration more accessible for veterans is the funding for resources. A pro though which can be easily implemented is providing education for primary care providers to be able to access and screen for post-traumatic stress in veterans. All of these are great programs and intervention strategies, which will help with mental health and mental disorders affecting so many in the United States.