Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day Highlight the Future of Health Care

October 4th through October 10th is Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 10th is World Mental Health Day

NJAMHAA's Annual Conference Takes Place Virtually on October 29th and 30th

October 5, 2020

The year 2020 has been a challenging year for nearly everyone. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from July, 53 percent of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus (COVID-19). The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that this year has brought many challenges to healthcare workers, students, workers, people experiencing grief, and people with mental health conditions. The mental health statistics and challenges will be the primary focus during Mental Illness Awareness Week and on World Mental Health Day. However, it will also allow for the future of health care to be reimagined like it will be at NJAMHAA's upcoming Annual Conference, which will feature numerous presentations about innovations being implemented to increase access to services.

Healthcare workers have had to continue to provide care and cope with the fear of contractingCOVID-19 while on the job. In addition to social isolation and resulting depression and anxiety, students have had to adapt to virtual learning; many workers have had to cope with unemployment and economic consequences; and people with pre-existing mental health conditions experienced worsening symptoms. There are also people grieving for family and friends who have unfortunately lost their lives to COVID-19.

It is not just the United States that is experiencing a behavioral health crisis. According to the WHO, close to one billion people worldwide are living with a mental disorder and every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide. In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75 percent of people who have mental, neurological and/or substance use disorders receive no treatment for their conditions at all. This is due to stigma, discrimination and health legislation that fails to sufficiently increase access to services. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, these countries had limited affordable, quality mental health care, especially in countries experiencing high rates of poverty, conflict or a humanitarian crisis, and this situation has worsened during the crisis. The risk of COVID-19 infection has made people even more hesitant to seek mental health treatment, and for those who do pursue care, there are obstacles because many mental health facilities worldwide have closed.

"This has been a challenging year for everyone in the world, especially for people's mental health. People who have not experienced mental illness before might not recognize it when they do. People diagnosed with a mental illness before the pandemic could be struggling even more than before. While I wish that things were different, this is the reality that we are living in," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of NJAMHAA. "However, I refuse to lose hope. I am inspired by the creativity of our members who are continuing to provide treatment and services to their clients. These circumstances also lead us to reimagine behavioral healthcare frameworks and the different ways that services can be delivered. They also emphasize the importance of investing in mental health services."

October 4th to October 10th is Mental Health Awareness Week in the United States and October 10th is World Mental Health Day. The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is "7 Days, 7 Ways". Mental Health America will highlight seven mental health conditions that people often do not seek treatment for because symptoms in the early stages are not always recognizable. Mental Health America is also offering a free screening tool to determine if a person is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness. Click here to access social media graphics, digital events and seven ways to take action.

The theme for World Health Day this year is "Investing in Mental Health". The WHO states that countries on average only spend 2 percent of their overall health budgets on mental health services. In order to avoid a behavioral health crisis in parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to invest in all types of mental health services and delivery methods. This includes Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) and integrated care.

"The CCBHC model is designed to integrate behavioral health with physical health care, increase consistent use of evidence-based practices and improve access to high quality sustainable care, including access to care for veterans and active duty military," said Lisa Lawson, LCSW, Project Director of the CCBHC Expansion at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, a NJAMHAA member agency. "Our CCBHC, for example, offers many services in person, telephonically and via telehealth to best support the needs of military and veteran consumers seeking access to treatment services. We work in partnership with collaborating agencies, organizations, and the Department of Veteran Affairs to ensure that we are providing comprehensive services to the active duty military and veterans in the community."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has led to enhanced benefits of integrative care. The idea behind integrative care is overcoming arbitrary barriers to care. For example, a person may think that they are experiencing a mental health issue, but it could be a side effect from a type of medication that they are taking. This could result in the person receiving the incorrect treatment and them not getting better. The pandemic has allowed people to use technological resources, such as telehealth, to reach out to different people and to different systems, which facilitates a more integrated approach to care," said Jaime Arlia, LPC, ACS, Vice President of Children and Family Services at CarePlus NJ, and Amie Del Sordo, LCSW, Senior Vice President of Hospital and Community Services at CarePlus NJ, a NJAMHAA member agency.

As the undeniable impacts of COVID-19 and civil unrest emphasize the importance of improving the healthcare system, NJAMHAA will focus on needed changes and innovations during its Annual Conference, Reimagining Health Care. In order to deliver services and treatment, providers have had to reimagine how the services and treatment are delivered. This resulted in the almost overnight rise in the use of telehealth services, which largely have been received positively by both providers and patients. Providers are also beginning to reimagine more effective prevention, treatment and recovery strategies for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. At NJAMHAA's conference, the keynote speakers and workshop presenters, including Lisa Lawson, Jaime Arlia and Amie Del Sordo,will share their visions for an improved healthcare system that effectively meets all needs for every individual. The conference will take place virtually on Thursday, October 29, and Friday, October 30. Please visit www.njamhaa.org/events to learn more.


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