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The Healthcare Sector Being Challenged to Improve Mental Health

A professional and personal obligation requires that mental health treatment be provided on par with physical health care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the nation’s mental health crisis and compelled us to give it top priority by making mental health a vital part of comprehensive healthcare. Thanks to the current mindset that it’s “OK to not be OK,” the stigma connected with mental health concerns is thankfully beginning to fade.
When you consider that more than 50 million Americans already have a known mental health problem and that far too few of them receive the necessary care, it is imperative to normalize the dialogue around mental health. Additionally, approximately 120 million Americans, or more than one-third of the population, reside in areas where there is a dearth of mental health professionals. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, making it an excellent moment to assess our progress in closing the nation’s wide gaps.
To gauge public opinion on mental health in America, CVS Health and Morning Consult just conducted our fifth survey since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The emergence of certain encouraging tendencies was encouraging. In fact, 56% of respondents said society had become more receptive to having conversations about mental health. Here are some further important conclusions:

* More people in America are worried about their own mental health or the mental health of a friend or relative.

Almost 60% of those polled said they had worries about their own mental health or the mental health of their friends and family.

*People can handle their mental health with the use of technology.

According to 63% and 58% of respondents, respectively, society is more at ease using psychiatric telemedicine for therapy and digital tools to improve mental health.

*The proper culture for mental health needs to be fostered in the workplace.

Only 35% of employed persons felt comfortable talking about mental health with a coworker, despite the fact that 74% of employed adults thought that businesses should provide their workers with resources and access to mental health treatments.

These figures serve as a wake-up call and guide our work in the healthcare sector. I’m hopeful that health care leaders can encourage Americans to understand physical and mental health as being interrelated rather than as two distinct things. It is our duty to promote systemic changes and assist people in comprehending and managing their overall health.
I have the honor of managing more than 43,000 colleagues in meeting the healthcare needs of 24.5 million members as the CEO of Aetna, a CVS Health company. A professional and personal obligation is to ensure that mental health care and awareness are on par with physical health care. I see three key areas where we need to take initiative:

1. Increase convenient and easy access to mental health care.

It is crucial to make sure that our teams are identifying and supporting competent providers and providing the resources necessary to fulfill various consumer requirements because access is a critical factor in determining who receives mental health care and who does not. This is why I am happy that the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics has the backing of the CVS Health Foundation in its efforts to increase the number of certified mental health clinicians offering services to the underserved.

We also aim to ensure that our members may readily obtain the high-quality treatment they require by offering options for on-site care, telemedicine, or a hybrid approach. In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, Aetna has observed a 1,000-fold increase in telehealth visits: in 2019, we sponsored 10,000 virtual mental health consultations, but in 2018 – astonishingly – that figure was more than 10 million.

We must continue to increase access to mental health services that encourage people to seek care when, where, and in a way that is comfortable to them.

2. Encourage customers to engage in open discussion about the significance of tackling mental health.

When I think back on the talks I’ve had with customers over the past two years, it’s been uncommon for mental health to come up. To make sure that we are creating benefit packages or other services that represent mental health as a crucial aspect of holistic health, this dialogue is essential.

Building healthy and effective workforces requires that we insist on addressing the issues that have surfaced in recent years. The conversation will be advanced through the use of marketing materials, reference books, mental health resource websites, specialized counsel (such as suicide prevention materials), and even resources like this article or our survey data.

3. Establish a culture in the workplace that supports and acknowledges mental health support.

Employees are dealing with a lot of stress as a result of an evolving work environment. Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, jobs are becoming more mobile and remote. Although the flexibility has its advantages, it also brings with it new difficulties, like a blurred border between work and personal time, back-to-back video chats, no set start or stop time, less in-person connection, and more isolation. Companies have a responsibility to recognize these stressors and offer their staff members services and tools for mental wellness.

People can bring their best selves to work if they are given the tools to take charge of their mental health and carve out time for themselves. At CVS Health, we’re aiming to establish a culture that fosters a supportive and welcoming workplace for coworkers, placing a priority on mental health and placing a focus on open communication. One of our initial initiatives included making the Thrive app available to all personnel, subcontractors, and their families in order to enhance attention, fortify relationships with others, and enhance general wellbeing. A culture that normalizes and promotes the conversation of mental health in the workplace will be cultivated if executives can set an example by doing so.

The results of our poll and other investigations are positive. Although Americans are becoming more concerned about their mental health, they are also becoming more at ease with having the talks that will ultimately result in receiving treatment. In the healthcare sector, it is our responsibility to ensure that this holds true and that individuals in need have easy access to the resources and treatments they require. In the end, getting care for anxiety, depression, or any of the other countless mental health conditions people experience should be as routine as getting an annual medical, the flu shot, or treatment for a broken bone.

We at CVS Health and Aetna are working hard to increase access to mental health care, develop holistic care solutions that customers need, and foster a culture of support and acceptance that dispels any stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment. I enlist the support of my fellow industry executives to make sure that healthcare is genuinely all-inclusive and holistic. In the end, mental wellness is crucial for total health.

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