Let’s get the obvious out of the way, mental health illness and substance abuse numbers have been on the incline since 2019. We think it’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic is the largest contributor to these increases.
The pandemic has greatly affected our habits and rituals. Today, mental illnesses are more serious and prevalent amongst adults and adolescents. we’ve also seen a greater public acknowledgement and awareness of mental health than ever before. Large brands such as Nike are taking a stand and making efforts to educate athletes about mental health and burnout.
We’ve seen numerous mental health startup companies appear in the past year, as well as new behavioral health facilities being opened across the United States.
Substance use has also increased. There are countless studies about the current opioid crisis, as well as increases in alcohol and drug abuse. Stress, fear, and loneliness all playing major roles in these increases.
As we look at the state of behavioral health in 2022, we looked at trends and stats from the past two years to better understand what experts are seeing and predicting we’ll be in the next few years.
Mental Illness Deserves A Bigger Discussion
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 19.86% of adults in the US experienced a mental illness. This is equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans. Early reports suggest that 1 in 5 Americans suffered from a mental illness in 2021, which would increase that number to roughly 66 million Americans.
It’s not surprise that the pandemic has had a direct and immediate impact on our mental health. Even if you only had a pulse on society and trending topics, you quickly pick up on the public emphasis being placed on self-care, behavioral health treatment, and mental health awareness. This increase in numbers is visible with the growing demand for behavioral health services around the country.
In just the past 12 months alone, facilities have seen increases in intakes and new patient requests, more days authorized (and denied for some), and a demand for additional in-house staff.
Of those near 66 million Americans with a mental illness, 6 in 10 do not get treatment or medication. What’s scary is that this number is only rising with the pandemic and high-quality patient care is becoming more difficult to come by.
We’re seeing facilities get slowed down with the burden of recruiting and retention, management of internal operations, and overall stress of babysitting the day-to-day administrative tasks.
Introducing Blood Test for Mental Illness
In April 2021, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine developed a blood test for mental illness, suggesting that within RNA biomarkers, biological markers for mood disorders can be found.
This breakthrough study suggests that a blood test could determine the severity of depression or the risk of developing severe depression and bipolar disorder in the future. This blood test could also help with an individual’s medication choices.
While this test is in early stages, it shows us how medicine is advancing and what possibilities are on the horizon.
“This method will remain an adjunctive to traditional diagnostic tools, as mental illnesses are complex and have biological, psychological, and sociocultural etiologies,” said Nathaniel Ivers, PhD, department chair and associate professor at Wake Forest University.
Social Media Needs Healthy Boundaries
Unhealthy social media habits are nothing groundbreaking, but this topic continues to gain traction. It’s a constant battle with social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok demanding our time and energy.
According to the National Center for Health Research, 13% of kids ages 12-17 report depression, and 32% report anxiety after reviewing their social media.
We expect to hear more conversations in 2022 about “digital wellness” and creating healthy boundaries with social media. Ongoing research will continue to expose the negative effects these platforms have on adolescents and adults.
The scrutiny of social media on mental health will continue and increase. To change the narrative and take this from a conversation to action, is definitive action by lawmakers.
According to Ivers, the mental health effects of “doom scrolling” and virtual privacy could see more traction in 2022 as well.
Investing in Teleheath
The pandemic accelerated man innovations and cultural shirts. One of those was the palpable shift from analog services to digital services. The analog world is quickly disappearing in favor of digital experiences and solutions.
Telehealth is proof of the digital advancement in behavioral health. Telepsychology and telepsychiatry will become part of normal operations for behavioral health facilities over the next several years.
Telehealth will quickly become a common and demanded form of patient care. When health leaders are making decisions on the future direction of behavioral health, digital solutions will be at the forefront of discussions.
In some instances, while in-person meetings and services will still be required, but this doesn’t mean that a hybrid approach should be ignored.
A few questions to keep in mind about telehealth as you go throughout 2022:
- How can your facility expand services to accommodate telehealth?
- How do you offer the proper balance of services so in-person access is still valuable?
- How can patients still progress through telehealth?
Support and solutions for digital health products will continue to increase over the next few years, but now is the time to be thinking of ideas and having conversations about successful outcomes that include telehealth.
What other trends would you anticipate seeing more of in 2022?