May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an opportunity for individuals, families, and communities to reflect on the value of accepting and addressing mental health conditions. Telemynd believes that all people, no matter their age, gender, work history, or income level, should have access to appropriate mental health care. Moreover, Telemynd is committed to destigmatizing mental health care for civilians, service members, veterans, and their families.
The Stigma Around Mental Health Care
Mental illness is incredibly common. A total of 22% of American adults experience mental illness each year, as do 16% of American children and teens. Getting treatment for mental health conditions is beneficial and effective for most people.
Despite this, only about half of people with mental illness receive treatment for their conditions. This may be due to a lack of access to mental health services or worries about how to afford treatment. Another barrier to receiving care is the fear of stigma attached to mental health disorders.
The American Psychiatric Association identifies three types of stigma relating to mental health conditions and mental health treatment:
- Public stigma: Negative or discriminatory attitudes that other people hold about mental illness.
- Self-stigma: Negative attitudes and internalized shame that people with mental illness have about themselves and their condition.
- Institutional stigma: Policies from government and private organizations that limit opportunities for people with mental illness. This can include issues such as inadequate funding for research on mental illness and treatment or lack of mental health services compared to services for other types of healthcare.
The stigma surrounding mental health care can especially affect groups such as active service members and veterans. Nearly 25% of active duty service members report mental health symptoms. Many avoid seeking care out of concern about what it will do to their careers. The armed forces have tried to address the military mental health stigma by ensuring that getting appropriate care will not affect military careers or security clearance.
In recent years, there have been efforts to break the stigma of mental illness and treatment for mental health conditions. Health insurance companies are now required to cover mental health services so people can access treatment more readily. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that help individuals access mental health care when they need it. In addition, discussions of mental health have become more public and widely accepted.
Mental Health Awareness Month 2023: Destigmatizing Mental Health Care
One of the primary goals for Mental Health Awareness Month in 2023 is to break the stigma of mental health and get treatment for mental health conditions. In recent years, celebrities and brands have joined mental health advocates to openly discuss mental health issues and change public perception of mental illness. These efforts are creating a culture of openness and community among people coping with mental health conditions. It helps set a precedent for talking honestly about mental health and shows a path forward for treatment.
- TikTok: Social media platform TikTok launched a Mental Health Awareness hub to highlight videos and creators addressing mental health topics and support organizations dedicated to raising awareness about mental health.
- MLB: Major League Baseball teams have worn green ribbons for Mental Health Awareness Month. Some teams have posted content discussing mental health treatment, with players opening up about their experiences with getting help when they need it.
- Celebrities: Guns’N’Roses bassist Duff McKagan released a song for Mental Health Awareness Month called “This Is The Song.” He shared his struggles with panic disorders alongside the release. In May 2023, Jason Sudeikis and the cast of the show Ted Lasso visited the White House for a live-streamed conversation about mental health. Singer Demi Lovato has been candid about seeking treatment for bipolar disorder and addiction. British Royal Prince Harry openly discusses his experience with PTSD and how therapy improved his mental health and his marriage, urging others to be open about their own mental health. On Price Harry’s docuseries about mental health, The Me You Can’t See, musician Lady Gaga opened up about her own struggles with PTSD.
- Social media campaigns: Mental health advocacy groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness encourage supporters to use social media to normalize discussions about mental health. The organization provides sample social media posts such as “Mental health affects ALL of us. Help us get the word out and start the conversation today! Visit: nami.org/mhm #MoreThanEnough @NAMICommunicate” to build awareness and direct people to resources for getting the help they need.
Changing Trends in Acceptance of Mental Health Treatment
The trend toward candid discussions of mental health and mental health treatment has affected how people respond to mental health concerns. In recent years, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has reported steady increases in the number of people seeking mental health care for any type of mental health condition. In 2015, 34.2 million adults aged 18 or older sought treatment for mental health conditions. By 2020, more than 41 million Americans received either inpatient or outpatient counseling or received a prescription to manage a mental health condition.
The changes are affecting groups of people who typically have not been as open to treating mental illness. Historically, men have been less likely to seek out mental health resources. That is changing as treatment becomes more widely accepted. SAMHSA reports an 11% increase in the number of men getting mental health treatment from 2008 to 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic was another factor in rolling back stigmas about mental health treatment. Fears about illness, stress from changes to work and family life, and the effects of social isolation negatively affected millions of people. The need for help seemed to overcome any concerns about the stigma attached to getting help, and more people sought out treatment in 2020 and 2021. Mental health care providers reported dramatic increases in requests for treatment. Even now, after the worst of the crisis, mental health care providers say they continue to receive calls from prospective patients asking for help with mental health conditions.
Taking Care of Mental Health
Even without fear of stigma, mental health is a complicated issue. People with mental health conditions and their loved ones may struggle to know what will help and how to access care.
Because mental health encompasses a broad range of conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Some conditions, such as bipolar disorder or depression, are linked to chemical imbalances, so medication is a primary treatment, alongside talk therapy and other supports. Conditions like PTSD occur in the wake of traumatic experiences, so treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy or working with a service animal may be effective. Some types of mental health conditions are temporary and resolve after treatment; others are lifelong and require continual or intermittent treatment.
Foundational steps can set up success in managing all kinds of mental health conditions. These steps can help people with mental health conditions as well as the people who care about them.
- Connect with loved ones: For many people, mental illness can be isolating, so having people to turn to can make it easier to get help and emotional support. Talking to trusted relatives, friends, or colleagues about mental health conditions is a way to gather support.
- Seek peer support: Talking to others who are experiencing similar mental health struggles can be helpful and affirming. Both people struggling with their mental health and those who care for them can benefit from peer support groups.
- Identify resources for professional help: Take the time to learn about available mental health services and engage them when necessary. This can include current or former therapists, primary care providers, mental health hotlines, or other resources.
- Plan out solutions in advance: Knowing what activities soothe mental health symptoms is valuable. Have a set of go-to solutions, such as taking a walk, calling a friend, listening to music, or engaging with nature. Using simple, effective options in the moment can help keep symptoms from escalating.
Telemynd Can Help
Telemynd is committed to ensuring access to comprehensive mental health solutions, without barriers. Our providers work to offer care that is appropriate, supportive, and free of judgment or stigma. Our telehealth platform is designed to broaden access to mental health services and remove obstacles to getting care.
Telemynd’s online platform works by matching people with the behavioral health specialists best suited to support them. We have a national network of therapists and prescribers who can address a wide range of mental health needs. In addition, Telemynd providers offer TRICARE-covered mental health services so that military members and their families have access to excellent mental healthcare.
All Telemynd services are conducted via secure video services. Access to mental health care at home offers a greater sense of privacy than having to take time off work or away from family for in-person appointments during business hours. People accessing virtual mental health services may feel less likely to be questioned or judged for seeking care. Virtual behavioral health services also help overcome institutional barriers to care, such as a lack of local providers, transportation issues, or limited office hours.