Every year thousands of people seek help for mental health. Yet, hospitals and emergency rooms are understaffed and underprepared for the plethora of mental health patients waiting to be seen. Opinions on mental health vary widely and often exist on a gray scale. Some believe we are living in an age stricken with a mental health epidemic that only continues to grow while others believe the rise of the mental health diagnoses stems from laziness and fear of facing problems head on.
The stigmatism surrounding mental health is dangerous on all sides–often times because it avoids the true core factors that cause mental health instability. The mental health stigma sometimes sways hospitals and government decisions to overlook mental health agendas which in turn causes further cases of mental health disparities and other patient crises which generally end in increased hospital visits and stays.
The NYC Health & Hospitals, New York City’s public hospitals system, has seen a decrease in inpatient mental health stay since 2014. Interestingly, “New York State is in the third year of a $7 billion Medicaid reform plan that encourages hospitals to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations, especially for mental illness, by instead investing in helping people manage their medications outside the hospital and integrating psychiatric care with other doctor visits” (Mueller, 2017).
Just in the first two years of the new plan, New York as a state reduced mental health patient emergency room care by 12%. With many patient experiences, especially mental health-related, the first hospital visit is often followed by even more hospital stays. For some mental health sufferers, the care they receive is bleak, disorganized, and reliant on a multitude of different medications. The inattention to root causes of mental health disorders can lead to misdiagnoses and misuse of medication.
The new strategy posed by the NYC Health & Hospitals has seen incredible outcomes and will hopefully result in a template for other hospitals and organizations to model themselves after. Positively, “a network of hospitals and community groups organized by the city’s public hospital system had a 5 to 9 percent decline in potentially preventable readmissions and potentially preventable emergency room visits from July 2015 to June 2016, meeting its targets” (Mueller, 2017).
Sadly, mental health cases are often lopped into one giant category of depression. While depression is an umbrella term which can include mental health, the lack of in-depth talk and care provided by healthcare professionals tends to overlook mental health episodes on an individual level and instead prompts increased prescriptions for antidepressants.
However, healthcare professionals are not directly to blame. Though mental health cases have increased, there exists none-to-very-few mental healthcare strategies or facilities linked to the average hospital. Treatment with medication is favored over more troublesome and time-consuming treatment or directions towards a psychiatrist’s care.
“Roughly 70 percent of hospital readmissions that New York State deems avoidable in the Medicaid system are for people with a primary diagnosis of behavioral health problems” (Mueller, 2017). Yet, understandably, hospitals are extremely busy places filled with the unexpected and the unknown.
If a willingness to dig deep to discover the root of the problem was favored and encouraged with regards to mental health, patients could receive the help they need on their first visit opposed to continued suffering with mental health disorders.
Click here for more information and statistics on mental health in the United States.
N. (n.d.). NAMI. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
Mueller, B. (2017, August 22). Public Hospitals Treat Greater Share of Mental Health Patients. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/nyregion/new-york-mental-health-hospitals.html