MENTAL HEALTH & Its Economic, Societal, and Individual Costs – Part 6
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MENTAL HEALTH & Strategies for Achieving Better Mental Health
A number of authorities have argued that developing programs for achieving better mental health should be a priority in the 21st century. The cost to society economically and to individuals, in terms of broken lives and relationships, makes finding effective solutions an imperative. With the aged segment of the population growing as much as the general population, mental health problems and illnesses will continue to grow through the century if the status quo is maintained.
In an ideal world, we would eliminate things like war, violence, and economic instability that aggravate mental health problems and are associated with increased risk for developing mental illnesses, mood, anxiety, and substance abuse. Furthermore, our formal education would include learning strategies and techniques for managing and optimizing our psychological state, emotions, and relationships. Such strategies and techniques have the potential to bring tremendous improvements in mental health in not just North America, but globally.
Realistically, none of these things are likely to happen in the near future. Nor is it likely that we are going to discover cures for more serious mental illnesses, e.g. schizophrenia and dementia, any time soon. Because of this reality, it behoves us to develop and embrace strategies that will help those people, who are currently suffering from the consequences of some mental health problem or illness, to achieve recovery. For those who aren’t suffering, it doesn’t mean that they won’t in the future. Nor does it mean that their lives are problem free. It makes sense to use the same strategies to increase the resiliency of these people, enabling everyone to maximize good mental health. Because of the limited resources at our disposal, especially when considering the magnitude of the problem, any strategy to optimizing mental health needs to emphasize the development of programs that are highly effective, highly efficient, and that can reach the greatest number of people.
Models that emphasize prevention are ideal approaches to responding to the mental health needs of the 21st century. Accumulated data has shown that taking a proactive approach to physical health can significantly reduce medical costs. In the same vein, taking a proactive approach toward mental health will decrease the costs associated with responding to mental health problems and illnesses. For example, treating mental health needs in children and adolescents will reduce the need for treatment in adults. This, in turn, will reduce the monetary costs associated with mental health issues, such as incarceration, lost work productivity, and increased disability expenditures. On the other hand, creating educational programs that focus on answering such questions as “What is mental health” and “How to achieve mental health” will reduce both direct and indirect costs of mental health problems and illnesses by: 1) Reducing the stigma mental health issues; 2) Teaching people the skills needed to manage their own mental health: 3) Providing people with the knowledge needed to be a caretaker of someone with mental health issues. In short, proactive programs will increase the resiliency of people, thereby resulting in an increased portion of the population that is happy, healthy, and able to fully participate in their community without needing to seek mental health treatment.
For those who do suffer a mental health problem or illness, more effective and efficient recovery treatment models that are responsive to what the client perceives as their needs will have to be developed. There are numerous treatment approaches that have been developed over the last century that have all been demonstrated to have equivalent clinical efficacy. Which of these approaches should any clinical setting emphasize at any given time is beyond the scope of this paper. Instead, the focus is on what the advanced behavioral sciences have found to be critical to any successful treatment protocol. Applying these findings to any treatment model will only increase its effectiveness.
Learn more about the skills that will increase our resiliency.