Based on a comprehensive analysis of insurance claims that was published in the JAMA Health Forum, it’s clear as day that the demand for mental health care escalated significantly during the brutal times of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the period stretching from March 2020 to August 2022, there was an upswing of 39% in mental health visits, coupled with a whopping 54% hike in expenditures. This study further underscored a tenfold surge in the use of telehealth specifically for tending to mental health concerns. The prime culprits behind these visits were anxiety (45%), depression (33%), PTSD (10%), bipolar disorder (9%), and schizophrenia making up just a slim portion at 2.6%.
Teletherapy and Insurance Challenges
Teletherapy lowered barriers to regular visits, facilitating a smoother mental health care experience for patients. Christopher M. Whaley, a healthcare economist at the RAND Corporation and an author of the study, remarked on the escalating costs due to this surge, leading to raised premiums and higher deductibles. Whaley also noted the challenge for insurers, highlighting that untreated patients may neglect medications and are more prone to emergency situations, thereby adding more costs.
The Changing Face of Therapy in the U.S.
Talking about mental health nowadays is as normal as talking about the weather, showing up in everything from books and films to podcasts. Even famous folks like celebrities and politicians aren’t shying away from it. According to Uncle Sam’s stats, nearly one out of every eight adults in the U.S. is on some sort of mood elevator, while a fifth has knocked on the door of a mental health care professional recently. That’s an uptick of a whopping 15 million people since the turn of the millennium in 2002.
Paradox of Rising Therapy and Declining Mental Health
Even though more folks are heading to therapy, America’s mental health stats are still on the slide: suicides are skyrocketing and fewer adults reckon their heads are in tip-top shape. It got Dr. Thomas Insel, who used to run the National Institute of Mental Health, scratching his noggin. He’s seriously stumped as to why our mental well-being isn’t on the up and up like other health issues such as cancer or heart disease.
Is Mental Health Care Truly Effective?
Dr. Robert Trestman of the APA points to the destigmatization of mental health as a positive sign, leading more people to seek care. Conversely, societal challenges, including the pandemic and the Great Recession, have escalated mental health concerns. However, a deeper issue may lie in the foundation of modern psychiatry itself. Critics argue that therapies and medications might not be diving deep enough to address the core issues.
The Complexities of Diagnosis
In contrast to other medical fields, psychiatry doesn’t exactly have clear-cut data for diagnosis. Instead, it usually leans on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is largely symptom-based. Dr. Paul Minot, a significant voice in psychiatry, has openly criticized this method. He points out the “grey area” that exists within mental health diagnoses. Research suggests overdiagnosis and misdiagnosis are common in psychiatry, and diagnosis determines treatment, leading to inefficiencies. Individuals like Joseph Mancuso, a Texas-based music producer, have been on the receiving end of this flawed system, going through multiple diagnoses and treatments without clear results.
Effectiveness of Current Treatments
Even popular treatments might not be universally effective. A 2019 review found that half of the supposedly evidence-backed mental health treatments lacked credible evidence. This doesn’t discount the effectiveness of therapy but calls for an emphasis on therapeutic styles with strong supporting data.
The rise in mental health care use, paired with declining mental health in the U.S., paints a complex picture of the current landscape. While therapy has been destigmatized and is more accessible, the efficacy and approach of treatments remain subjects of debate. As the nation grapples with these challenges, the call for more targeted, effective, and evidence-backed treatments becomes even more pressing.