Mental Health is presenting unprecedented challenges

In a recent article in Benefits Pro, a piece on the rising mental health challenges caught my eye. An excerpt from the article follows:

“A new report from consulting firm McKinsey finds ‘unprecedented’ behavioral health challenges among Gen Z Americans. The age group, which ranges from middle-school students to younger members of the workforce, has significantly more issues with behavioral health than other age groups, the study found. Their conclusions are not unique: the U.S. Surgeon General recently issued a public advisory describing a ‘youth mental health crisis,’ which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report pointed to consumer surveys that found Gen Z members more likely to report behavioral health issues, more likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions, and more likely to contemplate suicide than other generations.”

Unfortunately, there remains a stigma attached to mental health that prevents too many from getting the needed help. With that said, a possible reason for the uptick is more younger folks are realizing the need than in previous demographic generations. Nonetheless, getting help is something that should be easily enabled. And, it is not just medicine that should be prescribed. Therapy paired with medicine is essential to getting the most productive level of help.

Before I retired as consultant, I used to travel with a behavioral psychologist who helped large companies set up mental health programs for its employees, including depression and obesity management ones. She would tell our clients that 1 in 5 people will have some level of mental health issue in their lifetime. She would add that if she looked at any prescription drug claims report, she would see 10% of the prescriptions be for mental health issues. What she was looking for is who prescribed the Rx, as she would prefer to see a psychiatrist rather a general practitioner.

I have a number of friends and relatives who have had mental health challenges, often multiple diagnoses – anxiety and paranoia are often paired together, eg. Therapy is the key. Having someone to help work through the problems is essential to managing them. The word management is critical as many of these problems don’t go away, so having tools to deal with them on a daily basis is utile.

Rather offer advice that I am not qualified to give, let me just say this simply. If you, a loved one or friend are having mental health issues, get or encourage them to get help from a therapist. Often, the therapy will come from a licensed clinical social worker LCSW. Your health plan or other networks will have several therapists to offer, so go through their bios and typical clients. They will suggest a psychiatrist if medicine is in order. Yet, if you or your relative or friend are having suicidal thoughts, call 911 or a suicide hotline (see below) and don’t wait on a therapist.

Life can be beautiful, but it is also hard. Sometimes it is harder than it needs to be. Just because you need help is nothing, I repeat nothing, to feel bad about whether you are the one in need or if it is your child. Get help. And, manage those challenges.

20 thoughts on “Mental Health is presenting unprecedented challenges

  1. Note to Readers: Having been involved with helping homeless working families, a key data point is the level of PTSD is very high in the mother (and/ or father) as well as the kids. This places additional challenges for all concerned. This is especially exacerbated if a reason they are homeless is due to exiting a domestic violence situation.

    A recent blog by a divorced mother spoke of the same kinds of PTSD on her kids. So, it gives an extra set of challenges to kids who are have difficulty coping with the divorce, especially if other issues are present. Multiple symptom issues are not uncommon.

  2. It is so important that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of. The worst is when people are embarrassed, push it aside, and believe they have to handle it on their own. A temporary problem can become a chronic issue that gets worse and it becomes more and more difficult to communicate it. So, that awareness to seek professional help is as normal as if you go to a doctor to treat a heavy cold. I think the biggest and most significant step is to admit it to themselves. Therefore, information about therapy is essential.

  3. Note to Readers II: A therapist for one of my relatives provided an article called “Avoiding Stinking Thinking.” Specifically, the article speaks to recognize when you are having unproductive thoughts from paranoia to anxiety related to depressive or other. The key is to identify the thoughts as stinking or not with merit and to get up a do something different. It could be doing a household chore or taking a walk or doing yoga. Just do something else. Of course, these thoughts should be discussed with your therapist when you speak with him or her.

  4. Wisely said. Mental health meds need to be administered hand-in-hand with talk therapy so the patient learns to understand their issue and recognize warning signs and thought patterns that can so easily derail their progress.

  5. Thanks for sharing these encouraging words. If I may add, if attending appointments with a therapist doesn’t seem to be working out, it’s sometimes helpful to get a second opinion, just as someone would with a diagnosis by their family physician. Counseling, therapy, psychology, psychiatry involves many levels of care, and their training can be in a wide variety of disciplines. If possible, take time to do background research on them as you would any professional. Don’t give up.

    • Rose, terrific advice. Thanks for adding. One person may click with a therapist, while another may not. It takes time as well to build a rapport. Thanks, Keith

  6. I can say from personal experience, getting help is absolutely critical to treating mental illness. Men especially feel they have to slay this dragon by themselves, but it’s just too powerful, which is why many of them commit suicide. I’m better now because I got help. There is no shame whatsoever in doing so.

  7. Keith this is an insightful and helpful article. From a direct service perspective, I can certainly attest to the increase in individuals seeking support. My clinical colleagues and I receive many calls each day. We cannot meet this growing need in terms of availability. It is, I believe, a testament to our nations growing need. the level of despair that this Pandemic has facilitated, the many social issues that have exponentially increased, and our growing awareness of the ongoing inequalities and our own mortality. It is an awful lot to confront in a very short time period of time. We will all cope the best we can, and it is normative in the context of increased experiences of stress for one’s predominate coping strategies (healthy or otherwise) to increase.

    Suicidality is quickly becoming its own epidemic, and as you note much increased in adolescents and young adults. It is truly alarming. I genuinely appreciate your compassionate approach this needed subject and the many points you bring forward in your article.

    • LaDonna, many thanks for offering your experiences. It is sad that insufficient numbers of professionals like yourself are available to meet the rising need. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Keith

  8. Note to Readers: Based on experience with a couple of relatives, being there for them is most helpful. Being able to reinforce the good things that occur is just as helpful as noting that some bad thoughts are normative for others. This latter point helps when the person sometimes blows some thoughts out of proportion. Yet, again we must tread carefully. The best thing we do is encourage them to speak with a therapist about issues that bother them most.

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