Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs every year during the first week of October, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the purpose is to “raise awareness, fight discrimination, and provide support.” Hospital Council also believes this week emphasizes how important mental health is to a person’s overall health.
Despite the critical need for mental health services, it is one of the first programs that hospitals cut due to the high cost and intensity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this deficit in the continuum of care, and it continues to be a common issue for many of our hospitals.
I understand this issue firsthand because of my family’s own experiences with mental health and the behavioral health care continuum. My 22-year-old daughter Meghan is on the autism spectrum and has sensory integration disorder. She has received partial hospitalization in Ohio twice and during this time has worked with 13-14 different providers due to complications with people leaving and insurance. I had to be an advocate for my daughter to get the mental health services she needed, and my daughter had to be an advocate for herself.
My 15-year-old daughter Zoey has depression. It is already challenging to navigate high school, and her struggles with mental health further complicate things. When she admitted to having thoughts of self-harm, we took her to the hospital. She was immediately assessed and began a partial hospitalization program in California. Through this program, she learned communication strategies for when she feels depressed or anxious and learned that she does not have to go through a mental health crisis alone.
My children’s experiences with the behavioral health care continuum show the importance of having advocates for behavioral health when our patients need it. Hospital Council understands how critical it is for our hospitals to be there for patients 24/7, as well as the ability to provide a full range of services. Investing in prevention, early intervention, and a continuum of services in every community will help patients nationwide with behavioral health needs avoid acute care, hospitalization, incarceration, conservatorships, and institutionalization.