Kelsey Bates, APRN
Why, why, why??? Why is the mental health crisis in America currently at an all-time high? And what can we do to reverse the issue? The answer to both questions is a multifactorial one. Below I’ve listed a few of the general problems and potential solutions, not listed in any specific order. This is not a complete list, but it is a start to some of society’s foundational issues.
Causes of Mental Health Issues and Solutions
|Social media||Significantly reduce use or avoid completely|
|Television||Reduce viewing time or avoid completely|
|Lack of purpose||Finding a positive purpose|
|Not knowing/believing in something greater than|
|Finding and knowing something greater than|
|Lack of boundaries||Teach and set clear boundaries (start at an early|
|Isolation||Get connected with others, in person, not via|
|Cell phones||Put the phone away|
|Computer/video games||Significantly limit screen time|
|Sedentary lifestyle||Increase physical activity|
|Unhealthy diet||Eat a nutritious diet|
|Lack of effective communication skills||Encourage/teach positive communication skills|
|Unstable, unloving home environment||Create a stable and loving home environment|
|Lack of God in homes/society||Draw closer to God, read the Bible and pray daily|
I realize some people will laugh at this list and not agree with it. We are all entitled to our own beliefs, and I truly believe if as a society we could start working on these issues we would see a drastic improvement in the populations overall mental health. For many of these issues it is an “easier said than done” scenario and might be difficult for some to begin to work on these solutions. But we must try and as health care providers we must be positive examples for our patients, families, and communities.
Management Options vs. Self Care for Mental Health
Is there a place for medication when it comes to mental health? Absolutely, but it is not the sole solution. Has our medical culture taken the easy way out and thrown SSRI’s, SNRI’s, benzodiazepines and sedatives at people? I would say, yes. As a medical society we do a lot more prescribing than deprescribing. I also think a lot of this comes from the pressure our society puts on the health care provider. We live in a “microwave society,” people are always looking for a quick fix. They want to take a pill that will “magically” make them feel better. In general, individuals don’t want to put in the hard work of exercising, eating healthy, being a kind human being, doing for others, etc.
Is there a place for talk therapy, TMS, ECT, EMDR? You bet, but again it is only part of the solution. If we don’t fix the root of the mental health crisis, then it can become a viscous cycle. Example, say an individual with a major depressive disorder takes an SSRI as prescribed and attends regular therapy sessions and they feel 20% better overall. That’s great, but they go home every night eat a microwave dinner, sit on the couch, watch the news, go get in bed and scroll through their social media and don’t put their phone down to go to sleep until 0100. How much better could that individual feel if they made positive lifestyle changes in addition to taking their SSRI and going to therapy? I know they would feel much better if they changed their lifestyle habits!
We Have to Find a Way to Improve Mental Health
As health care providers it is difficult to discuss health lifestyle interventions in a 15-minute appointment time frame, I get it. Somehow, we must find a way to also incorporate healthy lifestyle habits into our education. Maybe it could be via short videos on a patient portal, maybe we could also have lifestyle coaches in office for patients to visit with…I believe where there is a will, there is a way. Clearly the mental health crisis issues seem complex to fix. I think it is simpler to fix than we may think. As a society we just need to be driven to fix it. We must prioritize it and start at home!