Now, more than ever, the demand for mental health services is booming. Nearly 56% of Americans are actively searching for mental health services for either themselves or a loved one. Moreover, today 76% of Americans also believe mental health is just as important as physical health.
“There is a mental health crisis. I get flooded with emails and messages on social media from all around the world with devastating stories pleading for help and change, unable to get basic mental health services for loved ones,” says Lima Jevremovic, CEO of AURA, a mental health tech startup. “In order to meet the increasing demand for these services, we need to work on using technology to scale more precise care to mitigate the rise of misdiagnosis and opent increased accessibility. Technology is the only way to combat the shortage of Mental Health Professionals and psychiatric beds worldwide. Here in America, we have a declining number of mental health professionals and rising demand. We have to do something differently to help grant access to care for those who need it most while mitigating relapse to combat the increased demand.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that by 2025 there will be 762,290 mental health professionals working in the US but 999,170 required. That’s a staff shortage of 24% nationwide, “Leveraging technology is the only way to meet the demand when you don’t have enough people to give the dedicated, individualized care that these individuals deserve,” says Jevremovic.
At present, there are too many barriers in Americans’ ability to seek mental health treatment. “Despite this exponencial demand and growing societal awareness of the importance of mental health, due to the shortage of mental health professionals and psychiatric beds, these services are just not accessible for everyone and the current options are limited.”
On a Global scale, the lack of accessibility to local care and requires a massive scale-up of resources to prevent the mental health crisis from crippling our societies. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Atlas 2017 details a global shortage of trained in mental health and a lack of investment in community-based mental health facilities. Failure to invest in mental health as a matter of urgency will have health, social and economic costs on a scale that we have rarely seen before. “Mental health conditions and Substance USe Disorders can be debilitating. Without access to care we risk having a growing population of individuals unable to work due to disability,” Jevremovic warns. “This will require additional government social programs incentives to ensure that the basic needs of the population are met. In the long run, it’s much more economical to spend money now on making resources available to everyone than to have to provide life-long support and government assistance to an increasing population of adults unable to care for their own basic needs.”
In low-income countries, the rate of mental health workers can be as low as 2 per 100 000 population. Transition to care in the community needs to be accelerated. Despite the transition in a number of high-income countries towards psychiatric wards in general hospitals and the provision of community-based residential care places, there remain far too few facilities for community-based mental health care throughout the world. Amid the shortage of psychiatric beds, the mentally ill face long waits for treatment while at risk for suicide or lethal overdose. Jevremovic founded AURA, a comprehensive mental health treatment system that integrates telehealth and Virtual Reality, to combat the barriers to access care.
At present, the majority of global government expenditures on mental health is going to mental hospitals, which serve a small proportion of those who need care. Moreover, the WHO Mental Health Atlas 2017 reveals that more than 66% of countries disclose that treatment of persons with severe mental disorders is not included in national health insurance or reimbursement plans. “Healing shouldn’t be dependent on your financial status. It’s unethical for people to be excluded from access to mental health care because of the high costs of care,” says Jevremovic.
Investing in mental health benefits both the population and economy; changing nothing comes at a very high cost. Reduced degrees of access to care for general mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, result in a global economic loss of one trillion US dollars each year. The good news is that every $1 USD invested in expanding treatment coverage for general mental disorders leads to a return of $4 USD in better health and ability to work.
In an effort to change this dynamic and spread awareness, Jevremovic has created a petition to mandate change within the mental healthcare.You can find and sign the petition here.*