By Nicole Limpert
The term mental health refers to the condition of a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The state of one’s mental health affects how they feel, think, and behave. At times, an individual may experience one or more adverse mental health concerns. Mental health issues are common and treatable. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness in any given year.
It is crucial that people have access to mental health services. Mental illness is a disease and sometimes it may cause an individual to experience behavior that poses an immediate threat to themselves, to people around them, or to property. Unfortunately, research indicates that roughly two-thirds of people in the United States, with diagnosable mental health conditions, do not receive services.
Barriers to mental health treatment are being reduced by creating a network of care through technology. Call centers provide a critical service in this endeavor by using state-of-the-art communication systems to improve the state of mental health care.
Barriers to Mental Health Treatment
Many studies and surveys have uncovered why most Americans with mental health conditions do not receive care. The most common reasons discovered include financial hardships, racial and cultural differences and misunderstandings, lack of mental health services, and social stigma.
To better understand how people experience these challenges in the real world, here are some ways people who live in rural communities may experience these obstacles:
- Transportation Hardship: Access to care may require time off work and lost wages for long-distance travel and/or coordinating and paying for transport if a reliable vehicle isn’t available (low-cost public transport usually isn’t an option).
- Absence of Culturally Competent Care: According to the Morbidity and Mortality Week Report (MMWR) published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November 2017, more than twenty percent of rural residents identify as American Indians or persons of color. Multiple studies indicate that racially and ethnically diverse populations contend with language and cultural barriers when accessing healthcare.
- Shortage of Mental Health Professionals: Rural and low-income areas have the lowest percent of behavioral health workers in the United States, due in part to billing restrictions and low provider reimbursement rates, especially for Medicaid, which has higher enrollment in rural populations.
- Lack of Anonymity: It can be difficult to maintain privacy in close-knit, rural communities. Many people choose to suffer with their condition(s) instead of seeking help because of the social stigma associated with mental illness.
Crisis Call Center Care
Telehealth is helping to overcome barriers and increase access to mental health care. Crisis call centers connect those who are experiencing a mental health event with behavioral health professionals and are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Many call centers offer online chat, text communication, and real-time interpretation services (including American Sign Language via video chat) as well. Some specialized centers even have software specifically designed to dispatch mobile crisis teams to people in need of more intense treatment. These integrated technologies enable people to receive professional care in-person, in the privacy of their own homes.
Call center managers can track outcomes using reporting technology and are able to see if and when a caller received services from a mental health facility for ongoing care.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call centers are a critical part of the system that makes up the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) network. This kind of crisis service system can provide Level Five “Close and Fully Integrated” care by implementing an integrated suite of software applications.
According to the NSPL, the components of this system are:
- Status Disposition for Intensive Referral: A comprehensive list of people who are waiting for care, including information about their wait-time and location.
- 24/7 Outpatient Scheduling: Crisis call center staff have access to electronic appointment information.
- Shared Bed Inventory Tracking: Access to information about how many beds are available in an area or state, where they are located, and what type of care a person can receive at that location.
- High-Tech, GPS-enabled Mobile Crisis Dispatch: Information about the location of the closest available mobile care team.
- Real-Time Performance Outcomes Dashboards: Provides analytics information regarding operator workflows and performance to indicate the speed people are receiving help.
Connections Save Lives
Studies unequivocally show the use of integrated communication technology is providing better access to mental health treatment. Current health technology solutions are being enhanced with the use of mental health apps for more accurate data that leads to customized care. Telehealth technology provides a clear path to help coordinate this care and improve mental health outcomes.
Leveraging communication and health technologies together makes individuals, families, and communities more connected to mental health care. This creates a network of support to build a stronger and more mentally healthy society.
Nicole Limpert is the marketing content writer for Amtelco and their 1Call Healthcare Division. Amtelco is a leading provider of innovative communication applications. 1Call develops software solutions and applications designed for the specific needs of healthcare organizations.