The arrival of spring foretells regeneration, new beginnings and new hopes. This year, in fact, each of these life sources has taken on new meaning for every one of us. We seek to move beyond the COVID fog of the past year. Our success will depend upon whether we continue to adhere to good public health practices, become vaccinated and address the behavioral health problems that have accompanied the pandemic.
Last year had a devastating impact upon our behavioral health. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that about 2 of every 5 adults suffered from one or more behavioral health conditions during June of 2020. Primary conditions were depression, anxiety, stress and contemplation of suicide. This number was up from 1 in 5 persons in earlier years. More recent CDC information shows that these numbers climbed even further to 1 in 2 adults by early 2021.
This new behavioral health pandemic clearly rivals the COVID pandemic in both population scope and adverse effects. Actually, new research shows that COVID frequently causes behavioral health conditions. That is why our efforts to address COVID via vaccinations must be accompanied by a similar rapid mobilization to address the unprecedented spread of behavioral health conditions.
The “Mask COVID Not Your Emotions” campaign does just that. Developed by Marjorie Morrison of Psych Hub and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, it combines COVID vaccination with easy-to-access tools to assess and address behavioral health conditions. You can learn more details about Psych Hub and this campaign at Mental Wellbeing Resource Hub.
The underlying concept is simply brilliant: At the time when people present for a COVID vaccination, they will be given a small promotional card with a QR code. By scanning this code, they then will be able to access the resource website and search by keyword, topic and audience. The resulting search will provide access to online resources from partner programs.
Psych Hub has more than 40 national partners ranging from Aetna to the VA. Member resource material is available to be accessed by users on the website. NACBHDD and NARMH are member entities that support the initiative.
Previous and current work in the field document that most people feel comfortable using online resources to help identify and address behavioral health conditions. In fact, over the past five years, this work has progressed to the point at which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now approves evidence-based apps for prescription by providers.
To be effective, this initiative needs to be undertaken immediately in all states. Currently, Psych Hub is reaching out to key national organizations including the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to assist with implementation.
Our hats are off to Marjorie Morrison and Patrick Kennedy for undertaking this essential campaign. Without a doubt, behavioral health deserves the same level of attention and concern as does COVID. Please advocate broadly so that the initiative is included in your state, county, and community COVID vaccination program.
Ron Manderscheid, PhD, is the president and CEO of NACBHDD and NARMH.