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Over the past few years, the perception of mental illness has changed, not only with the general public but also in the healthcare industry. There has been significantly increased awareness and discussion of mental health. People are seeking help for mental illnesses more often than in the past and there is less stigma attached to a mental illness diagnosis than existed even a few short years ago. More people are becoming aware of mental illness, the discussion around it, and treatment options. In the healthcare industry, more experts are finding that mental illness can have an impact on physical health which is why equal treatment of mental and physical well-being are critical.

Dual Diagnosis

One of the biggest changes in healthcare is the growth of dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, especially among those with substance abuse issues. Many people who turn to alcohol or drugs do so as a form of self-medication due to some health issue, whether that be mental illness or other health problems. This creates a problem because often most mental illnesses and health problems are significantly negatively impacted by alcohol and drugs. According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.9 million people suffer from co-occurring disorders and more than half of them are men. Today, healthcare providers look at the possibility of a dual diagnosis before planning treatment for someone with a substance abuse problem. This allows them to treat both the mental illness and the substance abuse simultaneously.

Better Understanding By General Practitioners

When you don’t feel “right,” your natural instinct is to reach out to your general practitioner. For many years, family doctors were unequipped to deal with someone suffering an emotional or mental problem. There just wasn’t adequate information and knowledge across the board for people to handle mental health issues. Many people may not have even been aware that what they were suffering from was a mental health issue in the first place. Consequently, many mental health issues were not getting the attention they needed. This was often due to a lack of understanding, lack of training and the sheer volume of patients a family doctor manages on a daily basis. Today, programs like “Time to Change,” an anti-stigma campaign is helping to teach primary care physicians how to recognize and treat mental illness. In addition, the programs reduce negative attitudes among healthcare practitioners regarding mental illness, something that has been slower to change than among the general public.

More Healthcare Professionals

In some areas of the country, you may have to wait over a year to see a specialist if you are diagnosed with a mental health illness. This has led to an increased need for behavioral health practitioners that can deliver safe, effective and high-quality coordinated care. Mental health is being integrated into various parts of healthcare, including the 11,988 nurse practitioners that now have a psychiatric focus. These professionals have been trained to handle various different medical situations, including the aspect of trauma and mental health following a traumatic incident. Communities are investing in the training and education of mental health professionals who work in clinics, primary care facilities and hospitals to immediately address someone who exhibits mental illness. It is becoming more clear that in some cases someone suffering from emotional or mental distress cannot wait a year or more for treatment. This means that increasing the number of behavioral health practitioners is critical.

Better Education

The healthcare industry is working to provide professionals better equipped to handle the health problems of today, such as providing education like an online master of health administration. The industry is also working to better educate the public how to recognize the symptoms of mental illness in friends, family and co-workers. The industry is also working to change negative attitudes, prejudice and discrimination against those who may be diagnosed with a mental disorder. Schools, workplaces and community organizations are learning more about how mental illness can affect someone’s emotional and physical well-being as well as tips for getting someone help for the illness.

The diagnosis of mental illness has grown significantly over the past few years, but that does not mean mental illness is a growing problem. There has been substantial work and effort put into helping others become more educated about mental illness itself, and especially more informed about the various treatment options for mental health. This simply means that people are more aware of how mental illness can impact the individual, the family and the community. They are also more aware of the treatment options available and many are seeking after treatment. The healthcare industry is taking a leading role in addressing the stigma attached to mental illness and working to better provide services to those in need. These efforts have been seen in education, training, and new jobs being created to better address mental health.