The Importance of Behavioral Health in the Community
Mental illness is a general term that is used to describe a variety of conditions that affect a person’s mood, thought process, and behavior. Mental illness can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, trauma, or abuse. Mental illness is often accompanied by substance abuse and can lead to problems in school, work, and personal relationships.
Mental illness is a serious public health problem in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in four adults in the United States (18.5%) experience mental illness in a given year.1 In addition, one in 17 adults (6.1%) live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.2 Mental illness can have a profound impact on an individual’s life, as well as the lives of those around them.
Despite the prevalence of mental illness in the United States, access to mental health care remains a challenge for many people. According to the NIMH, only 41% of adults with any mental illness and 63% of adults with a serious mental illness received mental health services in the past year.3 Lack of access to care can lead to worsening of symptoms and increased risk of suicide.4
The purpose of this paper is to explore the continuum of care for mental illness and the role that behavioral health plays in supporting mental health and wellness in the community.
2. The Continuum of Care for Mental Illness
The continuum of care is a model that describes the range of services and supports that are available to individuals with mental illness.5 The continuum of care includes everything from prevention and early intervention services to long-term support and housing.6 Each level of care is designed to meet the unique needs of the individual at their current stage in their journey towards recovery.7
The first level of care on the continuum is prevention and early intervention. Prevention efforts are aimed at reducing the risk of developing mental illness or identifying it early on when it is most treatable. Early intervention services are designed to address mental health problems before they become more serious.8
The second level of care on the continuum is outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment typically includes individual or group therapy, medication management, and case management services.9 Outpatient treatment can be delivered in a variety of settings, including private practices, community mental health centers, hospitals, and schools.10
The third level of care on the continuum is partial hospitalization or day treatment. Partial hospitalization programs provide intensive treatment during the day but allow patients to return home at night. Day treatment programs provide similar levels of care but do not require an overnight stay.11 These programs are typically reserved for cases where outpatient treatment has been unsuccessful or when there is a high risk for hospitalization.12
The fourth level of care on the continuum is inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment is typically delivered in a psychiatric hospital or residential treatment center and includes 24-hour supervision and access to medical care.13 Inpatient treatment is usually reserved for cases where all other attempts at treatment have failed or when there is imminent danger to self or others.14
The fifth level of care on the continuum is long-term support and housing. Long-term support services are designed to help individuals with chronic mental illness live independently in the community.15 Support services can include case management, psycho-education, and skills training.16 Housing options for individuals with chronic mental illness include supported housing, group homes, and supervised apartments.17
3. Behavioral Health and the Community
Behavioral health is a term that is used to describe the interaction between an individual’s mental health, substance abuse, and social well-being.18 Behavioral health problems can manifest as mental illness, substance abuse, or both.19
Behavioral health problems are often interconnected with other social determinants of health, such as poverty, housing instability, and food insecurity.20 For example, individuals who live in poverty are more likely to experience stress and trauma, which can lead to behavioral health problems.21 Housing instability can also contribute to behavioral health problems by causing or exacerbating anxiety and depression.22
A focus on behavioral health is essential to promoting mental health and wellness in the community. By addressing behavioral health problems early on, we can prevent them from becoming more serious and costly to treat.23 Additionally, by addressing the social determinants of health that contribute to behavioral health problems, we can create a healthier and more equitable society.24
4. Promoting Mental Health and Wellness in the Community
There are a variety of ways to promote mental health and wellness in the community. One way is to provide access to mental health care. This can be done by increasing funding for community mental health centers or expanding access to Medicaid.25 Another way to promote mental health and wellness in the community is to address the social determinants of health that contribute to behavioral health problems. This can be done by increasing access to affordable housing, improving nutrition education, or providing job training programs.26
Additionally, it is important to raise awareness about mental illness and dispel the stigma that surrounds it. One way to do this is by hosting educational events or forums in the community.27 Another way to raise awareness about mental illness is by featuring stories about recovery in the media.28
By taking these steps, we can create a society that is better equipped to support those with mental illness and promote mental health and wellness in the community.