PEOPLE Rebecca Farrell
2022 HEALTH CARE EDITION
BY JISHNU NAIR
IF WE DO TRY TO LOOK AT SILVER LININGS, OUR EXPERIENCES OF THE PANDEMIC HAVE OPENED THE DOOR MORE IN TERMS OF BEING ABLE TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, ABOUT NORMALIZING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH. ” REBECCA FARRELL, PROGRAM AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS, CENTRAL TEXAS
Program and outreach director, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Central Texas
Rebecca Farrell serves as the program and outreach director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Central Texas aliate. The national nonprot, which has over 600 state organizations and aliates across the United States, works to educate and provide resources on mental health. Farrell said the pandemic laid bare existing deciencies in mental health care. But she noted that as mental health came to the forefront in the pandemic, conversations about mental health became more “mainstream”—which she hopes will lead to greater education on mental illnesses. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. WHAT IS THE STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH CARE TWO YEARS INTO THE PANDEMIC?
we consider is of those providers, how many actually look like individuals who are seeking [care] back home? So we know that [Black, indigenous and people of color] members are less likely to seek help, even if it exists, because they may not have a provider who looks like them. … The other reasons that we have a lack of access to health care is insur- ance. … If you are underinsured, then you’re really limited in the scope of where you can go and receive [care], or even if you don’t have insurance [you’re] really limited. And how many geographical locations or communi- ties oer free health care or have free health care clinics? And then, if you have Medicaid, certain health care systems have a cap on how many Medicaid patients they will accept. HOW HAS THE PERCEPTION OF MENTAL HEALTH CHANGED? If we do try to look at silver linings, our experiences of the pandemic has opened the door more in terms of being able to talk about mental health, about normalizing conversa- tions about mental health.
… And then also, we’re beginning to talk about how mental health is really connected to our physical health. So being able to say mental health is health. WHAT ARE SOME SELFCARE TIPS PEOPLE CAN USE IN THEIR DAYTODAY LIVES? It’s important for us to understand how stress aects us. ... Depression may not look the same between two people, because it’s personal. … And then I like to share with people to remember our ABCs, … so being able to identify dierent types of strategies based on the letters of the alphabet. … Establish those routines; main- tain those routines. And then focus on what you can control, and spend time with your friends and family. ... Give yourself grace. … [They can contact] the closest [NAMI] aliate. … We are a vital resource, and we provide resources and programs, education support and advocacy for free to those who participate, who partake in them. … And, nally, it’s OK to ask for help— to accept that it is OK to ask for help.
… We see long waitlists, because things have moved to telehealth. … What we also noticed when the pandemic hit was that there was a dramatic change in mental health assistance, and then also we saw an increase in mental health, emer- gency consultations and in-home care as well. WHAT POPULATIONS HAVE BEEN HIT THE HARDEST AS IT RELATES TO MENTAL HEALTH? Suicide rates are higher amongst males. ... Also, overall, the suicide rates are higher amongst white males who are older as well. … Males will have died by suicide at a higher rate than females; however, females are more likely to … attempt suicide. And we are seeing a rise in suicide attempts by African American females and also from our children who identify as LGBTQ. WHAT ARE SOME BARRIERS TO ACCESSING CARE? So when we look at access to care, we want to look at what’s available … instead of quality. The second aspect
So the pandemic really has brought to light two primary issues. The rst one is how extensive the gaps in our health care systems are, and then the second—which people might not have been aware of—is how we lack the support and resources for addressing our youth and adolescents’ mental health. … And with that, what we have noticed is that there’s been an increase in the number of ER visits, especially amongst our youth and adolescents. … Since 2017, suicide has become the eighth leading cause of death for our children ages 5-11, and it is the second leading cause of death for our youth ages 10-24 since 2018. … So when we look at our health care providers, … what we have wit- nessed during the pandemic is higher levels of empathy fatigue, … And so we have noticed that people are mass-exiting their places of employ- ment, because they’re experiencing so much emotional distress, anxiety and depression.
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