Physical health. Mental health. Both are connected and equally necessary to live a healthy life. While medicine traditionally has focused on physical health, the importance of whole-person health has become increasingly apparent. The mind and body are intertwined: For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke, while the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental health conditions.
The definition of good health continues to evolve beyond the treatment of just physical illness to include considerations such as exercise, healthy eating and other lifestyle choices. Similarly, the way we treat mental health issues and the conversations we have surrounding mental health are also evolving.
Less stigma, more acceptance for mental health care
Even in the recent past, the stigma associated with mental health conditions led many people to suffer in silence. Recently – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – that stigma has lessened. As a society, we are more aware of these issues, the value of therapy and the role medications play in treating these conditions.
Use of antidepressant medications increased by 7.9% in 2020, compared with the previous year, and 93 percent of consumers agree that their benefits should include behavorial health care.
How to encourage whole-person care
To maintain a healthy mind and body, plan members need access to effective treatments and the right medications. In addition, people struggling with mental health conditions and their caregivers need to be able to access education about utilizing medicines appropriately.
The potential effects of inappropriate medication use can be severe. For example, failing to take antipsychotic medications as directed can lead to relapse for those in remission and exacerbate existing symptoms.
As the behavioral health landscape changes, a well-planned benefit should factor in this evolution. The practice of medicine and the design of benefits can no longer focus on solely physical health. A holistic behavioral strategy is a critical aspect in maintaining whole person-health.
Originally published on 9/23/21 and updated on 5/8/23.