Mental Health

A person's mental health status also contributes to how to he or she handles stress, relates to others, and makes choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Within the broad category of mental health, mental illness specifically refers to all diagnosable mental disorders (source). 

There are five main categories of mental illness (source): 

Anxiety disorder
• Dementia
 Eating disorders
Mood disorders
Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders

What Causes Mental Health Problems?

Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including: biology (factors such as genes or brain chemistry), life experiences (such as trauma or abuse), and family history (source).

Why is this a priority?

In the 2016 Regional Health Assessment, it was challenging to understand the full scope of mental health in the OHC region because data was limited. Much of the evidence was based on anecdotal feedback from community members who experienced mental illness firsthand from family, clients, or personally. The 2019 assessment is similar in that available data indicators are still limited. However, there has been much more conversation in the past three years about the burden of mental health on the OHC Region.

What are our hospitals seeing?

When evaluating hospital data, mental health rises to the surface, not only for AHI, but also for specific age groups and payer types. Of all AHI, 21.4% of visits in the OHC Region are due to mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders. This rate jumps to over 33% for people 18 – 64 years of age, and nearly 41% for people without health insurance. 

What is our community seeing?

For the OHC Region overall, both indicators have gotten worse since the 2016 assessment and continue to be worse than the national data. 

What does it cost?

According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Health Care Satellite Account, in 2013, $89 billion was spent for non-institutionalized mental illness, which accounts for 5% of total healthcare expenditures (source). Specific to major depressive disorder, the total cost of this illness is estimated at $210.5 billion per year. Half of this total is attributed to workplace costssuch as missed days from work and reduced productivity —about 45% of the costs are due to direct medical costs, and 5% are related to suicide, according to a 2015 study (source).

What can communities do?

Communities can take an active role in reducing the impact of mental illness and its risk factors. The OHC encourages communities to adopt evidence-based strategies. Below are some ideas for communities to consider when addressing mental health.

Improve access to appropriate care. Building a community that supports access the right care at the right time is critical. Efforts can focus on reducing barriers to care, improved referrals between community organizations, enhancing the healthcare workforce, and advocating for change that positively increases access to appropriate care.

Improve education and awareness. Mental illness is a disease that many in communities are still unfamiliar with. Efforts should be targeted at increasing awareness around mental health and substance misuse, as well as equipping people with the knowledge to provide support to others suffering from the diseases, such as programs like Mental Health First Aid.

Stabilize individuals in crisis. Individuals who are experiencing a mental health or substance misuse crisis are too often without appropriate community support. Community efforts should focus on increasing access to immediate care through direct service provision and improvement of community systems to offer assistance.

Focus on vulnerable populations. Some groups within a community may be more susceptible to mental health struggles. Communities should examine potentially vulnerable populations and, if disparities exist, community partners should determine appropriate approaches. 

To see what our community is doing about this health priority and what progress has been made, view our Community Health Improvement Plan:
Mercy CHIP