Changing the way we think about mental health
When we have the flu, a fever, or other physical ailment, or are diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer or diabetes, what do we do? Many seek immediate help from a physician or other specialty clinician, and many receive encouragement from family, friends, and employers to approach their illness with vigor.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case when it comes to treating mental illness. In the United States, 20 percent of the population experiences a mental health problem in a given year, compared with 17 percent of people in the United Kingdom. But in both countries, more than three in five people do not receive the care they need to be healthy and live a productive life.
Why? Mental health is often experienced in isolation. Because of stigma, discrimination, and other issues that are barriers to accessing traditional mental health services, too many people face depression, stress, and anxiety alone.
These unaddressed invisible scars can be costly and damaging.
As a social entrepreneur, my goal is to transform the way we, as a global society, imagine mental health care. I founded Big White Wall (BWW) so that it centers more on social relationships and provides an accessible, effective, and safe mental health journey.
Members of Big White Wall can share their emotions anonymously, choose their path to recovery, assess their emotional health, and learn coping techniques without the fear of being judged. Rather than replace clinicians, BWW is clinically curated with professional staff available 24/7. It is intended to enable people to choose when and how they wish to draw on clinical support while ensuring appropriate protocols for risk assessment and escalation. It is a service without waiting lists, without office hours, and without judgment.
Digitally based, professionally guided platforms expand access, enhance member engagement, and extend care team reach. BWW is an innovation that is both cost effective and evidence based.
For employers, these solutions may reduce medical costs, save on lost wages, and improve employee retention and promotion. Internal studies show that 67 percent of people affected by mental health–related absence reported that BWW reduced the amount of time lost, and 76 percent of people affected by mental health–related productivity loss (“presenteeism”) reported that BWW reduced the amount of time lost.
By changing the way we think about mental health and by adopting alternative forms of behavioral health support, we help those living with poor mental health become more empowered to take control of their recovery journey.
This post first appeared on Medium. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Jen Hyatt is founder and CEO of Big White Wall and a Schwab Foundation 2015 Social Entrepreneur of the Year Awardee
Image: A boy touches a 45-metre long wall, lighted by colour rays at an exhibition hall in Wuhan. REUTERS/China Daily.