According to the World Health Organization, mental health disorders are a significant cause of disability among the entire world population. In the United Kingdom alone, 1 in 6 people experience the ill effects of mental health disorders.
While mental health remains an acute problem, the science of treating mental health issues has experienced many exciting advances over the past decade. Mental health disorders are better understood, and treatment regimens, including medications and therapy, have become more effective. People who experience mental health difficulties are less stigmatized in the public eye. Dr. Akmal Makhdum shares how mental health treatment has advanced in the last decade.
Developments in Medication
Over the past ten years, many new mental health medications have been developed and released to the public. Mental health care providers are learning about these medications and the beneficial effects they could bring to patients in need.
One area where there have been many advances is antipsychotic medications. These medications treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and can also be used as an add-on treatment for resistant cases of major depression. The new medications have a far lower risk of side effects than their predecessors.
Patients must always be careful to watch for signs of tardive dyskinesia, or uncontrollable body movements caused by long-term use of antipsychotics. While newer antipsychotics have a lower rate of this debilitating condition, there is always a risk. There is a new medication approved to be used for tardive dyskinesia.
Antidepressants have also advanced over the past ten years, with several new medications available. These new medications, like antipsychotics, have better efficacy and fewer side effects than the older medications.
The understanding of when to use other types of medications is also developing. Doctors are beginning to steer their patients away from the addictive benzodiazepines and toward other forms of treating anxiety.
Clinicians are developing a better understanding of the different types of mental health disorders. Where in the past, many people have been labeled with simple depression and anxiety and then experienced ineffective treatments, many people are beginning to experience better diagnoses. When patients are appropriately diagnosed, they will be able to receive more effective treatment.
For example, when a patient’s symptoms are carefully studied, it may be that the patient has bipolar disorder rather than clinical depression. The patient can then be treated with mood stabilizers and antipsychotics to bring themselves into balance.
Providers are beginning to realize that they need to go beyond the necessary diagnostic tests to know which disorders affect their patients. They need to treat their patients holistically, or with an eye toward the person as a whole rather than focusing only on their mental health problems.
While there is still a stigma in society regarding treatment for mental illness, this stigma is beginning to ease. When mental health treatment is less stigmatized, more people are likely to take advantage of it. People are beginning to realize that asking for help is a sign of strength rather than a sign of weakness.
Increased public visibility of these disorders is helping people understand that mental health conditions are very common in the population. With such a high rate of occurrence within the community, everyone likely knows at least one person with a mental health disorder. When people learn to treat others more compassionately, the problem of mental health stigma will continue to diminish.
Increased Availability of Services
Around the world, mental health care has become easier to access. The NHS has hired more mental health professionals, reducing wait times, and making services more available. As mental health care shifts from a hospital model to a community model, taking care to provide services to as many people as possible is vital to the treatment of mental health disorders.
In countries without universal health care, access to mental health care is improving due to an increase in the number of clinicians. The Affordable Care Act in the United States put regulations into place governing health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, mental health had to be treated like any other disorder concerning insurance coverage. This provision has helped many thousands of people who could not have accessed this care.
Advances in Mental Healthcare
Over the past ten years, many advances have taken place in mental health care. These advancements are helping more people access care. Dr. Akmal Makhdum reminds professionals that there is more work to be done since the rate of suicide and other serious complications is still on the rise.
Mental health clinicians need to continually update their skill sets so that they can treat more people with better outcomes. Advances in medication, better diagnosis, lower stigma to mental health treatment, and the increased availability of care in the community have all contributed to positive change in the mental health field.