This week marks the kickoff of Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the importance of mental health and its impact on every person. At Bamboo Health, this is a movement that is especially important to us as we work toward our vision of connecting behavioral health with physical health to make whole person care a reality.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. Unfortunately, many people choose to suffer in silence because of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and treatment options, even though their condition is treatable. About half of individuals with mental health conditions also experience substance use disorder  with drugs and alcohol. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, last year alone, more than 105,000 Americans died from drug overdoses – representing an all-time high.

These staggering numbers only begin to scratch the surface of the true impact of the mental health and substance use crisis.  While this problem feels overwhelming and at times insurmountable, we can fight mental health stigmas and advocate for change by working together.

Simple things we can all do to help our family, friends, and loved ones include:

  • Reach out to the person or people you know who are struggling with mental health and substance use challenges. Tell them you care about them. Show compassion. Listen. It is up to all of us to break the stigma.
  • If you or a loved one is ready for treatment, consider taking an online assessment to determine the appropriate level of care. Bamboo Health offers a free online assessment tool at TreatmentConnection.com.
  • Join a company or nonprofit board that is doing work you find meaningful. Beyond your time, support those causes with your financial resources.

Technology is also an important tool for solving the behavioral health crisis. While technology alone will not wipe away the mental, economic, and physical pain present, it can help amplify the human moments and complement in-person care to support:

  • Prevention: Technology facilitates screening assessments of patients at scale and tracking of these screens as well as controlled substance prescribing through Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs integrated into providers’ EHR system at the point of care.
  • Improved access to treatment: Telehealth has and continues to have a profound impact on behavioral health, now accounting for 36% of mental health and substance use visits.
  • Better care coordination and the integration of physical and behavioral health at the point of care: E-notifications alerting providers when a patient is admitted, discharged, or transferred from a hospital enable behavioral health and primary care providers to know in real time when one of their patients is taken to the emergency department, so they can facilitate follow-on care right away.
  • Crisis care: Beginning on July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline establishing 988 as the designated behavioral health emergency phone number will go live. Technology will help thread the response process together such that clinicians can do digital intake and assessment, dispatch mobile crisis teams using GPS-enabled technology, and get situational awareness about the availability of treatment resources using digital networks to get every caller to definitive assessment and treatment.

It’s going to take a village to provide the hands-on care, connection, and community needed to address the mental health and substance use crisis that our nation faces. Bamboo Health is doing our part by helping to fix the problem of uncoordinated care, which can be unhealthy for individuals, expensive for payers, and frustrating for providers. We use technology to refer patients to treatment, consolidate, and analyze patient data, as well as connect and inform payers and providers. Mental Health Awareness Month reminds us of the importance of this work and our role in ensuring that behavioral health conditions are treated on par with physical ones for the delivery of whole person care.