Fostering Robust Mental Health Support
With record levels of suicide, depression, anxiety, and toxic stress, we must not only look at underlying causes, but also invest robust resources towards giving people the emotional support and tools they need to heal and thrive.
- Longer Doctor Visits: The first step in enhancing mental health support is to provide individuals with extended and more meaningful interactions with healthcare professionals. Longer doctor visits, along with the inclusion of support staff, allow for more comprehensive assessments and conversations. This additional time empowers patients to discuss their concerns, fears, and mental health issues openly, creating a safe and understanding environment. Doctors and support staff can better equip patients with the skills necessary to make lifestyle changes, recommend treatment plans, and offer guidance for mental well-being.
- Ongoing Support: Comprehensive mental health support extends beyond the confines of a single doctor’s visit. Patients benefit from ongoing support from a diverse range of experts, including nutritionists, health coaches, therapists, mental health professionals, and exercise specialists. This multi-disciplinary approach ensures that individuals receive continuous guidance and assistance, addressing both the physical and mental aspects of their well-being. Ongoing support is essential for the sustained management of mental health issues.
- Educational Initiatives: To foster long-term mental health, it is crucial to begin educating individuals at a young age. By funding programs in educational systems, from preschool through college, that teach nutrition and lifestyle skills, we can empower the next generation with the tools and knowledge to cultivate their own long-term health. These initiatives promote emotional resilience, stress management, and healthy living practices, thus reducing the likelihood of mental health challenges in adulthood.
- Protecting Children’s Health: Mental health issues can often trace their roots back to childhood. One approach to safeguarding mental health is to restrict the marketing of overly processed and sugary foods to children. By limiting exposure to unhealthy dietary choices, we can mitigate the risk of developing mental health issues related to poor nutrition and excessive sugar consumption during formative years.
- Transforming Food Production: The connection between diet and mental health cannot be understated. It is vital to transform food production practices by discontinuing subsidies for unhealthy foods, such as high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats. Instead, we should incentivize and subsidize farmers, ranchers, and food companies to produce healthier, affordable, and readily available food. A nutritious diet contributes to physical and mental well-being, making it an essential component of comprehensive mental health support.
- Evidence-Based Food Policies: Incorporating evidence-based food policies is integral to improving mental health support. These policies should be guided by cutting-edge public health science rather than influenced by corporate interests. By aligning food regulations with scientific research, we can promote healthier eating habits and reduce the risk of developing mental health issues related to diet.
- Environmental and Food Safety: Securing and expanding the role of regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is essential. Their mandate should be to keep toxins out of our environment and food supplies, reducing the risk of toxic exposure that can have adverse effects on mental health.
- Reducing Stress Levels: Stress is a significant contributor to mental health challenges, and societal stress levels have reached alarming heights. To address this, we must examine national stress levels and develop comprehensive strategies to lower stress on a societal scale. By employing known resources and techniques for stress reduction, we can enhance overall mental well-being.
- Trauma and PTSD Treatments: Mental health support must also encompass cutting-edge trauma and PTSD treatments. By providing access to emerging possibilities in the field of trauma therapy, individuals who have experienced traumatic events can receive the care they need to heal and recover. Continued research in this area is essential to identify the most effective treatments.
- Psychedelic Assisted Therapy: For some of the most widespread mental health challenges we face – such as depression, addiction, anxiety, and PTSD – psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy using psilocybin and MDMA has shown incredible promise to completely revolutionize mental healthcare. Some of these therapies are on the verge of FDA clearance, and some have already been legalized in states like Oregon. Ketamine is already approved for treatment resistant depression. We must fully legalize the types of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy that have shown success in research, and we must provide significant state funding for research into other promising psychedelic therapies, such as ibogaine for addiction. In states where psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has been legalized, it is still so costly that many cannot afford it. We cannot allow cost to impede access to any kind of healthcare – whether mental or physical, psychedelic or otherwise – so we must cover psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy within a universal healthcare system.
By focusing on preventative healthcare measures, including robust mental health support, we can aim to shift the healthcare system from treating symptoms to addressing the root causes of illness. These innovative approaches have the potential to not only improve the health and well-being of individuals but also reduce healthcare costs and enhance the overall quality of life for all citizens.