It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on collective mental wellbeing over the past 14 months. The latest American Psychological Association (APA) Stress in America poll, designed to take the pulse of American mental health one year after the pandemic arrived, found that 31% of adults reported their mental health had worsened over the past year. That’s nearly one in three, regardless of age, gender or other demographics. 

But the truth is that mental health has been a growing crisis in the U.S. for some time, and the pandemic’s role as a previously unimaginable new stressor only heightened that fact [read more about Forward’s mental health tips]. Access to the proper resources are an important part of the solution, but many people never receive the specialized assistance they need.

The silver lining is that the doctors people do see — particularly primary care doctors — could potentially be the link to those specialists. Consider the following data points from the CDC:

  • There are nearly 45,000 deaths per year due to suicide. 
  • 80% of those people will have had contact with their primary care provider within a year of their death.
  • Only 25-30% will have had contact with a mental health professional.

At Forward, we view mental health as one of the key components of our member’s overall health, and we back it with tools to reduce stress and monitor anxiety and depression. Most importantly, we understand the urgency of addressing mental health, as illustrated by our Mental Health Assessment tools and hands-on approach we take in addressing our member’s mental health. 

Member experiences with mental health at Forward

This year, I’ve seen a range of members who are struggling with mental health — from new depression to those with serious thoughts of self harm. When members schedule appointments with me about their mental health, I try to listen and provide a space for members to share their story with me. Sometimes these members have unknowingly had moderate to severe depression all their life and are only now being diagnosed for the first time. 

My goal with any member suffering from mental health is to provide lasting treatment and partner with them to make a plan that builds trust between us and provides space for a therapeutic bond. That could mean getting them to simply agree to a follow up appointment, opening up the conversation to the possibility of medication or referring them to a mental health specialist. Taking these steps may be scary or unfamiliar, especially when it relates to a person’s mental health. Forward’s ability to keep in close contact with a members’ progress allows us to modify care quickly and easily based on a member’s responses and comfort level.

Over the course of several months, I’ve seen this tight member-doctor partnership payoff. Combined with Forward’s weekly mental health check-ins and the support of our team-based care, members I’ve treated are achieving progress never seen in their lifetime. Our offsite care team is able to offer support via Forward’s 24/7 app, which is especially helpful on weekends and nights when depression can be particularly bad. As a result, I’ve seen some member’s moods gradually improve and their openness to outside treatment and programs increase, while continuing to cite the connection they felt with the Forward team.

Forward’s mental health tools all play important roles

While this has been a challenging year for mental health, I’m pleased to see how Forward’s resources and services can have a meaningful impact on our members’ journeys to better mental health. By giving members more attention than they’d receive at a typical primary care physician, Forward gives them the time and focus to discuss these sensitive topics. We’re able to check in with at-risk members regularly, and easily monitor their medications. Finally, our offsite team offers 24/7 access to a sympathetic ear, and a sense of support from people who really know each member’s story.

We don’t have all the answers to the mental health crisis, but we do believe that our combination of personalized care and access to the right help any time it’s needed can be part of the solution. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and Forward’s holistic approach to primary health care considers both in creating prevention and treatment plans for you. If you’re experiencing stress or anxiety that’s reducing your quality of life, our stress management program is available to all members and can help you

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