The statistics you’ll find in this issue are sobering. One in five U.S. adults experiences a mental illness; suicide is a leading cause of death for U.S. children; one in eight emergency department visits is associated with mental illness or substance abuse. But—more promising—as a nation, we’re finally starting to respond at a more appropriate scale.
Surging demand has been answered by legislation that broadens behavioral health coverage, as the importance of earlier diagnosis and treatment is recognized—converging factors that are inspiring new projects across the country. It’s a trend that we’ve been watching unfold for some time now. In fact, it was about a year ago that we began our 2020 editorial planning and decided to do something that would be a first for Healthcare Design: an entire issue dedicated to a single topic. The result of that decision, and a lot of hard work by the editorial team, is this Mental Health Issue in your hands or on your screen.
What we didn’t anticipate a year ago, though, was the global climate in which we’d be publishing this issue. We didn’t know that it would come on the brink of a new mental health crisis. We’re now two-plus months into the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 90,000 deaths here in the U.S. alone. The trauma associated with so many factors tied to this state of emergency is only now beginning to be realized.
On May 13, the United Nations (UN) released the policy brief “COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health,” citing the deep toll the crisis has taken—distress from health worries and social isolation, fear of dying or losing loved ones, economic turmoil from lost income. Additionally, it states, core populations like frontline healthcare workers and first responders have been exposed to numerous stressors, while children and adolescents have had their lives upended due to disrupted education, uncertainty about the future, and family stress. To that end, the UN urges a swift response to minimize the mental health consequences of the pandemic, including widespread availability of services now and in the future.
And in this current reality, our Mental Health Issue isn’t just a celebration of new projects, care models, and operational approaches but inspiration for where we as an industry might go next to help ensure those statistics I mentioned earlier don’t worsen.
There are so many ways healthcare designers can influence and respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and I encourage you to watch HCDmagazine.com for the resources and education we’ve been producing to help inform you along the way. I hope a year from now we start to see the benefit of adding mental health design solutions to that list.