Category Care for Your Mind

How We Can Support Veterans in Need of Mental Health Help

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Sanjai Rao, M.D., VA Medical Center, San Diego

In my previous post, I addressed the challenging state of mental health care for our nation’s returning veterans and their increased risk of suicide. It’s crucial that we step up and ensure that mental health care is available to all former servicemen and women who need it. Now, I propose some possible solutions.

First, a disclaimer: although I work for the VA, I am writing this post as a private citizen, not a VA employee. The views expressed here are entirely my own and not in any way meant to be reflective of those of VA leadership.

Expanding the VA
In order to ensure the best possible outcomes for veterans in need, the VA needs to grow. With more resources, we can hire and train more mental health professionals, and therefore treat more patients. As I discussed earlier, the VA is by far the best place for veterans to get state-of-the art, evidence-based mental health care, but the VA system doesn’t have the capacity to treat everyone as quickly as they need. We do the best we can with what we have, but ultimately Congress regulates our size and budget. It’s up to our elected officials to provide the funding we need to increase our capacity.

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Who Is Making the Rules for Our Mental Health Care?

Tiffany Kaszuba

Tiffany Kaszuba, Vice President Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates
Manager to the Coalition for Health Funding

We advocate for our own medical care, we advocate to our senators and representatives for laws to improve mental health care, but are we reaching everyone who has a say in mental health care policy and delivery? In fact, most policy is developed, implemented, and enforced by regulatory agencies; there are at least a half-dozen federal agencies charged with aspects of addressing mental health.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explain the structure and roles of some of these agencies and their programs, including how they are funded. After all, if we are advocating for improvement in the mental health care system, we need to understand what works (and what doesn’t) and what it costs.

Public health is the science and art of protecting and promoting health in communities where we live, work, and learn. Federal investment in public health dates back to 1798 when Congress first authorized the Marine Hospital Service to deliver care to the merchant seamen who were disproportionately affected by disease. Today, the Public Health Service is led by the Office of the Secretary and comprised of 11 operating divisions—including the eight agencies authorized by the Public Health Service Act and three human services agencies.

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Even for Advocates, Getting Help for Depression Is Hard

Theresa Nguyen, Senior Director of Policy and Programming, Mental Health America 

Depression is a personal experience, different for every individual. One thing many people share, however, is difficulty accessing care. As someone who personally struggles with depression, I understand this challenge all too well. Depression can be a debilitating experience, and in addition to dealing with the painful symptoms of the illness, our healthcare system makes it extremely burdensome to seek help.

For a person paralyzed by fatigue, lack of motivation, sadness, or other common symptoms of depression, concentrating on navigating the many barriers to care can feel impossible. Recently released research confirms this unfortunate state of affairs, and addresses the access issues that I and millions of others have experienced firsthand.

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How Legislation Can Change the Face of Perinatal Mental Health

MA State Representative Ellen Story and U.S. Congresswoman Katherine Clark
with introductions by Dr. Nancy Byatt

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this series.

Nancy Byatt: If we truly want to fix the state of perinatal mental health care in this country, a collaborative effort is essential. Achieving universal care will take the collective input of many different players – people with lived experience, providers, insurance companies, advocates, legislators, and more.

While every avenue of advancement is important, adopting legislation is a crucial piece of the puzzle; it’s the only way we can ensure pregnant and postpartum women get the care they need.

In Massachusetts, legislative efforts have been the foundation for the success of MCPAP for Moms. This is due in large part to MA Rep. Ellen Story, author of the 2010 Massachusetts Postpartum Depression legislation and co-chair of the Postpartum Depression (PPD) Commission. The Commission offers recommendations on PPD policy to the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Mental Health (MDPH and DMH), which in turn funds MCPAP for Moms. Representative Story has been instrumental in helping Massachusetts become a leader in the field of perinatal mental health care.

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