“There is no health without mental health.” The World Federation for Mental Health features this strong statement on its website. If we examine some of the outcomes of poor mental health, its importance becomes clear. Consider that depression is a leading cause of disability. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. And people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely (by as much as two decades) because of preventable physical conditions. Those facts are shared by the World Health Organization.
Clearly, mental health deserves attention every day – but we give special recognition to it during May, which is Mental Health Month. Let’s look at some of the ways data and analytics help to break down silos, uncover problems and support promising solutions.
Recognizing and preventing addiction and suicide
Drug addiction and suicide are often tied to mental health conditions. These stories reveal how community-based programs and analytics are helping address the needs of people who are suffering.
Andy Irons was a three-time world champion surfer who struggled for much of his life with bipolar disorder and opioid addiction. But with his big personality and huge successes, many of his friends and fans were unaware that Andy was suffering. After Andy died at the age of 32, the Andy Irons Foundation was founded to provide community-based support programs for young people with mental illness, addictions or learning disabilities. As analytics has shown us, such programs are core to improving – and saving – lives.
In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for people 15 to 44 years old. Black Dog Institute started the LifeSpan initiative because it recognized that earlier approaches to suicide prevention were fragmented and not based on solid evidence. The organization focused on nine integrated suicide prevention strategies that spanned community, health, school and emergency service sectors. With help from SAS, the LifeSpan team effectively managed these broad data sets and accurately measured their suicide prevention strategies. Now the organization has an ongoing, data-based view of progress and impacts. This keeps stakeholders engaged and bolsters confidence in their suicide prevention efforts.
Supporting mental health in a crisis
Before COVID-19, few people understood the tribulations a global public health crisis could trigger. From the initial shock of quarantine and altered lifestyles to many longer-term issues, the pandemic has created complex challenges for people with mental health needs and their providers. Learn how people and organizations have adapted and how analytics can help.
Career success and a big salary don’t prevent mental health issues – especially when a pandemic rips away the social supports that help people cope. In an anonymous “Ask me anything” session for members of a work-focused site (Team Blind), Dr. Josh Morgan uncovered several insights about the challenges of dealing with mental health issues in the workplace. Among his takeaways were that workplaces need to do more to support employees and to improve workplace acceptance of behavioral health. These issues can be addressed, in part, by providing whole person care and using analytics to find solutions.
It’s no simple task to keep mental health patients and staff safe during a pandemic. At Copenhagen Regional Psychiatric Centers, management wanted to meet patients’ needs while limiting contagion risk. A large operation with 100 physical locations, they needed up-to-date views of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on care centers at aggregated and individual center levels. Partnering with SAS, hospital leaders achieved the situational awareness they needed through an automated dashboard. The dashboard revealed trends and showed leaders how various factors would affect daily operations. In turn, they could monitor and control infections while providing appropriate levels of staffing and operational support.
Improving the lives of prisoners and probationers
A high percentage of people in jail or prison have mental health issues. And when people leave confinement, they often lack the support they need to stay healthy – and out of jail. Instead of accepting that these individuals will live most of their lives in hospitals and jails, some organizations are finding that analytics can change outcomes for this vulnerable population.
Southern California’s Riverside County provides health care for more than 2.5 million people under the integrated health facilities of Riverside University Health System. One of its initiatives was to improve whole person care for probationers through coordinated health resources. Because even though probationers frequently used county facilities and programs, they still had poor health outcomes.
With integrated health and non-health data from multiple systems, Riverside County has a clear view of how individuals interact with different services. This helps them understand what works and what doesn’t. In turn, they can make necessary changes and continue to provide holistic care to help probationers live safe, healthy lives after incarceration.
One of the MHSOAC's main goals is to treat people with mental illness before they wind up in the criminal justice system. This aligns with the aspirations of Dr. Dawnté Early, who discovered early in her career how she could use her love of big data analytics to help underrepresented and underserved communities.
In her role with the California MHSOAC, Dr. Early pioneered work that linked criminal justice and behavioral health data. The results revealed a statewide picture of how criminal justice outcomes are positively influenced by mental health services. One study examined whether participating in mental health programs reduced arrests among those suffering from mental illness. The results (from 64,000 participants) were impressive, showing:
- A 47% decline overall in criminal justice involvement.
- For those arrested at least once before, a 64% decline in criminal justice involvement.
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