How Providers Can Help Patients with the "Holiday Blues"

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The holiday season is heralded as the most wonderful time of the year. Between feasts and family reunions, the year’s end sparks joy and good tidings. However, for many, this period triggers mental health issues.
Here’s what the data tells us:

  • Symptoms of mental health conditions, including dissatisfaction and loneliness, worsen during the holidays.
  • Mental health condition symptoms worsen disproportionately for patients who identify as LGBTQ during this time of year.
  • Despite countless articles perpetuating this myth, suicide rates are actually the lowest in December. The rates peak during the months right before and right after the holidays.

Even outside of the holidays, mental health conditions have become more prevalent recently. The rate of major depression among teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 increased by 52 percent between 2009 and 2017. Unfortunately, those with a mental health condition do not always receive care. More than 18 percent of American adults report a mental health condition, upwards of half of whom have not received treatment. On average, there is an 11-year gap between the onset of a patient’s mental health condition symptoms and actual treatment.
In a survey from the National Council of Behavioral Health, 38 percent of Americans suffering from mental health conditions have had to wait longer than a week for treatment. Forty-eight percent knew someone or had to drive more than an hour round trip for treatment.

How Can Providers Help?

Consider Implementing Telehealth

Telehealth has been proven to reduce barriers to proper mental health treatment, reduce delays in care, and reduce patient fears of stigma surrounding mental health conditions. In fact, 31 percent of Americans avoided seeking mental health services because they are worried about judgment from their peers.

Research Collaborative Care Options

Collaborative care is the idea of incorporating mental health treatment as part of a regular primary care visit. It focuses provider efforts on proactively managing symptoms of mental health conditions as opposed to reducing the symptoms. Research shows that the collaborative care model improves patient outcomes, increases cost-competitiveness, improves patient and provider satisfaction, and decreases healthcare expenditures for those suffering from mental health conditions. Consider researching ways you can implement some parts of the collaborative care model into your practice.

Connect Your Patients with Resources

Among other reasons, 29 percent of Americans do not seek help because they do not know how to access mental health resources. Connect your patients with sites and resources that may help. Here’s a list of some sites that patients can use:

With the holidays around the corner, the symptoms of mental health conditions can get worse, but physicians can meet them halfway with the right tools and resources.

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