Editor’s Note: ‘Screen Time’
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to recognize how important public understanding, elimination of stigma, and accessible quality care are to millions of people with mental health conditions and substance use disorders (SUDs), which frequently co-occur. Social Work Today has adopted use of the more inclusive term “behavioral health” to reflect the widely used description of the continuum of mental health, SUD, and preventive care many, if not most, organizations now provide.
At a time when comprehensive behavioral health care was not being offered as commonly as it is now, I was a mental health professional and consumer. I worked with people experiencing homelessness, in community mental health, employee assistance, and inpatient psychiatry. Eventually, I left the field to follow another career path. My personal interest and involvement in mental health has been one of the catalysts for SWT’s coverage of mental health care from the magazine’s inception in 2001 and frequently since then, but more importantly, as most readers will know, social workers are the largest segment of providers.
It is well past the time to defeat the stigma associated with behavioral health challenges. And finally, the health care system is realizing that, “Hey, the body, mind, and social determinants are connected!” and has recently started to offer treatment that recognizes those connections and integrates care in response. It’s been a long time coming, but it is something social workers have always understood.
As behavioral health care has evolved, it has incorporated technological and cultural changes, and social work educators are working hard to prepare students for new practice models that reflect an increasing awareness of access as a macro issue.
Telebehavioral health (TBH) and how social work educators are teaching students the skills needed to provide evidenced-based, ethical care in this expanding approach is the topic of this issue’s cover story.
TBH is becoming more prevalent in response to growing needs. One of the reasons behind the trend toward TBH is a national shortage in the behavioral health workforce that leaves some communities at a critical loss. Don’t miss another feature article in this issue that discusses factors contributing to the shortage. Additionally, some rural communities face isolating geographical challenges and underserved communities in urban settings face obstacles such as high rates of poverty, crime, and multiple gang territories.
The nature and accessibility of behavioral health care is changing and along with that change must come the total erasure of the stigma that has always accompanied it. Understanding is growing, and, with time, raised awareness, and education, it will happen!