In 2017, one in ten people globally (10.7% or 792 million) lived with a mental health disorder, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and their flagship Global Burden of Disease study. Mental illness and disorders are prevalent in every part of the world, affecting millions of adults and children. Sometimes, this translates into problems so extensive that mental disorders like depression are considered a public health crisis.
Mental health programs are an important part of how governments, mental health providers, and researchers are addressing these public concerns.
The scope of this article is to help you better understand what mental health programs are and why they are so desperately needed. We will use examples to explain what exactly is covered by a mental health program.
What Are Mental Health Programs?
A mental health program is a comprehensive strategy implemented by a government, an institution, or by multiple institutions to prevent, detect, and treat mental health issues at a national level. It includes diagnosis, treatment, and education intended for any person who might be struggling with mental health problems. 
Some mental health programs are highly specialized in certain disorders, while others look to cover mental health as a whole. You might read or hear about a mental health program through media or it could be recommended to you by your general practitioner.
In today’s hectic world, taking the first steps to create mental health programs should be on the to-do list of any government and big healthcare provider. Whether it is a national program or a small community program, such actions contribute to a better understanding and management of mental health issues.
Why Are Mental Health Programs Needed?
To understand how important mental health programs are for society, let’s see how the world would be without them.
In the absence of a mental health program, an individual showing signs of mental disorders might not be diagnosed or ever treated. They would have to take the initiative to make an appointment with a specialist, follow expensive treatments and therapy, and find the resources to finance their treatment plan.
This is one of the key factors underpinning the growth of blended care and virtual care models worldwide.
It goes without saying that this is a grim reality for many people struggling with poverty in countries where mental health programs are not implemented on a large scale. But people remain untreated even in first-world countries and leading nations, like the US.
The solution is to have a network of organizations and agencies that provide mental health services and connect them with governmental entities that can finance and support them.
Who Can Benefit from a Mental Health Program?
As we will show further, anyone can benefit from a mental health program, directly or indirectly. Patients can get easier access to specialist treatment and diagnosis or find programs that are financed by the government or NGO. That can take the burden away from them and encourage them to get help. Moreover, these programs help educate the public about mental health issues.
Educating the people about this contemporary “plague” is crucial in changing the way we see mental health disorders and how we act toward them.
Talking About Mental Health
Up until recently, mental health patients were surrounded by stigma, were rejected by society and condemned to isolation. As a result, their condition would only get worse, with dramatic effects on both their personal lives and the community they were part of.
Today, we talk openly about mental health issues and treat them like we would treat a more palpable problem, like a heart condition or an injury.
Anyone can benefit from a mental health program, directly or indirectly. Patients can get easier access to specialist treatment and diagnosis or find programs that are financed by the government or NGO.
Professionals can also benefit from mental health programs because they enable them to get in touch with their peers and with specialists from other sectors who share their goals. Mental health programs often include seminars and conferences, creating a fruitful congregation of minds and resources.
Another way in which a mental health program can bring benefits to society is of a financial nature. It may seem surprising to think of it from this perspective, but the costs associated with treating behavioral problems show that preventing them in the first place saves a lot of money.
For example, workers who have undiagnosed depression would skip fewer hours of work if treated. According to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), about $193 billion is lost this way yearly. Comorbidities associated with mental illness would no longer be so costly. 
Types of Mental Health Programs
Mental health programs differ in terms of coverage, financing, provided services, the patients they address, etc. We will present a few types of mental health programs to show exactly what they do and how patients benefit from them directly.
Mental Health Programs for Children and Teenagers
These programs include assessment and treatment plans for children with autism or other developmental disorders, providing the means to help them adapt and cope with their struggles. This often includes therapists who:
- Assist children during class
- Help caregivers better understand these disabilities, and
- Provide information for long-term evaluation.
Mental health programs that are dedicated to children most often include schools in their system, since early diagnosis can make a huge difference in mental health. School counselors and teachers are trained to identify symptoms of possible mental disorders and guide the students to institutions that are part of a mental health program.
Youth Mental Health Programs: Key Issues
Some considerations must be made when dealing with patients who are minors.
- First, these programs are not only meant for the patients, but also for the adults who are responsible for them. Focusing on a direct solution is, of course, a priority, but teaching parents to prevent and identify further issues will eventually lead to a smaller prevalence of mental issues in children.
- Another particularity of this age group, especially teenagers, is high dropout rates and low return rates. Since teenage years are characterized by challenging authority and dealing with an identity crisis, more or less, teenagers are more likely to cancel the mental treatment they’ve been imposed by parents, teachers, or other adults that have a say in their lives. A comprehensive mental health program dedicated to young patients should take patient outreach and client engagement very seriously and work on keeping these patients in therapy. Many youth programs use mobile apps and video therapy platforms to achieve this.
One of the most important roles of a mental health program when it comes to children is to help those who are vulnerable. Often, children in state care or who come from dysfunctional families are particularly prone to becoming substance abusers, depressed and anxious, violent, or destructive.
One of the most important roles of a mental health program when it comes to children is to help those who are vulnerable.
In the absence of a mental health program, it would be easy for these children to slip through the cracks of a system that doesn’t know about them or doesn’t have the network to help them in time.
Mental Health Programs for Adults
Adults, even highly functional ones, often struggle with behavioral issues that affect their lives. Whether they are dealing with serious mental health illnesses or other issues that don’t necessarily impair them, many adults ignore their problems or are unaware of them, making treatment impossible.
Statistically, the most common mental health disorders worldwide are depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. These are so prevalent that a big part of society views them as “normal” and does not deal with them from a medical point of view.
Substance Abuse Services
This subdomain of mental care deserves to be treated separately from the others, as it affects a large number of adults. It also affects them financially and usually brings other disorders, including but not limited to:
- Heart problems
- Brain damage
- Sexually transmitted infectious diseases,
- And more.
Treating a substance abuser’s addiction will not be enough if they are not treated for the underlying mental health issue that makes them abuse substances in the first place. For example, a drug addict can be admitted into rehab and be clean for a limited amount of time, but he would most probably relapse when going back to his life if his mental health issues are not addressed.
Mental health programs dedicated to substance abusers should focus more on preventive issues and limiting the associated risks of consumption. For example, a program that gives away free testing for HIV of hepatitis and prevents them from offering sterile needles to substance abusers will help minimize the associated risks.
More importantly, a mental health program that includes therapy and treatment for mental health issues will make substance abuse less likely to happen again.
Mental Health Programs for the Elderly
They include educational actions directed at the families and care providers of the elderly, helping them understand the patient’s needs to ensure better care management is provided, while dealing with the specific issues this age group has.
Many senior citizens are living in isolation across the world; due to societal or various other factors, the elderly are often considered a particularly vulnerable demographic when it comes to mental illness.
If an older person struggles with mental issues as well, it’s very hard for them to improve their own quality of life. Mental health programs dedicated to the elderly often address this problem by the usual means of therapy and counseling, as well as by providing nursing homes, hostels, and other forms of accommodation for these people.
Successful Mental Health Programs Across the World
Across the world, several organizations are known for their great work in delivering high-quality mental health solutions. In the US, for example:
- The largest non-profit organization to handle mental health issues is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Their agencies are found all across the country and they provide education, advocacy, and support to mental health patients and their families.
- Dell’s Children Grace Grego Maxwell Mental Health Unit in Central Texas is one example of a mental health program that is aiming to adapt to the contemporary world. The most regarded forms of education today are the ones that break boundaries and teach children in a more interconnected way than before, eliminating school subjects, grades, and so on. Similarly, the Grace Grego Maxwell Mental Health Unit is a center that provides a holistic approach when it comes to children with mental disorders. By being an integrated part of an e-clinic or medical center, the patients receive multivalent care.
If you’re looking for a mental health program provider near you, Mental Health America actively maintains an easily-searchable database that is open to all.
How to Improve a Mental Health Program
Mental health programs are not new, and yet mental health issues are still prevalent in today’s society. This doesn’t mean that these programs are not efficient, but they still have a lot of work making mental health services accessible to anyone and educating the public about mental disorders.
All mental health programs are constantly improving, as part of their implementation is checking how they impact a community. Statistics, research, and communication with the patients and officials are important to establish what points need improvement and what needs should be prioritized. Making health programs transparent and accessible helps professionals get in touch with the patients and start a dialogue about what needs to be done.
The Growing Role of Technology
Technology also plays a very important role in improving mental health programs, as it makes certain features possible or easier to implement than before. For example, the rise of telehealth services has made psychiatric and psychological care more accessible financially and geographically. Patients who can’t afford or are not able to get to in-person appointments can reach a specialist via the internet.
Researching mental health issues is also aided by such e-health programs, as they collect large data and provide relevant statistics for the researchers.
Mental health programs are not just a plan on paper. They are systems with many moving parts that work together to make mental health services accessible to those in need.
Organizations and associations are working hard to make such programs known to the public, and individuals are becoming more knowledgeable about how to identify and manage mental health issues.
If you hear about a mental health program near you, find out more about it. Such a program was not created for the government, the hospitals, or for mental health patients only, but for any person who is at risk of having a behavioral issue at a certain moment in life. Knowing where to turn to when dealing with such a problem is responsible and might save you from severe complications and huge future costs.
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