AJMC®: Hello, I’m Matthew Gavidia. Today on the MJH Life Sciences’ Medical World News, The American Journal of Managed Care® is pleased to welcome Dr Benjamin F. Miller, chief strategy officer for Well Being Trust.
Can you just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about your work?
Dr Miller: Sure, thanks, Matt, and thanks for having me! So, I’m the chief strategy officer for Well Being Trust, and I’m a clinical psychologist by training. Most of what I’ve done in my career has been at the intersection of mental health, public health, and primary care. So, as an academic, I spent years of my life studying how we can better integrate mental health into primary care, and now I’m on the foundation side where we make investments in solutions that can help accelerate the adoption of evidence-based strategies for mental health in this country.
AJMC®: Can you speak on the current state of mental health in the US workforce and how the pandemic has exacerbated this issue?
Dr Miller: Unfortunately, mental health and addiction in the United States has not been doing too terribly well for the last several years. Actually, we can go all the way back to the beginning of when we started collecting data from the CDC in 1999 to look at the depths of despair, the number of lives that we lost to drug, alcohol, and suicide, to see that we’re going in the wrong direction for mental health in this nation.
What COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] has done is it’s exacerbated a lot of the things that we knew to be problematic. If you look at rates of depression, you can see from survey after survey after survey, depression and anxiety are skyrocketing. In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, they show that half the country has reported some type of symptoms of mental health in the last couple of months.
There was a published study in JAMA that looked at a 6-fold increase in depression since COVID-19 has started, which is substantial when you consider that depression was already the leading worldwide cause of disability and a lot of folks in this nation had it. So, what COVID-19 has done is, again, it’s put a magnifying glass on top of something that I think many folks knew was a problem. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to put those solutions into practice just yet. I’m optimistic, but we’ve not seen the solutions come to bear as of this moment.
AJMC®: In addressing mental health, employers can play a significant role based on their coverage options of behavioral health services. Can you first explain how mental health problems can be further exacerbated by workplaces that are not formally equipped to handle these issues?
Dr Miller: Yeah, absolutely. So, where we work is probably, at least before COVID-19, most of us when we go into the office, our work environments were the places that we spent most of our time. So, we had our social relationships there, we had interactions with folks all day, we were trying to make a livelihood and have a career for…