Mental health is essential to a person’s overall health and well-being. While there’s no denying that physical health can help a person feel great, someone’s mind can affect their body just as drastically. For example, research shows that neglecting mental health can lead to serious physical health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Increasing access to behavioral health care can help diagnose and treat more patients and also help fight the stigma attached to having a mental health diagnosis. Introducing and expanding behavioral health services into your CHC, FQHC, hospital, or health system is an excellent first step towards eliminating stigma in your community and helping more people get the holistic care they need.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can educate your organization on mental healthcare and implement your first behavioral health program.
Educating your organization on mental healthcare
Whether your healthcare organization is planning to start your behavioral health program from scratch or considering expanding your services, your work can significantly impact the community. However, starting that process may feel overwhelming. Remember, a lot of the critical work around building a successful, patient-first behavioral health program starts with your care team.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when talking to your team about mental health care:
- Education: Effectively preparing your providers to support patients with mental health conditions is all about education. Your organization can educate your staff on different behavioral health conditions and common diagnoses they might encounter and empower them to have better conversations surrounding mental health.
- Person-first language: One important skill is to teach person-first language (for example, you would say a person diagnosed with schizophrenia, not a schizophrenic). It may seem like a minor change, but switching how you categorize or classify your patients can help them feel more empowered to have real, vulnerable conversations about their situation.
- Emotional impact: Your care team should recognize that treating people with mental health diagnoses can have a unique emotional impact on providers. Your organization should emphasize the importance of your providers not becoming desensitized to patients’ challenges. You can help your providers prevent burnout by opening up communication channels with them and implementing support systems at the organizational level. It’s essential for your organization to not become desensitized to patients challenges nor take them home with them at the end of the day.
Implementing your first behavioral health program
Once you’ve thought about bringing mental health care into your organization and believe it’s a good fit for your patient populations, now comes the process of implementing behavioral health services into your workflow.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you move forward:
- Your patients will likely be discussing very personal and vulnerable topics when they come in for a behavioral health appointment. That means housing your behavioral health services in a space that allows them to feel comfortable opening up is essential. Your space should be physically and mentally safe for patients and have procedures in place in the event that a patient expresses an intent to harm themselves or others or becomes combative.
- You’ll also need to be ready to make a change in how you schedule providers. Mental health care cannot run on a traditional medicine model in which a patient waits for half an hour to meet with a doctor for a short conversation. You should plan to schedule ample time for the important conversations between providers and their patients.
- If your new program is your organization’s first experience with psychiatry, you’ll want to make sure you hire nurses, medical assistants, and doctors who have experience working in behavioral healthcare. By utilizing a solution like telepsychiatry, you’ll gain access to the best providers from all around the country.
- Check out some of these resources to learn more about the benefits of behavioral health integration from an administrative point of view and directly from nurses in the field.
Integrating holistic care into your organization’s culture
For providers at the frontline of the country’s mental health crisis, it’s important that they feel empowered to seek help if they need it as well. Integrating holistic care into your organization also means ensuring your providers feel supported in their mental health. Often, as behavioral healthcare professionals, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they’re not susceptible to mental health conditions in the way that others are, but that’s not true. Anyone and everyone can struggle with their mental health, and there’s no shame in reaching out for a helping hand.
Where Iris Telehealth fits in
One of the most challenging parts of starting a behavioral health program can be finding high-quality providers that seamlessly fit into your organization. That’s where telepsychiatry comes in. At Iris Telehealth, we connect organizations with high-quality, specialty providers from all over the country. Our large geographic pool allows us to connect organizations with the behavioral health support they need to help their community thrive. To learn more about how Iris Telehealth can help you implement a telepsychiatry program, contact us, and we’ll be happy to provide you with the information you need to get started.