The Commonwealth Fund published a new report that analyzes health care data in the United States and offers a cross-national comparison. The report looks at how the United States compares to wealthy countries, including Canada, Norway, and the United Kingdom, and found that the U.S. holds the highest suicide rates and lowest life expectancy, despite spending the most on healthcare. Specifically, it was found that there were approximately 13.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S., compared to 7.3 in the U.K. The study correlates these findings to a high burden of mental illness, along with several socioeconomic factors.
American’s have continued to die at younger ages over the past three years due to deaths of despair (deaths relating to suicide and substance use). In fact, 2018 saw the longest decline in life expectancy since 1920. The Well Being Trust believes that the alarming number of deaths is due to a lack of inclusive policies, limited affordable access to care, food, and housing insecurity, and systemic bias. To further highlight the lack of accessible care, Well Being Trust shares that approximately 50% of patients drive at least one hour for mental health treatment and that 50% of counties do not have a psychiatrist. To address the current mental health crisis that the U.S. is facing, Well Being Trust listed recommendations for Federal policymakers to take.
The Well Being Trust established a focus on individualized treatment by steering away from the “one size-fits-all” approach that is often practiced in mental health treatment. Specifically, WBM addressed individualistic needs for Native Americans, pregnant and postpartum women, unhoused individuals, veterans, and the LGBTQ+ community. Policy initiatives outlined in their report include increased incentives to join the mental health workforce, Medicaid coverage for women up to one year postpartum, the use of Medicaid funds to reimburse education for housing authorities on housing insecurity risks, distributing a portion of all mental health funds to tribes, funding for services that specifically assist veterans in transitioning back into their communities, and codifying non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. Indeed, Well Being Trust is advocating for “tailored policies for unique needs.”