A new approach that has taken mental health out of the clinic and onto the streets will be showcased by the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Aug. 31.
In a guest lecture, the innovator, clinical psychologist and commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr told an audience of Sydney mental health leaders how they can empower communities to improve mental wellness.
Dr. Evans has measurably improved the mental health of communities and lowered treatment costs in his native city of Philadelphia in the U.S. by taking solutions to the people rather than waiting for people to come for treatment. One community initiative, Healthy Minds Philly, engages whole communities to work toward better mental health at a grassroots level and empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own well being.
“We know that if we want to effectively reach people, we need to reach them in the neighborhoods and communities in which they live,” said Dr. Evans. “This approach has helped us to transform lives and communities, and make the behavioral health and intellectual disability systems more effective.”
One example is the mental well being tests offered free in local neighborhoods and train stations. For most participants, this results in a greater appreciation of the importance of maintaining good mental health. However, referrals are offered for those who indicate any level of distress or possible psychological disorder, while people whose screening indicates they may be at risk of suicide or self-harm are connected to immediate help and support.
“This is a vital opportunity for political and social planning leaders to see how successful community-based mental health strategies can be,” said NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Fenely. “Healthy Minds Philly showcases many of the things we expect to see in place in NSW before 2024: a strong commitment to prevention, early intervention and quality of life, and the understanding that fostering good mental health is everyone’s business.”
We know from mental health experts in Australia that starting a conversation around how we’re feeling is the first step towards recovery and resilience.
But breaking the ice on mental health isn’t easy.
In the US, the city of Philadelphia has come up with a broad set of measures to reach people where they live.
The city’s Department of Behavioural Health and Intellectual Disability Services aims at taking mental health treatment out of a clinical environment and into the community, by hosting mental health screenings in public spaces, training faith leaders to recognise early signs of a mental health conditions, and intervening promptly in the aftermath of a traumatic event.
Statistics from NAMI PA (National Alliance on Mental Illness) say that 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and that every American is impacted through their friends and family. Jennifer’s guests include Maria Boswell, Department of Behavioral Health for the City of Philadelphia as well as Carol Caruso, NAMI PA.
Both experts shared information on where people in the Delaware Valley can get help in addition to information on warning signs including excessive worry or fear and extreme mood changes. Farida Saleem-Boyer, marriage and family therapist and Jaynay C. Johnson, author of the book, “Dear Teen Self” also join Jennifer. They discussed various issues including advocating for more people of color to seek help, as well as aspects of depression and the black “superwoman syndrome.” And, they talked about their Black Brain Conference.
Tiffany, who herself says she sought help from a therapist shares her story and advocating for greater resources and mental health awareness. “In Focus” airs Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to noon on PHL17.
On April 5, 2016, 18 international health officials came together at DBHIDS for a “meeting of the minds.” The leaders, representing eight countries throughout North America, Europe, and Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand), came to Philadelphia after hearing about the innovative public health strategies we are using to address and improve behavioral health outcomes in our city.
The leaders are part of a group, called the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership (IIMHL), which is a unique international collaborative that focuses on improving mental health and addictions services. IIMHL organizes systems — like DBHIDS — for innovation sharing, networking, and problem solving across countries and agencies, with an overall aim of providing better outcomes for people who use mental health and addiction services and their families – also, a shared vision of our Department.
Our work initially attracted the attention of the group at the 2015 IIMHL Combined Meeting in Vancouver where Dr. Evans presented on aspects of our population health management approach; an approach centered on helping people to achieve overall health and wellness across all populations in Philadelphia. Some of the strategies to achieving population health include:
Addressing the full spectrum of interventions by incorporating health promotion, “upstream” prevention, and early intervention strategies, instead of intervening at the point of diagnosis
Encouraging community “health activation,” which empowers people to take ownership of their own health and wellness and to support the health efforts of their peers
Building community capacity to better address behavioral health conditions by expanding services offered in non-treatment settings
The group was particularly intrigued to hear about the non-traditional, transformative, and innovative approaches that we are taking to increase behavioral health literacy across communities, including Mental Health First Aid, behavioral health screenings, Porch Light Series murals, and cross-system collaborations with other city organizations (including the Mayor’s Office).
In addition to learning about Philadelphia’s model and better understanding how it can possibly translate in their own countries, DBHIDS was able to learn about similar challenges and unique approaches in other parts of the world.
After the discussion, the group experienced, first-hand, a Department-hosted behavioral health community screening event held at SEPTA’s Jefferson Station where over 80 people were screened and over 150 individuals visited the resource table.
This special, one-of-a-kind event garnered attention from local media outlets, including KYW and WHYY. Take a look at some of the photos taken at the April 5th discussion and community screening event.
This unique meeting is the start of much to come in regards to our work with international communities. As a next step, Philadelphia has committed to working with IIMHL to participate in an Urban Mental Health Learning Collaborative (to include representation from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Toronto, etc). While the overall goals have yet to be concluded, the partnership will provide opportunities for building alliances and conducting in-depth cross country/cultural research comparisons.
Researchers found that compared with salaried employees, independent contractors reported they would be less willing to adopt evidence-based practices, even if they found them appealing; specifically, they scored .28 points lower on a 4-point scale measuring this attitude.