Our state has a behavioral health crisis and it’s not going away. It is estimated that more than 53% of Massachusetts residents experience behavioral health issues. This includes children, teens, adults, seniors and veterans. They represent all levels of income and education, profession and occupation.
No one is immune to this medical problem, often caused by trauma, chemical imbalance, heredity, or the daily challenges we face. People with behavioral health issues have a real medical condition that deserves our respect, understanding, and support rather than mocking, belittling, or castigating them for their behavior.
I remember talking to a Marine veteran in his late twenties who, after eight years in the Corps, came home with many medals for his heroism, including the Purple Heart. He continued to experience and manifest fits of rage and anger, sometimes when he least expected it. He was a really nice guy, a brave warrior who cared about those around him. Unfortunately, his behavior annoyed many of his friends, even though the VA Medical System prescribed various drugs to stop his aggression. It was unfortunate that his friends didn’t really understand or respect the medical challenge he faced or the fact that he often had no control over his anger. He now has his problems under control, but not before damage is done to his personal and family relationships.
Currently, mental health clinicians are overwhelmed to help their current patients; new patients requesting appointments have to wait weeks or even months for help. Hospital emergency departments have seen an alarming increase in the number of people of all ages seeking urgent help. There are times when children are held in an emergency room for days while waiting for a proper mental health bed. To address the severity of this health crisis, Tufts Medicine plans to build a 144-bed behavioral hospital in Malden and a growing number of police departments are providing additional training for their officers on how to treat people in acute emotional distress. , as well as mental disorders. health clinicians partner with officers at the scene.
Behavioral health issues have been around for decades, but have recently been brought to the forefront of media attention by the pandemic, which has dramatically exacerbated emotional issues. From road rage to anger displayed in retail stores and at hospital workers, to depression, inappropriate actions and mood swings, it all confronts us head-on.
We are now seeing employers and managers bringing in trained experts to address behavioral issues that their employees are bringing back to the office after spending too much time working remotely. Schools and colleges are gearing up to help their students with mental wellness due to emotional issues related to the pandemic.
People with behavioral medical conditions face a difficult road to mental well-being. That’s why it’s important for each of us to better understand the behavioral health issues we see in others.
Billerica resident Rick Pozniak has spent 30 years in the health and risk communication field and has taught at several Massachusetts colleges.