World Mental Health Day 2022

ARTICLE BY Vijay Wadhawan

Thanksgiving this weekend and World Mental Health Day today, has me reflecting on how much the conversation about mental health has changed in my life – from being more open about my own struggles to having more honest conversations with friends and family about it, and many overdue discussions in the workplace about the importance of good mental health and its connection to job satisfaction and performance. And I’m grateful to be in spaces and with people where these conversations are happening. But, as I often remind my clients, while reflecting I caught myself thinking: ‘Everyone isn’t like you or the people you interact with regularly.

Like me, many of my connections work in the healthcare space or some other professional service, I wanted to use this platform to start a conversation – and remind many of you that our ability to build empathy with individuals as it relates to their healthcare is going to be critical for the sustainability of our healthcare system. Building empathy with an individual means that we need to understand where they’re coming from, what’s driving their behaviours, how they navigate the healthcare system, and how they’re making decisions about their health.

In partnership with Dialogue, the research Environics Research did for their annual tracker shows one in four Canadians reporting that they have fair to poor mental health status, but only 17% have accessed mental health support in the past year.

In that same study, we found that almost half of Canadians reported worsened mental health due to COVID-19. And, close to three in ten reported worsened overall health, sleep, physical activity and diet/nutrition.

But it’s not all bad news. This same study shows that over half of Canadians and Dialogue members are now more conscious about their health than before the pandemic. Over seven in ten Canadians said they’d be likely to use self-led resources and tools to guide them through their healthcare needs. Six in ten are very or somewhat likely to access mental health professionals if available through employee benefits, and seven in ten believe that having access to virtual mental healthcare would allow them to be more proactive around their mental health.

While these stats are helpful in guiding what we need to focus on, and with whom, they don’t always tell the whole story. In today’s ‘expectation economy’, healthcare is not exempt from Canadians’ expectations that the system’s institutions and practitioners will understand them at a deep level in order to provide them with care, services and products that are delivered to them in a way that reflects their needs and mindsets around health.

As someone who works in healthcare and has a nuanced understanding of the healthcare system and how to navigate it, focus groups with ‘general population’ Canadians that are not thinking about healthcare during the majority of their waking hours serve as a good reality check – and remind me of the importance of meeting people where they are in their healthcare journey.

Your own mental health status can be so influenced by your environment – the way you were brought up, the experiences you’ve had – all culminating in your values and the way you look at the world. This concept inspired the creation of Environics Research’s PatientConnect Segmentation, which looks to understand how an individual’s values and worldview impact the way they approach their health, and how they access and interact with the healthcare system.

When we look at mental health metrics through the lens of our PatientConnect segmentation, we start to uncover the nuances of what values could be driving experiences with mental health. With values like Effort towards Health, Adaptive Navigation, Control of Privacy and Trust in Institutions all at different levels across the country, and within generations, we need to recognize that values like these influence the likelihood of individuals having a primary care physician, how much they trust the healthcare system (and what they need in order to trust it), and the way they look at different therapies and modalities that might be best suited for them. It also can indicate the likelihood that one will pay attention to their mental health as part of their overall healthcare.

Our PatientConnect segment shows that the segment Responsible Proactives, which represent about 18% of the country, but often 70%+ of all staff in our healthcare clients fall into this segment, are able to manage their mental health, have a more positive perception of their own mental health, and know how to navigate the healthcare system with greater ease compared to others. Understanding that individual mindset and values will always bias our understanding of, we must keep asking “why?” to get to the core of the individual, especially when things don’t make sense according to our own value set. This is why values-based segmentations are so important.

As healthcare leaders, we need to ask ourselves: how do we ensure that the messages and actions being taken to recognize this day resonate with the populations that need it the most? How are we building tools, communications and resources that meet individuals where they are before their issues manifest as something more severe? If we are committed to providing genuine ‘patient-centric’ care, it means building more empathy, digging deeper into insights to uncover nuances and values driving behaviour that can help optimize the interactions individuals have with the healthcare system – to provide more options for ways to access, build increased confidence in, and have more positive experiences with the healthcare system.

To view the full report from Dialogue please see: Dialogue’s Canadian Attitudes on Health and Virtual Care 2021

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