words Alexa Wang
A growing, aging global population presents an increasingly urgent set of challenges for the healthcare industry writ large and for mental and behavioural healthcare in particular.
Providers, administrators, and policymakers remain hamstrung by outdated care practices and outright stigmatization, among many other issues. Societies disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and buffeted by systemic changes that both predated and arose out of it simply can’t afford to wait for glacially-paced incremental improvements that may or may not lead to better outcomes for patients who need them most.
But this grim state of affairs is not as inevitable as it appears. Thanks to a new generation of healthcare leaders, a better mental and behavioral health paradigm is emerging. The pace of change is accelerating. The future is brighter for the most vulnerable among us.
5 Leaders Breaking Down Barriers to Mental and Behavioural Health
Each of these leaders is working to increase access to quality mental and behavioral healthcare.
1. Trey Sutten
Siftwell Analytics co-founder Trey Sutten isn’t trying to revolutionize mental and behavioral health. He just wants providers and payers to have access to the same tools and expertise that stakeholders in other industries have. Drawing on Sutten’s years of managed care experience, Siftwell uses proprietary AI to identify health plan members at risk of chronic disease, including mental and behavioral health concerns — setting the stage for payers (and providers) to intervene for more focused care and better outcomes.
2. Amy Laverock
As Global Advice & Solutions Leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, Amy Laverock focuses on addressing mental health concerns at the organizational level. For the past several years, she and her team have been pushing employers to adopt “a more expansive view about [their] responsibilities” with respect to caregiving, a critical and increasingly visible draw on workers’ mental health amid lingering pandemic disruptions. There are hopeful signs this work is breaking through the longstanding stigma around mental health and helping employers understand that they really will do better when their teams feel supported.
3. Stephen Schueller
Stephen Schueller is a professor at UC-Irvine by day and executive director of OneMind by night. OneMind is an objective rating system that helps consumers make informed decisions about the thousands of mental health and wellness apps out there. OneMind doesn’t endorse or recommend specific solutions, but it performs a valuable service by steering would-be users away from unhelpful or potentially harmful apps.
4. Kelly McCain
Like Amy Laverock, World Economic Forum global health and health care lead Kelly McCain approaches mental health from the employer side. Through advocacy and research, she’s pushing employers to adopt wellness programs that go beyond mindfulness apps and “nudges” to address the root causes of mental and behavioural health issues. Perhaps more important, she’s pushing larger employers to fund internal research into mental and behavioural health interventions with the aim of creating a replicable road map for employee wellness.
5. Danielle Schlosser
As senior vice president of clinical innovation at Compass Pathways, Danielle Schlosser is working to commercialize safe, effective psychedelic interventions for people suffering from certain mental and behavioural health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. Though controversial, this work is not new — at least 40,000 patients received controlled psychedelic treatment for these conditions in the 1950s and 60s, according to a piece Schlosser and Compass Pathways adviser Thomas Insel wrote for Scientific American. And emerging research suggests the potential benefits were, if anything, undersold back then.
Signs of Hope
The scale of the challenges facing mental health stakeholders — from providers and support staff to payers and patients — is overwhelming. Like all systemic changes, a meaningful shift in the mental and behavioral health paradigm won’t happen overnight.
But heartening signs of real, positive change are increasingly difficult to ignore if you know where to look. Soon enough, they’ll be evident even for those who aren’t looking for them. Then, just maybe, the chronic pessimism that (understandably) suffuses the space right now will feel as outmoded as the bad old care models that got us into this mess in the first place.