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Honoring Mental Health Awareness Month!

Making Mental Health a Priority - A Q&A with our Advisors

While working hard to break down the stigmas of mental health is more top of mind than ever before, we welcome a month dedicated to the topic!

The connection between our physical and mental health is undeniable, yet, we do not give our mental health the same priority as our physical health. Why is that? Our mental health is just as worthy of the same time, love and resources we’ve passionately bestowed on our physical health. Good news, we are not the only ones who feel this way!

We reached out to our Advisory Board of industry experts across the entire healthcare ecosystem to get their thoughts on mental health from innovation in the space to how they prioritize their own mental health. Read on below for contributions from a few.

Amyn Jan,

Chief Strategist, US Federal Government

Deanna Mulligan,

Chief Executive Officer, Purposeful and Former, President and CEO, Guardian Life

Rajesh Aggarwal,

MD, PhD, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, Panda Health

Sunil Bharitkar,

Ph.D., Principal Scientist, AI Research, Samsung Research

Tim Blevins,

Former Senior Vice President, Optum

Why are you passionate about mental health?

I have been in the mental health area for many years and have always cared deeply about improving access to mental health services, particularly for those who are vulnerable and those from underserved areas.” ~ Tim

“Mental health is a significant underlying problem existing in all societies. The pandemic has made us acutely aware of the consequences of a variety of unresolved mental health conditions, which spawn the gamut, ranging from depression to Alzheimer’s. The underlying disorders can range causing these conditions to encompass both cognitive and neurological. It is only right to have a system in place that treats and resolves the underlying conditions that prevent an individual from leading a fulfilling life due to mental health disorders. Hence I am deeply passionate about this topic since it touches directly on the human condition.” ~ Sunil

“My son is autistic so the mental help topic is very personal to me. The journey with our son has allowed us to acknowledge the strength of the mind and the unique ways of thinking. It has offered us personal growth – while we learn to better cope with challenges that interfere with his emotional development, it reminds us to focus on his exceptional strengths. This journey has also prepared us to be an advocate for others.” ~ Amyn

“I am passionate about the promotion of good mental health because it is the foundation of a healthy society, healthy families and healthy individuals. Our future depends on sound mental health for our population, not just in this country, but globally.” ~ Deanna

“Mental health is the cornerstone of general health; we often say that without mental health there cannot be the possibility of whole health. However, the majority of our healthcare delivery systems focus upon physical health. We need to really focus upon the behavioral aspects of care delivery. Such as in my specialty of bariatric surgery, where the surgical intervention is only one part of the care journey toward successful outcomes.” ~ Rajesh

How do you see technology shaping the future of mental health care?

“Technology has an exciting role to play, not just in mental health, but in all types of health. During the pandemic, we began to catch a glimpse of what technology can do.” ~ Deanna

“Technology is reshaping the way we live, work, play, and interact. If technology is applied correctly, it presents a fundamental promise to offer a better life and can promote better transparency. We are entering an era – where aspects of our life are being characterized by data. Technologies such as artificial intelligence with deep learning techniques can intake this large amount of data and make meaningful insights, to include improving health care outcomes. AI is offering new frontier in early detection, evaluation, treatment, and a possible prevention of psychiatric illnesses. The future is just getting started for us to understand our complex human brain.” ~ Amyn

“The ability to deliver behavioral health interventions through counseling is perfect on digital platforms - avoiding the challenges and necessity of in-person visits.“ ~ Rajesh

“Through bringing new capabilities to market technology can significantly improve access to better care.” ~ Tim

“We are living in an age of information that includes large datasets of speech, text, video/images, and gait/motion of individuals that can give deep insight into the behavior and state on a granular basis using properly designed models with machine learning. A variety new data driven models are in the works using speech and other modalities to better understand the behavioral aspects and predict mental health. For example, Ellipsis has foundational technology in this space using primarily speech as a unique modality.” ~ Sunil

How are you prioritizing your mental health and wellbeing?

“Spending time with family, travel, ocean sports, reading, and weekend motorcycle outings.” ~ Sunil

“My priority is to focus on both emotional and physical health – from eating healthy to being mindful about choice in life – work-life balance, being thankful and helping others.” ~ Amyn

“I think we all know the importance of good mental and physical health, but prioritizing our health in our busy lives can be a challenge. I try hard to live a healthy lifestyle, but like almost everyone, I sometimes struggle to meet my objectives!” ~ Deanna

“It is difficult, none more so in the 24/7 always-on world we live in; it is just important to remember to focus on things that derive pleasure and to go slow at times.” ~ Rajesh

“Self-care and through a caring, loving community and network of support.” ~ Tim

What is your favorite activity to reduce stress and promote mental wellbeing?

“Purposeful quiet time, reconnecting with old friends, and spending time with my children and being a kid again, especially with my little one now 18 months old.” ~ Amyn

“Anything related to water sports (scuba, water scooters, snorkeling, paddle boarding).” ~ Sunil

“Regularly going to the gym, taking a walk between back-to-back zoom meetings and ensuring that I spend quality time with my family” ~ Rajesh

“Playing tennis and performing music.” ~ Tim

“I find that spending time in nature is one of the best ways to reduce stress and promote a feeling of well-being, even if it’s only a few minutes a day. Nature can be as close as your backyard or a local park.” ~ Deanna

What would you change about society’s understanding of mental health?

“Important, if not more important, than physical health. Further, if any individual is suffering from a behavioral health issue, they should receive treatment in the same way that patients with diabetes receive insulin therapy. I.e. without a quality judgment from others around them.” ~ Rajesh

“Continue to address stigma and viewing mental health as any other health care concern.” ~ Tim

“I hope that society continues to build on the awareness of the importance of good mental health that we all came to appreciate during the pandemic.” ~ Deanna

“Our understanding of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) must evolve. We all are on a spectrum with our own unique strengths and development areas.” ~ Amyn

“Society places a stigma around this topic. Having frank conversations around this topic that help people open up is one important direction.” ~ Sunil

What is the biggest challenge in prioritizing mental health and physical health as one?

“The care is too fragmented and medical professionals and mental health professionals need to view consumers much more holistically. There are too few mental health resources for primary care providers to feel comfortable screening for depression and having a confidence level that patients' mental health concerns will be addressed.” ~ Tim

“Both of these are deeply interconnected. When one is impacted, the other one is also impacted. Taking time out to take care of oneself is one of the biggest challenges in this busy life that we live.” ~ Sunil

“We need to constantly remind ourselves that mental and physical health are tightly correlated. It is difficult to have one without the other. There has been a lot of progress made over the years in the recognition of the importance of physical fitness. We need to remember the importance of our mental and emotional well-being as well.” ~ Deanna

“Quite frankly, the way the U.S. healthcare system reimburses for interventional procedures leads to a de-prioritization of behavioral health. But, the impact is huge.” ~ Rajesh

“Let us start first, if we as society promote happiness and gratitude it will go a long way. And those who have been afforded the blessings of life - give more and serve others with their time, knowledge, and charity.

A challenge, we tend to deal with mental and physical health as separate. Our mental health, emotions, and physical condition are intertwined. If you neglect one of them, others will suffer; but if we take care of both aspects, we can be healthy, and happy.

Another challenge is that mental health is often invisible and those suffering may tend to not ask for help, as society we have attached stigma in discussing mental health issues. Similarly, there are challenges with prioritizing physical health as our good intentions get lost in daily life hustle.

In conclusion, it is a responsibility we all need to take as a society, as a corporation, as a government and as an individual - we need to invest in and accelerate our efforts in detection and prevention measures.” ~ Amyn

It is clear we all agree that greater importance needs to be placed on better and more accessible mental health care - from at home, to primary care, and to the healthcare system as a whole.

We are confident that with leaders like our Advisory Board members and companies like ours who are pushing for innovation and adoption of technology, we will continue to see the rise in the prioritization of our mental health. One day soon, mental health will just be health!

We hope you, too, keep the conversation going and make every month Mental Health Awareness Month.

~ The Ellipsis Health Team


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