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When Should I Seek Out Mental Health Support?

Stressed. Lonely. Isolated. Burned out. Depressed. Crisis. These are all terms used to describe the current state of mental health in the United States.

Mental health impacts everyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness. That’s equivalent to over 50 million Americans. From a financial standpoint, the burden of work-related stress, burnout, and untreated mental health conditions amounts to approximately $190 billion a year in additional employer health care expenses.1

Now more than ever, we all need support to stay balanced, build resilience, and feel mentally and emotionally strong — whether it’s clinical care, social support, or simply practicing self-care.

Asking for mental health help is a sign of strength. So is knowing it’s OK to not be OK.

A different approach to mental health care

For many years, conventional health care systems have siloed mental health and substance use disorder care from physical health. But the reality is, mental health and physical health are connected. A person’s health care should support both.

At Kaiser Permanente, a nonprofit health plan and one of the largest multispecialty physician groups in Colorado, we care for our members’ total health: mind, body, and spirit.

Mental health care and substance use disorder treatment and support are available throughout all Kaiser Permanente departments — in primary care, emergency care, and even specialty areas like cardiology and oncology — and via an array of self-care and wellness resources.

Kaiser Permanente psychiatrists, therapists, primary care providers, substance use disorder doctors, care team members, and pharmacists are all connected through a shared electronic health record (EHR). The EHR gives these providers instant, real-time access to members’ health records, which they use to coordinate care across medical specialties and locations and to make collaborative decisions tailored to members’ mental health needs.

This type of care coordination is evident in how Kaiser Permanente members are screened for mental health concerns in a variety of care settings. Timely reminders in the EHR will indicate if a member is due for a depression screening when they come in for a routine primary care visit, skin check, or well-child exam. The screening will take place during the same visit, without the member having to make a separate appointment. If treatment is needed, the member’s care team will outline short-term recommendations while coordinating the next phase of care with one of Kaiser Permanente’s expert mental health specialists.

Our holistic approach includes a spectrum of care for mental health and substance use disorders that makes treatment more accessible and comprehensive. This includes:

A system that generates results

Cultivating resilience during mental health challenges is key. It starts with having the right tools to cope in positive ways. Kaiser Permanente’s personalized, coordinated approach to mental health care can help lead to better outcomes.

For instance, in 2022, Kaiser Permanente Colorado was the highest-performing commercial plan by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for 43 of approximately 130 effectiveness of care measures, including follow-up after hospitalization for mental illness and metabolic monitoring (weight gain, diabetes risk, blood pressure) for youth on antipsychotic medications.2

Everyone’s mental health journey is different. By drawing on the latest innovations in care delivery and evidence-based practices, Kaiser Permanente’s integrated mental health care helps members make real progress and keep moving in a positive direction.

Life with mental illness is hard, and for some, it can be unbearable. If you’re having a medical or mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.3 You can also call the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline using a three-digit dialing code: 988. The Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support.

Dr. William Rodriguez Cartagena attended the University of Puerto Rico and is a board-certified psychiatrist.  He joined Kaiser Permanente in 2020 after working with the US Navy and works at the Ridgeline Behavioral Health Clinic. He enjoys running, reading and spending time with his family during his free time. 

  1. 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics,” The American Institute of Stress, September 25, 2019.
  2. The source for data contained in this publication is Quality Compass® 2022 and is used with the permission of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Quality Compass 2022 includes certain CAHPS data. Any data display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion based on these data is solely that of the authors, and NCQA specifically disclaims responsibility for any such display, analysis, interpretation, or conclusion. Quality Compass is a registered trademark of NCQA. CAHPS® is a registered trademark of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
  3. An emergency medical condition is a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you reasonably believed that the absence of immediate medical attention would result in any of the following: (1) placing the person’s health (or, with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy; (2) serious impairment to bodily functions; or (3) serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
    A mental health condition is an emergency medical condition when it meets the requirements of the paragraph above or, for members who are not enrolled in Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage, when the condition manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either of the following is true: The person is an immediate danger to himself or herself or to others, or the person is immediately unable to provide for or use food, shelter, or clothing due to the mental disorder.