Dr Monica Taylor-Desir on Taking Mental Health Care Awareness to Action


"Even though awareness was increasing, it wasn't translating into action," Taylor-Desir explains. "We know from our experience as physicians, that physical health and mental health are tied."

Monica Taylor-Desir, MD, MPH, DFAPA, board secretary, American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF), cochair, department diversity leader, Division of Outpatient Consultation, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, explains how the APAF Mental Health Care Works campaign prioritizes mental health as much as physical health and the barriers it aims to overcome.


What barriers inhibit people from seeking out mental health care even when they are aware of services in their area?

As we've seen as physicians and practitioners, the conversation around mental health has become more mainstream since the start of COVID-19. However, what we saw in our initial survey that even though awareness was increasing, it wasn't translating into action. We know from our experience as physicians, that physical health and mental health are tied, and that there are a variety of barriers that individuals face.

This includes not only not understanding what a mental health professional can do to help address mental well being concerns, but often people don't see the urgency of addressing mental health as equal to the urgency of addressing physical health. And we really want to change that.

Finding the right treatment can seem daunting and confusing. And how do I even get into seeing a provider? Because the systems can seem confusing, like how do I even get someone to talk to me about my mental health? We also know that our past experiences, attitudes, and learned biases can affect our willingness to seek help. So, through this awareness campaign, we want to, again, shift the conversation on mental health, and really ensure that people start prioritizing their mental well being.

This can look different for everyone. Our goal is to encourage individuals to seek help, that can help them feel better. And, for example, I think one good thing about the campaign is that it's really an inclusive campaign highlighting different individuals and different mental health conditions.

We're starting out with 3 narratives and personas that speak to various phases of life, and mental health conditions. So first, there's a young person named Lizzie who's going back to skateboarding after seeking help for her anxiety. We have a new mom named Simone who is dealing with postpartum depression after giving birth to her new baby. And then we also have Diego who is a grandfather who's seeking help for his depression after his wife passed.

So hopefully, these stories resonate with people who may feel like they are struggling to actually find help for their mental health.

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