A Mental Health Moment With Dr. Cori McMahon

May 20, 2024

While we know that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. live with mental illness and over 1 in 5 youth are currently, or have had at some point in their lives, a serious and debilitating mental illness, we don’t want to lose sight of mental health in the context of overall health in the general population. Mental Health Awareness month has been observed since 1949 and this year NAMI is celebrating with the Take The Moment campaign. We are encouraged to join by fostering open dialogue, cultivating empathy and understanding, and sharing resources. We’re also invited to share on social media why or how we are taking moments to focus on mental health and to use the hashtag: #TakeAMentalHealthMoment.

An informal poll taken among ERPHealth staff reveals there are a variety of approaches people take to attend to their mental health. Some spend time with pets, take time for lunch with colleagues, or engage in regular physical activity or competition. Others take small moments during the day for grounding techniques like breathing. Regardless of approach, the important piece is that there is awareness of mental health and that we attend to it as we would any other aspect of health. We should be considering mood functioning and its inextricable connection with physical health equally as important as factors like weight, blood pressure, or blood glucose levels, for example.

It’s well-known that the Covid-19 pandemic put a spotlight on mental health globally and that the experience served as a stress test for all of us. Reports indicated that calls to national crisis hotlines during the pandemic increased by 300% and that the majority of those calls came from individuals who had no prior engagement with mental health treatment or diagnoses. It was clear, we were a nation in distress and many agree that we have not returned to baseline, citing world events, the economy, and the like as significant perpetuating stressors. For those of us in the mental health industry, the proverbial silver lining here is that mental health has finally taken center stage; gaining attention and advocacy in politics, Hollywood, and our schools and workplaces.

As stigma becomes less of a barrier to seeking mental health care, it is not surprising that demand has overrun the supply of available providers creating a major gap in access to care. Individuals seeking outpatient psychiatric care currently face a 3-5 month wait for an initial appointment. The behavioral health tech industry has been working diligently on solutions to not only fill that gap but to reshape the way behavioral health treatment can work. By aggregating and surfacing availability in real time, by placing on-demand mental health resources in the hands of the consumer, and by making treatment more effective and efficient thereby reducing churn within a care system, technology is making valuable strides in improving not only access to care but access to quality care.

While we have made strides when it comes to normalizing mental health focus and treatment, there remains real work to be done, especially as it pertains to barriers faced by subsets of our population like those who belong to the BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ communities. According to NAMI, the average delay between onset of symptoms of mental illness and treatment for those symptoms is 11 years. Between ¼ and ½ of BIPOC individuals in particular ever get treatment and the ripple effect is exponential, including impact on physical health, substance use, unemployment, school dropout, family health, and even the economy via lost earnings and productivity.

What will you do today to attend to your mental health?

About The Author

Cori McMahon, Psy.D., NCCE, Chief Clinical Officer at ERPHealth

Dr. Cori McMahon is a digital health clinical leader and clinical health psychologist with over 20 years’ experience across academic, clinical, and behavioral health tech industries. She was most recently a key member of the senior team taking a SaaS-based behavioral health organization to acquisition at 12x its valuation. Dr. McMahon is the former Director of the Division of Behavioral Medicine at Cooper University Hospital and maintains part-time work in integrated primary care as a Ryan White-funded psychologist serving persons living with HIV. She has presented 40+ peer-reviewed projects nationally and chaired multiple panel discussions as SME on measurement-based care, integrated behavioral health, and patient-reported outcomes in digital health.

Dr. McMahon is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and serves as lead for the Trauma-Informed Care project in the Department of Infectious Disease in collaboration with the state of NJ.