Life is full of trends. Is your career trending up or down? How about your marriage? Status quo is an illusion because nothing stays the same for long. As I sat in the audience at the National Council for Behavioral Health 2015 conference recently, I wondered which way behavioral health is trending.
As an architect, I am a bit of an outsider at these events, which is good. My whole job is to see the forest for the trees, and these conferences are where the forest comes together to be seen, if you have the right perspective.
In the various sessions, I heard things like: “Who would have thought 10 years ago that behavioral health would be at the center of the healthcare discussion?” I saw big name speakers like former Secretary of State Collin Powell and actress Ashley Judd showing up to speak passionately about the subject. I heard about bill after bill being debated in congress to increase funding, access and outcomes. I saw a conference busting at the seams because it keeps growing every year.
Of course I am not seeing this in a vacuum. In my practice I am getting more calls. Clients are investing in growth in this market. Some because they see the opportunities and some because they can’t ignore the needs any longer. I see some folks doing more of what they are good at and I see others trying new things. I see governments investing in new beds and philanthropists putting their names on new treatment facilities.
I can’t see the whole forest, but the parts I can see are blooming like Spring. There is a buzz in the air, and a sense of optimism, if folks in this industry can remember what that feels like. Maybe the field has just hit rock bottom or maybe our time has come. Either way, it feels like a very exciting time to be in behavioral healthcare.
Normalizing the discussion
At NatCon 15, Collin Powell discussed the time when he had considered running for president. A major magazine ran an article about his wife’s “struggle with depression.” When he ultimately decided not to run, a reporter asked him whether his wife’s “issues” had anything to do with his decision. As he told the story, his answer was, “Of course not. I have hypertension. She has depression. We wake up in the morning, take our pills and life goes on. Heck, she is probably healthier than I am.”
This story is just another reminder of how much more education is required to get the message out. The reporter asking the question obviously thought of depression as a character flaw that would be a political disadvantage if Powell ran for office—a shameful secret. Could you imagine a reporter asking a presidential candidate if he decided not to run because his wife had hypertension, or a hiatal hernia? That would sound silly.
My wife and son both have attention deficit disorder (ADD). They don’t suffer from ADD. They aren’t survivors of ADD. It isn’t the struggle of their lifetimes, and it isn’t holding either of them back. They take medications and take pride in looking at life through a slightly different lens.
My daughter doesn’t take any medication and feels terribly left out. She sometimes asks when she will be old enough to take a pill every morning like her big brother.