With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, there’s no shortage of press releases promoting a wide range of services and programs emerging from both the public and private sectors. In the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the exposed epidemic-beyond-the-pandemic of mental health has inspired many collaborations between public, private commercial and not-for-profit organizations.
These have begun to embed mental health into the larger retail health ecosystem. I’ll point to several examples as signposts for this phenomenon.
Walgreens and Mental Health America – This collaboration expands Walgreens’ work with Mental Health America focusing in 2023 on youth. The partners will deploy a Back-to-School campaign in August 2023 to support adolescents and teens and their teachers. The program will create and distribute at no-cost materials for the students, parents, caregivers and teachers through Walgreens network of over 800 schools in the Walgreens Expressions Challenge platform.
One aspect of the mental health epidemic in the U.S. from which we cannot look away is the state of our kids’ well-being, most recently noted in this article in the May 2, 2023, JAMA on pediatric admissions to the ER due to mental health diagnoses.
Furthermore, Walgreens will continue the work it began in 2019 to enable and support the company’s pharmacists and associates to educate patients on mental health conditions and therapeutic options, particularly in under-served communities. Note that Walgreens expanded virtual care in April 2020 from the start of the pandemic through FindCare, which included access to tele-mental health and clinical trial participation. As far back as 2017, Walgreens collaborated with the VA and VFW to help connect U.S. Veterans to mental and behavioral health resources, as well. Walgreens also previously allied with Mental Health America on workplace wellness in a program to create a culture of support and well-being in the workplace.
CVS Report on Mental Health – To highlight its efforts in expanding health services beyond the pharmacy, CVS Health published its consumer survey on mental health this week. 3 in 10 folks in this study said they were concerned about their own mental health, but only 1 in 10 was seeing a mental health professional to deal with their challenge, the research called out from the Harris Poll conducted in early March 2023.
CVS Health has added mental health services and various access points for consumers, most recently:
- Expanding depression screenings in over 1,100 MinuteClinic sites, as the company is working to making screenings more accessible for all consumers
- Growing mental health services, including cognitive behavioral therapy, in some MinuteClinics both in-person and via virtual care
- Focusing services for different patient populations, such as parents, caregivers, older consumers, and people in the LGBTQ+ community; and,
- Celebrating five years of the Beauty Mark initiative, CVS Health’s program to promote healthier self-images in its health and beauty aisles and media working with its partners (vendors, suppliers, agencies, etc.).
Retail and consumer-goods companies – The growing collaborations bringing mental health services to people where they live, work, play, learn, and shop, afford every flavor of organization the opportunity to support mental health for all. A few of my personal favorites this May 2023 Month of Mental Health Awareness come from….
- Nespresso, partnering with Project Healthy Minds is embedding mental health messaging into the company’s consumer experience — on Nespresso purchase receipts and signage in the company’s coffee boutiques to include mental health tips and a link to Project Healthy Minds’ resources for meditation, peer-to-peer support, and teletherapy
- LL Bean, which as a company is taking the month of May 2023 off for a “digital detox,” going off-the-grid (working with Mental Health America like Walgreens does) and collaborating with Strava to motivate us to get outdoors and be active with nature; and,
- The Toy Association, which created an emotional wellness playbook to encourage the therapeutic benefits of “play” for kids (and gosh knows us adults too!).
Health Populi’s Hot Points: One of the pandemic’s “gifts” was to de-taboo (to some extent) and raise the veil covering up peoples’ mental health challenges. If anything, the lockdowns and subsequent long, long pandemic experience re-shaping our life- and work-styles democratized mental health across people regardless of socioeconomic status and ZIP code.
Still, the shortage and maldistribution of labor/therapists and services has begged for solutions from the start of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, and so telehealth on-ramps quickly emerged in local and regional health systems, via national telemedicine providers, and apps.
Telehealth programs for mental health have emerged as the most-persistent form of virtual care as the coronavirus pandemic fades, with the need to ensure payment and business models that keep peoples’ access to these services flowing.
Art reflects life and health: so enjoy watching and being inspired by the new award-winning film “Bug Therapy” here — with background to the program supporting Mental Health Awareness month at this link…