Like millions of Americans get ready to connect in person or virtually for the holidays, now is a good time to consider the power of human relationships and the role of mental health care in bonding. At the same time, there is an urgent need to support mental health care providers.

A recent global poll highlights attitudes towards human connection in a digital world. The results suggest that despite the evolving ability of technology to learn and understand a person’s needs and preferences, people still want an interpersonal connection when working on complex issues.

Another recent study shows a dramatic increase in calls to mental health helplines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Callers reported feelings of loneliness and fear; the chance to connect with someone offered a sense of hope. Experts say that social isolation is a key factor contributing to the poor physical health outcomes of this population, a factor that was exacerbated during the pandemic.

As a Registered Nurse and Registered Clinical Social Worker, building and maintaining trusting therapeutic relationships with clients is a large part of my job.

Nursing and social work are among the health care roles that focus on using relationships as a tool for healing. A separate application is in the context of community mental health, where interdisciplinary professionals – psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and peer counselors – provide supportive and empowering relationships to people struggling with mental illness and substance addiction. These relationships can foster dignity, hope and recovery.

One in 20 in the United States, adults suffer from severe mental illness and one in 26 suffers from concurrent mental health and substance abuse problems. People with mental illness are more likely to experience social determinants of ill health and have disproportionately high rates of chronic physical illness and premature death.

The pandemic has amplified problems with poor mental health, indicating a growing need for access to professional support. Health workers themselves may suffer from high rates of anxiety and depression, just as children and teenagers.

A survey found that in response to growing concerns about mental health, around 40 percent of employers added benefits for mental health and substance use; a significant proportion of employees use them.

To provide mental health services, there must be more mental health professionals. When choosing a career in the field, clinicians are often optimistic that the intangible rewards will transcend the low wages and an emotional toll. Yet mental health professionals often report Burnout because of emotional exhaustion, which can lead to job dissatisfaction and resignation.

Shortages of mental health care providers mean that health care systems are overloaded and the need for services is defined get ahead availability of the mental health workforce in much of the United States in the coming years.

Research suggests that the turnover rate among frontline behavioral health workers is high – for example, reaching 37% in Michigan in 2017. In response to shortages of mental health workers, Michigan executives are leading grant money to attract graduates in the field by giving scholarships of $ 10,000 to help pay for expensive studies.

Strengthening the workforce requires a shift in cultural values ​​as well as the investment of resources. Increased spending by federal and local governments, as well as private and public health facilities, is essential. There is an urgent need to take care of the people who need the services by taking care of those who provide the services.

Nonprofits and government mental health providers need to offer higher salaries, conduct workforce research, improve information technology infrastructure, and conduct demonstration projects that are successful. will move away from archaic fee-for-service models. Perhaps investments can be made to promote a better work-life balance by defining full-time as a 32-hour work week for the same pay.

In Chicago, the mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootChicago, police union chief who called on officers to defy vaccine orders withdrawing from Chicago department, home vaccination campaigns now open to children ages 5-11 McDonald’s CEO: texts about the children killed in Chicago lacked ‘compassion and empathy’ MORE announced that an additional $ 52 million will be set aside for Mental Health by 2022. This includes the creation of 29 mental health posts in high-need areas on the south and west sides of the city. Many say it’s a step the right way.

In other parts of the country, similar movements are occurring. Some focus on prevention and early intervention for mental health. Senator John cornynJohn Cornyn Senators call for the Smithsonian Latino, Women’s Museums to be built on the National Mall Cornyn says he “would be surprised” if the GOP attempted to topple Sinema in 2024. (R-Texas) recently introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at establishing a federal standard for responding to mental health crises, which has shown promising results in Texas.

A recent survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness confirmed deep dissatisfaction with the mental health system. Most respondents, regardless of their political affiliation, want to see change and say they support the use of state and federal funds to improve care in crisis and on-going.

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently advocated for a radical change to think about how to treat mental illness and promote mental health. Suggestions include emphasizing recovery-based and human rights-based interventions. WHO promotes healthcare models around the world which largely focus on relationships and compassionate listening to promote wellness and increase the ability to manage symptoms and live meaningful lives.

we community mental health organizations have long provided the kind of relationship services WHO demanded and have found a way to survive despite budget cuts and despite complicated Medicaid reimbursement process. Without the front-line staff to do the job, the missions of these organizations would be reduced to mere words.

To keep this important work alive, it must be recognized that patients and mental health professionals are worth more than what systems invest in them.

When it comes to mental health, it’s important to celebrate baby steps. But when it comes to budgets and support for people doing relationship-based mental health work, bigger steps are needed to maintain healthy human relationships, not just during the holidays, but every day.

Diana Krishnan is a registered community health nurse at Rush University in Chicago and Public Voices member of the OpEd project.