How Mindstrong is shifting perceptions on Serious Mental Illness

Shot of a beautiful young woman flexing her muscles against a white background

Serious Mental Illness. Those three words most likely recall a vivid image— perhaps one that makes you feel tense, nervous, or even scared. Whether you have personal experience with  Serious Mental Illnesses (SMIs) or not, the term brings on misconceptions and emotions, mostly because our society today doesn’t know how to talk about them in a way that is helpful and meaningful. However, the reality is people living with SMI are all around us— shopping for groceries in the aisle next to us, in the parent pick up line at school, or sitting at the table near us at a crowded restaurant for dinner. 

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, an SMI is “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.” The burden of mental illnesses is particularly concentrated among those who experience disability due to SMI.  Although more than 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience a serious mental illness, many of them struggle to receive access to mental health care, leading them to feel even more isolated and alone. The challenges that accompany living with an SMI can feel overwhelming— sometimes debilitating.

Historically, mental health issues were waved away with a quiet hush or kept from the public behind institution doors, perpetuating the mystery around around “mental health disorders” or “serious illnesses.” The social shame of mental illness carried on for generations.  And even though mental health care is more common in our cultural lexicon today, nearly 60% of Americans have felt too embarrassed to ask for help with their mental health at some point in their lives (according to a survey conducted by Mindstrong and OnePoll). The stigma surrounding these issues is still too great.  Even the bulk of telehealth companies find that it’s less complicated to treat general anxiety and depression, rather than focusing on the part of our population who deals with an SMI on a daily basis. This complex intersection between telemedicine and major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and more is where Mindstrong chooses to put our expertise, passion, and technology.

At Mindstrong, we’re fighting against the stigmas that can prevent people from seeking mental health care and leaning into the challenge. We don’t shy away from difficult conversations or diagnoses, because we see and treat them all.  

While we continue to work across the acuity spectrum, our focus on SMI has helped us build the strength to tackle anything that comes our members’ way. Over the past two years, we’ve taken the lessons learned from years of professional experience and developed a robust stepped-care program— focusing on social determinants of health, evidence-based therapy, and ethical psychiatric medication management to serve our members.

 “Thank you for being there when I needed help but also for the constant monitoring and support throughout my daily life. This has changed me in so many ways and I’m eternally grateful. I feel empowered to live with my mental illness but not be defined or limited by that diagnosis. Truly life-changing.”

Mindstrong Member

More importantly, we know how crucial it is for people living with an SMI to get consistent, compassionate care so they can lead healthy, fulfilled lives. Giving others the strength to take control of their destinies is one of the reasons we’re so proud to be on the other side of their treatment partnership, and the mission to provide people with SMIs to receive the personalized care they need is the backbone of every decision we make. We’ve discovered that an achievable treatment plan combines technology, data, and the human touch to provide personalized care tailored to each individual’s unique needs. The crossroads of these three treatment strategies is where our providers and our product shine.

The Mindstrong Team uses a multi-disciplinary approach to provide coordinated, personal care to members in a way that not only keeps them engaged in their care but empowers them to get into the driver’s seat. This is important to the success of members’ ongoing treatment as well as to preventing gaps in care. By allowing us to help members build on their strengths, we can guide their goals and input throughout their mental health journey.

As a result, we’ve seen incredible progress from our members with SMIs. More than 75% of our members improve or maintain their depression scores. Additionally, our stepped-care and data infused approach has led to fewer inpatient days, fewer Emergency Room visits, and an overall reduction in the cost of their care. This allows our members to focus on their physical health improvement alongside their mental health.

Our impact on our members is tangible and real. On the other side of that relationship is a provider team using that data to target interventions and provide preventative care, before something like a depressive episode can take hold. The impact of our unique blend of advanced technology and individualized care is experienced by our members and providers every day.

“I just had a session with a Member who flagged high on substance use [in our clinical assessment]. I brought it up to the Member and he talked about that being a problem and he had NEVER brought it up before! We are now able to address it thanks to the data showing the issue!”

Mindstrong Therapist

Our team is so much more than advocates for a mental health app, we’re collectively committed to changing the perceptions of serious mental illness. It is our goal to illuminate the prevalence of SMI and promote the ways in which we can use advanced clinical care and technology to create real change. 

People living with SMI can live a full life— one full of meaningful work, friends, family, and joy. That’s why it’s up to all of us to break the stigmas surrounding serious mental illness treatment and to apply the tools, science, and compassion to help others embrace their inner strengths and reach their true potential.

About the author
Michelle Wagner
Michelle Wagner

Michelle Wagner is Mindstrong's Chief Executive Officer.

Michelle combines her passion for human potential with a deep knowledge of technology and its impact. She’s dedicated to moving organizations forward with a laser focus on integrity, loyalty, and empathy. As a seasoned operator, she strives for the purposeful integration of novel technologies with mental health care delivery.