For over a decade, healthcare facilities across the U.S. have seen a marked increase in mental health care hospital admissions. But the social isolation, extreme anxiety, and grief brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has driven the nation’s mental health crisis to a real-time boiling point. For those with serious mental and behavioral health conditions like substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder, it’s particularly critical — and they often require inpatient treatment.

Mental Health Symptoms

Because mental health disorders affect how someone feels, behaves, and thinks, there are many different symptoms to consider when deciding if hospitalization and inpatient care is required, including the following:

  • Suicidal ideation or threats of suicide and self-harm
  • PTSD
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Inability to feel joy
  • Weight changes
  • Digestive issues
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Risky behavior

The surge of mental health care admission reflects the many ways COVID-19 has disrupted daily life and added to existing stressors for people with mental illness, such as unemployment, fear of infection and death, loss of social support, and financial insecurity. For many individuals, being able to access quality inpatient treatment when needed is vital for achieving long-term mental health wellness.

The Growing Need for Inpatient Treatment

Upon discharge from acute treatments, many behavioral health patients are struggling to find proper resources and support systems that can help them manage their condition. This can be devastating for both the individual and their families who may not be prepared to deal with a complex illness. 

For these patients and others undergoing treatment for severe mental health symptoms, admission to a psychiatric hospital or other inpatient treatment facility can be a vital and effective therapeutic tool. Modern psychiatric hospitals and other inpatient facilities provide short- or long-term treatment for people with severe mental health symptoms, with the goal of patient stabilization and a safe return to the community. 

Inpatient treatment is often preferred for high-risk patients who need monitoring during medication adjustments, need more support than outpatient therapies can provide, or need a separation from home life in order to progress toward health.

But as mental health hospital admissions continue to rise, so do the challenges facing staff and systems as they try to catch up with demand — and consistently provide quality care.

RELATED: Mental Health Staff Shortages — and How OBS Technology Can Help

Effects of Increased Mental Health Care Admissions

In the United States, where mental health care resources and funding have long been limited, even a small uptick in admissions has a profound effect on the mental health care system. Studies show that psychiatric hospitals with average occupancy rates above 80% can lead to an increase in workplace stress and burnout — and those above 85% are associated with a decline in patient care quality

As psychiatric hospitals are pushed beyond capacity, this already-overburdened system has become even less effective in providing patients with the mental health care they need. For the exhausted staff attempting to juggle an ever-increasing workload, there also exists the mental and emotional burden of performance pressures — and increased risks to personal safety. What’s more, the ongoing shortage of staff and beds can have disastrous effects for patients, including imprisonment, violence, and suicide.

Promoting a Higher Level of Care

As healthcare facilities pivot to provide adequate systems, resources, and technology to accommodate patient needs, there is an equally urgent need to focus efforts toward alleviating the mounting strain on behavioral health care workers.

ObservSMART’s proven technology is designed to simplify operations and streamline staff communication while proactively reducing the opportunity for risk — enabling consistent monitoring of multiple high-risk patients. With real-time quality feedback and assurances of staff-to-patient proximity, our validated compliance system empowers mental health care workers to provide high-quality care, thus making a positive impact on the lives of those who need it most.

ObservSMART helps inpatient facilities cope with increased mental health care admissions. Contact us to learn how we can help you improve patient safety or to schedule a demo.