7 Mental and Behavioral Health Trends of 2021

by Patricia O. Urquiaga | Sep 16, 2021 | behavioral health, behavioral health services, coronavirus, covid-19, Healthcare, Healthcare Industry, mental and behavioral health, mental and behavioral health challenges, mental and behavioral health industry, mental and behavioral health services, mental and behavioral health trends, mental health, pandemic, telehealth, telemedicine, trends, wellness, workplace mental health
7 Mental and Behavioral Health Trends of 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic put tremendous strain on the healthcare industry.

As demand increased for mental and behavioral health services, many providers faced decreased revenues and increased costs.

A year plus later, COVID-19 continues to shape everything that we do.

But, as we enter a post-COVID-era, the good news is that the mental and behavioral health industry is expected to receive more private investments and government attention than ever before. And, this has sparked new mental and behavioral health trends to watch.

Here are 7 mental and behavioral health trends on the rise:

  1. Increase Demand for Behavioral Health Services – Demand for behavioral health services jumped tremendously in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first month of the pandemic, many Americans experienced significant psychological distress compared to all of 2019, according to a study from the RAND Corporation. In addition, according to a September 2020 survey from the National Council for Behavioral Health, 52% of behavioral health organizations reported an increase in demand for their services. Even though it’s been a year plus later since the coronavirus first outbreak, millions of Americans are still struggling with unemployment, depression, uncertainty etc. Americans need mental and behavioral health services – and this trend is expected to continue past 2021.
  1. Employee Mental Health/Wellbeing Becoming A Budget Line Item – 36% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in June 2020 compared to 11% in June 2019, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. As we know, mental and behavioral health challenges can impact retention, productivity, job performance and healthcare costs. This year, several organizations have recognized the importance of investing in mental health and wellness benefits (i.e., counseling, mental health days, yoga, employee resource groups, flexible scheduling, parent focused benefits etc.) for their employees. In fact:
  • 53% of employees at companies that support wellness feel more motivated than employees without that benefit (American Psychological Association)
  • Investment in workplace mental health has yielded over $4 for every $1 that was spent (Deloitte)

Overall, studies have shown that employees who are both mentally and physically well, have a positive impact on productivity, retention, workplace satisfaction, job performance, employee engagement and more.

  1. Telehealth and Telepsychiatry – There was a surge in telehealth ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. Till this day, telepsychiatry has been continuously used to deliver mental and behavioral health services – which is expected to continue past 2021. Thanks to telepsychiatry, individuals across all populations and socioeconomic status have access to cost-effective mental health care. Even though telepsychiatry is taking away the “human connection”, studies have shown that the relationships created between providers and patients have been positive. Overall, telehealth has created a sense of safety, security, and privacy for many patients. Satisfaction and overall experience are also high among patients of all age groups. There are so many benefits to telepsychiatry.
  1. Measuring Patient Outcomes – Overall, access to mental and behavioral health has increased. While providers are focused on providing care to patients, they also need to know how to measure the impact of the care they are delivering. It is the organizations responsibility to determine how patient outcome is going to be measured. Organizations can then educate providers on how to measure care outcomes, define measurement-based care, etc. Billions of funds have been poured into the behavioral health industry; therefore, healthcare leaders should make sure evidence-based standards for measuring patient outcomes are in place.
  1. Behavioral M&A Activity – As mentioned earlier, the overall healthcare industry faced tremendous strain due to the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-COVID-19, interest in the behavioral health space was high. Now, as the demand for behavioral health services continues to rise, the more investor attention is it expected to gain – especially since volumes and financial performance of numerous elective and procedure-based provider sectors haven’t returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. So far this year we’ve seen the following M&A activity: Centene acquired Magellan Health, Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare purchased Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment, Summit BHC acquired Seabrook just to name a few.
  1. Increase in Federal Funding – The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact in the nation’s mental health. Due to this, more federal funding has been allocated to the behavioral health industry. We started to see this back in 2020, when then President Trump signed the $2.3 trillion stimulus bill which included billions in behavioral health funding. And earlier this year, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that also included billions in behavioral relief. With billions of dollars going into the mental and behavioral health industry, to succeed, organizations need to provide sound mental health care; otherwise, organizations lacking good quality clinical care will fade.
  1. Financial Failures – Even though billions of funding have been allocated to the behavioral health industry, there are still some providers that will be forced to close doors. In a September 2020 survey conducted by the National Council, approximately 40% of organizations stated they were on the brink of financial collapse, with only enough funds to survive for the next 6 months or less. Financial failures will most likely continue this year as providers continue to deal with decreased revenues, increased costs (i.e., PPE, telehealth etc.), overworked staff among other challenges.

Everyone in the mental and behavioral health industry can take these trends and create opportunities to address today’s challenges.

At the end, we must remember that its more than just transforming people’s lives. It’s about improving their overall health and wellness to give individuals the tools they need to manage challenges while we continue to build a stronger and more resilient society post-COVID-19.


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