Our expert answers 3 Questions
I’m looking at how to make the best investments in the mental health of young people, especially adolescent and young adult populations. In other words, I’m taking an economic and public health perspective to youth mental health. Our Healthy Minds research team has been conducting web surveys of college populations throughout the U.S. and increasingly in other countries, and we’ve been using the data as a foundation for intervention studies. We are also making research and data accessible to practitioners through webinars, research briefs, an easy-to-use data website, and an annual symposium.
I am fascinated by some of the underlying behavioral and policy questions in mental health services and policy research. On an individual level, we often don’t take basic steps that would improve our mental health, even though it is so fundamental to overall wellbeing. There are interesting parallels with diet, exercise, and other health behaviors. Are we making rational decisions when we avoid mental health care or other strategies (like exercise and sleep) that clearly improve mental health? What interventions would make people more likely to use mental health services, and should we implement those interventions or just leave people alone? At a societal level, are we underinvesting in mental health, when you consider that it accounts for less than 10 percent of healthcare spending but a much greater share of the total burden of disease, especially in youth populations?
My overall research goal is to help policymakers and other leaders determine how much to invest in youth mental health and how to make those investments through the most effective combinations of interventions and services. It’s exciting to see how IHPI is emphasizing policy impact; I hope my work will contribute to that.