By Andie Burjek
Aug. 2, 2016
As the new blogger on Workforce’s benefits beat, there is something you should know about me: I’ve been a Frasier-phile since the age of 6, and ever since I’ve had a soft spot for psychiatry. I also occasionally have the nonsense theme song playing on a loop in my head.” Kelsey Grammer trying to scat was a very risky move for a theme song, but it worked. “Hey baby, I hear the blues a-callin’, Tossed salad and scrambled eggs…
In case you’ve lived in a cave your whole life (or were too busy watching the very inferior Friends in the late 1990s/early 2000s), the basic premise of Frasier is: “lovably pretentious” radio psychiatrist Frasier Crane advises people on their personal problems for a living, but his own personal life is cringe-inducing, uncomfortable and full of misunderstandings. Also very well written, may I add.
Radio callers (often by celebrities such as Jodie Foster, Elijah Wood and Ben Stiller) would call in to the “Dr. Frasier Crane Show” with their problems, and Frasier would give advice —sometimes ironic or comical, sometimes longwinded and Freudian, but mostly very solid and sincere. His brother, Dr. Niles Crane, would often berate Frasier for preferring radio fame and “pop psychology” to the traditional approach — hour-long sessions and extensive psychoanalysis for years at a time. But Frasier, although definitely fame-obsessed, also enjoyed using the medium of radio to help people far away and those who didn’t have access to time-consuming mental help.
All of this is to say: As a benefits blogger, I am supremely thrilled to mention Frasier any chance I get when writing about mental health, and the show is the ideal example of telemental help in the 1990s.
People in the 2000s, however, consume information in a very different fashion. They’d probably prefer a mobile or online platform for telemental help rather than a radio psychiatrist.
I was happy get an assignment for an upcoming article in Workforce magazine about telemental health services. Telemental health, a subset of telemedicine, uses communication networks to connect a doctor and a patient in different geographic areas.
Much like Dr. Frasier Crane’s radio show, telemental health services give people a chance to get support, guidance or help without worrying about distance or travel time. All they need is a phone. It’s one fairly effective way to democratize mental health care. People in rural areas, older people who can’t easily leave their homes and people who can’t afford expensive hourly care can find great value in this technology.
Each and every person I spoke to for the article pointed out this method to improve mental health can work for some people but not others. It’s not an ultimate solution, but it’s an option, and an option in a time where more options are necessary. There is a shortage across the country for mental health providers, noted Denise Heybrock, senior health and well being consultant at Aon Hewitt.
People who live in rural areas, who travel a lot for work or who are active in the military could find value in a tele-option. Heybrock also mentioned that people uncomfortable with doing a face-to-face session in a provider’s office may find solace in the tele-option.
I also spoke to the cofounder of the website Happify, Ofer Leidner; and the co-founders of MoodKit, Dr. Edrick Dorian, board certified clinical and police psychologist, and Drew Erhardt, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. Both the Happify and MoodKit apps focus on prevention rather than treatment — activities meant to improve your mental and emotional strength.
More on the prevention topic in the October issue of Workforce magazine, but for now I’d like to note that because of the rising cost of health care, prevention is an appealing idea to employees and employers as well. The economic burden of major depressive disorder alone is estimated to be $210.5 billion per year. Mobile applications or platforms in the prevention market are booming (just as tele-options for treatment are gaining popularity), and companies are increasingly incorporating them in their benefits plans.
I’m excited to hear your thoughts, readers. In the famous words of Dr. Frasier Crane, I’m listening.
Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below, or email at email@example.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.
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