Tiny pest, massive impact
Benita Cohen says people who work in public health are "very concerned" about mental health — but the sector is chronically underfunded. As a result, resources have often been focused on addressing legally mandated activities such as disease surveillance, communicable-disease control — including vaccination — chronic disease prevention and maternal-child health. An associate professor of nursing at the University of Manitoba and director with the Canadian Public Health Association, Cohen notes that typically, public health hasn’t been mandated to provide formal mental-health promotion services. It definitely isn’t lost on people working within the field that mental health has undeniable connections to public-health issues, Cohen says, pointing to the opioid and meth addiction crises as examples. It can be in a more informal way, but she says public-health practitioners certainly consider mental health when dealing with patients. It’s a "vicious cycle" in that there has been little research on the impact infestations have on mental health, she says. "The lack of empirical evidence means that the issue of bedbugs may not be high on the public-health priority list."