2021 was a transformative year for mental health awareness and treatment. Like many things over the past two years, it was largely due to the onset of the pandemic.

The social isolation, fiscal burdens and overall upheaval to everyday life left many reeling. In 2019, before the pandemic, one in ten adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. That number increased to four in 10 last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

These societal shifts have spurred new activity within the behavioral health sector, a once niche asset class, as care networks and private practices look for ways to safely expand their services and reach those seeking treatment.

Addressing Inaccessibility
According to the American Psychology Association, demand for behavioral health treatment has not plateaued and  continues to rise across the country.

In response, many are looking for avenues to get people the help they need through greater funding, infrastructure, and more. Both the previous and current White House administrations prioritized access to mental health services, especially for youth, by increasing billions in funding.

The onset of the pandemic led to most behavioral care appointments being held in a virtual setting. Today, however, a greater number of psychologists prefer using a hybrid approach to see patients, “revealing a progression back to the office.” The rise in telehealth utilization solved accessibility for some, however, those with limited access to internet and technology were still marginalized in receiving care.

Behavioral Health M&A
In 2020 and 2021, behavioral health deals generated billions in what was a banner year for healthcare M&A. What was once considered a highly niche, specialized asset class for commercial real estate has become an area of growing interest for investors and owners.

Some of the biggest deals of the last year included behavioral health mergers, indicating the anticipated growth for the industry. In Q3 of 2021, there were 25 behavioral health transactions, which was slightly below  the 33 reported in Q2.

In August, the app Headspace acquired digital behavioral health company Ginger in a $3 billion megadeal. Just weeks ago, real estate firms Hicks Ventures and Artemis Real Estate Partners announce their $100 million joint venture to develop up to 20 care facilities, including behavioral health hospitals.

What May be Ahead for the Behavioral Health Market
The global mental health market revenue is forecast to reach $540 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7%, according to Market Watch.

A new report released by PwC states that behavioral health assets will remain of interest, given the ongoing “need and access issues” and the fact that “multiple $1 billion-plus deals this year illustrate the interest in such assets.”

In terms of design, many mental health centers are taking on a new look. The Wall Street Journal reported an emergence of downtown hospitals that are adopting a more approachable design with more central locations to help destigmatize treatment for patients, a trend that will likely continue in through the year.

For 2022 and beyond, it’s crucial that behavioral health care continues its expansion so everyone can access the treatment they deserve.