Mental Illness Awareness Week


For 25 years, the first full week of October has been Mental Illness Awareness WeekOne in five, or 20% of the population, live with some kind of mental health condition, with one in 25 living with a serious mental illness that substantially limits one’s life activities.  Those living with mental illness fight stigma while trying to survive under internal duress.  Awareness is important so that resources are made available to those who need them and the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses will be reduced.


Everyone has stress and difficult emotions on occasion, and this is completely normal. Mental illness, however, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect relationships or job performance, and is caused by any number of complex interactions within the human brain.  Mental illness can range from anxiety or mood disorders like depression, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, eating disorders, or addictive behaviors.


Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, with 16 million American adults living with major depression.  Eighteen percent of adults in the US experience anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and/or specific phobias ranging from a fear of spiders to a fear of pickled vegetables.


Mental illnesses do not just present in adults. More than one out of five children aged 13-18 (21.4%) have experienced a severe mental disorder at some point during their life, with 13% of children 8-15 experiencing the same. 70% of the youth in juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with serious mental illness. Half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14.


Mental illness is prevalent in homeless populations, with an estimated 26% of adults staying in shelters living with serious mental health conditions and approximately 46% with both mental illness and/or substance abuse. One in five state prisoners have a recent history of mental illness.  Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder are the third most common cause of hospitalizations in the US across ages 18-44. Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.


In a previous blog post, we outlined the resources available for major depression, including our Disease Information Page.  NeedyMeds also has Disease Information Pages for obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.  We also have information for over 3000 free, low-cost, or sliding-scale clinics throughout the country that offer counseling or mental health services. Search your zip code for clinics that may offer Counseling/Mental Health Services near you, or call our toll-free helpline for information (1-800-503-6897).

How to Avoid Cold and Flu this Season

It’s that time of year again. Children are going back to school, the seasons are beginning to change and there is a cold wind starting to blow. These are sure signs of the impending cold and flu season. We at NeedyMeds wanted to give our readers some helpful tips to keep themselves and their children healthy, along with resources available for those in need.



  1. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu vaccine every season. Children younger than 2 years old, or children with health problems such as asthma, diabetes, or other chronic conditions are at the highest risk of severe complications of the flu and should get the flu shot. The best way to protect infants under 6 months old is to surround them with people who have been vaccinated.
  2. Stay home from school or work if you or your child are sick.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow. This will reduce the spread of germs through touching objects or one’s face.
  4. Wash hands often, especially after blowing your nose or coughing. CDC suggests washing using warm water and soap, and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds and drying with a single-use towel. Tell your children to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing—that takes about 20 seconds.
  5. Regularly disinfect common surfaces in your home that your family touches every day, including countertops, telephones, computers, faucets, and doorknobs.
  6. Ensure your family eats a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, gets plenty of rest, and exercises regularly. These steps will keep your immune system in prime shape to help fight off illness.
  7. Know the difference between a cold and the flu. The flu generally comes on strong with severe symptoms, including fever, sore throat, chills, body aches, cough, runny/stuffy nose, diarrhea, vomiting, headache and fatigue. Although colds can exhibit some of the same symptoms, they usually are not as severe and often do not last as long.
  8. It’s also important to know the difference between a cold and autumnal allergies. With the similarities in symptoms, it can be easy to self-medicate for the wrong condition.
    1. With a cold, you’re likely to wake up with a sore, painful throat. With allergies, the throat has more of an itch or tickle rather than soreness.
    2. Colds follow a relatively slow progression and last for a few days, whereas allergies can come on almost instantly, with symptoms of coughing, sneezing, and congestion striking all at once and can last as long as allergens are in the environment—sometimes a matter of hours, other times for weeks.
    3. Sneezing with itchy eyes or mouth are associated with allergies rather than colds.
    4. Fevers can appear with colds, but do not affect those suffering from allergies.
    5. It’s important to know you don’t have both a cold and allergies, as this can lead to chronic sinus problems if left untreated.

Finding Help

If you or your family is in need of care but lack the means to find affordable treatment, NeedyMeds has a database of over 13,000 free, low-cost, and sliding-scale medical clinics all over the country. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can be of help for prescribed medicines, even over-the-counter decongestants or fever-reducers. The free discount card is also available as an iPhone and Android app. NeedyMeds also has information on over 1,700 coupons and rebates offered for medications or medical supplies that can be searched by category (such as Cold/Flu or Allergies) or product name.


Resources for Childhood Cancer

In 2012, President Obama declared September National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Social media has taken to many users posting pictures of comic book heroes in an effort to spread awareness of childhood cancer throughout the month. For many, September is a time to honor and remember families affected by these rare diseases and raise support to find treatments and cures.  Every year, 15,780 children under 21 years old are diagnosed with cancer in the US. It is estimated that 25% of them will not survive.  NeedyMeds has information on programs that offer various kinds of assistance for children, their families, and survivors whose lives have been touched by cancer.


A gold ribbon is the symbol for childhood cancer awareness.

NeedyMeds’ Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of the site has information on over 100 national and local programs supporting patients with Childhood Cancer.  These programs offer anything from financial assistance for medical expenses or living expenses for those unable to work while caring for a sick child, respite care for caregivers, transportation and lodging during treatment, wigs for those undergoing chemotherapy, and many other services.  NeedyMeds also features info on year-round and seasonal camps for young cancer patients and their siblings allowing children to experience outdoor recreation in a safe and controlled venue. There are also many academic scholarships available to childhood cancer survivors looking to continue their education.


There are a number of programs listed on our site for family members of those diagnosed with cancer.  There are academic scholarships for those who either have or had a sibling diagnosed with cancer. There are also bereavement retreats available for those dealing with their loss to ensure they are in a supportive and understanding setting and surrounded by those who can truly empathize with their situation.

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by illness in children under the age 15 in the US.  Spreading awareness can help relieve stigma from the lives of those living through an incredible ordeal, raise money for research into life-saving treatments and cures, or inspire actions of charity on a personal level.  NeedyMeds’ information is available for free on our site and through our toll-free helpline (800-503-6897). For those looking to fundraise for a child with cancer, HEALfundr is our unique crowdfunding platform that verifies all campaigns and pays medical bills directly.

National Service Dog Month

Service dogs have had a place in American healthcare for almost 100 years. While companion animals were relatively common in European mental institutions during the late 19th century, dogs were not incorporated into American therapy settings until 1919.  Guide dogs for the blind began being trained in the United States in 1929, after World War I left many veterans without their sight. Though the use of service animals expanded after World War II and the Korean War, it wasn’t until the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that people with assistance dogs were guaranteed access to businesses and services available to the general public.  For National Service Dog Month, we will outline the programs available for those in need of assistance that could be filled by a properly trained service animal as well as resources available for the health of our animal companions.


There are many different kinds of service animals that perform numerous tasks.  As mentioned above, therapy or companion animals can be a comfort to those with mental or emotional distress and guide dogs are able to navigate and retrieve items for the blind and visually impaired.  Hearing or signal dogs help people who are deaf or hard of hearing be alerted to the sound of their name, alarm clocks, doorbells, or smoke alarms.

There are two different kinds of specially trained dog available for patients with seizure disorders. Some dogs can be trained to smell a change in blood sugar in a diabetic person’s breath and alert them to maintain their insulin before they crash; other dogs are able to respond to seizures in progress by protecting their incapacitated owner, alerting those in the area to help, and reorienting their partner when the episode has passed.

Mobility service dogs tend to be larger breeds that can help support individuals with physical disabilities. Psychiatric service dogs are like therapy and companion animals that may have been specially trained to help their partner with anxiety or panic attacks, agoraphobia, autism, and many other disorders. Nearly all service dogs are tested in early puppy-hood to see how their natural habits and interests can be used in assisting a partner, followed by several years of intensive and personalized training.


Though dogs are what most people imagine when thinking of service animals, other species can be specially trained assistants as well. Some organizations have trained miniature horses for the task of guide and mobility service animal due to the longer lifespans and load-bearing capabilities of horses. Another program matches adults with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments with a trained capuchin monkey to help with their daily tasks.


Service animals can greatly improve—if not save—the lives of people they are working with.  NeedyMeds has information on over 40 national and local programs that provide service animals for those with various conditions in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of the site, You could also search for conditions commonly assigned assistance dogs such as blindness, deafness or hearing loss, physical disabilities, seizure disorders, or autism. While all the programs are unique in their eligibility, they all share the requisite that the dogs must be provided a safe/healthy home and quality care. Whether your dog is a service animal or a pet, their health is a priority as well. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can also be used to save on pet prescriptions when picked up at the pharmacy, also available in a printable form or a smartphone app.

NeedyMeds Dogs

Whether you have a family pet or assistance animal, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can help save money on any prescriptions picked up at a pharmacy.

The Importance of Medication Adherence, and How to Ensure Compliance

We have had various blog posts about the importance of medication adherence. The subject remains important as researchers find 20-30% of prescriptions are never filled and half of all people do not follow their drug instructions.  With a wide variety of factors contributing to patients not following through a treatment as directed, it can have a serious impact on one’s health and finances.


2.12.14People have many reasons for medication non-adherence. Confusion can be a factor, whether in relation to multiple prescriptions or unclear doctor’s orders.  Other patients don’t take medicine to avoid side effects. Cost is an obvious factor for those unable to afford their prescriptions. Not following drug regimens can result in needless hospitalizations and emergency room visits, which can cost much more than the skipped medication. Research shows as much as $289 billion is spent on avoidable hospital trips annually for people who don’t follow their prescription regimens. It is estimated that as many people die from medication non-adherence as from strokes each year.


Some organizations have devised different methods to combat patients’ non-compliance.  The University of Pennsylvania has given some patients electronic pill bottles that light up and beep when a dose is missed. If the light and beep continue to be ignored, a relative or the patient’s doctor will be notified.  To further motivate people to take their medications, following the directions and the pill bottle’s alerts enter the patient into small lotteries that offer $5 to $50.  A project in Hawaii connects doctors and pharmacists from hospitals to community pharmacists to improve patient care.  In Wisconsin, over 25% of the state’s pharmacists have taken a 12-hour training course to help reach out to patients who fail to fill their prescriptions or taking the incorrect medication altogether.


No one should have to sacrifice their health due to a lack in finances. For those unable to afford their medications, NeedyMeds has an extensive database of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). NeedyMeds also has information on Coupons and Rebates that can help lower the cost of necessary medications. For those without any prescription coverage, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card saves 0-80% on any prescribed medication. A plastic card can be ordered online or requested by calling our toll-free helpline at 800-503-6897, or a printable version can be found on our website as well as a smartphone app on Apple and Android devices.  For those looking for something more like the electronic pill bottles described above, there is also a NeedyMeds Alert app available for smartphones and tablets.

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