For over 25 years, the first full week of October has been Mental Illness Awareness Week. One 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. Seventy percent of the…

The Southwest United States were recently hit with the devastating Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma recently swept through the Caribbean and Southeast. In the wake of such natural disasters, we can sometimes feel lost even as the risks persist around us. Flooding, destruction from wind, and damage to the healthcare system’s infrastructure can lead to many public health concerns. For those traveling into these areas or helping those impacted by these storms, there are many hazards to be aware of.   At time of writing, Hurricane Harvey has been held responsible for 70 deaths in Texas and Hurricane Irma has killed 12 in U.S. and over 35 in the Caribbean islands. Injuries are a serious concern in areas with floodwaters, as bacterial infection becomes likely

and potentially dangerous. The clearing of debris and returning to evacuated areas can include electrical hazards, weakened structures from wind or water damage, or gas leaks. Air quality is affected in enclosed space by mold, and toxic air pollution can be given off by refineries and chemical plants negatively impacting large areas. Older adults, people with asthma or other chronic lung conditions, and those with compromised immune systems may develop inflammation and other ailments from poor air quality.   Ordinary health problems can range from sunburns to insect bites. People may get dehydrated if they run out of potable water, or could get an upset stomach if they drink contaminated water. Communicable diseases can also be prevalent in shelters due to the large number of…

May has been observed as Mental Health Month since 1949. One in five Americans are affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime—as many as 43.8 million—and everyone is impacted through family or loved ones. A main objective of mental health awareness is to fight the stigma surrounding those living with sometimes serious conditions through education and support and to improve the chance of recovery for those in need. 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. Mental illness is prevalent in homeless populations, with approximately 26% of adults staying in shelters living with serious mental health conditions and an estimated 46% with co-occurring severe mental illness and/or chronic substance abuse. One in five state prisoners have a recent history of mental illness. Mental health is a major concern for LGBT individuals often dealing with physical or emotional abuse, body dysmorphia, or feeling unsafe at school or work. Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder are the third most common cause of hospitalizations in the U.S. across ages 18-44. Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.   The new healthcare law awaiting a…

The last week of March has been LGBT Health Awareness Week since 2003. We have gone over some of the barriers to healthcare for some of the transgender community in previous blog posts, but it remains important to bring awareness to the unique healthcare needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and the health disparities that continue to beleaguer the lives of so many Americans.   A report by the Institute of Medicine found that fear of discrimination causes many LGBT people to avoid seeking out medical care. This compromises an entire community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who are at increased risk for several health threats when compared to heterosexual or cisgender peer groups: Gay men are at higher risk

of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; lesbians are less likely to get cancer screenings; transgender individuals are among the least likely to have health insurance along with risks from hormone replacement and atypical cancers. Even as youths, LGBT people are at higher risk of violence, depression, substance abuse, homelessness, and other suicide-related behaviors. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped over 10 million Americans gain insurance. The ACA also prohibited health insurance marketplaces from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The 2015 Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing marriage between gay and lesbian couples throughout the United States led to more married couples to access their spouse’s health insurance, but also had the effect of cutting some domestic-partner benefits…

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in the United States. Eating disorders are serious mental health issues that can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications. Despite being commonly associated with women, men can also develop eating disorders; studies suggest 1 in 20 people—30 million Americans—are affected by an eating disorder at some point in their lives. There are three different conditions that we qualify as eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa is when a person denies themselves food to the point of self-starvation in the obsessive pursuit of weight loss. People with anorexia will deny hunger and refuse to eat, and may practice binge eating and purging or exercise to the point of exhaustion. Emotional symptoms include irritability, social withdrawal, lack of emotion, fear of

eating in public, and obsessions with food and exercise. Food rituals are often developed, or whole categories of food will be eliminated from the person’s diet out of fear of getting “fat”. Low food intake and inadequate nutrition causes the patient to become very thin, forcing the body to slow down to conserve energy causing many symptoms: irregularities or loss of menstruation, constipation, abdominal pain, irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, dehydration, and insomnia. Bulimia Nervosa is typically characterized with binge eating followed by purging through forced vomiting, abusing laxatives, or excessive exercise. The person will feel out of control when eating large amounts over short periods of time followed by desperately trying to rid themselves of extra calories. People with bulimia may appear…