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 US across ages 18-44. Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.   In a previous blog post,…

Since 2003, the last week of March has been LGBT Health Awareness Week.  We have gone over some of the barriers to healthcare for some of the transgender community in a previous blog post, 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 as 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.  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.  Last year’s Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing marriage between gay and lesbian couples throughout the nation led to more married couples to access their spouse’s health insurance, but also had the effect of cutting some domestic-partner benefits to unmarried couples offered by employers.   Despite steps…

The National Sleep Foundation is celebrating its annual Sleep Awareness Week to raise awareness for the health benefits of sleep and tips for a better night’s rest.  In the US, Sleep Awareness Week ends with Daylight Savings Time—the night many associate with losing an hour of sleep.   Sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness are telling signs of poor sleep hygiene.  If you are experiencing a problem sleeping, it is a good idea to evaluate your bedtime routine.  It may take time to notice any positive effects from changing your sleep habits.  If sleep has been a long-term problem, consulting your doctor or a sleep specialist may lead to a diagnosis of a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea.  Any evaluation would likely improve the

treatment suggested toward healthy sleep.   Up to 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder; however, more than 40 million don’t get properly diagnosed or treated.  People may be unaware of sleep interruptions, or may not think it is a serious problem worth bringing to the attention of their doctors. A survey of 4,023 US adults by Consumer Reports found 27% reporting they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights, and 68% struggled with sleep at least once a week.  Americans spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies in 2015. Continually getting less than 7 hours of sleep can contribute to multiple health risks: depression, heart disease, lowered immunity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. A recent Gallup Poll found…

For 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. 70% of…

Robin Williams 1951-2014

While the tragic death of a cultural icon can raise widespread awareness, it is important to know that depression is a global issue and that there is help for those affected.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 9% of American adults suffer from depression, or chronic feelings of hopelessness, despondency, or isolation. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the condition a global epidemic with over 350 million people—5% of the world’s population—suffering globally. Depression can be a facet of a larger condition or circumstance such as post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse, or it can be the primary diagnosis itself. Depression is involved in more than two-thirds of the suicides that occur in the United States every year and

is the leading cause of disability in Americans between ages 15 and 44. While there are effective treatments for depression, less than half of those affected receive help. Lack of resources or trained health care professionals, as well as a social stigma around mental illness leaves many feeling helpless and lost. With a combination of medication and psychotherapy more than 80% of patients show improvement, though treatment can be as varied as the causes. The high cost of care is just another barrier for some already feeling overwhelmed and stigmatized. Finding Help on NeedyMeds On a previous blog post, we shared our Patient Assistance Program listings and Major Depression Resource Page as ways to help bring down medication costs and find assistance. We also have information…