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

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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

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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

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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

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Major depression, also commonly referred to as clinical depression, is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Major depression, including major depressive disorder, manic depression, and dysthymia, affect more than 19 million Americans a year. Almost two-thirds of those with depression are women. The symptoms of clinical depression vary, but common symptoms include persistent sad or anxious mood, sleeping issues, reduced appetite, irritability, fatigue, and thoughts of suicide among others. From Mental Health America, “Depression causes people to lose pleasure from daily life, can complicate other medical conditions, and can even be serious enough to lead to suicide.”

There are many causes of major depression, and each case is different. “For some people, a number of factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness. Oftentimes, people become depressed for no apparent reason.” One common reason is biological, having too many or too few neurotransmitters in the brain. However, genetics, medication

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