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Opinion piece by Patrick J. Kennedy and Daniel H. Gillison Jr., NAMI CEO, on the importance of 988 mental health crisis response and the opportunity to reduce avoidable ER visits; make better use of law enforcement resources; address long-standing inequities; and build healthier, more resilient communities. There’s no shortage of headlines about tragic outcomes for those living with mental health and substance use disorders in this country. Whether addressing rising suicide and overdose rates or fatal interactions with police, at the heart of these headlines is a gross inequity the U.S. has yet to fully acknowledge — the failure to provide a mental health response to mental health crises. This failure is driven by a deeply rooted systemic bias that is evident in the separate and unequal treatment of mental illness. It impacts every facet of society, contributing to tens of thousands of preventable deaths each year and fueling a dangerous undercurrent of stigma. At its most obvious, bias in our health care system is reflected in disparate access to care and higher costs for people with mental health and substance use disorders.
Guests including Sherman Gillums, NAMI Chief Strategy & Operations Officer talk about how common PTSD is in veterans, break down statistics, and talk about PTSD triggers. Tammi and her guests talk about resources and solutions that can help veterans. Sherman highlights the NAMI Homefront and NAMI Sharing Hope programs.
Bipolar disorder doesn’t mean that you’re kind of cheerful one day and a little bit glum the next. Those are just moods. That’s not a disorder. The Mayo Clinic says of bipolar, “When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.” We unpack what bipolar means from the perspective of our friend, Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI, a psychiatrist who also grew up with a father with bipolar disorder.
On May 25, Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children's Hospital Colorado, in Aurora, Colorado, declared a state of emergency in youth mental health in response to an astronomical increase in pediatric mental health cases, including suicide, which has overwhelmed the institution. From April 2019 to April 2021, the demand for pediatric behavioral health treatment at the hospital system increased by 90%. In Colorado, suicide is now the number one cause of death among youth and occurs in children as young as age 10 years. Christine Crawford, MD, associate medical director of NAMI said that she "commends the CEO of the hospital for making this announcement, because it is outrageous to see what is happening with more and more children with significant psychiatric symptoms who are not getting adequate care." Crawford, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, also pointed out that the mental health crisis in youth is not unique to Colorado. "Throughout the country, we've seen these colliding pandemics — inadequate mental health resources for children and COVID-19, which exacerbated the existing mental health crisis," she said. Crawford is "encouraged that we are having more conversations about pediatric mental health, because the pandemic amplified what was already going on and made it impossible to ignore." Policymakers and insurers need to prioritize pediatric mental health when determining allocation of healthcare, said Crawford. "Financial incentives should be provided for hospitals to want to reserve beds for psychiatric patients, and in the outpatient setting, we also need to look at the payment structure of psychiatric visits," she added. Many psychiatrists do not want to accept insurance because of the increased bureaucracy and low reimbursement rates, and families cannot afford to pay out of pocket, "so we really need to look at the insurance issue at a policy level," Crawford said.
A few years ago, a star athlete dropping out of a major tennis tournament over mental health issues might have been seen as a sign of weakness. Today, at least for Naomi Osaka’s corporate sponsors, it is being hailed as refreshingly honest. That would explain why so many of them have stuck by Osaka after the four-time Grand Slam champion announced Monday that she was withdrawing from the French Open because she didn’t want to appear for the requisite news conferences that caused her "huge waves of anxiety." Osaka, who also acknowledged suffering "long bouts of depression," received criticism by some who say the media events are just "part of the job." But Nike, Sweetgreen and other sponsors put out statements in support of the 23-year-old star after she revealed her struggles. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI, said Osaka’s decision to go public is a positive development for all people who feel isolated. "We are moving from mental health and mental illness as a 'they' thing to a 'we' thing," he said. "These are ordinary common human problems. And I firmly believe that isolation and shame directly contributes to people not getting help. I look at a great athlete, an exceptional athlete, as one potential role model."
Tennis star Noami Osaka's decision to withdraw from the French Open because of the anxiety she experiences from press conferences has started a broader discussion about mental health, not only for professional athletes but for everyone after a year of enduring a pandemic. A survey from the CDC and the Census Bureau found an increase in the numbers of adults with anxiety and depression. The study found that the percentage of adults with symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI, told the Associated Press that Osaka's decision to publicly discuss her mental health is a positive sign to others who are struggling. "We are moving from mental health and mental illness as a 'they' thing to a 'we' thing," he said. "These are ordinary common human problems. And I firmly believe that isolation and shame directly contribute to people not getting help. I look at a great athlete, an exceptional athlete, as one potential role model," Duckworth said.
Although Bialik doesn't remember meeting host Alex Trebek, who died last November following a battle with pancreatic cancer, she recalls his cameo appearance on "Blossom," her 1990s NBC sitcom. Q: And you've selected the National Alliance on Mental Illness as your charity. (A donation matching the cumulative winnings during a star's turn as guest host will be made to their selected organization.) Why did you pick that charity? Bialik: I've been involved with that charity as a client, as it were. They provide support not only to individuals living with mental illness, but to their families as well, to give support to help people get through understanding that the family member is struggling or hospitalized or living with a mental illness. And started a mental health podcast, and so that's really been where most of my time and energy has been (directed), helping get the word out about organizations like NAMI that provide support.
Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI is featured in multiple segments of Oprah and Prince Harry’s documentary series on mental health and mental illness challenges including the link above to a brief NAMI twitter clip. Dr. Duckworth discusses how engaging with helping others, participating in education programs and trying to change the mental health system through advocacy can change the dynamics and empower people to become an agent for change.
The way employers view mental health may have changed for good after the pandemic, according to experts, as more Americans suffering from stress, anxiety, and isolation reached out for help. Last year, the volume of calls to the helpline manned by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) jumped 70% over 2019, while one-third of employers reported an increase in requests for information about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide mental health services, according to Clayton. While 1 in 5 people struggle each year with a mental health condition, according to NAMI, many are reluctant to reach out for help — especially from an employer — because they feel a stigma still remains. "Company culture starts from the top down," said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr., noting executives should model behavior that reduces that stigma and prioritizes mental health, while employers provide access to adequate mental health service. Not only because younger generations are beginning to demand it, but because it is the right thing to do, he said. "It is good for their workers, and it is good for business."
The police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck has been convicted of second-degree murder. However, that conviction will not bring Floyd back to life. It is also extremely troubling that several other Black men and women have died similar traumatic deaths since Floyd struggled to tell the world “I can’t breathe” while calling out for his mother with his last breath on a Minneapolis street on May 25, 2020. On Tuesday, one year after Floyd’s untimely and unsettling death, The Kennedy Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity at Morehouse School of Medicine, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Hurdle hosted a virtual symposium to discuss Black mental health. Before George Floyd’s death, mental health was often a hushed and shunned topic in the Black community. That sentiment is an ongoing struggle after Floyd’s death, mental health advocates said. Participants in the symposium included Dan Gillison, CEO of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Dr. David Satcher, the 16th U.S. Surgeon General, and mental health researchers Dr. Harold Neighbors and Dr. Norman L. Day-Vines. Neighbors and Day-Vines shared observations from their co-authored George Floyd Report, which focused on mental health and the subsequent trauma in the Black community.
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