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Americans may be dropping some of the stigma they once had toward depression, but attitudes toward other mental health conditions still seem stuck in the past, a new study shows. The research, based on interviews with U.S. adults conducted over 22 years, found a mixed bag when it came to mental health stigma. In recent years, people were less likely to want to avoid someone with depression, versus two decades ago. The picture was different with alcohol dependence and schizophrenia, however. The findings regarding depression are encouraging, said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI. "If people see that there is less stigma toward depression, maybe even more will be willing to talk about it, and seek help," said Crawford. In contrast, the regression in attitudes toward schizophrenia and alcohol dependence is concerning, Crawford said. "What people don't realize is, it's rare for people with schizophrenia to commit violence," Crawford said. "More often, they're victims of violence." Such stigmatization does matter, Lead Author Pescosolido said: For people living with psychiatric disorders, it can take a toll on their quality of life and be a major obstacle in recovery. Crawford agreed. "As a society, we need to shift our mindset about how we treat and talk about people with mental illness," she said.
For a live on-air interview, Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI, discusses the mental health impact of the recent TikTok threat and provided coping tips. She recommends parents and teachers have open conversations with students who might be experiencing concerns and stress about the threats on social media.
Between technology, the ongoing pandemic, and cultural conflict, it’s no surprise kids are feeling depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Christine Crawford, M.D., MPH and Associate Medical Director for NAMI, says there was already a mental health crisis in children before the pandemic, but COVID-19 exacerbated symptoms of anxiety, sadness, irritability, and increased levels of stress in young people, partly due to inactivity and lack of social connectedness. There are now more children needing mental health care than there are available providers, said Dr. Crawford, and psychiatric care for children is at a breaking point. “We lost the ability for kids to access outlets they were using to help manage anxiety or depression,” Crawford said. According to Crawford, there is ample scientific evidence that physical activity reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which causes physical symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate, nausea, and upset stomach. Not only does exercise decrease cortisol levels, physical movement releases feel good neurotransmitters that help elevate a child’s mood. “Kids who are able to be part of some kind of physical movement program on a regular basis are going to derive all of these benefits over time,” Crawford said. She recommends talking with children about both the physical and emotional health benefits of regular exercise to promote better overall health and instill better lifetime habits. “When we are emotionally well, we are physically well, too,” she said.
For Black Americans, unique challenges can contribute to the heightened feelings of stress, sadness, and loneliness that many people experience at this time of year. Feelings of grief may be more pronounced with the absence of loved ones from annual events. A disproportionate number of Black and brown people have become sick or died of COVID-19. Whether it's the absence of a loved one, financial insecurity, or a mental health condition that's contributing to anxiety, depression, or simply feeling off, there are things you can do to prevent a spiral during the holiday season. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about one in five adults overall will experience mental illness each year, and African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological distress than members of other racial groups, the NIMHD reports. It’s important to find culturally competent care when possible. Someone with shared cultural and life experiences, including facing racism, discrimination, and structural inequities, can better understand and advise for your situation, according to NAMI. When looking for a provider, it’s normal and acceptable to ask questions of a few providers to find the right fit.
The U.S. has been grappling with a rise in anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. The government announced plans to tackle it head-on, with Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issuing a public advisory that flagged a “mental health crisis” among young people. The rise in mental health issues and suicides predates the pandemic. Still, the announcement represents the first time mental health has been identified at the federal level as a public health crisis. “We’ve been waiting for something like this,” said Jennifer Rothman, senior manager of the youth and young adulthood initiatives task force at NAMI. “The more leadership that speaks up and calls to the importance of looking at mental health as an overall health concern, the more people want to step up and help. It’s on all of us to make mental health more of a priority, because our kids are suffering.”
By July, the U.S. will switch to an expanded suicide hotline for which people can call a three-digit number — 988 — to get help. It’s also hoped that 988, not 911, will eventually become the number called when a person is experiencing a behavioral-health crisis. Americans seem to back the idea. Around 70% of people surveyed said they’d be willing to pay a fee to underwrite 988, according to Hannah Wesolowski, national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advocacy group in Arlington, Va. Pennsylvania State Rep. Michael Schlossberg (D-Allentown), co-chair of the Legislature’s mental-health caucus, agreed that telecommunications companies “are not too keen to increase their fees to pay for 988.” But, he added that 988 “is an important elevation of the issue of mental health.”
To mark Psycom’s 25th anniversary, we solicited input from organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Psycom’s editorial advisory board, and thought leaders look at how far we’ve come and give hope for the future. “Since 1996, there has been a positive shift in attitudes around mental illness and a focus on developing treatments to improve the quality of life for people with mental illness,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, CMO at NAMI. The late Dr. Aaron Beck, psychiatrist, rejected Freudian psychoanalysis and proposed a more pragmatic approach that was time-limited and goal-focused. Dr. Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) hinged on the belief that by altering our thoughts, we can change how we feel and behave. The recognition and use of cognitive behavior therapy for psychosis (CBTp) as an accepted form of treatment for people with schizophrenia is another important breakthrough, says Dr. Duckworth. Passage of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) — in 2008 — was a major step toward ending discriminatory practices of covering mental health and addiction treatment at lower levels than coverage for other medical and surgical care, says Hannah Wesolowski, national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI.
Today’s generation of parents have more mental health awareness which can help lessen the shame surrounding mental health conditions. It can still be challenging to talk to kids about mental illness and explain the importance of mental health. Whether you want to speak with your kid about mental health in general, about their mental health, yours, or a loved one’s, we know those conversations can be tough. The article provides tips for parents to help approach these important topics in a healthy and productive way. The “Helpful Resources” section includes: If you’re looking for resources to assist in talking to your child about mental health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great place to start.
Vermont and several other states are asking federal regulators to approve the use of Medicaid funds for health-care services to prisoners shortly before their release. Approval by CMS would mark the first break in the firewall that has kept Medicaid out of prisons and would address the problem of interrupted care faced by newly released prisoners suffering from chronic illnesses, mental health problems, or substance use disorder as they transition to life beyond bars. “Almost 80% of individuals being released from prison or jail have a serious medical issue, whether it be substance use disorder, chronic illness or psychiatric conditions,” said Shannon Scully, senior manager of criminal justice policy at NAMI. “And we know that when we can make sure that people can continue to get care right away when they are released, their outcomes are better, and their chances of re-incarceration go down. That’s why this is so important.”
The effects of systemic racism on Black Americans have been persistent and profound, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness points out, and the increase in media reports and images of police brutality and violence inflicted upon members of the Black community has added insult to injury. As mental health challenges continue to rise in this community, some Black Americans still aren’t receiving the mental health care and treatment they may need. This is especially true for Black men, who are not only affected by the general barriers to medical treatment, but also have internalized certain behaviors of Black masculinity, impacting their help-seeking behaviors. Despite suspected mental health issues, Black men are often reluctant to seek treatment. Lack of access to services is another factor that prevents adequate mental health care, according to NAMI. Resources can be difficult to obtain when people don’t have health insurance, have demanding shift jobs, live in locations with few services, or don't have reliable transportation. NAMI is a great resource for guidance on the different types of mental health care providers and how to select an expert.