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NAMI CEO Daniel Gillison is featured in a 30 minute podcast conversation and discusses the history of NAMI as well as how the mental health field has evolved and where it is stuck. The alarming criminalization of people with mental illnesses, particularly in communities of color, persists. The potential for taking the police out of mental health interventions is within our grasp. But it will take Daniel Gillison's call to action to fulfill its promise. Remember 988.
The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health over the past year. Maybe you're one of the nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. who has been living with a mental health disorder and the feelings aren't new; or maybe this is the first time you're experiencing anxiety or stress at this volume. Either way, the first step is clear: Ask for help. But it's not always that easy. "First of all, we have a supply-demand mismatch," says Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI. "Obviously a big wave of the pandemic has been the awareness that people are struggling with isolation, job loss, grief, racial trauma — more people are seeking help." Demand has increased for mental health services. Yet the supply is unchanged, he says.
The terms "mania" and "manic episode" describe a state of mind characterized by high energy, excitement, and euphoria over a sustained period of time. It's an extreme change in mood and cognition that can interfere with school, work, or home life. Mania is also the main feature of bipolar disorder. "Mania is the linchpin; you can't have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder without mania," Ken Duckworth, MD, CMO of NAMI, tells Health. Also, realize that early manic episodes can be "seductive," says Dr. Duckworth. "Some people prefer it because they feel that they're more open, funnier, and interesting. The experience can be reinforcing in the beginning," he says. However, mania can also lead to extreme agitation or irritability, which ultimately won't feel good. The article covers what you need to know about mania, including all the signs, what a manic episode feels like, how it's linked to bipolar disorder, and how it can be treated.
Americans with severe mental illnesses are facing an "urgent" gap in getting COVID shots, according to advocates, who say the community has gotten far less attention than other vulnerable groups. Historically, it’s an under-vaccinated population, said Angela Kimball, national director of Advocacy and Public Policy at NAMI. Only 25% of adults with severe mental illness get a flu shot each year, compared with almost 50% of all adults, according to the alliance. “People with more severe mental health conditions have largely been forgotten during this pandemic," Kimball said. "They have been left out of targeted responses.” Kimball said her group has sent multiple letters to the CDC and state health officials and put out a statement to the Biden administration. No one responded. “What we really need to see is outreach and engagement by trusted messengers, community organizations and those that serve people with mental health conditions, and we really haven’t seen that kind of engagement yet," Kimball said. "We need the federal government to provide resources and guidance to encourage that to happen, and then at the state level, public health departments really need to think about this population."
People often ask Ken Duckworth, MD, CMO of NAMI, whether he can recommend a psychiatrist. “I literally tell them, I have no idea who’s taking patients now,” he says. “Finding a provider is actually a very big hurdle, even if you have insurance, if you speak English, and you have the time to find one, because demand has been crushing supply, particularly in the pandemic.” Locating a new doctor and booking an appointment, especially on short notice, was never easy in our complex and fragmented healthcare system, and the COVID-19 crisis made matters worse. However, a number of online health scheduling companies say they can make booking a visit, whether for a psychiatrist or any other type of doctor, far more convenient. Not all doctors are listed, and privacy protections may be lacking. When asked about their data practices, several medical booking sites assured Consumer Reports that they behave responsibly, even if their privacy policies allow them to sell patient data. Also, look up state doctor certification sites, says Duckworth, of NAMI. “These things all have different names,” he says. “But it’s all state by state.”
For every suicide in this country, there are at least 29 attempts. Heroin addiction and overdose deaths have been on the rise since the pandemic began, which is not a coincidence, given that many people are using drugs as a way of self-medicating to mask mental health issues. During a livestreamed event last week led by The Hill and sponsored by The Hartford, Chris Swift, chairman and CEO of The Hartford, noted the importance of a stigma-free culture. Swift spoke about The Hartford's partnership with both the NAMI and Shatterproof. NAMI reports that untreated mental illness costs the U.S. economy $300 billion annually in lost productivity, absenteeism, turnover and increased medical and disability costs. Daniel H. Gillison Jr., NAMI CEO discussed the significance of the upcoming 988 crisis line, set to be operational in July 2022. “988 is a transformative opportunity for us,” said Gillison. “The demand to address mental health challenges was tremendous even before the pandemic and has gone up as we are living in isolation and seeing things occur in terms of COVID,” he said. The supply of resources was also limited, Gillison noted. “A lot of work needs to happen,” he said. “On the front end, there are not enough resources to stand it up,” he said. Conversely, Gillison noted, on the back end, it raises the question: Where do you take the person in crisis? “We have to build it up on the back end and build the talent on the front end to provide responses,” he said. “It's going to take all of us talking about it and marshalling the resources to make it a reality,” he added.
Throughout the pandemic, teens have been a constant focus for mental health professionals, as uncertainty and isolation led to increased depression and anxiety for young people. The ongoing crisis exacerbated mental health concerns, but even without a pandemic, young people make up a uniquely vulnerable population when it comes to mental health, Jennifer Rothman, senior manager for youth and young adult initiatives for NAMI says. "One of the main reasons we really want to reach more young people is that the earlier you can identify symptoms and warning signs of a mental health condition, the better the outcomes," Rothman explains. Schools are a primary source for mental healthcare for young people. They're hubs for information, resources, and counselors, as well as simply spaces to socialize.
The pandemic is tough, it isolated people and has left many with anxiety and other mental health challenges. In March 2020, life suddenly changed overnight. Now 15 months later, the elimination of pandemic restrictions happened almost as quickly. “There was a huge mental health wave in the pandemic and people aren't light switches,” said Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI. “People aren't that quick to pivot if you've been depressed or traumatized or anxious.” Duckworth said the loss of connection with co-workers and family and friends revealed mental health challenges for some and compounded them for others. “The rate of mental health conditions and substance use conditions essentially doubled during the pandemic from one in five to two and five. At the same time, I think mental health went from becoming a ‘they’ thing to a ‘we’ thing,” Duckworth said. “People have recognized that mental health is, in fact a part of health. And most of us know somebody or have had a personal experience of somebody who struggled with their mental health through the pandemic,” Duckworth said. “Mental health conversations are happening all across the country and they're happening now. They weren't happening two years ago. This is a change and this is an opportunity.” Duckworth says everyone has a bad day or a bad week.
A rising number of young Americans, including children, are taking their own lives using firearms, a new study finds. Researchers found that between 2008 and 2018, gun suicides showed an "alarming" increase among Americans aged 5 to 24. The rate among kids under 15 quadrupled during the study period. The study looked specifically at suicide by firearms, and those suicides spiked by 50% among 15- to 24-year-olds. The findings highlight the fact that guns are a public health issue, according to Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO. "We know that access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide," Duckworth said. There is also a correlation between U.S. states' gun ownership numbers and suicide rates, he noted. Research shows that suicide rates tend to be highest in states with the most gun owners, and lowest in states with the fewest. Duckworth, who reviewed the findings, said the study provides important information. "We've known that youth suicide is on the rise," he said. "This is looking at the means."
Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI, joined “Saturday Mornings with Joy Keys” an interactive, live Internet talk-radio show that focuses on providing people with tools to enrich and advance their lives mentally, physically, and emotionally. In the episode, Dr. Crawford provides Bipolar 101 with an overview of the different types as well as specific signs and symptoms.
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