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Scientists may have uncovered the reason critical medications for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder cause weight gain and diabetes, findings they hope will lead to better drugs. In fact, these side effects commonly drive patients to stop taking the drugs, said Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO, NAMI. Duckworth, who was not involved in the new research, said it's important to understand why those adverse effects occur. These findings, he said, "begin to unravel" the issue. The takeaway, both Duckworth and Freyberg said, is that patients' difficulties with current antipsychotics are being heard. "Scientists are working on this," Duckworth said. For now, the challenge for patients is to manage the side effects the best they can. The first step is being aware that they can happen, Duckworth noted, since people being newly prescribed an antipsychotic are not necessarily able to process all the information they're receiving. For their part, Duckworth said, doctors should be monitoring patients' weight, blood sugar and cholesterol, to catch unhealthy changes.
With anxiety and depression on the rise during the pandemic, it has been challenging for people to get the help they need. Since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States more than a year ago, the number of people in need of mental health services has surged. But many say that they are languishing on waiting lists, making call after call only to be turned away, with affordable options tough to find. Providers, who have long been in short supply, are stretched thin. If you’re looking for support groups, check out the resources at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Eating Disorders Association, Alcoholics Anonymous or the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
“Just to get onto a level playing field [with people of other races], you’ve got to be two to three steps better than, so you can’t be vulnerable,” said Dan Gillison, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “You can’t show any, what would be considered in the [Black] community, weakness.” Gillison says Black men and women have a difficult time showing vulnerability, and even getting to the point of admitting an issue, because of slavery and inequities that still harm communities of color. Research also shows that there are also socioeconomic factors that affect access to health care and exposure to contributing mental health factors, such as homelessness and crime. Gillison says, however, that the pandemic has started to open up conversations about mental health that have not previously circulated in communities of color. “You’re starting to see more people say, 'I live with, I exist with, I accomplished with this,' and it’s starting to resonate in communities of color,” Gillison said.
After his own experiences grappling with depression and anxiety, Lorenzo Lewis wanted to help Black men and boys with their mental health. Lewis felt it was especially important to address mental health among Black men because the need is great. Only 4% of therapists are Black, according to the American Psychological Association, and fewer than that are Black men. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Black people don’t always receive mental health care when it's needed — about 1 in 3 Black people receive care for their mental health. So, Lewis approached local barbers in Little Rock, Arkansas to discuss his vision for The Confess Project: an organization focused on training barbers to become mental health advocates in their communities. Lewis felt it was essential to enlist barbers in his efforts because he understood their importance to the community and believed many men would relate more to their barber than an outsider, such as an expert from a university.
School districts and mental health professionals remain concerned about the pandemic's effect on children's mental health. The big picture: Hospitals have seen a significant increase in mental health emergencies among children, and federal officials have acknowledged that prolonged school closures have deprived students of both formal services and simple human interaction. What they're saying: "The isolation we need to do to save lives is hitting them right at their developmental core," said Ken Duckworth, CMO at NAMI. The pandemic has been harder on teens and young adults than on younger children, said Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Several experts provided an overview of the psychological stressors linked to the COVID-19 pandemic in a virtual presentation presented by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Some of the data points reflect the fact that the mental health crises that we faced before the pandemic have gotten worse,” Ken Duckworth, MD, CMO of NAMI, said during the presentation. “Virtually every country is reporting changes or disruptions in their service provision. It’s quite clear through a very comprehensive CDC study that over two in five [Americans are experiencing] anxiety, depression and trauma, and we're seeing more kids visiting emergency rooms and receiving services.” According to Duckworth, youths in the U.S. were exhibiting an uptick in anxiety and depression prior to the pandemic, and these mental health issues may be exacerbated by the effects of pandemic mitigation strategies. “The desire to go out and learn your identity, find work, figure out what kind of people you can fall in love with and will fall in love with you, it's all outside of the house,” Duckworth said. “The isolation that we need to do to save lives is hitting them right at their developmental core. Although we had a challenge before, it has gotten worse, but the one silver lining is that this generation [of young people] can talk about it, and that can reduce shame and isolation.”
Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI in a live on-air interview with Stephanie Ruhle discusses the impact the pandemic and social isolation is having on our mental health and specifically look at the impact its having on children and young people. He highlights the NAMI Basics On Demand program for parents and the NAMI HelpLine information is included at the end of the clip.
Asking for help is critically important when you’re having a hard time with recovery, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Plus, the pandemic has just about everyone struggling in some way, making the task of asking for help even more daunting. If you’re hesitant to reach out because you’re wondering how you can ask someone for support when they’re likely struggling as well, you’re not alone. Asking for help is harder right now, but there are ways to make it easier. “Social isolation can make people feel more alone with all of their worries, fears, and sadness,” says Christine Crawford, MD, associate medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “However, it is important for people to find creative ways to remain connected to others in order to protect their mental health.” “Establishing daytime structure and routine is incredibly important during these uncertain times when it feels like so very little is in our control,” says Crawford. “Identifying areas of your life in which you do have control can reduce the anxiety that comes along with uncertainty. Set up a daily schedule which incorporates time for self-care, socializing, and work-related duties.”
More than 10 months into the pandemic, mental health is a simmering crisis for many of the nation’s schoolchildren, partly hidden by isolation but increasingly evident in the distress of parents, the worries of counselors and an early body of research. Mental health problems account for a growing proportion of children’s visits to hospital ERs, according to the CDC. From March to October, the figure was up 31% for 12 to 17 years old and 24% for children ages 5 to 11 compared with the same period in 2019. Others suggest the fallout of the pandemic could reverberate far beyond the time of masks and quarantines. “Students are struggling across the board,” said Jennifer Rothman, senior manager for youth and young adult initiatives at NAMI. “It’s the social isolation, the loneliness, the changes in their routines.” “Students who might never have had a symptom of a mental health condition before the pandemic now have symptoms,” Rothman said.
It’s far easier to engage in a meaningful, compassionate conversation about mental health issues in 2021 than a few decades ago, when they were still considered hush-hush. Compared to previous generations, Millennials and Gen Z are more open about their struggles with mental health and possess a greater understanding that mental wellness and physical wellness are integrated. In the 70s and 80s, science helped us to see the underlying neurological issues in a brain scan for someone suffering from schizophrenia, for example. This was truly something that was happening chemically inside of you. As these findings were surfacing, so did the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in 1979, the largest mental health association in America. It was started as a support group for parents of kids who had mental illnesses. “A group of parents gathered around a kitchen table, fed up by the discrimination they faced while trying to help their children with mental illness,” says Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI. “They were turned away from care, even told that their parenting caused their child’s severe mental illness. They bonded together with people around the country to demand change, and while it was slow at times, they made progress.” Since forming, NAMI has evolved into the country’s largest grassroots advocacy organization for mental illness. They educate and raise awareness of mental illness, supporting both patients and their families with classes and support groups, advocacy and advocacy training, research, and offer guidance in navigating the costs of medication.
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741