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Call the NAMI Helpline at
Or in a crisis, text "NAMI" to 741741
In recent years there has been an expanding number of digital companies and nonprofits created to help people of color find a therapist they can trust, someone who is not only skilled in the best evidence-based treatments, but also culturally competent. Studies have shown that mental health treatments can be more effective when a client feels that their therapist values culture. When you eventually start seeing someone, the National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends asking yourself the following questions: Did my provider communicate effectively with me? Is my provider willing to integrate my beliefs, practices, identity and cultural background into my treatment plan? Was I treated with respect and dignity? Do I feel like my provider understands and relates well with me? If you can answer yes to each of these questions, you’re off to a great start.
A 56-year-old man missing for weeks after walking away from a community-based home for mental health patients was found sleeping on the streets of D.C. His family said it was two weeks before they were told he had left the home. His family was not contacted, but a supervisor at the home told them a police report was filed. “Treatment providers assuming that they can't communicate with families is a very big problem,” said Ron Honberg, retired director of legal affairs for NAMI. Honberg, an expert in mental health law, says sometimes homes misinterpret HIPAA. Often, the assumption is contacting family in these situations violates patient rights, but Honberg says that's not HIPAA's intention. “Those are the times when people are most vulnerable and those are the times people need compassionate assistance the most,” he said. “And yet laws are interpreted in a way that serves as bars to providing that kind of compassion and assistance. It's a real a tragedy.”
Many people looking for a new therapist or psychiatrist are coming up empty-handed as more potential patients are seeking mental healthcare. There are more patients than providers. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are all consequences of COVID, explained Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI. There is a change in the way Americans look at mental health but no change in the number of providers. Dr. Duckworth suggests checking with your work to see if there are other types of help. “Is there an employer-based resource that you can use on your own time? Millions of people have access to cognitive-behavioral coaching,” he said.
Mental health awareness has spread significantly in the past decade in the U.S. and around the world. Most Americans now say they value their emotional well-being as much as their physical well-being. But when it comes to diagnosing every person who needs it, and connecting them with care, there is still a long way to go. Some conditions tend to be particularly underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. “BPD is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed mental health conditions,” according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It’s so misdiagnosed, in fact, that there isn’t even an accurate prevalence rate for the condition.” One reason for that is the symptoms of BPD often look like something else, including depression, anxiety or even bipolar disorder.
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.
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741