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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.
According to NIMH, the primary distinctions between typical anxiety and anxiety disorders are the duration and the extent that the anxiety impacts daily life. People with anxiety disorders feel anxious most of the time. Their anxiety is so intense that it causes problems with their relationships, career, and health. There are many ways to manage anxiety, medication can be necessary to improve and maintain a quality of life. Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO, told Everyday Health that anxiety is different for each person, so what works for one might not work for another. He emphasized that working with your doctor to find the right balance of psychotherapy, medication, and exercise is the ideal way to treat anxiety.
This fall, the CDC identified mental health disorders as underlying health conditions that may result in more serious cases of COVID-19 or, even, dying from the virus. Katlyn Nemani, MD, research assistant professor in NYU Langone Health's Department of Psychiatry, stressed that, in her view, people with severe mental illness, schizophrenia in particular, are at the most risk. Christine Crawford, MD, MPH, associate medical director at NAMI, told The New York Times that chronic mental health conditions can "wreak havoc on the body's immune system," making people more vulnerable.
The FCC will require that phone companies allow people to text as well as call a new “988” number for the suicide-prevention hotline. Phone companies have until July 2022 to implement the 988 number for both calling and texting. “Texting to 988 is a huge step forward in improving how you address mental health,” said Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. “Text messaging is a central part of how people communicate and for many individuals the primary way they communicate.” She said that that demand for the hotline “is going to skyrocket” next year when the 988 system is fully in place and people actually know about it, and that resources are going to have to increase as well so that people’s calls and texts are answered.
The FCC unanimously voted to require text messages sent to the number 988 be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022. Not only is texting a very familiar form of communication for most people, texting to reach 988 also will help individuals who for safety reasons need to access the hotline in a more confidential manner, according to Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. For example, texting the suicide prevention hotline could help an individual who is having suicidal ideation, or an individual who identifies as LGBTQ and is living in a household where they don't feel comfortable speaking about their sexuality, Wesolowski told CNN.
With the pandemic exacerbating the nation's mental health crisis, the FCC voted to expand access to 988, mental health and suicide crisis number, to include texting as well as calling. "We know that not everyone may be able to make a phone call or be comfortable making a phone call. The ability to text 988 makes it easier for more people to easily access help during a mental health crisis," said Hannah Wesolowski, interim national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. "We applaud the FCC’s decision to require telecommunication providers support text messaging to 988," Wesolowski said. "This option will support at-risk communities, including youth and young adults, marginalized and underserved populations, and individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or have speech disabilities."
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