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Or in a crisis, text "NAMI" to 741741
One woman says she received several misdiagnoses over 15 years before being correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Primary care providers may only be able to spend 15 minutes talking with patients, not enough time to diagnosis a mental health condition. Another common reason misdiagnoses happen is “not because an evaluator did something wrong; it’s because symptoms tend to evolve over time,” explains Christine Crawford, MD, MPH, associate medical director of NAMI. Dr. Crawford adds, “A lot of providers are getting only a cross-sectional snapshot of what is going on in the person in front of them.” A lengthy evaluation with a mental health professional is often needed to make a psychiatric diagnosis like bipolar disorder.
"Embracing mental health days by schools helps normalize the conversation around mental health, which leads to understanding to empathy and more willingness to seek help when you need it," said Barb Solish, the Director of Youth and Young Adult Initiatives for NAMI. Solish says parents can start conversations with their children about mental health days by comparing it to taking a break when a person isn't physically feeling well. They can do the same for their emotional well-being.
The CDC just added mood disorders like depression to a long list of mostly physical conditions that put people at high risk for severe coronavirus cases, and advocates believe it’s long overdue. “NAMI values the recognition by the CDC for the data that has emerged over the course of the pandemic showing people with depression and schizophrenia are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms,” says Christine Crawford, associate medical director at NAMI. “This update to the guidelines takes a holistic approach toward the impact of both mental and physical illness.” Dr. Crawford tells us that people with serious mental illness can experience constant stress that can reduce the body’s natural immune system defenses and this, in turn, can “increase their susceptibility to infection and make them more vulnerable to severe Covid-19 symptoms.” “It’s important for us as a society to kind of shift our thinking around that and to think about a condition such as depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorders as general medical conditions, because they are, and they’re also chronic medical conditions,” says Dr. Crawford.
The CDC amended its website to add mental health illnesses, including depression and schizophrenia, to its list of health conditions that make people of any age more likely to become severely ill from Covid-19. The C.D.C. recommends boosters for people 18 or over with certain underlying health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about one in five American adults experience some form of mental illness each year. Preliminary research has shown an association between mental health disorders and hospitalization and severe sickness from Covid. Chronic mental health conditions can exact a physical toll and “wreak havoc on the body’s immune system,” making people who suffer them more vulnerable to diseases like Covid, said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director at NAMI. “They’re at increased risk, just because of the impact the stress response has on the body,” Dr. Crawford said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently declared a mental health emergency for children and teens. They say the COVID-19 pandemic worsened a problem that already existed. The AAP said suicide rates among teens steadily rose between 2010 and 2020. Doctors say social interaction is vital to youth development. "If you think about the teen years, the young years, getting out, socializing, getting an identity — these are the core developmental tasks of these stages of life," Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO told CBS Mornings. "Isolation, not feeling safe in the world has made it all much harder." The National Alliance on Mental Illness lists warning signs which can include a drop in school performance, and altered sleep schedule and feeling withdrawn.
A recent Pew Charitable Trusts survey found few responding call centers have staff with mental health crisis training. Most centers do not have access to mental health professionals who can help with the calls or first responders in the field trained to handle such crises. The data overrepresent areas with predominately white populations. Still, the results provide a snapshot of what people experience every day across the country when they seek help for a mental health crisis: That it often isn't there, said Angela Kimball, national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. Only about 2 in 5 centers said they had access to mobile crisis response teams of trained police and clinicians paired. "Millions of people every year experience a mental health crisis, and they deserve to have a response that is not a law enforcement response," Kimball said. The survey found that compared to urban areas, rural 911 call centers were more likely to lack access to behavioral health clinicians to guide the call or connect patients to care. "The hope here is that people are starting to really recognize and name mental health crises. And they want a different response," Kimball said. "So now it is really up to our country to invest in that different response."
A new three-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, set to launch next July, is expected to increase the use of mental health crisis services as access becomes easier. But advocacy organizations worry some states may not have the funding or capacity to support increased use of the “988” hotline and its related programs. “This kind of crisis infrastructure is going to take a lot of communities some time to develop, but they need to get started now,” said Angela Kimball, national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. “The real fear though, is that if people call 988 and expect a mental health response, we want them to get a mental health response,” Kimball said. Kimball explained that police calls to mental health emergencies have sometimes led to arrests, inappropriate uses of ERs, as well as deaths. “That kind of trauma and tragedy is the last thing that we need,” Kimball said. “There is a subset of people, about three in 10, for whom the phone call isn’t going to be enough,” Kimball explained. There needs to be available mental health services to address the need for care after someone calls.
More than 20 years later, Ginger Lenore Phillips said she finally knows what was leading her to abuse drugs. “It’s a mixture of bipolar I and Schizophrenia” she said. Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO said drug-use is a common trend among people either misdiagnosed or improperly diagnosed with mental illness. “A lot of people who are experiencing emotional distress try to change how they feel,” he said. Dr. Duckworth said the shame society places on people experiencing mental distress, lack of open discussion, and access to services are often what drive people to self-medicate. “All contribute to the idea that this should be held in silence, and that leads to trouble for people because these are treatable conditions,” said Dr. Duckworth.
Spanish-language speakers often face difficulty accessing mental health resources, but that could change with the launch of the only national Spanish-language text crisis line. People in need of help can now text HOLA to 741741 or text 442-AYUDAME in WhatsApp. The Crisis Text Line experienced a surge in users during the pandemic. In 2020, the English-language text line had about 40% of callers were people of color, with more than 20% of users identifying as Latino. Yet the Spanish-language crisis line will reach a different group of the Latino communities, according to Juan Velez Court, a NAMI consultant. "In Spanish, we have this expression, 'eso es una changería,' which means, this is nonsense, that will go away," Velez Court told Insider. "Latinos use it a lot when it comes to mental illness because there's so much stigma attached to diagnosis and not many Spanish-language resources to educate people." The text component of the crisis resource also makes services more accessible, said Velez Court, because people won't have to worry if someone will recognize their voice or if they start crying.
For World Mental Health Day, Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO, discusses the mental health impact of the pandemic and challenges to our state of mind. He talks about how children and teens are disproportionally affected and provides tips for parents on approaches for an open conversation on mental health concerns.
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