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For a live on-air segment highlighting Mental Illness Awareness Week, Dan Gillison, NAMI CEO, discussed the increase in mental illness amid the pandemic and breaking stigmas that keep many from seeking help. “We meet you where you are, not where we want you to be," he says about helping those struggling with mental health. He talked about starting with a primary care provider for a loved one that might be hesitant about seeking help." Gillison mentioned the NAMI HelpLine extended hours and 800-number; the growth in volunteers to meet demand for resources and support; and compelling year-over-year statistics.
We could all use someone to talk to right now. “It can be really tough to go online and start googling mental health treatment and support because you’ll get a whole slew of responses,” says Christine M. Crawford, M.D., MPH, NAMI associate medical director. “And if you’re already feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and depression or experiencing trauma, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to process all of the information to know where to start.” A potentially more approachable first step: Schedule an appointment with a primary care provider, Dr. Crawford suggests. They can quickly assess your symptoms and guide you in a direction that’s tailored to your unique mental health needs. The article includes the six most common types of therapy, what to expect, what issues they may help, and how to get started finding providers.
Therapy can be incredible. Trying to find a therapist you connect with and can afford? Not so much. If you’d like to bypass a difficult-to-navigate insurance website, call your insurance company and ask insurance to send you a list of in-network therapists in your area. “Tell them exactly what you need,” says Ken Duckworth, M.D., NAMI CMO. “You’re paying them, and [helping you find someone] is part of their obligation.” Fortunately, some providers operate on a sliding scale with some or all of their clients. This means that the amount they charge varies based on factors like a person’s income, although how much of a discount they offer is totally up to them, Dr. Duckworth says. You might be wondering whether these online options are as good as classic therapy. The answer can be yes for some people, as long as you are working with a licensed individual, Dr. Duckworth says. However, the field is still relatively new, rapidly growing, and generally unregulated, Dr. Duckworth explains. It’s key to make sure that you’re getting good care, even if it’s virtual. To help you figure out if you’re on the same page as soon as possible, Dr. Duckworth recommends interviewing your new therapist during your initial consult or first session.
Q&A style article: Psycom spoke with Christine Crawford, M.D., NAMI associate medical director and an adult and child psychiatrist based in Boston. Dr. Crawford shares her expertise and valuable advice on how to interact with a loved one before, during, and after a psychotic episode. The article has a Resources for Psychosis section that includes: The National Alliance on Mental Illness psychosis web page, which has valuable information for caregivers and family members. For more information and support: to learn more about working with law enforcement during a mental health crisis; to be prepared for a mental health crisis; and to find a caregiver support group near you.
For a live in-studio interview, Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of NAMI, spoke about the pandemic’s impact on teen mental health. “If you think about the teen years, socializing and finding your identity are the core developmental. Due to the pandemic, isolation and not feeling safe in the world has made it much harder for teens to cope. As a result, we’re seeing substantially higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. There's still a lot of shame but these are ordinary, common, treatable conditions. We just have to move past this idea that people have to suffer in silence. Some signs for parents to look for are loss of interest in friends, sleep changes, changes in grades, irritability and anger which can be a sign of depression. If your teen is struggling try to speak openly about how they’re feeling and maybe start with your pediatrician.
People who stop taking antidepressants after long-time use may face a high likelihood of depression relapse, a new study suggests. Researchers found that among patients who stopped taking their antidepressants because they felt well, 56% relapsed within a year compared with 39% of patients who stayed on medication. "Often, patients want to know: How long do I need to be on this medication?" said Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director of NAMI. "This study helps equip psychiatrists in talking to patients about the risk of relapse if they stop taking their antidepressant," said Crawford, who was not involved in the trial. Crawford said people who are receiving psychological counseling and have strong relationships with family and friends are likely to do better after stopping antidepressants than people who lack those support systems. For many patients, Crawford said, the medications are simply an effective way to treat a chronic medical condition — just as people take medications for high blood pressure or diabetes. "Medication is just one piece of the puzzle," Crawford said. But, she added, antidepressants may help "lighten the load" of depression, making it easier for people to manage the stresses in their lives.
The conversation around mental health has reached a decibel level in recent months that cannot be ignored, thanks in part to top-ranking athletes making news. Similarly, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is pushing on priorities such as early intervention and treatment, quality of treatment, accessibility, and diverting troubled individuals into treatment rather than the criminal justice system. NAMI is expanding its stable of “Ask the Expert” webinars, including the “Help Not Handcuffs” series. The videos cover both individual mental wellness and societal issues. Shirley Holloway, president of NAMI’s board of directors, sees a positive angle in the current situation: “People are talking about their mental health in a different way — in an accepting way,” she says. Holloway says that mental health professionals tend to work in distinct “silos.” Instead, there needs to be a community-based system that people with mental health challenges and their families can navigate more easily.
Cultural attitudes regarding mental health have shifted. In the 2000s, reporters announced Spears’s “breakdowns,” and called her “insane.” Such language may have worsened Spears’s situation and fed into deep-seated stigmas. “Back then, I knew people who wouldn’t go for mental health care unless they could park their car far away, because they didn’t want anyone to see them going in,” Katrina Gay, CDO of NAMI said. “There was so much shame.” Gay identifies a “post-Britney turning point” in public sentiment. Stories like Spears’s, combined with the 2014 death of the actor Robin Williams, helped make it safer for celebrities to talk about mental health without being branded as dangerous or weak. If mental health is in play with a story, NAMI’s Gay directs journalists to guides on responsible reporting about the subject: with careful terminology; without speculating or diagnosing from afar; with full context about any conditions or treatments. But “media” these days includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other forums for often-anonymous speculation. Gay said these outlets, where cruelty is “almost a sport,” give her the most concern, and that journalists should take care not to amplify the ugliest social-media messages.
In a taped segment on teen mental health, Dr. Christine Crawford, associate medical director at NAMI, highlights the value of mental health days off school for teens feeling anxiety or depression that is impacting their ability to focus and engage, similar to taking a sick day for physical illness. The segment looks at how schools across the country support new laws that provide excused absences for mental health days. Students tell Hoda Kotb how they’ve learned to take care of their mental health and how schools are supporting them. The segment included NAMIWalks photos and NAMI Mental Health by the Numbers statistics.
The article discusses how the pandemic continues to create uncertainty about where life is heading and creating additional stress with a potential for mental health concerns to increased. Dr. Ken Duckworth, CMO of NAMI, notes, “There’s unknowns about the virus, there’s unknowns with people about their own vulnerabilities, [so] we encourage people at NAMI to do whatever their good self-care strategies were before, pointing to exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, or whatever else works for the individual.”
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