About This Blog
The Mental Health Association of Minnesota Blog is to keep our audience informed about current events and developments in Minnesota's health community.
Most mental health conditions start to develop early in a person’s lifetime. Half of adult mental health conditions begin before age 14, and three-quarter of mental health conditions begin before age 24. Getting help for a mental illness is often delayed. In the U.S. the average duration of delay in treatment from onset of symptoms for mood disorders is 4 years and for anxiety disorders it is 23 years. If left untreated, many mental health conditions can worsen and lead to increased impairment in daily activities and functioning.
Stigma and barriers to treatment are often the causes for these delays. Results from the latest annual NSDUH survey of mental health findings show reasons why people with mental illnesses did not seek care. Below are the top 10 reasons from that survey (click here to see all responses).
* Based on the percent of adults with any mental illness that did not receive mental health treatment in the past year (2011). From the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-45, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4725. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.
Getting help for a mental illness can be difficult. For those who are initially seeking mental health care for the first time, our website addresses some of these barriers. Get Help. Get Well, provides some information on who to contact first and what to expect at your first appointment. Talking with a trusted friend, family member, or someone else that you feel you could confide with can provide that needed support as well. Contact an MHAM advocate to ask questions you may have pertaining to seeking mental health care treatment.
In Minnesota, individuals with serious mental illnesses lose 24 years of life expectancy compared to those without these disorders. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and obesity contribute to this early mortality. However, many of these health risks can be prevented or managed by early detection, treatment, and healthy lifestyle changes. An integrated healthcare approach can effectively address these issues and improve the health outcomes for people with mental illnesses.
The following infographic from SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions explores the problem and illustrates the impact on communities and individuals. Click on the image below to see the full infographic.
It is estimated that over 21 million people will be attending some sort of higher education this coming school year. For those that are just entering college, the change can be daunting. This transitional period can be stressful and challenging. Knowing what type of supports that are available for mental health is important.
The following services/supports are available at most colleges and universities and will vary in the type of services offered at each campus.
Academic Advising Centers – If you have non-emergency questions or concerns regarding your condition and would like to know who to talk with, your academic advisor may be a good person to contact first. They are aware of the different programs that may be offered on campus and can refer you to the appropriate resources and services.
Counseling Centers / Health Centers – Many campuses offer individual counseling, group counseling, and crisis services. The types of services offered will vary based upon available programs and staff capabilities. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, a referral to an outside agency may be necessary.
Disability Services – Provide reasonable accommodations for students that have a documented disability due to their mental health condition. These accommodations may include adjustments to programs, coursework, and policies.
Student Groups – These groups are primarily directed by students to create awareness for the student body and develop partnerships with key staff/programs. One such national program is “Active Minds.” This organization develops and supports student-run chapters on colleges and university campuses (including several chapters at Minnesota colleges and universities) that promote a dialogue around issues of mental health.
General Information on Mental Health – Most campuses will have a variety of information about mental health. Health services, counseling centers, and other areas in the college will often have information and resources on mental heath conditions (depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, etc.). Also, many colleges host health and wellness fairs and other events that highlight mental health issues.
ULifeline is an anonymous, confidential, online resource center, where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need and want regarding emotional health.
What are a public or private college-university’s responsibilities to students with disabilities? From the ADA National Network website.
Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes into our daily lives can be challenge, but the long-term benefits it has toward our health and wellbeing can make a big difference. Even simple changes like reducing the amount of time we sit or reducing the amount of salt we eat can have a significant impact on our health. MHAM’s Take Charge booklet provides a few ideas on how to improve your overall health by eating healthy, getting active, managing your stress, and getting a good night’s sleep. Along with these tips, the booklet provides some ideas on how to set a few goals and to track your progress.
The Take Charge booklet can be downloaded from the MHAM website or ordered online. If you are a service provider and looking for multiple copies, please contact Brett Dumke, Education Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-756-8584, ext. 6.
Every month I participate in the Regions Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Council. At our monthly meetings we discuss issues specific to the experience of mental health patients at the hospital, but we also spend time addressing broader issues related to mental health. The advisory council gives feedback not only on the construction and organization of Regions’ new mental health building, but also on patient policy and staff trainings. As part of this, the council got an advance preview of Healthpartners’ Make It Ok campaign last year.
You may have seen some of the Make It Ok campaign posters in bus shelters and on billboards. They typically feature two people facing each other with a blank dialogue bubble creating a barrier between them. The message is that people’s unwillingness to talk about mental health furthers stigma. At the bottom of the poster is a website: www.makeitok.org
Talking about mental health is complicated. Because so much cultural baggage is tied up in our notion of mental health, folks are resistant to identify with the concept or to even bring it up. When I am contacted by friends or family members who are concerned about someone they know, much of our conversation revolves around how to respectfully communicate with someone who may be experiencing a mental illness. When I am contacted by individuals with mental illnesses, much of our conversation revolves around how to be a good self-advocate in a stigmatizing environment. Frequently I’m asked if I know of resources the individual can pass on to family members who know little about mental illness.
The Make It OK website is a great starting point for friends and family. At the website you can browse through different phrases family and friends can use to bring up mental health respectfully. It contains basic information about mental illnesses and tips for how to engage with folks who may be experiencing a crisis.
If you live with a mental illness and want your family, friends and community to learn more about mental health and stigma, check out www.makeitok.org. It may be a useful resource for you. But if you need more information than the website offers, or if you have questions that are more complex, you can also contact an individual advocate for support by calling MHAM at 651-493-6634.
70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lifetime. Of those about 20% will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In any given year, about 7.7 million U.S. adults are affected by PTSD. PTSD can occur after being involved in a traumatic event and can affect both children and adults. PTSD may develop after a person has been harmed or witnessed a loved one or others being harmed. A traumatic event can include combat exposure, violent crime, natural disasters, a serious illness or death, and accidents.
For those who do develop PTSD, the symptoms can begin shortly after or can occur months or sometimes even years after the event. Common symptoms of adults with PTSD include:
> Flashbacks or feeling that the traumatic event is occurring again
> Scary thoughts that a person can’t control
> Avoidance of places and things that remind you of the event
> Guilt, worry, and sadness
> Trouble sleeping
> Angry outbursts
> Thoughts of harming yourself or others
There are several options for treating PTSD. Treatment for PTSD will vary from person to person and may include therapy, medication, or combination of both.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – National Center for PTSD
By MHAM volunteer Stephen Larson
Sometimes I think we let ourselves become identified with our diagnosis simply, and certainly through no fault of our own, because this is what we know. Think back to life before recovery. Personally I did not know there was something physiologically wrong with me. I always thought life should not be so difficult, and I had God knows how many excuses for being and feeling different, alone, disconnected and just not fitting in. The bottom line was that I was damaged goods and reasons or excuses did not really matter apart from serving as more goals to overcome.
Once I had a counselor, in all seriousness, ask me why I had not killed myself yet. At the time I focused all of my anger on his audacity and his ignorance of the fact that I was special. Whatever his motives for posing such a question, the fact is that it stuck.
What kept/keeps me going despite my perceptions of my self and the world? Why care when not doing so would be so much easier?
Blaming others for my circumstances really did not make me feel better and excuses only sidetracked my focus from the real issues. I did not know life could be better. It never occurred to me that I might be normal and healthy in most regards, or that I was not at fault for what ever was keeping me down. I never considered myself mentally ill but rather not a real or whole person at all.
There was something I was not getting.
I often refer to thinking that there was a curtain in my mind and I didn’t know what was on the other side. For me my self- medicating chemical abuse was, and still can be, so horrendous no one thought to look any further. My excuses were provided by those I loved and affected the most throughout my life as I cycled through mania and depression, violence and lethargy, craving attention while fleeing and isolating from people, as well as using sex, drugs and rock & roll just to feel normal when at the same time I was clueless about who or what I actually wanted to be. But I always knew deep down things would be better someday.
And I am glad I waited. Through patience, perseverance, and most of all stubbornness I just tried doing the next right thing and tried not to get caught up in the results. I chose not to focus on happiness as a thing in the future and realized happiness is just a thought away.
And that’s what’s good with me.
I try to do the next right thing, do what I am told and trust all will be well and that I cannot fail. At first I rejected everything about my mental illness and that took some time to get over, but now instead of being consumed by a diagnosis I understand that I if follow through with my treatments and medications it becomes a rather small, though important, part of my life. This attitude generalizes to the rest of my life and allows me to be involved in my life rather than being a passive bystander.
What’s good with me today? I am able to work part time again, I volunteer for causes that are important to me, I write and I am clean and sober, though some days reluctantly. I have another chance to see life from a different point of view, a life that is now full of hope, trust and wonderful people. I once heard that if you have gratitude in your life everything is important.
So, welcome to MHAM’s ‘What’s Good With You?’ blog project!
MHAM is now requesting and accepting stories from you for our new blog project. Submissions should focus on the positive aspects of your or a significant others’ recovery from mental illness, and be up to 750 words in length. Please don’t worry about your writing abilities as assistance with writing or editing will be available.
The following writing prompts may help spark your imagination or develop your ideas:
1. Because my mental illness is managed I see the world differently. As I recover I discover_______________. (e.g. I trust people, I am eager to meet others). What is important and new in your world today?
2. Maintenance of my mental illness is very important to me. I let the people the in my life know I will not compromise on ________________________. (e.g. sleep, human contact, medications, etc…). Describe what others need to know about your recovery.
3. Considering my recovery, when I think of my future I think of_______(e.g. possibilities, wishes, hopes, desires…). Describe what your future holds.
4. Today the best things I have to offer other people include______________________. (e.g. friendship, support, companionship, understanding, help…).
Of course other ideas are welcome though we wish to stick with subjective positive experiences and insights about recovery.
Please send submissions to: email@example.com
For people with serious mental illness (SMI) the risk for being overweight or obese is significant. Four out of five people with SMI are overweight or obese in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being overweight or obese can increase your risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, and other health conditions. A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that tailored lifestyle programs for people with serious mental health conditions can be effective in achieving healthy weight loss.
The study consisted of 291 participants from 10 outpatient psychiatric rehabilitation programs that were randomly assigned to an intervention group or control group. The study found that the intervention group that received regular weekly group exercise classes and individual/group weight management classes had significant weight loss compared to the control group that had basic information on nutrition and exercise at the beginning of the study.
After 18 months the participants in the intervention group:
The study also found that the participants from the intervention group who were taking certain psychotropic medications known to cause weight gain still had significant weight loss as well. This study shows that when effective resources are provided, people with SMI can implement healthy lifestyle changes with good results, despite the many challenges that they face.
For more information on this study, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2013/nih-study-shows-people-with-serious-mental-illnesses-can-lose-weight.shtml
With nearly two weeks of spring behind us, the hope of warm weather and getting outside to soak up some sunshine will eventually come. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have so many city, county, and state parks that offer a variety of recreational activities, such as biking, hiking, walking and swimming, just to name a few. Not only do many of these activities can impact your overall health, but can also provide a place to connect with friends, family, and people from your community. Below are just a few resources to help plan a visit to your local or state parks.
Listings of Minnesota state parks
Listings of Minnesota county websites
Also, check out our Take Charge booklet for more ideas to improve your health and wellbeing, tips on setting some wellness goals, and to track your progress.
Last night I had the opportunity to attend ‘Other Desert Cities’ at the Guthrie Theater. ‘Other Desert Cities’ takes place over the course of Christmas Eve. Brooke, who has recently been hospitalized for depression, and her brother have come to stay with their parents for the holiday. The play is premised on the notion that Brooke’s brother, Henry, committed suicide after assisting a radical leftist organization with a bombing. This loss, and the story of the circumstances around it, has profoundly influenced Brooke’s life and recovery from depression, and inspired her to write a memoir. When she returns home for Christmas, Brooke informs her family the memoir will be published in the New Yorker. This public voicing of the family secret creates chaos and sparks discussions about mental illness, the nature of silence, the nature of change, and the importance of truth.
Henry’s suicide, and the fact of his existence, has been erased from the family memory. Very few pictures of Henry can be found in the house, and it is clearly off-limits for discussion. Brooke has grown up within the silence around Henry, longing for her beloved brother but unable to discuss the experience of loss with anyone in her family.
However, Brooke’s parents have wealth and status within their community and believe her memoir will ruin their reputation. They have an interest in and benefit from maintaining silence, and the family system is dependent upon this silence. For the family system in its current iteration to continue, silence must be maintained.
Much of the play is consumed with the question of truth. What is truth? What does Brooke have to gain from speaking the truth of her experience? What purpose does it serve? Who does telling the truth harm or heal, and is it worth it? Is it possible for divergent truths to exist within a family? And do these divergent truths make it impossible to relate or love?
There was promise for deep examination of what it means to have divergent truths within a family, the stigma of mental illness and suicide, and how to maintain mental health in hostile territory, but the writing got weak towards the end. Rather than coming to a conclusion about the issues raised by suicide and mental illness, an unexpected revelation turns the play in a completely different direction.
While the first two-thirds of the play did an excellent job of depicting a family dealing with the fallout from suicide, depression, and chemical dependency, the last third seemed to negate the entire premise. A lot of thoughtful material is brought up, and then nothing is done with it. This does not mean the play is not worth seeing—it is fascinating to watch the complex family dynamics unfold. However, be aware that very little is done with this unfolding. While this play brings to light the very types of conversations people with mental illnesses might have with their families in a way that is emotionally real, it collapses on itself and refuses to play them out to their conclusion.