Taking care of your mental wellbeing is a way to help others.
My one daughter came home from school with a headache and heartache. She had just discovered a former classmate died by suicide. She didn't know the boy well, but some of her friends were close to him. One of her friends was the one who made the phone call to police when he had learned of the young man's disappearance.
His death comes near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month and during a time when the federal government is wrestling with bill H.R. 7780 - Mental Health Matters. I'm not one to jump on bandwagons or to support bills that I'm unfamiliar with. I do, however, want to make the case that if we begin to take mental health seriously we can improve the economy, relationships, and save lives.
It's all about the money
I didn't want to talk about money because human life is priceless. Sadly, however, money really does talk. According to a Lancet report, over one billion people suffer in the world with some form of mental health issue. The price tag exceeds 2.5 trillion dollars with missed work and "reduced productivity (1)." Most insurance coverage, however, is minimal at best, leaving many trying to secure payment for treatment (2)(3). This is happening even after the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (4). There are some insurance companies being held accountable (5), but when you or a loved one are struggling it's difficult enough to find treatment let alone making sure it's covered. Good mental health can also improve overall physical health (6), which leads to greater savings.
Friends, Family & Citizens
Relationships are messy. Throw in anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns (and addictions) and they become impossible. Parents, if you have a child that has extreme behavior with no logical explanation, ask your primary physician for a mental health referral. Do not assume the child will grow out of it. Once he or she is 18 it's too late to for you, as the guardian, to do anything about it. Early detection is key to health and healing (7).
We struggled for years with people telling us our child would grow out of it. Others said that she had a fiery personality. At the time when we visited the pediatrician we never thought to bring it up. One day someone suggested we seek help. It was like someone opening the curtains in a darkened room.
Do not be embarrassed. There is no shame. You don't have to tell the world but if you do, don't worry about the judgers. They're going to have opinions no matter what you do. Having a struggling child does not mean you're a terrible parent or that God is punishing you.
If you're eighteen or older and find that you're in and out of relationships, you hate everyone or fear every situation, or alcohol and drugs have become your best friends, I challenge you to seek help. I wish I could tell you it will be easy, but it won't. Finding providers or drug and alcohol treatment centers is almost as impossible as winning the lottery. But, it can be done. Below are resources that might help guide you in this search. But you must be honest with yourself and your therapists (or rehab facilitators). Bluffing your way through treatment might get you out faster but it's like ignoring the lump growing on the side or your armpit. It's not going to go away by itself.
Lots of families and relationships are destroyed by addictions or untreated mental health issues.
If you're getting treatment please stay on the medications unless your doctor changes them. Just because you're feeling better does not mean you're free from the mental health issue. A diabetic who is on medication might feel better but he shouldn't go off his medication. He could have serious consequences.
Those of you not struggling should still work on maintaining good mental health. Studies have found that most people will have some mental health crisis at one point in his or her life. This requires decent exercise and diet and learning to diffuse stress. Self-care is not selfish - and it's not just spending time in a spa or meditating. It's taking time to get out and do something besides work. Think of the instructions on an airplane. They tell you to put on your oxygen mask before placing a mask on someone else. This isn't self-absorption where everything must revolve around you and your needs. It's just a reasonable practice of taking time to relax (not by getting drunk or high) and enjoying the world around you.
Life is worth living and saving
Thank you for reading. Below are groups with links for more information. Please share and get this important information out.
Carol L. Paur
For more information
Mental Health First Aid: "Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues." Learn how to identify and help those in a mental health crisis. It's CPR for mental health.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
NAMI Family Support Group: "NAMI Family Support Group is a peer-led support group for any adult with a loved one who has experienced symptoms of a mental health condition. Gain insight from the challenges and successes of others facing similar experiences.
NAMI’s support groups are unique because they follow a structured model, ensuring everyone has an opportunity to be heard and to get what they need.
Free of cost to participants
Designed for adult loved ones of people with mental health conditions
Led by family members of people with mental health conditions
60-90 minutes long and meets weekly, every other week or monthly (varies by location)
No specific medical therapy or treatment is endorsed
Understanding The Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness (article by Katherine Ponte, JD, MBA, CPRP) for NAMI
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: "SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service."
Excerpt Below Taken From: Mental Health America:
Here are some tips for supporting someone close to you:
Educate yourself about the diagnosis, illness symptoms and side effects from antipsychotic treatments and other medications. Local Mental Health America affiliates, public libraries and the Internet are good resources to learn about mental illnesses and treatment options.
Recognize that your family member or friend may be scared and confused after receiving a diagnosis. Though some people are relieved to receive a diagnosis and actively seek treatment, it may feel devastating to others and bring on stressful feelings.
Listen carefully to your family member or friend and express your understanding back to him or her. Recognize the feelings he or she is experiencing and don't discount them, even if you believe them to be symptoms of the illness.
Encourage your family member or friend to become an active member with his or her treatment team to gain knowledge about what treatments and services will help with recovery.
Recognize that it may take time for your family member or friend to find the proper medications and dosages that work.
Understand that recovery from mental illness isn't simply a matter of "just staying on one's medications." Self-esteem, social support and a feeling of contributing to society are also essential elements in the recovery process.
Encourage your family member or friend to speak immediately to his or her healthcare provider about any problems related to medications. Your support in encouraging an ongoing Dialogue for Recovery can benefit your loved one's recovery.
Obtain the Antipsychotic Side Effects Checklist (ASC) and help your family member or friend fill it out. Only do so, however, if they have indicated that your help is desired. Encourage them to bring it to the next doctor's appointment. A copy of the checklist is available on Mental Health America's web site, on the Dialogue for Recovery fact sheet.
Offer to accompany your family member or friend to medical and other appointments and, if he or she wants you to, discuss medication and side effects with the doctor and the treatment team of social workers, counselors, nurses or other professionals.
Always respect the individual's need for and right to privacy. A person with a mental illness has the same right to be treated with dignity and respect as any other person.
The Lancet Global Health, 2022. Mental health matters. [online] Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30432-0/fulltext.
Nami.org. 2022. Health Insurers Still Don’t Adequately Cover Mental Health Treatment | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. [online] Available at: <https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2020/Health-Insurers-Still-Don-t-Adequately-Cover-Mental-Health-Treatment> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
“Does Your Health Insurance Cover Mental Health?” Harvard Business Review, 11 Oct. 2021, https://hbr.org/2021/02/does-your-health-insurance-cover-mental-health.
HHS Press Office. "U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Treasury issue 2022 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act Report to Congress: Report shows failures to deliver parity in mental health, substance-use disorder benefits." HHS.gov. January 25, 2022. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/01/25/us-dol-hhs-treasury-issue-2022-mental-health-parity-addiction-equity-act-report-to-congress.html.
WICS/WRSP Staff. "Major health insurance companies fined for mental health law violations." News Channel ABC 20. Wednesday, July 15th 2020. https://newschannel20.com/news/local/major-health-insurance-companies-violated-mental-health-law.
"About Mental Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 28, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm.
"Mental Health Screening." NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI.org. https://www.nami.org/Advocacy/Policy-Priorities/Improving-Health/Mental-Health-Screening#:~:text=Mental%20health%20screenings%20allow%20for,and%20prevent%20years%20of%20suffering.