Ever wondered why we need a routine specialist for our teeth and our eyes but not for our mind? Most of us see our dentist every 6 months and we have an eye exam once a years, but there is no recommendation that we get a mind check-up even though our mind is the most important organ we have. Often the first recommendation from a physician for overwhelming feelings is medication rather than understanding the source of the problem and developing skills to manage them. Ever wonder why? Even yet, ever wonder why we easily accept a pill as a solution rather than doing something for ourselves?
If a mental health check-up were part of your healthcare plan, would you use it? Do you want to know if you are keeping your mind healthy? Would you ask for exercises that would help you better relax and manage your stress? Would you want your kids to learn strategies to better focus, better solve problems and get along with others?
In the US the overall cost of mental health services combined with the lost earnings due to mental illness is estimated to be around $400 billion/ year. (Davidson, The Mighty 05/31/16). The World Economic Forum projects by 2030, mental disorders will be the highest health cost estimating at $6 trillion/ year. Harriet Fraad, of The Guardian, wrote "Americans are less than 5% of the world's population, yet they consume 66% of the world's psychological medications." This was published in 2011. In 2016, NBC New reported that 1 in 6 Americans take an antidepressant and most are long-term users. Because therapy is so difficult to convince people to do and to pay for, doctors increasingly are resorting to prescribing multiple types of psychotropic medications. Medications are seen as cost effective, but all medications has side effects.
The World Health Organization writes "There is no health without mental health" and recommends a shift to preventing mental health problems with early detection, and by emphasizing to policy makers the rising economic cost without prevention. What if prevention could happen by routine check-ups, it would be just as routine as having a cancer, cholesterol screening or checking for cavities. Imagine talking to a professional to discuss strategies and coping skills to deal with life problems, or being assessed to see if you need something a little more before the problems get out of control. That would be like having a few weeks of physical therapy after an injury while learning how to keep your body strong and prevent another injury. Short-term Evidence Based therapies are more effective than traditional talk therapy or medications alone in managing anxiety and depression.
Did you know that 20% of children are expected to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder by their 18th birthday? Schools that try to address emotional intelligence generally teach children negotiation skills to get along with others but do not address the underlying need for emotion regulation. Regulating emotions is the key to reducing strong emotional reactions towards others and, according to Dr. Dan Siegel, will grow the part of the brain that develops interpersonal skills.
Many strategies can be taught to children in a school environment if policy-makers would think of the long-term success of future generations. If children can't regulate their emotions, they cannot regulate their thoughts and cannot learn.
The National Institute for Mental Health identifies that only 4% of mental illnesses are severe and chronic with symptoms difficult to manage except through medications and close monitoring.
THE GOOD NEWS: Majority of people diagnosis (25% of the adult population), can prevent becoming chronically ill!
Strategies could be taught to families who are willing to learn skills together and support each other in healthy changes. Let's start by acknowledging that All Minds, including MY Mind Needs Health too!
Mental health skills can be learned very quickly with motivation to change. Understanding the mind and learning ways to cope with emotional distress can be done in a few sessions. Specialized techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and EMDR along with practicing new skills are ways to manage disturbing thoughts and emotions without spending years in treatment. Some people are even able to drastically reduce or even discontinue medications as they find natural ways to cope.