Author: Justin Mckibben
When we talk about national addiction recovery, what we mean is acknowledging how we as a country and a culture are recovering in our communities. How are we supporting those in addiction treatment? What services are we making available? How is our economy recovering? What are we doing to prevent the spread of addiction?
So if we are taking away resources that not only treat those already struggling, but also prevent more people from suffering, how do we expect to ever escape the devastation caused by the opioid epidemic and rise of overdose deaths?
One of the most divisive issues facing America today is access to healthcare and the extent to which health coverage should or should not be provided. The debate has gone on for a long time, and in the shuffle of each proposal, it seems mental health and addiction services are constantly threatened. Recently there have been more attacks on addiction treatment access. So how is the possibility of more decreases in health coverage going to hurt national addiction recovery?
The Parity Protections
Once upon a time in 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) created guidelines that required health insurers to treat mental health and addiction coverage exactly the same as they would with medical and surgical care options. So this means that prior to the MHPAEA those who were lucky enough to have health insurance still could not be guaranteed to receive equitable benefits for mental health or substance abuse care.
These protections were even further expanded by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and legislation put forth by Congress in 2016 with the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes tougher enforcement of parity requirements.
Since the Trump administration stepped in adamantly proclaiming the goal or repealing and replacing the ACA there has been a lot of concern about whether or not any new proposals will decrease health coverage for mental health and addiction services. Many addiction and mental health advocates worry that parity protections and enforcement will also lose their power.
As of yet, politicians are still hoping for a compromise that will keep the protections and resources for treating addiction and mental health intact.
BCBS Cuts Mental Health Coverage
One instance of concerning changes in policy has come out of Minnesota. Just this September the largest insurance carrier in the area, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is making drastic decreases to payments to mental health providers.
We are talking about cuts in addiction and mental health coverage to the tune of that’s 33%!
This decision came after a recent survey showed that the individual therapy costs of Minnesota had exceeded the national average for the last two years. But mental health professionals immediately spoke out against this move. Protests actually took place on Thursday the 14th outside the headquarters of Blue Cross Blue Shield in Eagan, MN. Many advocates and protesters are saying these kinds of cuts will put mental health clinics out of business.
The insurance provider is now under fire as caregivers insist this change will discourage necessary, extended psychotherapy services. People in Minnesota see decisions like that of BCBS as being a violation of the protections offered by parity.
If this kind of policy shift within insurance providers becomes a trend, we could see a dramatic decrease in the people getting substance abuse and mental health treatment. These changes can hurt our national addiction recovery by slowly cutting off the people who need every chance they can get, especially during a devastating opioid epidemic.
Threats within Medicaid
Believe it or not, Medicaid is currently the single largest payer for behavioral health services in America. Threats to the Medicaid health coverage of services like this could do critical damage.
At one point the Trump administration and congressional leaders seemed partial to the idea of turning Medicaid into a block grant program. This strategy would give states a fixed amount of money to provide healthcare for low-income residents. However, policy experts say that means states would have to:
- Reduce eligibility
- Narrow the scope of benefits
- Impose cost-sharing requirements
All of which would also impact the number of people seeking substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Recently GOP representatives and the Trump administration began the work of fundamentally altering state Medicaid programs. Some of these new requirements include governors pushing for:
So again, there is the very real possibility of more hurdles being put in-between those who need help and the already limited resources available to them.
Stigma Influencing Policy
The bigger part of this issue is that these shifts are happening in a way that shows how stigma is influencing policy. We are only further hurting our national addiction recovery by letting this idea that addiction is a moral failing or class issue limit what we are willing to provide to those who need help.
The reason behavioral and mental health services are so crucial is because the cause of addiction is not just the drugs themselves. The vast majority of recovery advocates endorse the concept that addiction develops from multiple factors, such as:
- Lack of access to resources
- Poor social networks
So in fact, by limiting coverage to mental health services, the problem could be magnified.
Mental health services like behavioral therapy being lost with a decrease in coverage means that more children and young adults could go without the support systems. What this does is puts more people in the exact circumstances where we see substance abuse and addiction grow.
So in essence, not only could these constant threats to addiction and mental health coverage be taking away treatment for those already addicted, but it also takes away from prevention programs in communities that fight to keep addiction rates down.
National Addiction Recovery Effects Everyone
If we have any hope of having sustainable national addiction recovery then it is vital that our country continues to push for mental health parity in every discussion about healthcare. If we ever hope to overcome the demoralization of communities we have to fight for mental health and addiction services.
This isn’t about treating the individual’s symptoms with just medications either. Access to other crucial elements like housing, medical care, and basic preventative measures all contribute to the overall mental health of any individual.
When people have better access to the specific levels of care they need, we empower them to contribute to the better communities we need for healthy nation-wide recovery.
People struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders deserve comprehensive and compassionate treatment, and we should all fight to protect coverage that makes treatment more available. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Introducing… Cersei Lannister of the House of Lannister, Light of the West, Widow of Robert Baratheon, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm and Lady Paramount of the Westerlands!
Or, as she was known before her stunning and captivating performance on HBO hit series Game of Thrones, the lovely and talented Lena Headey! This amazing actress recently reached out to her fans on Twitter to speak on something very personal; her experience with anxiety.
With GOT fever in full swing now that we are a mere 3 months away from the highly anticipated 7th season (which I cannot possibly be more excited for), it is nice to see a different side of one cast members true story.
Long Live the Queen
Lena Headey’s portrayal of Cersei also earned the No. 1 spot on a Rolling Stone Magazine ranking of the “30 Best Game of Thrones Villains”, being described as the:
“Most dangerous human being in Westeros” as well as “one of the most complex and fascinating characters on television.”
Truly, Cersei is that villain you love to hate until you hate to love her. Headey received a showering of award nominations for the character of the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and a few wins for Best Actress.
A recent report stated that in 2017, Headey became one of the highest paid actors on television, and is suspected to earn $1.1 million per episode of the 7th season of Game of Thrones.
Before dominating the screen with the chillingly cunning character of Cersei Lannister, Lena Headey has starred in other awesome roles, including the Spartan epic 300. With her powerful and unflinching portrayals of these kick-ass characters, Headey is still a woman who faces some real difficulties in the real world. Beyond the roles in front of the cameras, she took on another powerful role as a voice to fans who asked for her perspective.
Speaking to the Fans
While the character may have once walked naked through the streets of Kings Landing to the Red Keep with the infamous “shame” bell lady behind her (yes… she had a body double… and yes I cried a little), Headey did not shy away when asked a personal question by a fan that got quite a few people talking. A follower on Twitter asked Headey,
“Do you ever get insecure Lena?”
The response was a few tweets which stated:
“I overthink for sure. I am familiar with depression.” She then continued by saying, “I get HUGE anxiety (always fun [frowny face]) Insecure, not really.”
Another tweet from Lena Headey on the subject came after stating:
“Anxiety is a beast. You have to talk to beasts. Release them back into the wild. Easier said than done I know but still. Good to Practice.”
But her majesty the awesome wasn’t quite done. She went on to tweet:
“It’s been lost to greed and aspiration, no wonder we have anxiety, no wonder we overthink ..we’re slammed with bullshit. …”
“Tricked into thinking. You don’t have enough. You’re not enough. Pretty enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Capable enough. Successful enough.”
“Well here’s the truth. You are enough… in fact you’re who you’re meant to be which is BEAUTIFUL… Don’t be afraid to let someone really see you…Magic happens when you are vulnerable and truthful and human.”
“Anxiety. Depression. It’s real and it’s chemical. It’s also spiritual. .. stay with me everyone (and before you ask, yes I’m ok)”
Looking through these tweets, the fans showed up with a flood of support for her statements. Many shared personal experiences and thoughts on her comments, while others thanked her for putting words to the way so many of them felt.
Advocate for Anxiety
This is not the first time Headey has spoken about such personal adversity and shown support for those struggling with mental health. A while back she opened up during an interview with More magazine about her bouts with depression and anxiety. In this piece she shared an experience of “massive grief” after her marriage had been dismantled. In her statements she shows her willingness to accept anxiety as part of life, but that getting older and becoming a mother taught her to “become less serious about it all”.
It is always refreshing to hear people who seem to be living the dream of spot-lights, red carpets and award shows step off that stage and show the people who adore their characters and their performances that they too are still people with a lot of the same problems. That beast of anxiety is much like any other mental health disorder in that it doesn’t care who you are or how glamorous things appear. A beast is a beast.
Some of the most powerful moments of the Game of Thrones series are scenes stolen by the Lady of Casterly Rock, and we are lucky to have them. This tweet and the conversation are a great example of how important it is to raise awareness and talk about things like anxiety and depression, to break the stigmas and provide support.
Even a queen needs a little help sometimes.
Spreading hope and stories of success even through these troubling experiences is a vital way to show others there is life beyond our obstacles. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with self medicating and even substance use disorder. Getting the right kind of help and coping skills can make all the difference. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Anyone who has ever been both alive and awaken will experience feelings of being down. Negative emotions and difficulty with feeling them is part of life. Being conscious means dealing with the duality of living, but when emotions like helpless despair and hopelessness get control and won’t let go, you may be suffering from depression.
We all experience pain. We all deal with desperate times. But sometimes, we will eventually ask ourselves- do I have depression?
Depression is a complex issue that many people struggle with, and some people experience the grip of depression in different ways. The truth is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States.
Do I Have Depression: The Definition
Because people experience depression differently, there are different forms of depression. Specifically we will focus on what the NIMH calls major depressive disorder or clinical depression.
According to NIMH Major depressive disorder/clinical depression is-
“a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.”
Some other variations of depression can develop under unique circumstances. These include but are not limited to:
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Perinatal depression
- Psychotic depression
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Bipolar disorder
There are other specific forms of depression recognized by the mental health community, but in general the common link is the feelings experienced during depressive periods.
Do I Have Depression: The Experience
In general, some describe depression as the feeling of living in a dark abyss or with a sense of impending disaster. Other people describe depression as a feeling of lifelessness, emptiness and apathy. Restlessness and anger are also common feelings associated with depression, particularly in men.
Over-all, the primary difference between depression and everyday sadness is that it can feel almost impossible to function when suffering from depression. It dominates daily life and impedes the individual’s ability to complete regular tasks. Just getting through a day can be overwhelming.
Probably one of the most unhelpful aspects of any discussion on depression is the stigma attached to it, because many people expect that depressed people are always walking around sad. Stigma shapes this image of people with depression being unkempt and gloomy, but the reality is so many people struggle with depression behind bigger smiles and a lot of people never notice.
Do I Have Depression: The Symptoms
While depression may not be as easy to spot as the stigma would have us believe, there are symptoms that may indicate a deeper issue with depressive disorders. The following signs and symptoms are common for people with depression:
- Consistently sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in things you care about
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom on this list. An individual may only experience a few symptoms, while others may experience many. The frequency of signs may be a good indication as well. You may be suffering from depression if you experience these symptoms:
- Most of the day
- Nearly every day
- For at least two weeks
But a diagnosis of depression isn’t something to take lightly. There is a process best taken with professionals to get a clear and thorough understanding of what you are experiencing. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and their particular disorder. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the disorder. It can also co-occur with other medical illnesses and disorders, such as:
Dual diagnosis is important in order to fully understand how each illness impacts the other, and how to best treat the individual.
Do I Have Depression: What Do I Do?
Depression can be treated, even in the most serious and seemingly helpless cases. The sooner someone is able to get treatment, the more effective it can be. Many times depression is treated with psychotherapy, and sometimes with medication. Most would say that any medication should only be utilized in combination with some form of therapy, because antidepressants are not a cure. Also, this kind of treatment must be done at the prescription and direction of a physician, as most of these medications are powerful and sometimes dangerous.
Medication can also be especially dangerous for those struggling with substance use disorder. The truth is, most people who struggle with drugs or alcohol are also struggling with a mental health disorder like depression, and many times they self-medicate or abuse their medication which only magnifies the issues.
If you’re asking- do I have depression- then the best thing to do is to contact a mental health professional. Getting a diagnosis is essential to determining how to get the help you truly need. For those suffering with dual diagnosis like depression and addiction, the method of treatment is crucial to the recovery process.
Holistic recovery programs are designed to treat every aspect of someone’s life to assure them the best chance at a healthy and fulfilling future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As tragically contrite as it may seem to say, racism is still a thing. Many would argue that as long as there are different races, it will exist because people will always find a reason to hate or resent those who are different from them. In 2016 we should hope we have come a long way from the days of belligerent racism. Still the media is filled with claims of racism running rampant. Some still dispute that this is all contrived by the propaganda machine turning people against one another. Others actively protest it in the streets and on every public forum, calling it a hidden truth that governs our world.
It is true that we have left behind the era that gave us slavery, the Civil War and the Holocaust. However, pretending this infirmity has vanished completely is irresponsible. Of course we all have the nature to be judgmental or intolerant, but how far does it take us?
Some of us may only ever experience racism first-hand a few times in our lives. Several studies have already shown that racial discrimination can be linked to poor mental and physical health. Now new data suggests that not only is racism still real, but that repeated racism over time has an increased impact on mental health.
Accumulation of Racist Experiences
The recent data comes from a study by Dr. Laia Becares, Research Fellow in the University’s School of Social Sciences and in the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, and her colleagues looking into the accumulation of experiences involving racially motivated attacks over time. This included instances of:
- Being shouted at with prejudice
- Being physically assaulted
- Avoiding a place because or ones race
- Feeling unsafe because of one’s ethnicity
Dr. Becares’s study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The ethnicity sample of Understanding Society is the primary source of a lot of information for this study. This is actually a dataset used to examine research questions with participants over time. It allowed the researchers to add up all experiences of racial discrimination that people have had over a five year span to find out whether these were associated with changes in mental health.
Dealing with the Data
Dr. Becares’s research shows that increased mental health problems for racial minorities who’ve experienced repeated incidents of discrimination are shown to be significantly higher than those who do not report any experience of racism.
The study found that the biggest cumulative impact on mental health was attributed to the intense fear of avoiding places and feeling unsafe due to discrimination. In Dr. Becares own words,
“This finding would suggest that previous exposure to racial discrimination over the life course, or awareness of racial discrimination experienced by others, can continue to affect the mental health of ethnic minority people, even after the initial exposure to racial discrimination.”
Which sounds like it actually sends shock-waves of impact, especially today! Every time you log online there are videos of shootings or attacks involving police and other incidences which are labeled as racially motivated, fueling division in communities. Then the floodgates of online harassment and rants echoing intolerance open up and spill out. The internet being over-saturated with “hate speech” has become the norm. Extremes vary from insisting racism doesn’t exist, to people encouraging racial tensions. At a time where this issue is increasingly publicized and political, it is important to be compassionate and self-aware.
It’s not just one sided either. People from all races have proven to be guilty of discrimination. Some will even criticize another for being a racist, and follow it with racist remarks! It is maddening sometimes to think of how simple minded statements are so openly thrown around, and how we don’t even realize the impact this kind of behavior has on our mental health.
Shades of Grey
Personally, as a biracial man, I can say that my entire life I’ve experienced the most subtle shades of racism. I’ve been told more times than I could ever possibly recount how I am “not really black” or I “act too white” because people on both sides of the discussion, including my own family don’t realize the true weight in those words or the mental conditioning it creates.
I’ve experienced the outright indecency of aggressive racism. For a time I lived in a farm town with hardly any other minorities in the area and felt first-hand what it’s like to be given a vulgar name that I should never feel obligated to wear.
In my days of active addiction, even in my days of recovery, I’ve experienced racism. Sometimes the worst part is people think they are being racist with good intentions. If I were to be transparently introspective I can honestly say that discrimination long enough based on something that was never up to you to being with can have long term effects on the way you cope with your world.
I may not be black. I may not be white. But every day I’m grateful to find the shades of grey where I fit. This is the truth we should all face.
No matter where your ancestors came from or how much pigment you have in the skin wrapped around your bones, you are a person. We all have to take responsibility for the contributions we make to this conversation. No one is to blame. Therefore, we all have to be accountable to change. Mentally, emotionally, physically we suffer from our inaction, and our inaction makes us complicit in the culture of racial and religious division that is devastating mental health for us all.
Mental health, substance abuse and addiction are all commonly connected. People with substance abuse and addiction issues more often than not struggle with some degree of trauma or mental health disorder. The more we pay attention to mental health, the more likely we will be able to fight back against addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Since back in 1949, Mental Health America and other affiliate organizations all over America have led the charge in a collective observance of National Mental Health Month in May by actively reaching out to millions of people in the country to raise awareness, spread information and acknowledge those living with mental health disorders. Using media, local events and mental health screenings these movements take action throughout the month of May to spread the word about mental health as an issue everyone should care about.
As we highlight some of the activities and outreach programs happening this year, we want to challenge everyone to get involved.
All together the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has put together a catalog of options to use as part of a social media toolkit to help raise awareness for #MentalHealthMonth. Included in their toolkit is a variety of hashtags, including the others listed below that correlate with the activities they encourage advocates to get involved with, including:
The official theme for 2016 National Mental Health Month is Life with a Mental Illness calls upon individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and videos. One way to connect with the movement is to:
- Post on social media with #mentalillnessfeelslike
- Submit stories or content to MHA anonymously
All posts will be collected and displayed at mentalhealthamerica.net/feelslike.
The idea is to let millions of people everywhere speak their own truth about their experience and perspective. It gives people an opportunity to share their struggles and triumphs, while also raising awareness as to the signs of mental illness to others who may not yet know what they are struggling with.
Another way NAMI has helped with pushing for National Mental Health Month is their PSA pledge. In their call to action, they have said it is now time “for all of us to step up and change the conversation.” Found in the PSAs on their website are a few celebrity videos taking the pledge, including:
- Mayim Bialik, PhD- American Actress/Neuroscientist
- Torrey DeVitto- American Actress/Musician/Former Fashion Model
- Clark Gregg- American Actor/Screenwriter/Director
In these videos, the celebrities speak on the stigmatized terms commonly attached to mental illness that are harmful to the people fighting to overcome these conditions, and challenge the viewer to take the pledge to be #stigmafree with instructions on making video pledges for social media.
Petition to Congress
In the wake of years of school and workplace shootings to private family tragedies, more and more people are pushing to take action in effectively recognizing and treatment mental illness in America. Despite the fact that nearly 60 million Americans live with mental illness, there has yet to be a comprehensive mental health bill passed through the United States Congress in 40 years!
NAMI has also helped push a petition demanding the passage of a comprehensive mental health bill this year, with legislation that is intended to:
- Improve access to mental health services
- Improve reimbursement for mental health services
- Improve integration of mental health and physical health
- Increase funding for mental health research
- Provide vital early identification and intervention
On the NAMI website the petition is signed every few minutes, adding to tens of thousands of supporters pushing for the government to take innovative action in helping support those struggling with mental illness.
Everyone Makes a Difference
In a nation where 1 in every 5 Americans will be impacted by a mental health condition in their lifetime, there needs to me awareness and support. We are all impacted in one way or another; be it a family member or loved one. According to reports collected by NAMI:
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experiences serious mental illness in a given year
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth between 13-18 years old experiences a severe mental disorder at some point
- 1% of adults in U.S. live with schizophrenia
- 6% of adults in U.S. live with bipolar disorder
- 9% of adults in U.S. have at least one major depressive episode in the past year
- 1% adults in U.S. experience anxiety disorder (including PTSD/OCD)
- More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition
The fight for better mental health treatment should be especially important to the addict. Out of the 20.2 million adults in America who have experienced a substance abuse disorder, 50.5% had a co-occurring mental illness.
For someone like me who has survived depression, drug addiction and suicide, something like mental health awareness treatment is critical. I know from experience that far too many people will go undiagnosed and untreated, and far too many will lose their fight before they find help.
Bringing education and understanding to shed light on the realities of mental illness and mental health treatment is something we should make a priority, not just one month at a time… but all the time.
Palm Partners understands the importance of mental health treatment when it comes to substance abuse, and dual diagnosis treatment is designed to acknowledge the overlapping nature of these disorders and create the right recovery plan to overcome the disease of addiction and confront issues with mental health. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help, you are not alone.