A Quick Guide To Mental Health Care

More and more people are afflicted with mental health issues today. The incidence of mental problems has risen gradually over the last decade as a direct result of the lives we lead. Everyone in society is stressed, rushing around constantly and has no time at all to relax. Depression can set in as a result of this or of a dissolved marriage, a death in the family, after giving birth and for a huge variety of other reasons. People tend to work through depression as best they can because they do not want to have it on their record as a result of the stigma. That could actually harm their chances of getting employment in the future. However, as society is beginning to get more clued up about depression, it is essential that everybody have provisions for mental health care.

Depression is just one of the mental illnesses that people can actually suffer from but it is in fact the most common. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and this can result in mood swings, low self-esteem and self-harm. However, people generally tend to hide it very well so that, when they do get treatment, the ailment has already gone on to the point that the individual sufferer has gone as low as they can possibly go. It is at this point that they actually need mental health care treatment. It is only mental health care treatment that can save them from themselves and restore them to health at this point.

It is not only mental health care treatment that is required at this stage because someone who suffers from depression cannot drag him or herself out of it on their own. They need a good support network and friends and family who understand what they are going through. They often need someone on the outside to show them a degree of understanding too so they know that they are not going mad and are in fact perfectly normal. Mental health care workers are perfect for this role. Whilst some individuals turn their noses up at mental health care workers, it is not fair to consider them as individuals that cannot help. The profession is needed now more than ever so a certain degree of understanding is required on the part of the sufferer too.

Mental health care may also incorporate the need for anti-depressants or other similar medication. Some individuals may be able to resolve their mental health problems without the need for medication, but others will not. However, you should only take something for depression when a mental health care professional prescribes them. It is an illness and is rarely made up because of the stigma attached. As a result, society should have a little more understanding.

What the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Means for the Future of Mental Health Care

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in March of this past year, and aims to improve all aspects of our country’s health services. One aspect that will be much-improved is the area of mental health care.

Insufficient coverage and a lack of programs that educate the public on mental illness have plagued the United States for quite some time. With the passage of the new law, a number of new provisions aim to change the public’s perception of mental illnesses and offer programs and other initiatives to help those who need mental health care. A few of those provisions include:

Improvements to Medicaid (including the expansion of eligibility) that will allow more people to experience the benefits of mental health services
Several new options for people with disabilities
Improve coordination and communication between primary care and mental health services
Much more…
Essentially, what this means is that, over time, individuals with mental illnesses will have access to health insurance that covers mental illness and substance abuse services, giving people unprecedented help and cooperation from the government. Other services include prevention programs, new insurance plans for long-term community care, and more.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also aims to improve health services in the workplace. It specifies that starting in 2014, employers can offer bigger incentives for employees’ positive lifestyle practices or participation in health promotion programs. The PPACA also creates a grant program to assist small businesses to provide comprehensive workplace wellness programs. Grants will be awarded to eligible employers to provide their employees with access to new workplace wellness initiatives.

The grants will be awarded beginning in 2011 with $200 million appropriated for a five-year period. The PPACA spells out that a comprehensive workplace wellness program must be made available to all employees and include health awareness initiatives(including health education, preventive screenings, and health risk assessments) as well as supportive environment efforts (including workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity, and improved mental health).

The improved workplace atmosphere when it comes to mental illness awareness is particularly important, as knowledge about mental health is notoriously absent from workplace programs. It has been studied that employees are eager to become more understanding of mental illnesses and ways to treat them, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to accomplish that.

Mental health services will be experiencing a major renovation with the government’s commitment to overall health care reform. Those with mental illnesses will find it easier to seek help and others will find much more information on mental illnesses to create a better understanding of how these health services operate. By creating a more cohesive health care system for mental illnesses, our society will not only become more fluid in its operations, but more knowledgeable and, therefore, better for it.

Suicide Prevention Through Better Mental Health Care

Better mental health care and ease of access :

We need to find ways to make life less difficult for people who struggle with mental illness. No one should have to choose between needed medicine and food or shelter.
We all deserve to have our basic needs met with respect and acceptance. Mental illness is not the person’s fault any more than cancer or heart disease is. This is hard for most of us to understand.
What we see of mental illness is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many more people suffer silently. We can’t see mental illness, it comes to our attention when it is not treated effectively. Sometimes that makes us uncomfortable, and forces us to look at the results of our personal priorities.
Mental health care and suicide prevention should be obvious public health goals. Medicines are getting better and better at keeping depression controlled, but the enjoyment and satisfaction of everyday life is more than just “getting by” emotionally. Suicide means ending your life on purpose. Suicide prevention means making living look better than dying.

Lots of people with depression, and other mental health problems, find new lives with the right mental health care. Others don’t have the same opportunities.
Suicide looks like the best or only choice for them. We can’t stop all of the hardships of their lives, but suicide prevention has to include making better mental health care more available.

How to help yourself and your loved ones get better mental health care:

Learn the warning signs of depression.

If the depression is mild and not upsetting sleep, appetite, concentration or irritability, look for a licensed counselor, social worker or psychologist.
If there are any of the following,
frequent crying or anger outbursts, or crying for no reason, or loss of temper at little things
unusual irritability, snappiness, impatience, criticism of others
poor concentration, follow through, or are more easily distracted
avoiding family and friends, saying ‘no’ to most invitations or suggestions
trouble falling asleep, (longer than 20″-30″), staying asleep (should be getting usual sleep or 6-8 hours a night), or sleeping too much ( more than 2 hours longer than usual), or waking up and not getting back to sleep
panic attacks, with physical signs like fast heart beat, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating, dizziness, nausea, chest tightness or chest pain, numbness or tingling in hands or feet
thoughts of death or suicide
new or increased use of alcohol or recreational or prescription drugs
All of the above persons can do counseling, but a person will probably also need someone who can prescribe medication.
Choosing the right Mental Health Professional assures better mental health care for everyone.
Learning more about depression helps you to get better mental health care for yourself and your loved ones. You will pick up on it sooner, and do something about it before it gets disabling.
Thoughts of suicide don’t usually come on suddenly, so noticing depression early and getting help can stop a lot of suffering. Spread the word, help stop the epidemic of suicide.
Of course, suicidal thoughts or attempts always deserve immediate attention.
If you are currently suicidal, please call 911, your local suicide hotline or one of the national suicide hotlines at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK

Lack of Parity in Treatment in the Mental Health Care Field

A bill was recently passed in the House of Representatives to insure that there existed parity among mental health patients and physical health patients regarding treatment. However, this parity shows only a lack of fair treatment, when it comes to me and my fellow mental health consumers and the way we are treated by the medical system as a whole. We are suppose to have the same affordable services available to us, as well as the high standard level of care with concern to customer satisfaction, that all people receive. This should be the case whether payments are through private or public insurances, which give us the opportunity to receive these services.

Perhaps it’s the stigma regarding mental health that still exists. This stigma exists not only among the general public but also within the ranks of mental health treatment teams, which include doctors, nurses, social workers, and many others. On the other hand, it could be that the “powers that be” do not see an impending need for the type of care we need and the undoubtable existence of it being a life and death situation, as is often the case with physical needs. Not only do we hurt emotionally with our pain, but we hurt physically as well. The stress that is placed on us, through poor hospital conditions and a broad use of a non- thorough- plan aimed at treating the individual as a whole in order to produce recovery, is something that should be looked at closely in regards to policy.

First, in looking at the members of the treatment team, who provide our care, it is evident to me through my experience, while receiving services as a consumer and witnessing the implementation and behind the scenes talk of my coworkers while working as a peer provider, that the stigmas are far reaching; and, we are often looked at as a thorn-in-the side of the health care system. As a consumer, I have experienced the rude and disconcerting, downgrading talk from mental health techs and nurses, when even a simple question is asked. Doctors will often give you a ten minute window of time when you are describing what you are experiencing; and, when you do ask a question in regards to your care, you often do not receive an answer in a way which is concurrent with the active involvement that you as a consumer should have in your health care plan. I have experienced caseworkers who do not return your phone calls, because they feel that you are nothing but a bother; and I have experienced a social worker who tells you that if it was up to him you would never be released from the hospital. These are a few of the many ways in which we, as consumers of a mental health system, are treated. Many consumers feel that we have no way of giving customer feedback, nor do we feel that our feedback would be considered to be of any meaning to anyone, even if it was received.

If actually investigated, individuals with even the hardest of hearts would break down to tears as they looked at the facilities and the conditions that we must bear as consumers, while attempting to recover from an episode of psychosis, depression, or another label. They would find hospitals with beds that are nothing more than cots with a thin foam pad on which to sleep. They would find a ward that holds upwards to fifty people with nothing more than two short hallways and a small dayroom area. When the opportunity arises to go outside, it consists of nothing more that walking back and forth on a concrete catwalk with bars above and on the sides and only thirty feet of walking space allowable. In some facilities, the shower must be shared with all fifty people on that ward. It is unkempt and unsanitary, most of the time, and consumers often have to use the shower with no hot water and very little soap. With these conditions, consumers have difficulty maintaining a good quality of hygiene.

These are just a few conditions that can be compared to a hospital room shared by two patients, while in a facility treating physical health problems. As for the food, well, I just won’t even go there.

As you can see, the lack of parity is clear and nothing ever seems to be done about it. No quality, unified training for the health professionals exists. I have not seen any upgraded facilities, and there still remains no consumer input into our treatment. This leaves many consumers still far away from the goal of recovery. And, a new rise of consumers have developed who have suffered not only these poor standards of care, but they have also been forced to receive injections, medications, and electroshock treatments ordered by the court. These individuals are now calling themselves “psychiatric survivors.” In my opinion, such treatment takes away the very liberties which the court is supposed to protect.

Pitfalls of Using Health Insurance For Mental Health Care

Because of the unfortunate stigma still attached to mental health conditions, people should think twice before using their health insurance to pay for visits to a mental health professional, such a marriage and family therapist, a psychologist or psychiatrist.

If you do have health insurance coverage, your first reaction might be to think, “Well, if I’ve got insurance, why shouldn’t I use it? That’s what it’s there for.” And, most of the time, that’s true. I know I’m certainly grateful for my health insurance when I go to the doctor or dentist.

But it gets more complicated when it comes to mental health care because of negative associations attached to psychological disorders. For example, people probably think differently about an individual who has a physical condition such as a thyroid disorder versus someone who has a psychological condition such as major depression.

The reality is, if you want to get your insurance company to pay for your mental health care, the mental health care provider has to give you a serious psychological diagnosis or the insurance company won’t pay for the treatment.

For instance, many insurance companies won’t pay for someone seeing a therapist for couples counseling or for “normal bereavement” following a loved one’s death. So your mental health care provider needs to find a serious diagnosis that legitimately describes your situation and that will be acceptable to your insurance company. But, once you have that diagnosis, the big issue becomes confidentiality.

Here’s how that works. When you’re seeing a therapist and paying for it yourself, the information you discuss in session stays in the room for the most part. The therapist doesn’t share the information with anyone else, except when they’re required to report child abuse or elder abuse or a handful of other situations covered by law or their profession’s code of ethics. So the vast majority of the time, the information you share with your therapist stays just between the two of you, and you can feel completely free to share all the deep problems that brought you to the therapist’s office in the first place.

However, your sessions won’t be so private any more if your insurance company is paying for all or part of your mental health care, because your diagnosis then becomes part of your health record and it’s no longer confidential. That could be detrimental to you in the future.

For example, let’s say your therapist diagnoses you with major depressive disorder, which is a very common diagnosis. Think about how people view other people who are seriously depressed. They generally have certain expectations of how depressed people behave.

So having that diagnosis in your health record could affect your ability to get a job in the future. It could be an issue in a child custody battle or other legal problems, especially since law enforcement agencies can access your insurance information at any time. A serious mental health diagnosis could cause problems if you tried to obtain other health insurance or life insurance in the future. Those are just a few examples of situations to think about.

The other issue with using insurance benefits for mental health care is that the insurance company might place limitations on the number of sessions you can obtain or require that you get pre-approval from your primary care physician. Some insurance companies are very generous and allow weekly sessions until your problem is resolved, and they don’t interfere very much in the therapeutic process. But some companies place a limit on the number of sessions they’ll cover in a given year, and that frankly might not be enough to resolve some serious or longstanding problems.

But, to me at least, those pragmatic challenges of trying to get your insurance company to provide adequate mental health coverage pale in comparison to the confidentiality issue I was talking about earlier. Confidentiality really is the Number One thing you should consider when you’re deciding whether you want to use your health insurance to cover mental health care.

Renee Haas is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a life coach. She specializes in helping people enhance their relationships, especially doing couples counseling and working with individuals who are having relationship difficulties with a partner, child, parent, boss or other significant people in their lives. She serves therapy clients in California, either in her Moorpark office or via phone or webcam. She works with coaching clients anywhere via phone or web cam.