Mental Health: The Big Elephant in the Room

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Over the past 50 years, mental health has been an area of medicine often stigmatized and surrounded with controversy. Mental health disorders are a leading cause for disability worldwide.

Many associate the term mental health with mental hospitals, involuntary medical treatment, and drugs. It is no surprise that such a term has a negative connotation, given some of the infamous “innovations” that have been recorded in its history, such as lobotomies, electro-convulsive therapy, and others. However, it is safe to say that the days of “institutionalization” and definition of mental health issues as pure biological anomalies are, for the most part, behind us now.

Two important distinctions must be made with respect to mental health: First, there are two primary types of cases — those that are severe and persistently ill, and those that are of common mental health “disorders” (e.g., depression, anxiety). Second is that there are professionals whose philosophy is disease-focused vs. personal development-focused — in other words, treating symptoms vs. treating the person as a whole.

One of the more modern interpretations of mental health issues is that they are no different than other medical conditions like HIV or cancer, which are prevalent yet not fully understood. Some of these disorders, simply put, are situations that we do not understand but need to explore and cope with.

Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control reveal some interesting facts about mental health:

    • Every year, approximately 67.4 million people have ambulatory care visits (to physician offices, hospital outpatient and emergency departments) with mental disorders as primary diagnosis.
  • “Less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant medication and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.”

Given these numbers, we should ask ourselves: Why is the use of antidepressant medication skyrocketing? Why are mental health expenditures on the rise? What could be the impact of health care policy changes? Is the legalization of controlled substances going to help?

Read Full Article by Eduardo Garcia, Huffington Post

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