Tag Archives: Mental Health

Hooked on Our Smartphones

The many men, women and children who spend their days glued to their smartphones and social media accounts might learn something from Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the groundbreaking megahit “Hamilton.” Asked in an interview with Delta Sky magazine when and where he finds time to be creative, Mr. Miranda, an avid reader of books and enthusiast for unfettered downtime, replied: “The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. ‘Hamilton’ forced me to double down on being awake to the inspirations of just living my life.”

Mr. Miranda’s observation bodes ill for the future, not just of creativity but also of healthy bodies, minds and relationships. No doubt you’ve seen the following scenarios, probably many times:

• Young couples out to dinner pull out their smartphones to check messages, emails and social networks even before scanning the menu, and check their phones repeatedly throughout the meal.

• Shoppers and commuters standing in line, people crossing busy streets, even cyclists and drivers whose eyes are on their phones instead of their surroundings.

• Toddlers in strollers playing with a digital device — a parent’s or perhaps even their own — instead of observing and learning from the world around them.

• People walking down the street with eyes on their phones, bumping into others, tripping over or crashing into obstacles.

The near-universal access to digital technology, starting at ever younger ages, is transforming modern society in ways that can have negative effects on physical and mental health, neurological development and personal relationships, not to mention safety on our roads and sidewalks.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

An Insurance Penalty From Postpartum Depression

In January, a government-appointed panel recommended that all pregnant women and new mothers be screened for depression. Public health advocates rejoiced, as did untold numbers of women who had not known that maternal mental illness even existed before it hit them like a freight train.

But the panel did not mention one possible consequence of a diagnosis: Life and disability insurance providers have sometimes penalized women with these mental illnesses by charging them more money, excluding mental illness from coverage or declining to cover them at all. And it’s perfectly legal.

Many insurance companies lump these women with the larger pool of people in whom more general depression has been diagnosed. That can leave those with mild to moderate cases that came and went facing higher rates, even if they may not be at higher risk of suicide or being unable to work. But insurers base decisions on actuarial data, and the historical underdiagnosis of mild to moderate postpartum depression means there is not much long-term data for insurance companies to use.

Not every woman will pay higher rates, and the fear of doing so is not a good reason to avoid screening or necessary treatment. Women who are aware of the potential insurance problems can theoretically circumvent them in the short term. Any woman who has never given birth but hopes to get pregnant soon should buy as much life and disability insurance as she thinks she will need before she conceives.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Panel Calls for Depression Screenings During and After Pregnancy

Women should be screened for depression during pregnancy and after giving birth, an influential government-appointed health panel said Tuesday, the first time it has recommended screening for maternal mental illness.

The recommendation, expected to galvanize many more health providers to provide screening, comes in the wake of new evidence that maternal mental illness is more common than previously thought; that many cases of what has been called postpartum depression actually start during pregnancy; and that left untreated, these mood disorders can be detrimental to the well-being of children.

It also follows growing efforts by states, medical organizations and health advocates to help women having these symptoms — an estimated one in seven postpartum mothers, some experts say.

“There’s better evidence for identifying and treating women with depression” during and after pregnancy, said Dr. Michael Pignone, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an author of the recommendation, which was issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force. As a result, he said, “we specifically called out the need for screening during this period.”

The recommendation was part of updated depression screening guidelines issued by the panel, an independent group of experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2009, the group said adults should be screened if clinicians had the staff to provide support and treatment; the new guidelines recommend adult screening even without such staff members, saying mental health support is now more widely available. The 2009 guidelines did not mention depression during or after pregnancy.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

The 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

Change these simple, everyday routines to live a happier life.

Depression is usually brought on by factors beyond our control—the death of a loved one, a job loss, or financial troubles. But the small choices you make every day may also affect your mood more than you may realize. Your social media habits, exercise routine, and even the way you walk may be sucking the happiness out of your day, and you may not even know it. Luckily, these behaviors can be changed. Read on for 12 ways you’re sabotaging your good moods, and what you can do to turn it around.

You slouch when you walk

How we feel can affect the way we walk, but the inverse is also true, finds a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Researchers found that when subjects were asked to walk with shoulders slouched, hunched over, and with minimum arm movements, they experienced worse moods than those who had more pep in their steps. What’s more, participants who walked in the slouchy style remembered more negative things rather than positive things. Talk about depressing.

You take pictures of EVERYTHING

Instagram queens, listen up. Haphazardly snapping pictures may hamper how you remember those moments, according to a study published in Psychological Science. In the study, participants took a museum tour, observing some objects and snapping pics of others. Afterward, they had a harder time remembering the items they photographed compared with the ones they looked at. “The lens is a veil in front of your eyes and we don’t realize it’s there,” says Diedra L. Clay, PsyD, chair and associate professor of the counseling and health psychology department at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash.

Get happy now: Focus on your subjects when taking pictures—or, better yet, just sit back and enjoy yourself. Soak up the beauty and participate in the action. These are the things the will make you mentally stronger, says Clay.

You’re letting a bully get the best of you

Bullying doesn’t end when you leave school. Approximately 54 million workers, or 35% of U.S. employees, are targeted by a bully at some point in their careers, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. More than 70% of people have witnessed a workplace bully, says Erin K. Leonard, PhD, a practicing psychotherapist and author of the book, Emotional Terrorism: Breaking the Chains of a Toxic Relationship. “Being attacked maliciously in the place of pride and self-esteem continuously, it can be devastating. It makes you emotional volatile so that it is even difficult to get up and go work.”

Get happy now: The Workplace Bullying Institute recommends you first make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your physical and mental health. Then, after you’ve carefully documented as many of your interactions as possible, follow the organization’s three-step action plan.

You don’t exercise

Consider this: If you become more active three times a week, your risk of being depressed decreases 19%, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry. After following more than 11,000 people born in 1958 up until the age of 50, and recording depressive symptoms and levels of physical activity at regular intervals, University College London researchers found a correlation between physical activity and depression. People who were depressed were less likely to be active, while those who were active were less likely to be depressed. In fact, for every time they were active, depression risk decreased 6%.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary


Mental Health Benefits In ACA Plans Are Disappointing

Insurance coverage for mental and physical illness remains unequal despite promises that Obamacare would help level the playing field, mental health advocates and researchers say.

A new study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that consumer information on a quarter of the Obamacare plans that researchers examined appeared to go against a federal “parity” law designed to stop discrimination in coverage for people with mental health or addiction problems.

This makes it nearly impossible for consumers to find the best plan to cover their mental health needs, the research suggests.

“It’s critical to monitor whether these regulations are being implemented in a way that fulfills the promise of parity,” says associate professor Colleen Barry, who led the study published in the current online issue of the journal Psychiatric Services. “Clearly, better monitoring is needed.”

Barry and her colleagues examined benefit brochures offered during the first Affordable Care Act enrollment period in 2013-14 in two state-run exchanges, hoping to replicate a consumer’s shopping experience. Although she won’t name the states, Barry says one was large and the other small, and adds that the results can be extrapolated to plans offered in other states and on the federal exchange.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Mental Health Programs a Focus for Employers

With mental illness and substance abuse costing employers an estimated $100 billion annually in indirect costs alone, benefit decision-makers are seeing value in promoting employee assistance programs as a means to improve their workforce’s mental well-being.

Thanks to an extension pushed forward by the Affordable Care Act, which helped to bridge the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, treatment of mental and or substance abuse disorders now fall under essential health benefits. And this ACA distinction comes at an important time, as nearly one in five adult Americans experienced mental illness last year, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“The EAP serves as the real foundation for mental wellness or mental well-being,” says Kathleen Greer, founder and chairman, KGA, Inc., an HR services firm.

Speaking at a session hosted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and the New England Employee Benefits Council, Greer cited recent data that the top reasons employees reach out to an EAP are legal, emotional/stress, couple/marital, family and alcohol/drug-related issues. But Greer noted that most people do not call with just one issue, “they call with several issues that get all blended together,” she says.

“EAP is the best mental health program that exists,” Greer adds, while noting that employees need access to the right counselor at the right time.

Meanwhile, a recent study from Ipsos Healthcare, the Impact of Depression at Work Audit, finds that 36% of managers say they have no formal support or resource in place to handle an employee with depression. Additionally, the study found that an employee with depression would take an average of nine days leave due to effects from the illness.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Loopholes in Insurance Barring Mental Health Patients

A flood of patients who have become newly insured under the Affordable Care Act are visiting doctor’s offices and hospitals, causing some health workers to worry about how they can provide care to everyone in need. One group, however, isn’t lining up for care: People with mental health issues or substance use disorders.

Though Obamacare extends coverage to this group – collectively referred to as behavioral health – various loopholes in the health care law at this time have kept people from requesting mental health care. Some states haven’t expanded Medicaid, the government health insurance program for poor or disabled Americans, leaving about 5 million in a coverage gap, the majority of whom, experts believe, need mental health care. In other cases, patients aren’t even aware of the benefits they can get with their new health insurance.

The Congressional Budget Office projected that 13 million uninsured Americans would have access to health coverage by 2014, whether through Medicaid, online exchanges or the private market. But so far the demand for mental health services hasn’t budged, even though provisions in the health law make it more affordable.

More patients seeking mental health care will come within the next few years, experts project, and the question then will be whether there will be enough providers available. Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America, predicts a ” bump in the road where access gets a little more constrained,” though he is optimistic that the details of the law will work the way they are supposed to in time.

“We haven’t been hearing about access issues from our members,” says Stuart Gordon, director of policy and health care reform at the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

That isn’t for lack of need. Mental health is one of the most common health care issues, affecting as many as 1 in 4 adults each year.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found in a 2013 report that 9.6 million adults reported having a serious mental illness, such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Here are a Few Resources for Mental Illness Treatment

More than 60 million American adults — one in every four — suffer from some form of mental illness, ranging from panic disorders to depression, according to mental health professionals. Nearly 14 million live with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and severe depression.

Americans often don’t know where to turn when dealing with a loved one with serious mental illness, but there are resources available.

Here are a few of those:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides a program geared toward healthy living strategies and skill-building resources for adults. The course is free, confidential and led by trained individuals in recovery from mental illness. The organization also facilitates a discussion group called Teen Consumers, which provides a healthy environment for teenagers to discuss their diagnoses and treatments. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also offers support groups for parents of teens with mental illness. The nonprofit’s website provides a state-by-state directory of local support groups. It has a hotline for general information, referrals and support: 800-950-6264. Its hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.
  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people and communities to “understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes.” Those in crisis can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 to talk to a counselor.
  • The Treatment Advocacy Center is a nonprofit that works to promote policies that support people with severe mental illness. Its website features links to connect families and individuals to treatment options, legal resources and crisis response strategies.
  • Treatment Before Tragedy is a new nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the most seriously mentally ill and their families. The group’s mission statement is to advocate “for better treatment, services, research and a cure for individuals and families impacted by serious mental illness.”
  • The Balanced Mind Parent Network offers support for parents and guardians of children with mood disorders. The nonprofit provides online support groups, a professional resource directory and a help line in which families can submit questions to trained parent volunteers. The network’s website lists 28 support groups to address the needs of all ages — from toddler to young adults suffering from depression or bipolar disorder as well as to their family members. The organization aims to see children thrive in spite of their disorders by receiving proper care and the support they deserve.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

New Rules Announced to Bolster Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

Continuing forward momentum to improve health care to the masses, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new guidelines to strengthen the 2008 mental health equity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires doctors and insurers to treat mental illness the same as physical illness–although it hasn’t been the case. The law, created to make mental health more accessible, has had no enforcement.

Insurance companies have often covered mental illness in a limited fashion than physical illness. For example, insurance companies can no longer authorize a 30-day hospital stay for a stroke and two-day stay in the hospital for someone who has had a psychotic break.

Another aspect of the new rulings protect those with pre-existing mental conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or depression, will no longer be denied insurance coverage. Greatly part of health care reform, diagnosis will no longer trigger a potential loss of coverage.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary


Jeffrey R. Ungvary