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Myths and Mental Illness: Week 4

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The following guest article from Swedish Health Services/Providence Health & Services is the fourth in a series debunking myths about mental illness that will be featured here on the SeattleNTC blog.

Myth #4: Children are too young to develop mental illness


From inconsolable preschoolers to moody teenagers, how do you know if it’s just a phase or a symptom of mental illness?

“The difficult thing for parents is identifying what is a normal part of growing up, and what needs intervention,” said Dr. Joyce Gilbert, medical director of the Sexual Assault Clinic and Child Maltreatment Center at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Wash.

A phase is something that is developmental or temporary, and comes and goes. On the other hand, mental illness is something that does not dissipate. If a child is not overcoming a “phase” then parents, teachers, physicians and others should ask why and engage with resources early to ensure the child gets the help needed.

Mental illness can happen to anyone at any age, and in fact, one in five children suffers with mental health conditions such as anxiety, difficulty focusing and social challenges. Half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14; brushing off issues as a phase kids and teens will eventually grow out of can lead to other problems later in life.

Early intervention is key
“Most of the time, the first signs of mental health issues occur in preschool or kindergarten, when children are surrounded by other children,” said Felisha White, RN, Psychiatric Center for Children and Adolescents at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash. “At that point, it becomes clear to their teachers and their parents that they aren’t behaving like their peers.”

For older children, White suggests watching for sudden behavioral changes, such as angry outbursts, declining grades, isolation from friends, or disruptions in normal sleeping, eating and hygiene habits.

 

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Sources: National Alliance for Mental Illness; National Institute for Mental Health

Myths and Mental Illness: Week 3

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The following guest article from Swedish Health Services/Providence Health & Services is the third in a series debunking myths about mental illness that will be featured here on the SeattleNTC blog.

Myth #3: Mental illness often leads to violent and dangerous behavior


When news of a shocking incident such as a mass shooting first reaches us on TV, it’s likely that we’ll hear the words “mental illness” as the media speculates why it happened. But less than five percent of violence in the United States is caused by people with mental illnesses. The truth is, a mentally ill person is more likely to be a victim of violence — at four times the rate of the general public.

“The majority of individuals living with mental illness have productive relationships and are described by others as loving and caring people,” said Tamara Sheehan, director of psychiatry, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, in Spokane, Wash.

About one in five adults in America experiences a mental illness. When people in this group are involved with violence, severe conditions such as untreated psychosis or co-occurring drug or alcohol abuse are typically contributing factors.

 

Sources: Mental Health Myths and Facts; National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Myths and Mental Illness: Week 2

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The following guest article from Swedish Health Services/Providence Health & Services is the second in a series debunking myths about mental illness that will be featured here on the SeattleNTC blog.

Myth #2: You can just “snap out of it”


We wouldn’t expect a person with a broken leg or diabetes to just” snap out of it,” and in the same way we shouldn’t expect a person to think their way out of a mental illness.

“This misunderstanding is harmful because it creates unreasonable expectations and unnecessary suffering for people who have mental illness,” said Robin Henderson, PsyD, chief executive of behavioral health for Providence Medical Group in Oregon.

Many complex factors can contribute to mental illness, including genetics, hormonal changes during pregnancy, chronic physical illness and even traumatic experiences.

“We need to realize that as humans, our mind and body are connected by more than our neck,” Dr. Henderson said.

When to get help

Everyone experiences difficult times in life, and sadness can be a normal reaction, but it usually lessens with a little time or is manageable.

“When the feelings persist to the point that your quality of life and daily functioning are affected, you should reach out for help from a professional,” Dr. Henderson said. “Depression is a real illness, and we know that many people who get treatment, get better.”

About 16 million Americans have depression. If you have been experiencing any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, you may be suffering from depression and should contact your primary care provider:

·       Changes in sleep or appetite
·       Difficulty concentrating
·       Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
·       Decreased energy
·       Low self-esteem
·       Feelings of hopelessness
·       Physical aches and pains

Sources: National Institute for Mental Health; National Alliance for Mental Illness.

Myths and Mental Illness: Week 1

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The following guest article from Swedish Health Services/Providence Health & Services is the first in a series debunking myths about mental illness that will be featured here on the SeattleNTC blog. 

Myth #1: Mental illness only affects certain types of people

Each year, almost 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More than half won’t be treated due to stigma, lack of access to services or lack of knowledge about help that is available.

As part of our commitment to improving the lives of people with mental illness, we’re launching a series of articles to debunk the myths surrounding these life-threatening conditions. We hope you find them helpful to someone you care about. —Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical officer


Mental illness is a reality for millions of Americans of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds. Like physical illness, mental illness is a medical condition.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you are from, mental illness can affect anyone,” said Arpan Waghray, M.D., medical director of behavioral health at Swedish Health Services. In fact, 50 percent of Americans will have a mental illness at some point in their lives—ranging from a short-term bout of the blues, to depression or anxiety.

As common as mental illness is, it can be easily swept under the rug due to many persistent myths that make it hard to reach out for help.

“Research shows us that negative perceptions can hold people back from seeking treatment and sometimes even prevent them from revealing issues to their doctors,” Dr. Waghray said. “These findings stress the importance of educating the public on how to support people who have a mental illness, and also the need to remove barriers to treatment.”

Sources: National Alliance for Mental Illness; Centers for Disease Control; American Psychological Association