Posted tagged ‘National Institute of Mental Health’

March Winds; Mental Health; Greater Parity In Health Care Legislation

March 30, 2010

Brain Chemistry

March is nearly over.  Anyone who lives in the gale force winds of downtown Manhattan will be extremely glad to see its end.  This includes my old dog Pearl, who, despite her near perfect bladder control, peed once in the apartment and once in the lobby this evening in an effort to avoid spending any time at all in the rain-spattered winds outside. (Darn you, Pearl!)

Somehow these gusting winds and my leaking dog bring up… mental health.  Forceful emotions, mood swings, bouts of depression, clinging to a fence post, or something worse, and (you got it), the recently passed health care legislation.

One of the changes wrought by the new legislation is a greater parity of treatment for mental and physical health issues.   This is, of course, welcomed by mental health professionals;  even an outsider, like myself, tends to agree that a greater focus on mental health seems needed in this country (and I say this not only as an observer of the Tea Party movement.)   The National Institutes of Mental Health estimate that approximately one in four Americans suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, and about one in seventeen from one of the most serious mental illnesses;  an illness that affects one’s mind, one’s ability to really perceive and truly gauge reality, one’s self, the people around one, can certainly put a halt to one’s ability to function in the world as powerfully as a physical illness.   (To say nothing of putting a serious dent in the old happiness budget.)

The greater parity makes sense too because the line between mental and physical health is sometimes thinly drawn;  both just seem so chemical.    As one ages, one becomes particularly conscious of how circumstances, conditioning, genetics, chemistry, all seem to play upon each other in one’s brain.  (I have to confess that I base this statement on instinct more than scientific measurement.  I can feel in my water that it’s true, however.)

One problem with the new parity is that the benefits of many mental health treatments seem very uncertain;  side effects can be problematic;  some treatments lose efficacy over time;  additionally, some people whose functioning really isn’t very impaired may seek ongoing and expensive treatment (people who just really like the attention of a therapist).   Of course, efficacy, risk, side effects, and over or unnecessary usage, are issues with physical health treatments as well; (people who just really like the attention of a physical therapist).   Who knows yet how all of this will play out?    For many (the one in seventeen at least), it seems good that future choices may not be made simply on the grounds of what’s covered.