Mental Health

A Personal Story

During the fall of 1999, I often found myself wide awake in the middle of the night. Try as I might, I could not get to sleep. My husband couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Why was I crying so much? Why wasn’t I interested in the things that used to bring me joy like putting up the holiday decorations?

In retrospect, it’s easy to see that I was suffering from depression. The past year had been a physical and emotional marathon. On Thanksgiving Day, I had left my home in Colorado to care for my terminally ill mother in Minnesota. Two days before she died, my father had open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve and I had to be in two places at once, with my mother in one hospital while my father was in another hospital 30 miles away. As an only child, I had to hold everything together—be it planning my mom’s funeral, taking care of my dad after surgery, and even rushing out to buy a new refrigerator when the old one fizzled out. My cousin helped me a little, but most of the responsibilities fell to me.

After getting my father back on the road to recovery, I came home to Colorado. Finally, I could get back to normal. But my brain had other plans for me. All the stress of the past year had taken its toll and it was now my turn to fall ill. I was absolutely stunned when the doctor told me that I had depression. I thought that depression happened to other people, not me. On top of that, the label of depression carried a certain stigma. Shouldn’t you just make yourself get over it? But I found that it doesn’t quite work that way. Through appropriate treatment I was able to get back to “normal,” but it was a humbling experience and I discovered that mental health is just as important as physical health.

World Mental Health Day and COVID-19

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, which is sponsored by the World Health Organization. The day’s objective is to raise awareness of mental health around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of good mental health.1 This message seems especially important this year given the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control, 40.9% of respondents reported adverse mental health conditions related to the pandemic.2 These conditions included anxiety or depressive disorders, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, and new or increased substance use to cope with the stress or emotions related to the pandemic.

In a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, adults reported very specific impacts that the pandemic has had to their mental health, including:3

  • Difficulty sleeping (36%)
  • Difficulty eating (32%)
  • Increased alcohol consumption or substance use (12%)
  • Worsening chronic conditions (12%)

These are just a sampling of the reported numbers. The real numbers are probably even higher, given that people underreport symptoms of depression.4  When combined with social isolation and job loss, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm for poor mental health outcomes.

Help Is Here

MDGuidelines provides extensive information about workplace mental health content developed by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.5 This content includes evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for Depressive Disorders and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. A new Anxiety Disorders guideline is currently in development and will be coming out soon.

MDGuidelines also provides comprehensive information about Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia), Insomnia, and Acute Stress Disorder—all relevant resources to help disability case managers, employers, and health care providers understand and address issues relating to depression.

Conclusion

Good mental health is an important component of quality of life for all. My own experience with depression has taught me that you can’t just “get over it” using willpower alone, but that mental health disorders are real health conditions that require sound medical guidance and treatment, especially in the time of COVID-19.  Whether you’re the one diagnosed with a mental health disorder, or your family members or friends are the ones affected, a mental health diagnosis should be taken just as seriously as any physical ailment. And MDGuidelines is here to help guide the way to recovery.

 

Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide medical advice. ReedGroup does not provide medical services. Consult a physician for medical advice on this or any other topic.

References

  1. “World Mental Health Day.” World Health Organization. 18 Sep. 2020. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day
  2. Czeisler M, Lane R, Petrosky E, et al. “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, June 24–30, 2020.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1
  3. Panchal, N., Kamal, R., Orgera K., et al. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” Kaiser Family Foundation. 21 Aug. 2020. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
  4. Hunt, M., Auriemma, J., Cashaw, A. “Self-report bias and underreporting of depression on the BDI-II.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12584064/
  5. Hegmann, K.T., et al., Eds. “Introduction – Workplace Mental Health.” American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) Practice Guidelines. 13 Mar. 2019. Reed Group, Ltd. https://www.mdguidelines.com/acoem/disorders/workplace-mental-health/introduction