Health Health Mental Health

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United States
Meredith Operations Corporation
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10 Issues

in this issue

4 min
are you okay? am i ok too?

WHEN GYMNAST SIMONE BILES withdrew from the team competition at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, she shared four key words: “Put mental health first.” Her advice may have been aimed at elite gymnasts, but it hit home for all of us. Biles’ shining act of emotional self-care was part of a growing movement to bring mental health issues out of the dark and into a bright, supportive light. She grabbed the baton from tennis star Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open in May 2021 for mental health reasons and wrote in Time magazine, “It’s OK to not be OK; and it’s OK to talk about it.” It’s a message we need more than ever. An ongoing survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 42 percent of…

7 min
the first step

NEARLY ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS live with a mental health issue, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But of the more than 50 million suffering from conditions like anxiety and depression, a surprisingly low percentage seek help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that, in 2019, only around 44 percent of adults with mental illness received treatment. Systemic factors, such as a shortage of mental health providers and health care inequities, contribute to the lack of mental health care. But according to New York–based psychologist Deborah Serani, PhD, a senior professor at Adelphi University, ongoing stigma around mental illness also prevents people from seeking the care they need. For one, she says, admitting you’re struggling can feel like a blow to your self-confidence, especially in a…

10 min
the epidemiology of mental illness

MENTAL ILLNESS IS CHALLENGING for the person who has it, as well as for their friends and family, but how common is this type of condition? If it were that common, surely greater awareness and attention would be present in the media and the public. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily hold true. In both our experiences, we have seen sizable populations affected by mental health disorders, and at the same time, we have recognized shortcomings in the attention, care, and support these individuals receive. As a result, the patients we typically see in our clinics are more advanced in their illnesses than they would have been if early recognition and treatment had been employed. Many others never receive or even seek help at all. Mental health disorders are extremely common, both…

5 min
the feel-good factor

IT’S FAMOUS FOR keeping your emotions on an even keel—but that’s not all serotonin does. “We’re learning more about serotonin every day,” says Brian Barnett, MD, a staff psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic. “The more we research it, the more we realize the complex roles it plays.” The main building block for serotonin is an essential amino acid called tryptophan. When you eat foods that contain the nutrient—such as turkey, bananas, eggs, nuts, and cheese—some of it is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain, where it’s converted to serotonin. But the vast majority of your body’s serotonin supply (over 95 percent) is produced in your gut. And even more interesting: These two pools of serotonin never mix, because serotonin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. “Despite the fact that they…

7 min
medication 101

IN 1955, A SWISS psychiatrist named Roland Kuhn began experimenting with a group of new and untested drug compounds, including one called G22355. Kuhn worked at a hospital in the remote town of Münsterlingen, on the shore of Lake Constance in northwest Switzerland. Most of his patients were people with schizophrenia. At that time, the use of drugs for the treatment of mental health conditions was new and controversial. But not long before, in 1950, researchers had found that a drug called chlorpromazine could relieve symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Kuhn hoped that one or more of his new compounds would mimic or even exceed the beneficial effects of chlorpromazine. None did. However, he noticed that some of those who took G22355 enjoyed a boost in mood and energy. His observations eventually…

7 min
escaping the ocd loop

MANY OF US HAVE made a casual comment about obsessive-compulsive disorder, as in “I’m so OCD about washing vegetables.” But for those who actually suffer from the disorder, obsessions (like a fear of germs) and compulsions (like disinfecting) can be debilitating. OCD may be especially challenging at a time like this, when public health messages intended to protect us from COVID-19 can reinforce germophobia, or amplify feelings of uncertainty, another component of the illness. “Studies are underway to determine how difficult the pandemic has been for those with OCD, but it’s safe to say that some people with the disorder are really struggling right now,” says Elna Yadin, PhD, an OCD specialist and former clinical faculty at the Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Does that mean that…