NYT: Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight

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Are you one of us? The patient wanted to know, and her therapist — Marsha M. Linehan of the University of Washington, creator of a treatment used worldwide for severely suicidal people — had a ready answer.

It was the one she always used to cut the question short, whether a patient asked it hopefully, accusingly or knowingly, having glimpsed the macramé of faded burns, cuts and welts on Dr. Linehan’s arms: “You mean, have I suffered?”

“No, Marsha,” the patient replied, in an encounter last spring. “I mean one of us. Like us. Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.” “That did it,” said Dr. Linehan, 68, who told her story in public for the first time last week before an audience of friends, family and doctors at the Institute of Living, the Hartford clinic where she was first treated for extreme social withdrawal at age 17.

“So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward.” No one knows how many people with severe mental illness live what appear to be normal, successful lives, because such people are not in the habit of announcing themselves. They are too busy juggling responsibilities, paying the bills, studying, raising families — all while weathering gusts of dark emotions or delusions that would quickly overwhelm almost anyone else.

Now, an increasing number of them are risking exposure of their secret, saying that the time is right. The nation’s mental health system is a shambles, they say, criminalizing many patients and warehousing some of the most severe in nursing and group homes where they receive care from workers with minimal qualifications.

Moreover, the enduring stigma of mental illness teaches people with such a diagnosis to think of themselves as victims, snuffing out the one thing that can motivate them to find treatment: hope.

Read the full article at the New York Times…

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New Poll: Mental Health Issues Still Taboo In The Workplace

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The majority of Canadians say they’d be wary of disclosing any mental health issues to their bosses or unions for fear of limiting their career prospects, finds a new national report that highlights the still hobbling efforts to address mental health concerns in the workplace.

Approximately 54% of the more than 1,000 respondents surveyed by the Conference Board of Canada worry they would be passed over for a promotion if they made their bosses aware of their mental health issues. Thirty-eight per cent said such a disclosure would likely jeopardize any future leaps ahead at work — a troubling finding, considering the mounting efforts in recent years to make the workplace more supportive for those struggling with mental health concerns.

The report, released Monday, also shone a bright light on the disconnect between how well managers feel mental health issues are addressed versus the way employees see it. While 82% of managers and executives said their workplaces promoted mental health, only 30% of employees agreed.

Read the full article…

Mental health problems linked to higher heart heart attack risk

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By Mary Elizabeth Dallas, HealthDay News

FRIDAY, JUNE 3  — People with mental illness are more likely to die following a heart attack or serious cardiac event, a new study finds.

One explanation for this increased risk is that people with mental illness are 14 percent less likely to receive lifesaving treatments for their heart condition, researchers found.

Those treatments included coronary artery bypass graft (bypass surgery) and angioplasty (a procedure to open blocked arteries using a stent), both of which have been shown to improve outcomes for heart patients, researchers said.

The study, published June 1 in the British Journal of Psychiatry, examined 22 published studies that compared the level of care given to those with and without serious mental disorders.

“In 10 studies that specifically addressed care for people with schizophrenia, those with the disease received only half the interventions offered to those without schizophrenia,” lead researcher Alex J. Mitchell, of the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said in a news release from the university.

Six studies involving more than 800,000 people found that the risk of death was 11 percent higher in the year after a cardiac event in people with a history of serious mental illness than those without.

“People with known mental health conditions have higher background rates of cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, inactivity and obesity. We already know that this is reflected in a higher rate of heart disease, but what we demonstrate here is that mortality is greater even after patients come under health care,” Mitchell said. “We don’t yet know the reason for these poorer outcomes but it is worrying that we also find such patients may receive less frequent lifesaving interventions.”

The study authors concluded more research is needed to determine whether patients with severe mental illness are declining treatment or whether physicians are not offering the same level of care to the mentally ill that they offer to their patients without mental disorders.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health offers statistics on the prevalence, treatment and costs of mental illness.

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