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Mental and behavioral health week 5: As a community, let's start asking the 'right' questions
Recently, I went through a period of isolation and significant doubt. I was under pressure; I felt entitled to better results from others; I felt I was losing control of my situation; I felt unappreciated for the burden I carried for many; I was distraught, confused and alone. Sound familiar? I'm sure many others have felt like this sometime in their life.
Unfortunately, anyone whose feelings of despair are left unattended will most likely see them manifested in serious chemical imbalances in their brain that pushes them into the realm of the "mentally ill."
Fortunately for me, I have such a strong community and support system of friends and family. The immediate response to my despair wasn't, "Do you feel lack of energy?" "Are you getting sleep?" "Do you have a tough time concentrating?" "Do you feel hopeless?" Nor was it, "Just move on and think positively." "There is so much to be happy for, why don't you think of happy thoughts?" "Let's do something and forget about it. You're making it a bigger deal than it needs to be."
The first line of questions would likely come from traditional psychotherapists' diagnostic guidebook to identify those at risk for depression. These questions often don't work because "these traditional measures of mental health are patient self-assessments or clinician-administered questionnaires. They have relatively low inter-rater reliability, and don’t assess patients in real-world settings," says Mindstrong co-founder and President Dr. Tom Insel.
The second comes from so many people who lack the understanding about our human condition.
For me, the first line of response was: Let's talk about the recent event (or events) that happened. How were your feelings hurt? What's your goal and are there other ways to achieve that goal? Are any of your actions contributing to feeling this way?
You see, this line of questioning asks a person to consider the circumstances and asks them to understand whether their pain stems at all from their personal desires not being met. At the heart of what brings us to despair is often this feeling that we're supposed to be at the center of the universe and this feeling that we deserve better or to be treated better. If we can bring ourselves to realize this truism, then maybe we can be better grounded in who we are.
For me, my family and friends always keep me grounded in that way.
For so many, however, there is no grounding. It pains me to see stories about people who are depressed because their parents in this case didn't provide the right support for their children. They didn't say "I love you no matter what. You don't need to prove yourself to me and carry this burden of having to be better than others. You don't need to be so successful at everything so you can be the center of the universe."
Let's not wait until people around us become seriously mentally ill to help them. Let them feel safe to share their thoughts.
We talk so much about removing the stigma around mental illness. But I'd say more importantly we need to remove the stigma around being flawed, imperfect, inadequate, less-than-average, etc. We need frank discussions about who we are: We're not the center of the universe. We aren't perfect. We're still loved.
This profound understanding of who we are during these times of despair can be behavioral game-changers.
Join Vator and HP to discuss mental health, behavioral health and wellness and what we can do as a society to leverage technology to address mental well-being before it becomes mental illness. JOIN US this Thursday on June 21 for SplashX Invent Health focused on Mental and Behavioral Health.
The hosts include: myself as well as Dr. Archana Dubey (Global Medical Director, HP Health Centers) and Fran Ayalasomayajula (Population Health Technologies and Innovations Lead Worldwide Healthcare, HP)
The lineup is awesome: Dr. Don Mordecai, Director of Mental Health and Wellness; Kaiser Permanente; Michael Fitzgerald, Exec. Dir, Behavioral Health Services, El Camino Hospital; Walter Greenleaf, Chief Science Advisor, Pear Therapeutics; Tom Bjornson, Claremont EAP; Liz Rockett, KP Ventures; Lisa Suennen, GE Ventures; Ambar Bhattacharya, Maverick Ventures; Billy Deitch, Oak HC/FT, and so many more.
And as I've done in my past weekly posts, here's a couple recent stories about mental illness in the news, and my opinion.
Michelle Wolf: I'm not perfect
I'm not a big fan of Michelle Wolf, but she has a point here. She refers to the scene in the Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life", where the protagonist George wants to jump off a bridge and commit suicide over his failed business. “You know what really puts me in the holiday spirit?” said Wolf. “That one where the guy wants to jump off a bridge, but then doesn’t? ... Merry Christmas, everyone!” Her point is that his despair is not uncommon. In fact, everyone feels pretty down at times and it's because we expect too much of ourselves to live up to this ideal version of who we're supposed to be. “How can we expect to have an honest conversation about anything if we’re always supposed to feel flawless? I’m not perfect,” Wolf said. “I just farted."
Back to the movie, Clarence the angel helps George realize that committing suicide is just a self-centered way of making himself feel better. But his action will actually make matters worse for everyone else. He shows George, in fact, that his life has actually been a blessing to many. Notice how Clarence didn't hand him Celexa, Lexapro, or Prozac.
Gaming disorder now classified as a mental illness. What's next?
If you're a parent of a teenager, you're probably well aware of Fortnite - that addictive game that pulls your son into his room for hours, yelling and screaming into his headset. Well, that's my son. I can attest that these games can be so addictive that kids will lose sleep over it, which results in very grumpy, tired children who are ornery most of the day. So best thing to do is to turn off the game, and take it away.
Now The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that "gaming disorder" is a new mental health condition, included in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, also known as ICD. Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, member of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, led the proposal of the new diagnosis. He points out three diagnostic features: 1) Behavior that takes precedence of other activities 2) Impaired control of behaviors, despite negative consequences 3) Significant distress and impairment in personal, social functioning.
Fortunately, Dr. Poznyak doesn't support prescribing medications. He points out that treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and/or psychosocial interventions -- family support, etc.
I have one too: How about - turn off your computer and stop playing for a week?
Anthony Bean, a psychologist, opposes the inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD, since some of the game playing is a coping mechanism for anxiety or depression. So when dealing with the underlying anxiety or depression, game playing goes down significantly, Bean observed. Bean also thinks that making gaming a mental disorder "opens the door for anything to be a sickness."
Isn't this ironic?
While WHO looks to classify gaming disorder as a mental health problem, some game developers believe games can actually be used to affect our moods and produce positive behavioral changes. Check out Tripp.
They call their new solution: Vrugs.
2018 on track to be record year for investments in mental and wellness startups
Everyone has their theories on why mental health is a hot topic these days. My colleague Steve Loeb points out that two things happened: 1) The rise of school shootings, which led to a debate about the underlying cause of such behavior 2) The 2014 suicide of Robin Williams, which help start the public conversation around depression.
"As a result of the more open conversation around mental illness, the tech world has taken notice," Steve writes. He points out that the amount of funding going into the mental and behaviorial health space has gone up ever year since 2014, when there was $118.32 million put into 38 companies, according to data supplied to VatorNews from CB Insights.
In 2015, the amount of funding rose 40 percent to $165.93 million, while the number of deals rose 45 percent, to 55.
In 2016, funding rose 36 percent, to $226.18 million, while deals went up 50 percent, to 83. Then, in 2017, funding rose another 39 percent, to $316.53 million, while deals remained flat at 83. The numbers are only continuing to rise: tn the first quarter of 2018, there was $146.82 million invested. If that trend continues, there would be $587.28 invested this year, an increase of 85 percent year-to-year.
Image source: Steadyhealth.com
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