Mental Health Research Is Stagnant. Here’s Why.

Mark Rasenick

Mark Rasenick, Ph.D., University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers and the American Brain Coalition in developing this post.

This is a wildly exciting time for cancer research. Work on new drugs is barreling ahead; thanks to years of hard work, scientists are starting to understand the biology of cancer better than ever. This knowledge is helping them develop personalized treatments that can potentially save millions of lives.

Considering that nearly 40 percent of people will face a cancer diagnosis, these developments come not a moment too soon. We might, in our lifetime, transform cancers from a death sentence to chronic diseases.

So why aren’t we seeing the same kind of innovation for one of the other epidemics facing our nation: depression? 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and more than 44,000 people die by suicide annually in the U.S. alone. Depression leads to $51 billion in lost productivity per year, yet we’ve woefully failed to help people get well.

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Depression Costs the Country Billions in Lost Productivity.   It’s Time We Started Helping People Get Back to Work

Sagar V. Parikh

Sagar V. Parikh, M.D., FRCPC
University of Michigan, Medical Director, NNDC

Care for Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers in developing this post.

Work is a significant part of daily life. Whether or not a person feels comfortable on the job influences their overall well-being—and our society’s economic health. For anyone suffering from depression, work-related productivity is a key indicator of health status, one we can’t afford to ignore.

Depression-related absenteeism and presenteeism (when employees are present for work but less productive due to their illness) have staggering economic consequences: absenteeism alone is estimated to cost U.S. employers upwards of 23 billion dollars per year.

And it’s not just the economy that suffers. Most significantly, patients suffer too. For a large minority, alleviating mood issues isn’t enough. They may have concentration, focus, or fatigue issues, and need additional help in order to get back to feeling like themselves and performing successfully at work.

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Repealing the ACA Could Cause a Mental Health Care Crisis

Jeffrey Harman, PhD
College of Medicine, Florida State University

Care For Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers for developing this post.

Our nation’s healthcare system has made impressive progress in the last several years. As a direct result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we’ve reached a record low uninsured rate; the number of unpaid medical bills (or bad debt) has plummeted; and 20 million Americans now have insurance purchased through the ACA marketplace.

But there are imminent threats facing this hard-won progress. Our newly-elected president is staunchly opposed to the ACA. He and congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal Obamacare, with no clear plan for what would replace it.

If they succeed, our country could be facing a health care crisis of unprecedented proportions. Millions of Americans could lose their coverage; hospitals could go bankrupt; people could pay thousands more in out-of-pocket costs.

Is our current healthcare system perfect? Of course not. But it’s a lot better than it was eight years ago, particularly for people living with mental health conditions. We need to continue to improve on what we’ve built, not abandon all progress and attempt to start from scratch.

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Faster and Easier Approaches for Improving Patients’ Depression Treatment Outcomes

Michael E. Thase, M.D.

Michael E. Thase, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Mood and Anxiety Disorders Treatment and Research Program
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Care For Your Mind acknowledges and appreciates the collaboration of the National Network of Depression Centers for developing this post.

Depression affects more than 15 million Americans and it’s the leading underlying factor for people who attempt suicide. Only half of Americans diagnosed with major depression receive treatment. Because earlier diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes, mental health screenings should be a top priority.

We need to do a better job of identifying and treating people with depression. Research shows that screenings in primary care practices are a key part of the solution. Depression screenings are simple questionnaires that doctors can provide for patients. Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation that primary care screenings be implemented for all adults, including perinatal women.

While screenings are the first step, treatment is the second, and there’s no reason why accessing treatment shouldn’t be a quicker, more effective process for the majority of patients.

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Patient-Focused Drug Development Gets a Boost From the 21st Century Cures Act

Medication

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Congress gave mental health advocates a year-end present by passing mental health reform legislation as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and sending it to President Obama for signature. This is the third of three CFYM posts that highlight key pieces of the legislation that benefit individuals living with mood disorders and their families.

The December 13 and December 20 CFYM posts focused on the mental health reform package that became part of the 21st Century Cures Act. This bipartisan legislation passed the U.S. House in July, had support in the Senate and from the President, and was well-positioned for a successful journey to becoming law. What most advocates had not foreseen, however, was that the mental health reform legislation that had been in advancing in varying degrees in both Chambers would be included in that bill.

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Congress Strengthens Mental Health Parity

Carol Rickard

Carol Rickard, Community Education and Outreach
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With the stroke of his pen on December 13, 2016, as he signed the 21st Century Cures Act, President Obama moved our nation one step closer to treating the whole person and ensuring equal access to health care for individuals living with a mental health condition. This law addresses a wide range of health issues, including a major emphasis on mental health issues. In signing the legislation, the President put into motion critical provisions to improve implementation and enforcement of the 2008 parity law.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (the Federal Parity Law) created much-needed protections for ensuring mental health is treated equally to physical health and ending the discriminatory practices used.  As was highlighted in the August 23, 2016 CFYM post, there has been a great void in implementation and enforcement because the federal law left much of the enforcement to the states. This, in turn, left significant gaps in protection to equal access for individuals in need of mental health treatment. The unintentional consequence: a law enacted to protect people has failed to do so.

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Peer Support Receives Much Needed Recognition from Congress

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Congress gave mental health advocates a year-end present during the lame duck session by passing mental health reform legislation as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and sending it to President Obama for signature. Over the next three weeks CFYM will highlight key pieces of the legislation that benefit individuals living with mood disorders and their families.

In the August 2, 2016 CFYM post—as part of the shared decision making series—peer specialist Tom Lane explained how including peer support services delivered by a certified peer specialist can improve outcomes. Peer specialists serve as a member of the mental health care team and share their own experiences as a peer to develop trust with clients. According to Mr. Lane, “this enables the individual to divulge concerns, share desired outcomes from treatment, and acquire skills to approach the care team as an equal participant.” Further, Lane articulated that key to the peer-client relationship is a recognition and acceptance by the individual that the course of treatment is ultimately his/her choice.

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What Is the Future of Obamacare?

Health Insurance Photo

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

With Republicans moving into the White House and controlling both houses of Congress, what can the American people expect to happen to “Obamacare” and what impact will that have for those of us living with a mood disorder and our families? If Obamacare collapses, will we have access to mental health care?

Many people are unaware of the connection between mental health parity and Obamacare. Mental health parity became law in 2008, making it illegal for insurance plans to provide different levels of coverage for mental health care as compared to medical/surgical benefits. However, it was the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); often referred to as “Obamacare” that required all health insurance plans governed by this law to offer mental health coverage in the first place. Until Obamacare, insurance plans could side-step parity by simply not offering mental health coverage. As a new administration gets ready to take charge, many people are asking if they will still have affordable access to insurance plans that provide both physical and mental health coverage.

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