Last week I shared with you how difficult it is sometimes, even when you are generally an upbeat soul, to stay optimistic. And I encouraged you to find a way to maintain your equilibrium because of all the benefits we find from being open and having a positive mental attitude. We live longer, live better, foster better relationships with others in our lives, maintain better health and are more successful overall. And who doesn’t want that?
Tomorrow, we celebrate World Mental Health Day so I thought I would share some exciting trends in mental health this week. Our mental health is tied to our physical health, and many of us have been tested in this area since, say March 2020?? Let’s see what is new and worth exploring in mental health this year.
Telehealth Service Expansion:
Top of mind is all of the teleservices we are now being offered. Not just for doctors appointments with our General Practitioner, but also for counseling sessions. Telemental health services started in 2020, when we weren’t able to have an in-person session with our therapist. And it has really gathered steam, because it is becoming the preferred method of most people in therapy, mainly because of the convenience. What it has really expanded is services to people in rural areas where transportation to a major center could be an impediment to treatment, those who are immune-compromised, or have physical disabilities. Something good to come out of Covid!
Apparently, 61% of all adults in the US have experienced trauma. One in six have had adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) according to the CDC, with women and minorities at greater risk of exposure to traumatic events in childhood. Trauma-informed care for patients by health care professionals, educators and clinicians embraces holistic training that recognizes how ACEs can impact both physical and mental well-being over a lifetime.
AI is here and could help improve the future sessions with your clinician and even mental health diagnoses. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) anxiety disorder is the most common mental health disorder. Human Activity Recognition (HAR) sensors can be used to detect outward signs of anxiety, such as hand-tapping, nail biting and knuckle cracking. Additionally, the AI could potentially improve therapists by evaluating their skillset, optimizing the environment for therapy and improving the overall experience.
Virtual reality for chronic pain:
Now that opioid have been exposed as extremely addictive, many people have trouble managing chronic pain. And often people would rather not take medication to relieve their symptoms. Virtual reality (VR) could be just the next “new thing” in managing chronic pain. People would learn behavioral and cognitive skills while in a VR world to more effectively respond to their pain and the stress that comes with it. Of course, it is meant to be used as a complement to physical treatments, medication and therapy. And as it becomes more accessible there will probably be an expansion into other areas of mental health, as well.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation:
This is really exciting. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) stimulates areas of the brain that are under-stimulated. This noninvasive neurostimulation treatment purports to improve mental health conditions such as mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) safely and effectively. The FDA has approved TMS technologies, based on this efficacy and safety, such as Neurostar and BrainsWay to effectively treat depression that is not improving with traditional methods.
Use of Psychedelics in Treatment:
A few years ago, one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan, wrote a book on this topic, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence and now it is a documentary on Netflix. Basically the concept is to use LSD, psilocybin and even ketamine and MDMA to treat depression, anxiety and OCD. Of course, these psychoactive drugs are classified as controlled substances and illegal in the United States, however they are being used in a clinical setting to help therapeutically. There is also great promise with treating alcohol addiction with both LSD and ketamine, under psychiatric care, of course, which is being conducted at NYU.
Blood tests detect depression:
We all know we can take blood tests to see if we are deficient in Vitamin D, have low blood sugar or a thyroid disorder. And lab tests can rule out or uncover health conditions, such as detecting nutritional deficiencies that may be causing depression. In the near future, we will be able to test the blood for depression, which will make it quicker to get treatment started. That is good news.
Setting healthy boundaries around social media:
Did you know that “doom-scrolling” is really bad for your health? Wait, what exactly is doomscrolling? It is the constant checking of your smartphone and even though you know it is a bad idea, you do it anyway and go down the rabbithole of one negative news story after another, until you are exhausted and feeling down. Too much time on social media negatively affects your well-being and overall health. And in this past year, the social media giants were exposed for the negative effects Instagram has on young people’s health, when a Facebook whistleblower testified before Congress. Since then we are all more aware of the harm of too much social media usage (hopefully) on our mental and physical health. Remember, it is all connected. Setting boundaries, if you haven’t already, means limiting screen time, unfollowing people, and not reading comments. End doom scrolling now.
As you can see, there are many challenges to our mental health. However, there are many promising modalities that we can explore to help us be our very best.
Stay positive this month, and if you like this, please share. And I always appreciate your feedback. Stay well!