The ‘Death Test’: To Know the Day on Which You’ll Die

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

In a post entitled, “Wanted: Your Answers about Life or Death,” the question is posed: “Do you want to know the day on which you will die?”

This past week, researchers in Finland revealed they have developed what they call a “death test.”

Finland researchers tested the blood of more than 17,000 people in reasonably good health. They checked what’s called “biomarkers”—chemicals in our blood that helps physicians identify illnesses or health. Five years after the initial sampling, they retested the same subjects…those who were still alive.

Their findings? Some of those who died had abnormal biomarkers in the previous studies.

Not all are convinced that this research is accurate or meets scientific standards. There are reports that one of the investigators owns the company for the test. Also, there is no point-by-point documentation that the deceased died from the conditions for which their blood indicated an abnormality.

Personally, I would love to know the future date on which I’ll die; though I can’t find anyone—at least not anyone I’ve asked—who agrees with me.

People have said they’d be a nervous wreck, ever-worrying about their day of death and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the days (years) in-between.

As a business-minded, aiming to do the right thing, cautious personality type, I feel that knowing in advance would help me (and others) have more fun, perhaps even explore activities I’d otherwise not be inclined to try.

Those in the know could spend their funds at will without concern for how long one’s nest egg will last. This may help many for whom retirement age is approaching. People could better budget; and within a year or so of “the end,” just go on a spending spree, take around-the-world cruises, or directly distribute the funds to loved ones.

You’d be able to see your furniture, jewels and other personal belongings distributed, knowing that it went to the person you chose…and did so without family interference or court hassles.

You could eat crab legs, lobster, and crème brulee every day, or whatever your food choice would be, diabetes or heart diseases be damned. Maybe throw yourself the best party you wanted to have.

So the question remains: Would you want to know the day on which you will die? How would knowing the date affect your psyche, your progression through life? Share your thoughts.

A little E-book of ‘heart’ advice, First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers: http://amzn.to/YWSXqa. Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud

 



Feed Your Relationship Every Day of the Year

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

Feed Your Relationship Every Day of the YeareOne day when counseling a friend about his relationship, I used a medical “pearl of wisdom” that we physicians use to heal bodies, and I applied it to his attempts to work out his relationship. I then realized that many of these medical pearls also serve as excellent words of wisdom and guidance to promote healthier interpersonal relationships.

For Valentine’s Day, people scramble, trying to find something to express their love to their honey. For some, this special day is the only day of the year when an effort is made to give a gift, a card, say sweet nothings (that really mean a lot), or have a special evening together.

With that in mind, I encourage you to “Assure Adequate Nutrition,” not only on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year.

One of the most important duties of a doctor is the assessment, correction and upkeep of adequate nutrition for patients. Proteins, minerals, water, sugars and more are the building blocks of every cell in the human body. Without these building blocks, cells suffer, strength is reduced, wounds don’t heal, and organs wither and die. In short, without ongoing and proper nutrition, life dissipates.

Adequate “nutrition” is also vital to sustain and promote the life of your relationship. Too often people stop feeding their relationship with the building blocks they used to first bring life to that relationship–love, laughter, fun, prayer, understanding, time together, communication.

These are just some of the necessary nutrients you must give your relationship on a regular basis (not only on Valentine’s Day). When you withdraw these, for whatever reason–too busy with the kids, work, or other responsibilities pulling on your time–your relationship will suffer: The frequency of joyful moments is reduced, communication falters, any painful situations won’t heal and the relationships themselves may wither…and perhaps even die.

Don’t make your loving relationship a victim of “failure to thrive.” Valentine’s Day comes but once a year, but you want your love to last each day and forever. Feed it regularly with the emotional, supportive and vital nutrients it needs to be healthy, viable and vibrant for years to come.

“Assure Adequate Nutrition” is one of dozens of “medical pearls of wisdom” found in the E-Book, First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers. Other “pearls include ‘Men Feel Pain, Too.’ ‘Never Underestimate How Much Someone Hurts’ and more.



The Story of Eric Forbes: When Parents, and Child Protection Services, Fail

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

Eric Forbes picERIC FORBES is the poster child for how the Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) can fail a child. In LESS THAN ONE YEAR, there were TEN CALLS to DFCS, in which teachers suspected the child was being abused. Nothing was done, and now Eric Forbes is dead. And his case is not the one one. I’m calling for an “ERIC FORBES ‘Mandatory Referral’ Child Protection Act.” 

There are so many things in today’s world that I simply do not understand; in recent weeks, one thing has moved to the top of the list: The reported unconscionable abuse, and certain death, of twelve-year-old Eric Forbes.

 I did not know this child, but I have wept profusely nearly every day since learning of the horrific fate that awaited him at the Paulding County (Georgia) house where he lived with his younger sister, Erica, and their father, Shayaa Forbes, 32, who is now accused of Eric’s brutal murder.

 On October 11, Shayaa called 911 to report that his son, Eric, had drowned; however investigators found the child had been the victim of longstanding, repeated child abuse consisting of multiple areas of bruising, human bite marks, lacerations, and the nails on his big toes pulled back half-way. The father was arrested for murder.

 Through my anger and tears I pondered, Where was the mother? Didn’t she know this was going on? What about his teachers and fellow students, didn’t any of them see bruising or suspect anything? If they did, why didn’t they report it to the Department of Family and Children Services? How did this abuse go on for so long? Why didn’t someone do something? Some answers have since been revealed, and none of them are good.

 In media interviews, the boy’s mother, Ashlei Majors, said she left the residence years ago because Shayaa was “violent.” Despite that, he somehow had custody and the mother left her two kids behind to live with him [Really?] It’s been reported that she hadn’t seen the children in two years and hadn’t spoken to Eric in two months. He had football games, there were PTA meetings, there were weekends for fun and laughing, all of which she reportedly missed.

 She also missed the Oct. 25 family memorial service. According to public records, when she appeared for a child custody hearing regarding the daughter, Majors was arrested on October 23rd for a probation violation in Dekalb County.

 On Oct. 29, at Shayaa Forbes’ bond hearing  at which the cause of death is officially “Battered Child Syndrome,” it was revealed that past and current teachers at Eric’s schools, had, in fact, reported suspected child abuse to DFACS ten times in less than a year. DFACS reportedly did two investigations, but, after hearing from [yes] the father that the boy’s injuries were “just due to football injuries,” reportedly DFACS dismissed the cases as “unfounded.”

 On that same day that a Massachusetts judge sets a $500,000 bond for a man who allegedly abused a dog, the Paulding County Chief Judge Tonny Beavers, set a bond of $30,000 for Forbes, and we have an abused, and now dead, child. Again, I don’t understand. Has even the judge dishonored this child’s life?

 America, we have a problem. There is too much brutality, violence, and family dysfunction in our homes. We must work diligently to effectively abate and stop the social proliferation of child abuse, domestic violence, and children falling through the cracks of the very agencies that exist to protect them. (Many local news agencies have requested comment from DFACS, but to date, no reply.)

 Fortunately, Eric spent six years with an uncle, former marine Ahmed Burden, brother of the accused. Burden took the children overseas with him, and early photos show smiling, happy faces of both children. Approximately four years ago, the children were returned to the parents, and while  the ‘violent’ father had custody, seemingly the rest of the family had little to no contact with the kids. At the family service, a pained aunt said, “We didn’t get to know Eric.”

Eric sadIn some of Eric’s later photos, I could see in his eyes the pain and fear he suffered. I attended both the family service (where his ‘fragile’ body laid; reportedly, his skull had been brutally cracked), and the memorial held in the Paulding community. I drove by the house in which Eric lived; it’s deep in a cul-de-sac, mostly obscured by trees. A near-hidden house of horrors. I’ve visited his grave; and after hearing about the DFACS disgrace, I contacted three state senators’ offices, asking how to propose an “Eric Forbes’ ‘Mandatory Referral’ Child Protection Act.” In it, I seek mandatory referral of a child to an independent physician and counselor to further investigate repeat complaints of suspected child abuse. I need help moving this forward. How do other states handle repeat complaints of suspected abuse?

In Eric’s honor, may anyone–including his friends and classmates–who ever heard directly from Eric of his abuse, or saw bruises and injuries that Eric explained away (probably out of shame and fear), may your parents get you some counseling, but also encourage you to share your observations with investigators, and testify. Do it in honor of Eric’s memory, and for children like him who yet live and need to be rescued. See Eric’s Legacy.com page  for tributes, and feel free to add your own. Also see a segment from WXIA 11Alive’s special, ‘Failed to Death’ in which I address my call for legislation [4:55 time mark]: http://on.11alive.com/1aYRWHz.

Copyright 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved.  Bitly link for this post: http://bit.ly/17viqQf .

Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud



The Black Community Must Cure Its Ills: Restore Intact Families

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

What is going on in the Black community? Seventy-two percent of Black babies are born to unwed mothers. High school and college graduation rates for Black males are at an all-time low. Black crime is soaring; and young males seemingly can’t go to a house party without someone getting shot or killed before the last dance. Much of what is happening in the Black community is absolutely disgraceful, shameful and inexcusable. What is the psychology of young Black males today? What is the root of the problem?

Some monotonously blame these current ills on slavery, and readily excuse the actions of uneducated and criminally-minded Blacks as if they don’t have a choice in how they conduct their lives. It’s 2013. They do.

Whites also have ills: White males are angry. Some commit mass murders. Mostly Whites use methamphetamines, commit suicide, or die from anorexia or the ‘choking game.’ Also, while some Blacks cry racism too often, most Whites don’t own, or acknowledge, it enough.

But too many Blacks eagerly embrace what I call “Black Slack”—they take the path of least resistance: Proper, polished attire has lost out to ‘thug wear’; biomedical engineering to basketball; romantic lyrics to vile hip-hop; civility to criminality, and learning proper English is trumped by “ebonics.”

A Black person who encourages education and personal responsibility is often called a “turncoat”; a traitor. That is nonsensical, irresponsible criticism. The foolishness adopted by many Black youth (and some parents) needs to stop. It’s inexcusable. And no, I’m not echoing the words of Bill Cosby, Don Lemon or the Obamas; those are my sentiments, as published in a 1992 USA Today.

Sure, the government can start this program or that one. But that’s long after kids are at a certain age and the pathology has begun.

As a Black female ob-gyn, I say with certainty that the primary issue is there are simply too many Black children born out of wedlock, and too many absentee fathers. There must be a restoration of intact Black families, consisting of married mothers and fathers.

Civil Rights leaders fought, and some died, so Blacks could have their rightful, fair chance at the American dream. Many honored those efforts and became dedicated company employees, degreed professionals and entrepreneurs. But in recent decades, too many have squandered previous advances, and the Black community is in free-fall.

Today there’s no insistence on education, proper language skills, proper attire, morality, decency, nor respect for life—one’s own, or anyone else’s. And Black women need to respect themselves; stop having babies without the benefit of marriage. There are too many (poorly-raised) children having children. Likewise, Black girls need in-home, responsible fathers so they don’t seek “love” from sex-crazed boys, get pregnant, and continue the cycle of fatherless, undisciplined and poor-achieving offspring.

The Black family needs men who know how to lead, read, respect and protect. But there is a serious crisis in the community when, yes, even Morehouse “men” are either victims or perpetrators of crimes on campus.

The Black community has self-inflicted internal bleeding. Hemorrhage. The prescription is one of tough love. But without remedying the above-mentioned ills, the patient—the Black community—will remain in grave condition. Bitly for this post: http://bit.ly/13jsbN5

See the Atlanta Journal Constitution for more on this topic. They invited me to be a part of their “Atlanta Forward ‘Leadership” Forum contributors. Feel free to comment, even disagree. But be respectful. Any hate speech, vitriol, profanity, racist remarks, etc., will not be tolerated and will be deleted.

More related articles at Dr. Melody’s Blog at PsychologyToday   Web site: http://www.DrMcCloud.comTwitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud



‘How to Wake Up’ Guides Us Through Joy and Sorrow; My Interview with Author, Toni Bernhard

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

Toni Bernhard, J.D. enjoyed an active life as a wife, mother, mentor and lawyer—with almost twenty years on the faculty of the School of Law at the University of California, Davis. That was until, in 2001, while on vacation with her husband, she developed an illness that has rendered her mostly housebound and nearly completely bedridden.

From her bed, and using Buddhist-inspired techniques that she’s practiced for over twenty years, Bernhard wrote her first book, How To be Sick, which gives sage advice about how to handle chronic illness. That book won her the “Best Spiritual Books of 2010,” two Nautilus Awards and a throng of fans clamoring for more.

How To Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow is Toni Bernhard’s new book, and she doesn’t disappoint. It has already received rave reviews, as it advises all of us on how to successfully ride the wave of this sometimes turbulent ride called life.

As fellow bloggers at Psychology Today, and two professional women who’ve had some degree of infirmity or injury (my car was totaled when I was hit by a wayward SUV in 2009), Toni and I have become pen pals over the past two years.  I am happy to share her words with you as she discusses her new book, How To Wake Up (HTWU). Enjoy.

In HTWU, you address many human emotions and conditions: pain, anguish, frustration, broken dreams, unfulfilled wishes for one’s life. It can be very difficult to let go of dreams that never came to be and to adjust to major changes in how one envisioned their life would be in the future. You say the key to being able to acknowledge and accept one’s situation is to “let it be.” But this can take practice and re-training of the mind’s processes. Does this skill, “let it be,” develop like a muscle and get stronger with repeated use and exercise?

TB: You raise so many good issues here. Let me answer in two parts.

“Let it be.” This is the last step in a four-step approach I devised for working with stressful thoughts and emotions, such as worry, anger, and fear. (The first three steps are: recognize it; label it; investigate it.) Let it be refers to the ability to be truly present for whatever you’re feeling without turning away in aversion if it’s unpleasant. These are moments of “waking up” from which the book gets its title. It’s definitely a skill that gets stronger with practice—with repeated use and exercise, as you put it!

Of course, as is true with any skill that takes practice, sometimes practice doesn’t go so well. For example, you may be overcome with worry. You’ve gone through the first three steps, and when you get to that last one, find that you’re fighting against letting it be.

When this happens, it helps to have developed mindfulness skills so that you can recognize what’s going on: “I can’t let it be because I don’t want feel worry anymore.” That recognition alone can help ease your stress and anxiety because at least you’re acknowledging how you feel. Then evoke compassion for yourself over whatever suffering you’re experiencing. Craft some phrases that speak directly to your struggle: “It’s painful to worry so much”; “I’m trying the best I can, but it’s hard to accept that I’m worrying.”

When you get “stuck” in a stressful emotion such as worry, the best thing you can do is treat yourself kindly and with compassionate. That will loosen the emotion’s grip on you. The more you practice like this, the easier it becomes to let it be and take refuge in the universal law of impermanence, which assures that no emotion or circumstance will stay the same for long.

Broken dreams and unfulfilled wishes for our lives. Coming to terms with this is perhaps our biggest challenge—it has been in my own life. The belief that all our dreams can come true if we just work hard enough, or that all our wishes can be fulfilled simply isn’t in accord with the reality of the human condition. We don’t control as much of our lives as we think we do. The two corollaries of the universal law of impermanence—uncertainty and unpredictability—assure that this will be the case! I work every day on making peace with the fact that much of what happens to me in life is not within my control.

I have a lot of broken dreams, from not having two parents see me through my teenaged years (my father died when I was ten), to losing my career when I became chronically ill in 2001. Learning how to live gracefully, and even joyfully, with the life we have rather than the life we dreamed of is one of the major themes of the book. It’s full of exercises and practices to help us with this task.

Of the Buddhist tools you provide, is there one that you have personally found the most difficult to sustain? If so, how do you “get back on the horse”?

TB: The one that’s the most difficult to sustain is the one that brings the most peace of mind—equanimity. I say this about it in the book:

A mind that is equanimous responds to life with an evenness of temper and a peaceful heart, even when the circumstances at hand may be one of those ten thousand sorrows—tension in a relationship, anxiety over children or parents, stress at work or at school, health difficulties, loss of a loved one. Every moment of equanimity is a moment of waking up from the delusion that things should be as we want them to be.

In those moments when I’m able to let go of the desire for the world to conform to my liking, I can feel the peace and well-being of equanimity arise. It’s a challenge to sustain because it requires accepting that life won’t always go the way I want it to. As for “getting back on the horse” when I’m thrown, I do that by evoking compassion for myself over my inability to be equanimous.

In fact, whenever I feel stuck or confused, the first thing I do is to try and remember to be kind and compassionate to myself. Why shouldn’t we treat ourselves well? It’s not easy to navigate life’s ups and downs with equanimity! Being understanding about how hard it can be softens my heart enough to take a deep breath and then…try again.

Do you have to be a Buddhist to benefit from the book?

TB: No. In fact, I like to joke that it’s a Buddhist book for non-Buddhists. I write my books for people of any religious persuasion—or of no religious persuasion. You and I are in the same boat as was the Buddha: we’re human beings. This is why I start the book with this quotation from Vietnamese Zen monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:

It is exactly because the Buddha was a human being that countless buddhas are possible.

The word “Buddha” means “awakened one.” As a fellow human being—albeit an extraordinary one—the Buddha saw the potential for all of us to become buddhas—to wake up to the simple joy of being alive. I don’t look upon awakening as a transcendent and otherworldly one-time deal. I see it as a potential that arises over and over again, every moment.

With How To Be Sick, you developed a large following of faithfuls. That must feel good.

TB: I had no idea that the book would have the impact it’s had. I hear from people all over the world about how the book has changed their lives. They tell me that it was the first book that didn’t tell them to just “think positively” and their health would be restored. I love that the Buddha “tells it like it is.” He said, in effect, that we’re in bodies and bodies get sick and injured and old. It’s not our fault. So many people blame themselves when they develop health problems. How to Be Sick seems to have become the antidote to the barrage of cultural messages that tell us that if we just eat right or exercise right, we’ll never have health problems—and even more unrealistic, we’ll never grow old.

With this worldwide following has come a feeling of responsibility to try and help anyone who reaches out to me with their problems. I admit that this has occasionally resulted in burnout. I’ve heard it called “compassion fatigue.” People feel they know me personally as a result of reading How to Be Sick and so they send me emails containing long stories about their lives, often seeking help for a range of difficulties they’re facing. I do my best when responding and, in fact, these emails became the driving force behind the writing of How to Wake Up.

How To Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (Wisdom Publications) is available at Amazon.com.

For more, see Bernhard’s blog, Turning Straw Into Gold, or  www.ToniBernhard.com.

Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud; Dr. Melody’s Blog at PsychologyToday . To share this post’s link: http://bit.ly/1cDjEY7 



America’s Children: Spoiled and Entitled…Even When Wrong?

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

On Alex Trebek’s “Jeopardy,” rules are rules, and wrong spelling is just ‘rong.’

In a recent airing of Alex Trebek’s ‘Jeopardy’ game show, for the Final Jeopardy answer, a little boy had the right intent, but incorrectly spelled the answer. He was marked wrong by the judges, and, oh my goodness, the world is just a twitter with disgust at the show.

The young boy himself told The News-Times of Danbury, “I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final ‘Jeopardy’ question. It was just a spelling error.” (Did he say “cheated“…? Did he say “just a spelling error”…?) I can understand the boy feeling a bit “embarrassed,” as his mother said, but “cheated“…? I think not.

I find the ire directed toward the show to be rather curious and socially concerning. As I see it, this, once again, points to the sense of entitlement many parents have bestowed on their children, or the chidren ‘just’ feel.

In our day, in many schools, athletic programs, and homes, every child gets a star. Every player wins a trophy; no one ‘loses’ the game. Teachers can’t use a red pencil to mark wrong answers because it will traumatize the little kids. Or, in this case, [he even said it], he was ‘cheated” and it was “just” a spelling error. In other words, what’s the big deal? My answer was right, well, except for that one thing.

And therein lies the rub, and the lesson. The lesson is not only about Jeopardy’s rules, but about life.

For one, Jeopardy’s rules must be fair to all. Their rules are, for Final Jeopardy, you must spell the answer correctly, or it is wrong. Period.

Secondly, if all of society made exceptions for every little imperfection that occurs, or for every thing that is “just” slightly off, just slightly not correct. we would have imploded by now. In fact, I’m painfully reminded of the Challenger explosion; it was “just” a small matter with the O-ring, and…

This kid may be stunned by it all, but Jeopardy’s rules are clear: For Final Jeopardy, spelling must be correct. His spelling was not, so…it’s wrong. Period. (And due to the bold wager of his opponent—who spelled the word correctly—he wouldn’t have won the game anyway.)

Too many parents and others want to pat their little Johnny’s on the head to make them/him feel better, not hurt their little feelings, even when he/they don’t get something right. No. Our modern-day society has a bunch of spoiled children with a sense of entitlement, even when what they did is officially wrong. We cannot reward bad behavior, nor incorrect spelling. We need to help them grow, and that means sometimes they experience the boo-boos, and the “agony of defeat.”

This story reminds me of the time I was tutoring young pre-medical students. When tutoring a young pre-med student, he grew audibly mad at me because, while he had the numbers right in an equation, he’d put the decimal point in the wrong spot…so I marked him wrong. Completely wrong.

He wanted partial credit because he “had the right numbers!!” I told him, “No! Too bad, buddy. A misplaced decimal point in a drug dose could mean life or death for a patient.”

We still laugh about that today, as he is a big-time M.D. and doing quite well. I lovingly tell him he owes it all to me. [You see, they will survive...and are more careful with their answers and actions.]

This boy—Thomas Hurley III—wasn’t “cheated,” as he claims. He spelled the word wrong, so, it’s wrong. Period. It’s unlikely he’ll make the same mistake again.

Accuracy matters in some games—Jeopardy is one of them—and in the game of life. That goes for numbers and spelling. Lesson learned.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Feel free to share this post on your social network pages, with author credit and link to this page. Bitly: http://bit.ly/1b7e1R3 .



Patrick Kennedy Addresses Borderline Personality Disorder, Stigma and Parity

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

“We as a nation have long-neglected the mentally ill,” and “mental illness [is] among our most critical health problems.” So said late President John F. Kennedy in a special message to Congress (1963). This sentiment and personal concern continues in the voice and current efforts of his nephew, former congressman Patrick Kennedy, the youngest son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Last night I listened to the young Kennedy as he was the special guest for the Call-In Series, hosted by the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder. He raised many important points—not only about Borderline Personality Disorder, but all mental illnesses, insurance issues, the need to eradicate stigma, the politics of mental health care, and to use the pain of our veteran’s wounds—mental wounds—to help give voice to political advocacy for mental health.

As a sufferer of mental illness, and having other family members with the same, the former congressman said he has “an intense urgency” to improve awareness of mental health conditions as he does to improve citizens’ overall physical health. Some of his points were:

All hands on deck. We should not wait only for researchers in mental health fields, but there needs to be a concerted, unified effort of many private organizations, community groups and churches to be able to present a united front when dealing with the government on behalf of improving mental health care in this land.

Mental health advocacy should not be dismissed as a ‘special interest.’ Millions of dollars, and frequent attention is brought to other physical afflictions. Those of us on the mental health battlefield “simply want parity. We don’t want more, just equal efforts and funding to the affairs of the mind, of the brain.

Stigma is our biggest opponent. All of society–including politicians, health care workers, insurers and the public at large–need to look at mental health as a value added, not as a cost matter. If mental health evaluation is accurate, and treatment effective, it’s more likely that there will be decreased costs in other arenas such as fewer hospitalizations for improperly-diagnosed patients; less lost wages in the workplace, and fewer cases of emergency room care for self-inflicted wounds, such as cutting or suicidal gestures or attempts.

Unfortunately, people—those afflicted and/or their family members—don’t speak up. Many feel shame, and unfortunately the shame is put upon them even by some in the mental health care fields.

“The potential for illness doesn’t stop at the neck.” Those are my words, what I often tell others—insurance pre-certification clerks; and especially minorities and “church-folk” who are often quick to “just pray about it” instead of seeking mental health evaluation. Congressman Kennedy likewise said, “The brain should be treated as any other organ in the body.”

Insurance companies don’t cover mental health conditions as they do other ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and even fibromyalgia. There is no parity. This must change.

And how do we go forward, to address all mental illness–not only to PTSD or schizophrenia, but also borderline personality? Congressman Kennedy says:

Political Advocacy: With the large numbers of veterans returning home from our recent (and still current) war, many veterans have not only physical wounds that are visible, but there are the “invisible wounds of war” (i.e., mental wounds) and these must be addressed in the same way as the physical wounds.

“Our strongest political platform to address mental health issues on a national level, will be to take up the cause of our returning veterans, who suffer not only with PTSD or bipolar disorder, but also borderline personality and other mental illnesses.” Now is the time. Let’s seize the day and use this development with our troops as a vehicle to get help for them, and get our voices heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

For more of Patrick Kennedy’s remarks, visit www.neabpd.com, and visit him at www.parityispersonal.org. Also see my 2013 interview with mental health pioneer, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and scroll to see other related posts about Borderline Personality Disorder.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Feel free to share this post on your social network pages, with author credit and link to this page. Bitly: T/F.

Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud



A Spotlight on Minority Mental Health

By Melody T. McCloud, MD

While May is known as National Mental Health Month, July is dedicated to focusing on the state of mental health in minority communities, which are often overlooked in the national discussion.

I invited J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health (of HHS), to share her thoughts about the state of mental health in minority populations. She also addresses her take on how the Affordable Care Act will impact mental health efforts. She writes:

One in four.[1] That’s how many adults are facing mental health problems in our country – and there is evidence to suggest that the burden of mental health issues may be even greater among minority communities. But too often, the causes and consequences of untreated mental health problems are left out of the conversation when we talk about improving the health of our most vulnerable and underserved.

For communities that are already confronting widespread barriers to health and opportunity, the consequences of mental health problems – among them, decreased worker productivity, increased economic costs to the health care system and heightened risk of premature death, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – can have a devastating toll.

During National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we recognize the costly burden of mental health problems for diverse communities, and we shine a light on avenues for prevention, treatment, wellness and recovery. We acknowledge that mental health problems touch all communities, in all parts of our country – but that the struggle for equity persists in mental health as well.

As a pediatrician, I have seen the impact of mental health problems in minority communities first hand. Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person reaches the age of 14, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.

Early in my career, I remember one of my teenage patients was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. I remember her family’s uncertainty. Some of her family members questioned the diagnosis, suggesting that perhaps she was simply in the habit of acting out, because it was difficult to accept the diagnosis. I have seen how the issue of mental illness is still a taboo topic in many minority communities. But it is important for our communities to understand that mental health is part of our overall health and wellness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives between the ages of 10 and 34. Asian American teens are more likely than their white peers to report considering or attempting suicide. (View data on mental health problems and treatment in minority populations).

Fueling these disparities is the fact that minorities have less access to mental health services; are less likely to receive needed mental health services; and those in treatment often receive a poorer quality of mental health care. According to the CDC, African Americans tend to delay seeking help for mental health issues, although they are 20 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than whites, and Latinos receive mental health treatment half as often as whites. Those who do get help may receive care that is not always respectful, or culturally and linguistically appropriate.

To help reduce these disparities and improve quality of care, the Office of Minority Health released the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health and Health Care, as a tool to help providers and organizations provide services that fit each person’s unique needs at every point of contact. The CLAS Standards take into account the distinct culture of individuals and groups, and include aspects like language preference, spirituality, sexual orientation, gender preference and disability status – in addition to race and ethnicity.

The National CLAS Standards are one of the many ways that we are working to advance health equity. Another is the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, improves access to quality, affordable health care, with a focus on prevention and wellness. Because of the health care law, millions of Americans will gain health insurance and with that, gain opportunities for better health.

The Affordable Care Act also invests in community health centers, expanding the number of health centers across the country and the services they provide such as behavioral health care. Also, funds will be distributed to Federally Qualified Health Centers to increase their capacity to meet the needs of minority communities. Work is being done in these health centers to integrate primary care and behavioral health, introducing mental health care services in familiar community care settings.

The health care law will also provide one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation. Beginning in 2014, most small group and individual health plans will be required to cover 10 Essential Health Benefit categories, including mental health and substance use disorder services, and will be required to cover them on par with medical and surgical benefits. More than 62 million Americans are expected to benefit.

The Affordable Care Act is one of the most powerful pieces of legislation for reducing health disparities and is already transforming the landscape of access to health care and services, including behavioral health care—especially for those communities in greatest need.

As we conclude National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, 2013, let us continue throughout the year to raise awareness about mental health, and encourage all of our communities to speak out about these issues, so that no one has to bear the burden of mental illness alone and that everyone can live a healthy life. 

To learn more about federal resources about mental health, visit Mentalhealth.gov. For more information about minority health and health disparities, visit the Office of Minority Health website at Minorityhealth.hhs.gov.

[I thank Dr. Gracia for her contribution. All rights reserved.  Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud

[1] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml



Welcome to All Things in Mind

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

We have a lot of wonderful, unique and interesting voices here among our bloggers at Psych Central. But one we don’t have is one talking about the medical, psychological and social issues from the perspective of an experienced physician.

That’s why I’m particularly pleased to welcome Dr. Melody McCloud to our blogging family, with her new blog, All Things in Mind. According to Dr. McCloud, this will be a “blog that explores issues pertaining to medical-psycho-social issues; the benefits (and risks) of sex; relationships; hot news topics, and mental health issues such as Borderline Personality Disorder. Women’s health and ethnic health disparities (of body and mind) will also be presented.”

Melody T. McCloud. M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist, all-media consultant, public speaker, and the author of First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers. She is the founder/medical director of Atlanta Women’s Health Care. She lectures nationwide on women’s health; the benefits of sex, relationships and Black women’s media imagery. You can learn more about her here.

Please give Dr. McCloud a warm Psych Central welcome!



 
 

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