May is mental health awareness month

May is mental health awareness month

May 1, 2019

Your mental health matters

Do you know there is a proven connection between your physical and your mental health? About 68% of people with a main mental health diagnosis also have at least one physical health condition, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report. And 29% of adults with a physical health condition also have a mental health issue.

Other research has also linked mental and physical illness. One study showed people living with a mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disease had a 53% higher risk for cardiovascular disease than those without mental illness. Another study discovered that people diagnosed with both diabetes and depression were 85% more likely to have a heart attack than people with diabetes only.

It’s likely there are more links between our mental and physical health than we know. Getting mental health treatment is vitally important to our physical health and our overall wellbeing.

Step 1 – Acceptance
Start here. There is no reason to be embarrassed about having a mental illness.  Learning about mental illness—the symptoms of various conditions and any issues associated with such an illness, including how it impacts your physical health—is a step in the right direction to better overall health.

Step 2 – Action
Pick up the phone. Help for getting mental health care is truly one call away.
 
Move to improve
How exercise can  boost mental health

One of the ways we can maintain or improve our mental health is to exercise.

Like many medicines used to treat mental illness, exercise can increase levels of chemicals in our brains that help us feel mentally healthy.

Exercise can improve our mood and increase our energy levels while reducing stress.

Exercise has been linked to improved mental clarity, enhanced intuition, creativity, assertiveness and enthusiasm for life. 

And, you don’t have to put in as much time as you may think to reap all these benefits, researchers have found.

Watch this video to learn about the science that promotes adding physical fitness to your mental health treatment and care plan.
HealthSelectSM of Texas and Consumer Directed HealthSelectSM participants:
  • Call Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) toll-free at (800) 252-8039, Monday–Friday 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. CT.
  • You can also call a HealthSelect mental health counselor 24/7 toll-free at (800) 442-4093 anytime.
  • If you prefer a virtual visit, you can make an appointment to talk with a licensed mental health professional any day of the week online via a mental health virtual visit. This is similar to visiting a mental health provider in their office, but the session will take place online. Mental health virtual visits are conducted by video conference and must be scheduled in advance. On average, appointments are available within five to seven days.
  • Your primary care provider (PCP) is also a good place to start. Your PCP may help you find mental health support nearby, recommend a mental health provider or prescribe medicine. Remember, you never need a referral for mental health services and you pay less when you see in-network providers.
HMO participants:
  • Community First Health Plans call (210) 358-6262 or toll-free at (877) 698-7032, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. CT, or speak with your primary care physician.
  • KelseyCare powered by Community Health Choice call (713) 295-6792; toll-free (844) 515-4877, Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. CT, or speak with your primary care physician.
  • Scott and White Health Plans call (800) 321-7947 (TTY: (800) 735-2989), 24 hours a day / 7 days a week or speak with your primary care provider.
Explore
Want more information? Check out the following resources:
  • Transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses, from  the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  According to NIMH, if we want  positive health outcomes and cost-effective care, providers need to address both pysical and behavioral health.
  • Men: Take Action to Deal with Depression. Depression affects millions of men every year, and many of them don’t even know it. Men often don’t recognize the symptoms of depression, and they are less likely to seek help than women. The article is from Lifetimes, published by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.

The benefits of full mental health coverage

"Mental illness is a health issue—and should be treated as such."
—Hannah
 

Picture of HannaWhen she was still a new employee at the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS), Hannah listened to a Board of Trustees meeting at which ERS trustees and staff talked about adding mental health virtual visits to the HealthSelectSM plans.  An ERS director said it was time “to remove barriers” for people who needed such care, Hannah recalled. In that moment, “I saw that the State of Texas provides good benefits for mental health and wants you to use them.”

Soon after that Board meeting, Hannah, a contract oversight specialist, injured her ankle “in the most spectacular way possible.”  She came to rely on her ERS benefits for treatment not just of her physical injury, but also for the mental health crisis that followed. Today, Hannah is doing much better, but still on the mend for both. She  willingly shares her story as a way to help take the stigma from mental illness.

“What happened to me could happen to anybody,” she stated. Hannah’s injury needed major reconstructive surgery. (“I have pins and screws and all kinds of stuff in my ankle.”) She was given opioids and other medicines to manage pain and nerve damage. Hannah thinks a reaction to one of those prescriptions led to brutal panic attacks that got more frequent and intense. She also experienced periods of rage, aggression and paranoia. “I felt like I was losing my mind,” she said.

While in her 20s, Hannah was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks. Yoga and exercise had always helped her cope with those illnesses, but Hannah had to stay in bed during recovery from her ankle injury, so she was forced to face this new, more severe mental health condition in a different way. 

Hannah sought emergency care, which led to psychiatric treatment and, ultimately, to a prescription for a low-dose anti-depressant. She still takes that medication and exercises as much as her body will allow. Long story short, “I’m in a better state mentally than I have ever been in my entire adult life. Mine is a success story.”

Hannah noted that her success would not have been possible without the support of her colleagues and direct management at ERS. “They treated my mental health crisis with the same compassion and support  they gave my ankle injury,” she stated. She added that the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP) “gets it right. My having depression is no different than my breaking an ankle,” Hannah asserted. “These are health conditions and should be treated as such.”