When the Mind Is Troubled, the Body Falls Ill

Emotions affect your health. When stressed, anxious or upset, your body tells you something is amiss. When this occurs, your body will even send you physical signs, such as extreme weight loss or weight gain, chest pain, extreme tiredness or trouble sleeping. In the mental health field, we are seeing more than ever that physical health and mental health are frequently connected.

Exercise can help relieve mild depression.
Elderly who are physically fit tend to have less trouble with their memory.
Underlying mental health problems account for up to 70 percent of all primary care visits.
Depression is predicted to be the second leading cause of disability in the U.S. by 2020.
Studies show that people with mental illness and chronic health conditions are most likely to receive no care for their physical health conditions. These same people are eventually treated in emergency situations at great cost to taxpayers and to the health of those same individuals.

A study co-published by Dr. Joe Parks, chief clinical director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, found that those served by our public mental health systems die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. More than 80 percent of those premature deaths are due to treatable medical conditions caused by preventable risk factors such as smoking, obesity, substance abuse and inadequate access to medical care.

Local health care providers have begun implementing coordination of care for physical and mental health conditions, sometimes including providing both types of care in the same office. Coordination of physical and mental health care results in improvement in an individual’s health, plus an overall lower cost of care.

While all agree that this integration is needed, there are many obstacles to success. Providers are busy, poorly funded, have too many patients, and have not been fully trained to handle both physical and mental health problems.

Progress is being made, but we have many more areas to improve.

Our patients need us to work together; providers must all work as a team, regardless of the health care company, sharing valuable information with each other.
Our patients must have easy access to all services they need; co-location of mental health and primary care is likely to increase, to be readily available when someone needs help.
Early intervention is crucial to improving health; treat the whole person, not just one part.
Providers must work as a partner with the patient, not just provide services to the patient.
Wellness must be part of the plan by the provider and the patient.
Payment needs to reward the above changes, rather than working against them.
Working together, health care providers can and will dramatically improve the health of people with chronic illnesses, plus save on health care costs. This progress must continue. People deserve good health care every day, not just in an emergency.

See the cost of untreated mental health in Kansas and Missouri.

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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.


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