Psychological and Medical Health Intertwined

According to the May 2012 edition of Hospital & Health Network, “1 in 4 Americans experiences a mental illness or substance abuse disorder each year” 1 and during their lifetimes, half of all Americans will experience some sort of mental illness, and over one- quarter of Americans will suffer from substance abuse. These statistics are staggering.

Additionally, the effects of mental illness on physical illness, and vice versa, may complicate treatment for both types of illnesses.  “A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study found that 29% of adults with medical conditions also have mental health conditions, and 68% of adults with mental health conditions also have medical conditions.”

The message is clear; silence and ignorance about mental health problems can seriously impact physical health and health care in general.  At a time when our health care system is facing significant change; the greater availability of services should also include our willingness to consider whether mental health services would be worthwhile pursuing.

While there has been more “social acceptability” about receiving mental health care in the media, the stigmas still exist.  Stress and trauma run rampant in our society, and the treatment of choice for both is mental health care.  Preferring instead to avoid the therapist’s office by taking medications prescribed by primary-care-physicians to eliminate psychological symptoms, does not address the underlying problem/s.

Successful treatment for stress, trauma, depression, anxiety and the like, requires specific mental health treatment (with and/or without psychotropic medication prescribed by a psychiatrist) and is now available with the same health care delivery changes as physical health care services; changes about pre-existing condition exclusions, dollar limits from insurance carriers, etc.

It is imperative that we begin to see that psychological health care is as important as medical health care and whether or not we are ready to drop the stigma of psychotherapy, each affects the other, and if we ignore treatment, it will likely affect the total person; psychologically and medically.


Submitted by Lori Kanat Edelson, LMSW, LMFT, Director of Birmingham Maple Clinic

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