How Mental Illness Affects Your Life Insurance

How Mental Illness Affects Your Life Insurance text overlaying an image of a woman sitting on a chair with her head in her handsWhen choosing whether or not they should accept your life insurance application, insurance companies look at a number of things. Some of these things are your age, your job, your habits, your general health, and your mental state. Mental health affects many of us, with about 57.8 million American adults having a depression, anxiety, or PTSD diagnosis. As we learn more about how mental health affects people, insurance companies change their screening process. Your mental health can affect whether you can get a life insurance policy and how much you’ll pay for it. So, it’s important to know what life insurance agents are looking at on your application if you struggle with mental health. So, you know what to expect and which policy would be worth the higher premium. 

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Depression

Depression is a common mental illness that is often treatable. However, if you have depression and want to get life insurance, insurance companies will consider you being a higher risk applicant. The main thing that worries life insurance companies about a depression diagnosis is that, according to the National Institute of Health, depression often leads to other serious health issues. For example, the chance of coronary artery disease is 64% higher for people who have a depressive disorder or even signs of depression. Other health conditions linked to depression are weakened immune system, and cardiovascular disease.

 

Aside from the health concerns, some life insurance companies also worry that people suffering from depression may have trouble paying their premiums. Statistically speaking, people with depression are more likely to quit or lose their job. This is because they tend to feel like they can’t do the job, struggle to show up or are not able to be productive.

 

Some insurers even treat postpartum depression as clinical depression even though it’s a temporary form of depression. Postpartum usually happens within the first 3 months of having a baby. It does eventually fade away especially if you seek help for it. But because life insurers treat it as clinical depression you face higher rates. Which is difficult because many parents buy life insurance when they start a family. 

Depression Categories

Most people experience sadness at various points in their life. However, being sad is not the same as having a depressive disorder. Because of this, life insurance companies only consider you to have depression if you have a diagnosis from a doctor prior to applying for a policy. Depression can be defined in a number of ways, just like many other health problems. These include seasonal affective disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and major depression. Companies that sell life insurance divide people into 3 groups. How they decide your rate depends on which group you’re in.

 

 

  • Mild – You’ve had no more than one type of medication for depression and have never been hospitalized for depression.
  • Moderate – You take multiple depression medications and see a psychiatrist.
  • Severe – If you’ve ever had suicidal ideations or a history of an attempted suicide.

Anxiety

If you have an anxiety disorder diagnosis life insurance companies will take that into account when deciding your eligibility and premiums. When a person with anxiety applies for life insurance, drugs and alcohol abuse is one of the main things that life insurance underwriters worry about. Life insurance companies will be very hesitant if you use drugs or alcohol to treat yourself. Or if you have a history of abusing them. Each case is carefully examined to decide if you can buy the policy. Having an anxiety disorder can make it harder to get life insurance, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get it at all. Many people who have been diagnosed with anxiety are still able to buy life insurance. The good news is not all life insurance companies cover health concerns the same way. So one company may charge you more than another because of the anxiety.

Anxiety Ratings

Different people have very different anxiety conditions. When working with underwriters, many people with these disorders may find it uncomfortable to be put in the “mental illness” category, especially since some of the questions are intrusive. But insurance companies usually depend on experts, especially the criteria for these conditions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to figure out how extensive the disorder is.

 

If you’re not sure about the classification, you should first ask for more details. It is always better to treat a condition properly than to do nothing. In fact, many people with much worse mental illnesses than, say, occasional panic attacks can get life insurance as long as their situation is under control. As we mentioned, some of the questions may seem like they are prying. Some common questions you might get are:

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • When did you get diagnosed?
  • How severe is the condition?
  • Have you received treatment?
  • What are your symptoms?
  • How long have you had the symptoms?
  • Have you missed work due to your condition?
  • How has your situation changed your life?
  • Has a reason been found for your condition?
  • Have you ever been hospitalized for the condition?

Possible Outcomes

Depending on your answers and medical records (you’ll be asked for the names and addresses of the doctors and hospitals you’ve been to), you can expect the following “ratings”:

 

  • Preferred rating – This means that your mental health is under control or not too bad. Either you are taking one medication that works well. Or a mental health professional has told you that you don’t need any medicine at all. In short, you can expect to get the best benefits and prices if your diagnosis doesn’t affect your health as a whole.
  • Standard rating – This means that your mental health problem isn’t too bad, but it does affect your health in some way. This group includes people who have been hospitalized, need daily therapy, or have more than one prescription.
  • Table rating – This grade means that your mental health problem is very bad or that you aren’t doing anything to deal with it. This grade could lead to either high premiums or being turned down for coverage.

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PTSD

Even though many traditional term or whole life insurance applications from people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are automatically turned down. There are a few companies that will at least look at a person with PTSD as a possible candidate for traditional coverage. Before you even think about asking for coverage, make sure the life insurance company you’re working with is more willing to work with people who have PTSD. If you don’t, you’re likely wasting your time and effort.

 

Insurance companies will want to know more about your diagnosis of PTSD. They may also want to know about your habits and how you live. The insurance company will use this information to figure out how much of a risk you are. And how much your premiums will be. The questions you’ll be asked are very similar to the ones asked for anxiety. You can expect:

 

  • What traumatic event started your PTSD?
  • What are your symptoms?
  • How long have you had PTSD?
  • What treatment did you receive?
  • What is your current mental health state?
  • What medications are you taking for PTSD?

PTSD Rating

As we’ve already said, if you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, most standard term or whole life insurance companies will automatically turn you down. They do this because they think that insuring people with PTSD is too much of a financial risk for them. Which is fine, since not all life insurance companies will have such strict rules about who they will accept.

However, you can bet that even companies who aren’t that strict will be hesitant to insure someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD. Because of this, most people who are able to get coverage do so at a “sub-standard” rate. Which means their insurance will cost more than if they hadn’t been labeled with PTSD.

Other Life Insurance Options For PTSD

If your PTSD or other health problems make it hard for you to get a traditional term or whole life insurance policy, you may have other choices. You could also think about getting a “guaranteed issue” life insurance policy. People who can’t get traditional life insurance because of their health or other reasons can get guaranteed-issue life insurance. These policies don’t require a medical exam or ask the applicant about his or her health background. So, they are often more expensive than standard life insurance policies and may have lower coverage limits.

 

These plans will also have a “graded death benefit,” which limits when your policy will start covering natural causes of death (usually, the policy needs to be in place for two to three years before natural causes of death are covered). An accidental death policy is another thing to think about. A policy for accidental death is a type of life insurance that pays out if the insured dies in an accident. Accidental death policies usually pay the policyholder’s beneficiary a reward if the policyholder dies in an accident. Accidental death plans will never cover deaths caused by illness or natural disasters, no matter how long you own the policy.

Working With EZ

As we’ve seen, those suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD face a difficult scenario. But it doesn’t have to be disastrous. The milder your symptoms are and the better you manage your condition, the more likely it is that you will be able to obtain coverage at a cheaper rate. This also applies to your overall health. People with chronic diseases or poor habits, such as diabetes and alcoholism, will be scored similarly to those with depression or anxiety.

 

It is critical to weigh ALL alternatives here. This is where EZ comes in. EZ is dedicated to getting the best coverage at the greatest price for you and we want to make it as simple as possible for you to do so! We are here to help you. And the best part is that all of our services are completely free of charge. We will help you with everything from answering all of your inquiries to selecting a policy, completing the application procedure, and providing support after your plan has been implemented. To begin, enter your zip code into the bar below or phone us at 877-670-3560. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation, please call 1-800-273-8255.

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Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Is Functional Medicine the Key to Healing You for Good?

Do you ever feel like doctors treat you like a bundle of symptoms, and not like a whole person? That’s a complaint a lot of people have, especially if they’re dealing with a complex or little-understood condition; this approach by some doctors can be especially frustrating if you feel like you’re never really getting any better. Sure, you might get temporary relief from symptoms that are bothering you, but it can start to feel like a game of whack-a-mole if your symptoms return, or if new ones crop up. 

So is there a different approach out there? Yes – well, actually there are a few. But some require taking a leap of faith and abandoning many of the principles of Western medicine altogether, and that might not feel right for everyone. But there is an approach that some doctors are now taking, which feels like a less “alternative-y” alternative to traditional medicine, known as functional medicine. So what does this mean, and could it be worth looking into?

What Is Functional Medicine? skeletons with organs

Simply put, functional medicine is all about treating your body as a whole, and not just trying to alleviate one or more symptoms that you might be experiencing. Now, that sounds like what all medicine should be trying to accomplish, right? But in many cases, patients feel like doctors have moved away from that way of looking at things. 

For example, if you go to your doctor with chronic heartburn, you’re most likely going to come away with a prescription for an antacid. And that might be very helpful for giving you some relief at that moment (and for getting some sleep that night!), but it’s not actually getting to the root of the problem. It’s treating a symptom, most likely temporarily, and not figuring out why you have heartburn – what might be going on in other parts of your body, how your lifestyle is contributing to it, etc – so you can have a chance to get well in a more comprehensive way. 

And while heartburn is a pretty simple example, using these principles could possibly make a big difference in the lives of people suffering from more complex conditions, like:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Esophageal reflux disorder syndrome
  • Erectile dysfunction syndrome
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain

The above conditions are actually some of the most common conditions for which people seek medical attention, and can be some of the toughest to treat. So a functional approach could be worth a shot, especially since these conditions are usually all about how the body’s systems work together. 

According to Amanda Malachesky, a functional nutrition coach based in Petrolia, California, “Functional medicine is helpful for anyone, but it is most useful for people who have been to many doctors, tried a lot of possible solutions, and are no closer to solving their health challenges.” That might sound familiar if you’ve struggled with something like chronic fatigue syndrome!

The Principles of Functional Medicine

person with an outline of a heart in front of the person
Functional medicine is patient-centered rather than disease-centered.

So let’s take a closer look at what it actually means to be treated by a functional medicine practitioner. During your first visit, they’ll take a detailed medical and family history, and ask you about your symptoms as well as your overall health before they consider treatment. And those treatments will generally be personalized plans that might seem a little “different” at first, since functional medicine practitioners usually hold off on prescriptions and surgeries until they have tried more holistic approaches. So that might mean, for example, looking at the possibility of a gut imbalance for mental health issues, and suggesting diet and movement changes in your lifestyle.

Again according to Malachesky, “Functional medicine works towards root-cause resolution, works to use tools and frameworks to help us identify these root causes … and honors each client or patient as a truly unique individual, and tailors recommendations and treatments to the individual…And while people often want to go straight to treating the root causes, functional practitioners begin always with the foundations of health: diet, sleep, exercise, stress reduction, and blood sugar management…”

To break it down even further, the Institute of Functional Medicine (IMF) lays out the following 7 defining characteristics of functional medicine:

  1. Patient-centered versus disease-centered
  2. Systems biology approach: web-like interconnections of physiological factors
  3. Dynamic balance of gene-environment interactions
  4. Personalized based on biochemical individuality
  5. Promotion of organ reserve and sustained health span
  6. Health as a positive vitality—not merely the absence of disease.
  7. Function versus pathology focused

If all of that sounds a little intense, the most important things you might want to focus on when considering this type of treatment approach is that it is “patient-centered” as opposed to “disease-centered” and that it considers being actively “healthy” more than just being free of disease. Sounds good – but is it “real” medicine? 

Who Practices Functional Medicine?

We can just feel some of you out there getting turned off, thinking that this is one of those fads that’s practiced by people with questionable training. But that’s actually not the case at all. Doctors who practice functional medicine are just that: “real” doctors who have been to medical school, and are fully licensed (but of course, always check to make sure that’s true for your doctor, no matter what their approach). They have simply decided to take a functional approach to their practice.

How do they do that? They need to take additional training that’s not offered in medical schools. To become certified in functional medicine, a healthcare provider must have already received a healthcare degree from an accredited university and hold up-to-date licensure in their area of practice, then they must complete coursework, generally through the IFM, which is currently one of the few training centers for functional medicine. Their coursework will be in six areas: gastrointestinal, detox, immune, hormone, cardiometabolic, and energy. They take exams, and need to retake exams every six years, as well as stay up-to-date with their licensure. 

When it comes to choosing a functional medicine provider, you just need to do your homework as you would with any provider – the only difference is you’ll also have to check if their certification in functional medicine comes from a reputable organization, like the IFM. 

And, since medical care is so expensive, and this type of practice might sound a little extra expensive, you might be wondering if insurance will cover it. In most cases, yes, because you would be seeing a “real” doctor for treatment. But, it is true that functional medicine practitioners might order a lot more tests than other doctors might, and they might refer you to specialists like nutritionists, so you could end up paying more out-of-pocket if your insurance company doesn’t cover everything.

Could It Be Right for You?

golden question mark
Functional medicine might be a good fit for you if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into how your body systems work together.

Functional medicine has been a thing since the early 1990s, and it is practiced by licensed professionals, so it is not, as we pointed out above, a new fad or a woo-woo practice meant to part you from your money. It really does seem to be meant to help you get to the root of what’s ailing you, and to treat you as a whole person, which can only be a good thing, especially if you’re suffering from a complex, chronic issue that doctors are struggling to find the correct treatments for. It also might be a good fit for you if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into how your body systems work together, in conjunction with your genetics, and having questions answered as opposed to just symptoms treated.

On the other hand, though, if you’re looking for a quicker fix for relief of your symptoms, or feel more comfortable starting a course of treatment with prescription medications (or other more traditional treatments), this type of practice might not be for you. Hey, in some cases, heading to the doctor, having them take a look, and sending you on your way with the right medication is the best thing for you at that time! 

So, however you choose to get treatment for whatever’s ailing you, make sure you feel comfortable with the care you’re being offered! And let us know: have you considered trying functional medicine, or have you tried it? What was your experience?

New Study Finds Possible Link Between Covid and Psychiatric Disorders

The past couple of years have been stressful for everyone. Many people have experienced social isolation, as well as the loss of loved ones and jobs, so it’s no wonder that so many are also dealing with mental health issues. But now researchers are linking Covid infection directly to psychiatric disorders, including psychosis. The long-term effects of having Covid are still being determined, but it seems that Covid patients are not only more likely to have long-term heart problems, but are also more likely to face mental health issues.

The Study

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), has revealed that Covid infection seems to be linked to long-term mental health issues. The study included 153,000 patients who tested positive for Covid in the Veterans Affairs health system between March 2020 and January 2021, none of whom had had mental health diagnoses or treatment within the 2 years before being infected with Covid.

silhouette of a woman sitting with her head in her knees and pieces of her withering away

The study found that after having Covid :

  • 39% of the patients were more likely to be diagnosed with depression compared with people who had not had Covid
  • 35% were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety in the months following their infection
  • 38% were more likely to be diagnosed with stress and adjustment disorders 
  • 41% were more likely to be diagnosed with sleep disorders

“The risk of incident mental health disorders was consistently higher in the Covid-19 group in comparisons of people with Covid-19 not admitted to the hospital versus those not admitted to hospital for seasonal influenza, admitted to hospital with Covid-19 versus admitted to hospital with seasonal influenza, and admitted to hospital with Covid-19 versus admitted to hospital for any other cause,” the authors wrote.

Growing Needs

illustration of a man pulling a string from a person's head
More people need mental health therapy because of Covid-19.

All of this is disturbing news, especially since the World Health Organization has reported that the pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide, and that 72% of mental health services for adolescents were halted between June and August 2020.

“I think greater awareness that this is happening is an important first step,” Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, the study’s senior investigator and Chief of Research and Development at the VA St. Louis healthcare system, told news site Salon by email. “I also think that health systems should anticipate this and build capacity to provide equitable care to people with mental health disorders. It is important to identify people early, and treat them to mitigate the development of much larger problems down the road (e.g. suicide epidemic, or another opioid epidemic).”

“The wave of people with mental health disorders is going to be hitting the clinics in the next year or two or three, as a result of Covid and as a result of the pandemic,” Al-Aly said.

Can ADHD Get Worse As You Age?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, often gets misdiagnosed in young people. While around 11% of children ages 4-17 in the U.S. have received a diagnosis of ADHD, studies show that this is just a small percentage of people who actually have ADHD. This misdiagnosis, and failure to treat ADHD, can end up causing bigger issues for people when they get older: those with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression. Symptoms can become worse after midlife, and continue to worsen with regular age-related cognitive decline. Don’t ignore the symptoms, speak to your doctor before your condition gets worse.

What ADHD Looks Like In Older Adults

An estimated 3% of older adults have been diagnosed with ADHD, although the number of those who are actually living with the condition might be higher. While some studies show that ADHD doesn’t necessarily get worse with age, and that some adults can outgrow their symptoms, this is not the case for everyone. In fact, some people will experience more severe or intense symptoms during their day-to-day activities when they get older, since the more stress you encounter, the worse your ADHD symptoms can get. That means adults with ADHD will need more support than the average aging adult.

When Do Symptoms Get Worse?

Symptoms of ADHD generally change during the transition from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood, again when a person enters midlife, and yet again during older age. Often, older adults with ADHD will have issues with things like:

older man with his head dispersing as puzzle pieces

  • Misplacing items
  • Forgetting words
  • Talking too much
  • Having trouble following conversations
  • Difficulty maintaining their home
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Memory issues
  • Not getting things done
  • Time-management challenges
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Poor nutritional habits

In addition, a 2012 study found that 62% of those with ADHD had at least one other disorder, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder

Eventually, if left untreated, ADHD can lead to serious mental health issues. Specifically, older adults with ADHD have an increased risk of developing depression and dementia. “Older people with ADHD who have never been diagnosed may suddenly fear that they’re developing dementia because they are absentminded and forgetful,” says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.

Managing & Treating ADHD

illustration of a head with scrambled brain and a person grabbing a rope from the brain and pulling
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help manage symptoms of ADHD as you age.

If you suspect that you have ADHD, speak to your doctor. The best way to help manage your condition is to seek treatment as soon as possible: the earlier you get help, the more manageable the condition is. You can do this by going to a support group, or attending cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy can help raise your awareness when symptoms occur, help you combat feelings of low self-esteem to reduce feelings of depression, and teach you how to cope with stress and increase productivity.

If you need more help, doctors can prescribe medications such as amphetamines and methylphenidate to help deal with ADHD. And in rare cases, doctors will prescribe antidepressants.

If you’re on Medicare, getting medications and therapy for ADHD will be partially covered, but you will still have out-of-pocket expenses, such as your Part B deductible and 20% Part B coinsurance, which can add up to a lot. It’s worth looking into a Medicare Supplement Plan to save as much money as you can, so speak to an EZ agent for all of your options. EZ’s agents work with the top-rated insurance companies in the nation and can compare plans in minutes for you at no cost. To get free instant quotes for plans that cover your current doctors, simply enter your zip code in the bar on the side, or to speak to a licensed agent, call 888-753-7207.

Supporting Mental Health: We’ve Come a Long Way, But We’ve Still Got a Long Way to Go

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a time, according to the World Health Organization, “to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.” And if it seems to you like we’ve all been thinking and talking nonstop about mental health since the start of the pandemic shifted all of our paradigms, you’re right – in a way. 2020 brought mental health issues into sharp relief as many of us struggled with loneliness, anxiety, and even depression, but we still aren’t really where we should be when it comes to supporting people in their struggles. To be honest, while things have gotten a whole lot better in the field of mental health over the past decade or so, we still have a long way to go when it comes to truly making our mental health as much a priority (and as little a taboo) as our physical health.

The Grim Statistics

When it comes to the state of mental health, and mental health care, in the United States, there’s good news and bad news, and we’re going to hit you with the bad news first. The state of mental health in America in 2021 is, well, not great: because some of the data we have for this year relies on what happened last year (the notorious 2020), we’re looking at a pretty grim picture, although mental health in the U.S. seems to have been deteriorating well before the pandemic hit. 

For example, just take a look at these stats:

graph with a red line going upward

  • In 2017-2018, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million people from the year before.
  • The percentage of adults in the U.S. who are experiencing serious thoughts of suicide increased 0.15% from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018  – an additional 460,000 people from the year before.
  • There is still an unmet need for mental health treatment among youth and adults: 60% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment in 2017-2018, and 23.6% of adults with a mental illness reported an unmet need for treatment in 2017-2018.

But, of course, the pandemic has made things even rougher:

  • 9.7% of youth in the U.S. have severe major depression, compared to 9.2% last year.
  • The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression skyrocketed in 2020: 315,220 people took a screening for anxiety, a 93% increase over the 2019 total number of anxiety screens. 534,784 people took the depression screen, a 62% increase over the 2019 total number of depression screens.
  • From April to September 2020, among people who screened with moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety or depression, 70% reported that one of the top three things contributing to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation.black and white picture of a young african american woman looking sad
  • African American screeners have had the highest average percent change over time for anxiety and depression, while Native American screeners have had the highest average percent change over time for suicidal thoughts.
  • In September 2020, over half of 11-17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks. From January to September 2020, 77,470 youth reported experiencing frequent suicidal ideation, including 27,980 LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Over 8 in 10 people who took an anxiety screening scored with moderate to severe symptoms in September 2020. Over 8 in 10 people who took a depression screen have scored with symptoms of moderate to severe depression consistently since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
  • 37% of people reported having thoughts of suicide more than half or nearly every day in September 2020.

All of this can seem overwhelming to think about, but the positive thing is that we are thinking about it, and there are things that are improving when it comes to mental health in the U.S.

How We’re Improving

Now, it’s time to look at the better news – and one of the biggest pieces of good news is that this data is so readily available, and that it’s being studied, discussed, and worried about. And that brings us to our first improvement:

The term “mental health” is not so stigmatized anymore

chalkboard with stop the stigma written on it in red
Mental health has come a long way and we have learned to destigmatize it, but some work still needs to be done.

For centuries, “mental health,” or any terms related to psychological health as opposed to physical health, have only been used to talk only about severe forms of illness, or have been highly charged and stigmatized. But these days, we can talk about “mental health” as one part of our overall health, and the term is more inclusive, including anything from as simple as taking care of yourself holistically to getting treatment for anxiety or depression.

Experts agree that bringing mental health out in the open has had a positive effect: according to Dr. Mark van Ommeren, a mental health expert who works with the World Health Organization, “Years of study after study showing that [mental health] conditions are common have created a snowball effect. Media has played a positive role here, as have influential people who are starting to speak more about their mental health, which helps to reduce the stigma.”

One way we still need to improve in this regard? According to Kryss Shane, a social worker and educator, “We continue to see mental healthcare as a response to problems, rather than something recommended for everyone as a way to improve life in general. If we are able to alter this understanding, it will not only further remove stigma, it will encourage people to seek out help before they are in crisis.”

The law has made mental health equal to physical health

The first decade of the twentieth century saw some extremely important changes to the way we treat mental health on a governmental level, which has greatly improved access for a lot of people. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 both put mental health on par with physical health when it comes to what’s covered. In fact, the ACA made mental health an “essential” healthcare benefit, meaning it has to be covered by all ACA-approved plans.

With that being said, though, people who need this type of care are still not always getting access to it, and supply often outstrips demand for mental health treatment, so we do still have a ways to go in this regard.

Technology is helping 

Here’s a true twenty-first-century improvement to access to mental health care: nowadays, we have ways to speak to a professional, or take time to focus on ourselves, that we never had before thanks to technology. For example, you can hop online and speak to a mental health professional through the use of telemedicine, download an app to chat with someone in that field, or even access apps that help you to meditate and recenter yourself. 

Again according to Dr. van Ommeren, “If you think of the conventional way of how people receive mental health support it would be once a week driving to the therapist and then going home. That takes time, but with telemedicine and meditation apps, people can do it from home in little bits. This is a reason for optimism. In this way, mental health support is being made more available.” 

Dr. Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health, adds: “Technology will continue to evolve as a way to deliver mental health care, ranging from stand-alone skills-based apps, to coaching, to interaction with licensed professionals.”

What You Can Do for Your Mental Health

So there is reason to be positive, when we see that we are at least taking steps toward improving things, but experts tell us we still have a long way to go, and the statistics bear that out. What else do we need to be doing? According to most experts, we need to be focusing on prevention, and taking care of ourselves and those we love. According to Dr. John Krystal, MD, chair of the Psychiatry Department at Yale Medicine, “As much as possible, as we expand the health literacy of Americans, we need to make sure that we also increase their understanding of mental illness and addiction. We can do a better job of early detection and early intervention when we do a better job of looking out for ourselves, our families, our friends and our co-workers. Stigma is what develops when we view a problem like depression or addiction as something that happens to others; stigma goes away when we appreciate that mental illness and addiction could happen to us and those that we care for.” 

That means that the one thing you can do right now to get us all moving in the right direction is to take care of your own mental health! Where to start? Try:an open journal with a heart in it written on one side be you and the other side "love yourself"

  • Valuing yourself, by treating yourself with kindness and respect, and avoiding self-criticism, as well as making time for your hobbies and favorite things to do.
  • Taking care of your body, and your physical health, by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
  • Surrounding yourself with a strong, healthy support network.
  • Volunteering your time and energy to helping others.
  • Learning how to deal with stress, and practicing good coping skills, perhaps by trying things like Tai Chi, exercise, hiking, playing with your pet, journal writing, or other relaxation techniques. Remember to also add laughter into your life, which can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body, and reduce stress.
  • Quieting your mind with meditation
  • Breaking up the monotony of life, even if it’s by making small changes.
  • Limiting your alcohol intake and recreational drug use.
  • Getting help when you need it.

When it comes down to it, physical health just seems so much more straightforward than mental health, and so much easier to get a handle on and make strides in, right? But we absolutely cannot ignore the mental health crisis we’re all facing as a society; remember, we’re all in this together, and while we have made great improvements, there is so much more we need to do – so start with you!

The Dark Side of the Rainbow: A Pride Month Spotlight on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

We’ve come a long way in a short time towards protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. In the last decade we’ve seen states outlawing conversion therapy for minors, banning biased coverage exclusions by health insurance companies, and allowing alternative gender expressions on identification and birth certificates. While the LGBTQ+ community is seeing legislative gains and political representation, there are still serious issues that need to be addressed. One of the most serious problems is the mental health crisis that is disproportionately affecting the youth of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Hidden Enemy

caucasian hand with black nail polish on the floor with pills in her palm and on the floor.
39% of LGBTQ youth and more than half of all transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered attempting suicide.

In 2019, The Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth, contacted over 34,000 individuals in the United States for the largest ever survey on LGBTQ mental health. This survey gives us a better understanding of the experiences of these teens, and the picture it paints is a disturbing one. 

  • 39% of LGBTQ youth and more than half of all transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months.
  •  71% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year
  • 2 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that someone has tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Children and teens who have undergone conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.
  • 71% of LGBTQ youth reported discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity

Let’s Talk About It

The numbers don’t lie – LGBTQ youth are suffering. They face bias in and out of the classroom, unsupportive home environments, violence, and an uncertain political climate, all while struggling with their own identities. According to the Trevor Project, 87% of respondents said it was important to them to reach out to people with knowledge of LGBTQ issues. One way adults can help lighten their load is to serve as a safe space to process their experiences. In fact, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation says that support from caring adults is the greatest protection LGBTQ youth can have from depression and suicidal feelings. silhouette of a woman and an adolescent girl sitting on a bench facing each other with a sunset in the background.

What these young people want, more than anything, is for a trusted adult to tell them it’s okay – they’re okay – and that they’ll get through this. You can be that person for your children, their friends, and your community by remaining compassionate and open to conversation. If you notice a young person struggling, reach out to them and ask what’s going on. Something as small as checking in can show them that you’re on their team, and that can make all the difference.

Raise Your Voice

Youth engagement in American politics is at an all-time high. It’s wonderful that so many young people are inspired to speak up about issues that matter to them, but the unfortunate fact is that only having social media as a platform doesn’t always lead to true change. So while we, as adults, can’t single-handedly push congress to pass protective legislation, we can lend our voice by voting in local and national elections, with LGBTQ+ rights in mind. We can call or write to senators, state representatives, and congress demanding action for equal protections for LGBTQ+ youth and adults. Locally, you can attend board meetings and advocate for GSAs, inclusive bathroom policies, and comprehensive sex education. Attending board meetings also gives you a platform to speak up if your school is allowing hostile environments and bullying. By amplifying their voices, we can give validation to their messages, show support and solidarity, and help impact real change to improve the experiences of LGBTQ teens. 

Right now, the statistics paint a bleak picture for the future of LGBTQ youth. If we act now, with openness and compassion, we can make their future brighter.

a bunch of palms facing together with red painted on them to form a heart.

Reach Out

  • The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.

  • The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Provides advice and assistance to runaways, including resources, shelter, transportation, assistance in finding counseling, and transitioning back to home life. NRS frontline staff will also act as advocates and mediators if/as needed.

The True Colors Fund is working to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth, creating a world in which all young people can be their true selves.

  • The GLBT National Youth Talkline: (800) 246-7743

An agency that provides telephone, online private one-to-one chat and email support from youth for youth.