National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by Cody Randall, PA-C Psychiatric Services

Disparities in access to healthcare exist across all specialties. This proves to be especially true when it comes to mental healthcare, and even more so among minority populations.

A number of barriers exist for patients seeking mental health services including healthcare worker shortage, disparity of access to appropriate medical insurance coverage, stigma of receiving mental healthcare and the fragmented relationship of medical and mental health services. Healthcare providers/organizations can take practical steps to improve patient access by:

  • Making mental health screenings a staple component of primary medical care.
  • Recognizing the social/cultural aspects of a patient population that may impact a patient’s medical and mental health.
  • Medical organizations can conduct community health needs assessments (CHNA) in their patient communities to identify specific needs and limitations among the minority populations that they serve. In identifying these needs of their communities organizations and individual medical providers can help to ensure that patients of minority populations receive quality and affordable mental health services.
  • Working towards a more collaborative approach between medical and mental health practices/providers to reduce barriers to care.

A patient’s care is often more than just medication. The greatest care cannot help unless a patient has support/resources in place to provide them with access to this care and fundamental life necessities. 

For more information on National Mental Health Awareness Month as well as information on general mental health visit the Nation Awareness on Mental Illness (NAMI) at https://www.nami.org/home.

PTSD Awareness Month by Katelyn Millinor, LPC

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (known as PTSD) is when a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or traumatic event. Most people experience short term symptoms associated with PTSD such as trouble sleeping and flashbacks. This is known as an acute stress reaction and these symptoms will typically subside within a few weeks. However, in some individuals these symptoms can last much longer, even years. 

Long term symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving aspects of the event that happened.
  • Feeling on edge or overly alert.
  • Avoiding memories or feelings and difficult beliefs.
  • Experience hyper vigilance.
  • Nightmares.
  • Physical symptoms.
  • Difficulty with relationships, education, or employment.

A wide range of events can lead to symptoms of PTSD such as:

  • Car crash.
  • Assault or abuse.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • War.
  • Surviving a natural disaster.
  • Diagnosis of a life-changing medical condition or any other event where you fear for your life.

If you are an individual that may be experiencing PTSD, consider the following strategies: 

  • Get to know your triggers.
  • Confide in a friend, family member, or professional when you are ready.
  • Try peer support groups online or in person.
  • Keep up with your physical health.
  • Find specialist support such as a counselor or psychiatrist.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol to cope with difficulty feelings.

There are many behavioral health treatments available for individuals experiencing PTSD or PTSD symptoms such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). A behavioral health professional can help an individual process trauma in a healthy and effective way. There are also medication options to assist in alleviating symptoms. You and your behavioral health team can work together to decide which treatment will work best for you. NOAH has a team of medical and behavioral health professionals to support you on your journey to healing.

Mental Health Awareness Toolkit

Signs and Symptoms of Poor Emotional Health

Mental and emotional illness does not discriminate. It does not care how much money you have, where you live, your age, or the color of your skin. It effects all shapes and sizes of people all over the globe. Do not hesitate to reach out to our team in the event that you or your child are struggling. We are here to help!

Please reach out to us if you or your child experience:

  • Consistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • More than usual irritability, anger, aggression or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to love
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Unusual restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Excessive fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating due to racing thoughts
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Self-Mutilation (e.g. cutting / burns)
  • Declining grades in school or performance at work
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug (illegal and legal drugs) use
  • Neglect in hygiene and other matters of personal appearance
  • Emotional distress which brings on physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines, etc.)
  • Risk taking behaviors
  • Suddenly giving away favorite belongings or promising them to friends and family members
  • Extreme cheerfulness following periods of depression
  • Expression of bizarre or unsettling thoughts

At NOAH, we offer behavioral health consulting and traditional outpatient counseling programs and services where these highly skilled and trained behavioral health staff work alongside our medical and dental teams to assess, diagnose and effectively treat the core-symptoms of our patients.

The World Seems Scary – Coping with Anxiety by Andres Jaramillo, LPC

We all have things that make us feel anxious like giving a presentation or having a job interview but it may seem like in our daily life more and more we encounter extreme, awful, or scary things. It makes it easier for our minds to come up with negative, worst case scenarios that end up turning up the volume on anxiety.

What is anxiety?
It is a normal feeling we experience when we predict that something bad could happen.

Living in today’s constantly connected world, the possibility of something scary, awful, or threatening can pop in our head by just turning on the news or driving our kids to school.

Try these 3 things to turn down anxious feelings so you can continue doing the things you want to do.

1 – Relaxed body is tied to relaxed mind. Even seeing or hearing about awful, scary things – perhaps the news on the latest epidemic – can cause the “fight or flight” response to turn on. Our body makes physical changes like increased heart rate, sweating or tense muscles so it can be prepared to fight or run away from the danger.

When we do activities to purposely deactivate our fight or flight response, or relax our body, our mind plays follows the leader.

Try this, notice: 

  • 5 things you can see – notice shapes, colors, brightness, shadows.
  • 4 things you can hear – notice pitches, volumes, tone.
  • 3 things you can feel/touch – notice textures.
  • 2 things you can smell – notice hints of sweetness, bitterness, pungent, etc.
  • 1 thing you can taste – notice hits of spicy, sweet, sour, etc.

Notice and observe things you have never paid attention to before. Maybe say what you observe out loud, or just to yourself. You can mix it up anyway you like, perhaps you are at a restaurant and you can taste 5 things, or smell 5 things. It is just about using your senses in a purposeful, intentional way. By getting out of your head and engaging your body in a slow, mindful activity it is pretty much impossible to focus on the image that turned anxiety up in the first place.

2 – Remind yourself: What you feel is not always true. I feel like I am going crazy! Perhaps you’ve said something like this to yourself and if we are going to turn down the volume on anxiety, we need to challenge how our feelings “prove” that something is going to happen.
A quick peek at your latest social media feed and you see a story about a family who had a burglar break in their house and murder three people. Quickly shock, fear, horror, or sadness fills your experience. It is valid that you may feel that way but the mind, in its amazing abilities, will use those emotions as proof to make a conclusion that may not be true.
I feel scared so that means something bad is going to happen!

Try this:

  •  Take a few deep breaths – deep enough to see your stomach area expand and contract.
  • Acknowledge you are feeling scared – is it a knot in your stomach? Is it racing thoughts?.
  • Take a few more deep breaths.
  • Focus on the facts.

Facts themselves don’t increase anxiety, the perception that it could be a threat does. By placing time and breathing between what you saw/heard and making any decisions, you allow the intensity of the anxiety to subside like the tide on a beach. You will have a better chance to be calm and focus on the facts not the “coulds.”

3 – Accepting the unpredictable but be prepared. You can’t really know if someone will break in to your house, or use a gun in a violent way, or if you will catch the new virus going around but perhaps we can be prepared the best we know how.

If you have noticed that the news, your social media, or stories you heard from friends have increased your anxiety, you went through 1 and 2 above and you still feel uneasy, then maybe prepared action is the next step.
We have active shooter drills, we get trained in CPR, and we wear our seat belt with the mindset of accepting that we will never know IF something bad could happen and just being prepared anyway.

Have a plan:

  • Create a plan for what you and your family would do if [insert awful situation] happened.
  • Talk with your workplace to double check emergency plans.
  • Have a chat with your children’s school to understand what plans they have.
  • Talk with your doctor about your health concerns.
  • Join a neighborhood watch group.
  • Take a self-defense class.

By moving your focus from “What if’s” to accepting that life is unpredictable and doing your best to be prepared will increase your confidence and readiness just like when we plan and study for what we will say in a presentation or practice for our job interview. If we feel confident and ready, there is no room for anxiety.

Everyone experiences anxiety and yes, it is normal. If we have certain tools, like the three above, we can get through any situation that raises our anxiety and be ok even in today’s hectic, scary world.

An important note: Daily, normal anxiety is different than having an anxiety disorder.

If the anxiety you feel is unmanageable, has been going on for more than two weeks, and it is interfering with your daily life or relationships than perhaps you can think about visiting with a mental health professional and figuring out a best course of action.

6 Anxiety and Panic Coping Skills by Katelyn Millinor, LPC

Now more than ever, our world as we know it has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. For many, coping with change is hard enough, let alone the emotions many may face such as fear and anxiety due changes in daily routines. Added stress from job loss and inability to cover expenses, illness, and/or loss of a loved due to COVID-19 may cause anxiety and panic. Learn 6 tips to help you cope with these emotions and check out some of our highly recommended apps that may help decrease your anxiety during this uncertain time.

Breathing slowly and deeply. Anxiety can cause you to breathe very quickly, which makes both the mental and physical symptoms of a panic attack or generalized anxiety even worse. When you start to feel panicky, be sure to take slow, deep breaths to soothe your mind and body. Be sure to breathe using “belly breathing” also known as diaphragmatic breathing.

Stop and think. When your thoughts start spinning out of control, simply tell yourself to stop. Organize your thoughts and decide what you need to do to get yourself calm again. This is a way to interrupt thoughts and refocus.

Think positively. Push negative thoughts out of your mind, and remind yourself that you are in control. Think about times when you’ve been able to manage situations successfully and reduce anxiety. Stay in the present moment.

Take a break. If you need to leave a situation, do so or tell someone you need to leave. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Allowing yourself to become more upset will not help if what you really need is to take a walk and blow off some steam. Allow yourself to have space as needed.

Relax your muscles. Anxiety causes your entire body to tense up, so make a conscious effort to relax each muscle from your toes all the way up to your neck and face. This will alleviate feeling tense.

Get physical. Exercise can combat stress and anxiety. It can also improve your overall health and immune system. Even a brisk walk can help.

Tips to remember:

  • Deep breaths.
  • Self-care.
  • Adequate sleep.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk to yourself.
  • Acknowledge your feeling.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Lavender hot baths.
  • Cut back caffeine/nicotine/alcohol.
  • Stay present.
  • Good nutrition.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Slow down.
  • Picture your ‘safe place.’
  • HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired).
  • Close your eyes

Apps to help with anxiety:

  1. Calm.
  2. Worry Kit.
  3. Breathe2Relax.
  4. Panic Relief.
  5. MoodFit.
  6. Headspace.
  7. What’s Up.
  8. Happify.

Even Tow Trucks Sometimes Need a Tow

Have you ever seen a tow truck on the side of the road?  Of course you have!  …But have you ever seen a tow truck on the side of the road about to be towed by another tow truck?