December 17, 2015

2015 a Year of Focus on Mental Health

By H. Steven Moffic, MD

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nationally renowned psychiatrist H. Steven Moffic, MD, a frequent guest on Talk Ten Tuesdays as its resident psychiatrist, provided audience members with a recap on mental health stories that made headlines this year during the most recent edition of the weekly Internet broadcast. Here is a transcript of his segment that aired on Dec. 15.

Chuck (Buck), I am honored. When you asked me for some closing comments about mental health in 2015, I couldn’t think of any better barometer than what you had asked me, as the resident psychiatrist, to talk about over the year. You have been a bastion in keeping not only psychiatric diagnosis as a concern, but also our mental health well-being in general.

Starting in early January, we covered the transgendered, a topic of both professional and personal interest for me. That was followed up in May by noting that variations in sexual preference and gender identity are increasingly being accepted as normal. We should note that at the end of this year, the New York Times last Sunday had a six-page cover story on the topic, titled “A Whole New Being.”

In February, we were concerned about the increasing burnout of physicians, about 50 percent, with reduced reimbursement being one of the threats. Then we had four special sessions on the potential joys of coding. Later in September, and in connection with the tragic killings of two news (reporters) in Virginia, we discussed workplace violence. We included a special poll on workplace anxiety related to the Oct. 1 transition to (ICD-10), and perhaps soon there could be a follow-up poll to see if the anxiety has decreased. 

In March, the news indicated that the murderer of the hero of the movie American Sniper likely suffered from PTSD. Later, in June, in a somewhat controversial segment on racism, we wondered whether the immediate forgiveness of some family members could prevent later PTSD. Racism, whether it reflects individual or social psychopathology, continues to plague our country.

In June, we discussed the trial of the Colorado movie theatre murderer, including his likely diagnosis of schizophrenia. Of note is that though some of the solo mass murderers had untreated mental illness, which is indeed potentially amenable by psychiatric treatment, terrorists seem to not have mental illness, but rather social deviance – like that of gang members, which takes a social and political strategy to address. 

Also in June, the sudden accidental death of the Nobel Prize winner John Nash, he of the movie and book A Beautiful Mind, reminded us that those with schizophrenia have some potential to recover. 

In October, we discussed Patrick Kennedy’s courageous new book on how the stigma of mental illness hurt his family and delayed his own treatment, also illustrating the need for more integrated care of psychiatry with the rest of medicine. 

Then, most recently in November, we did a follow-up to the suicide of Robin Williams. The update from his autopsy may explain more about his decision, revealing that he also had uncurable (as of now) Lewy body dementia.

You know, Chuck, that we do not yet have any international classification of health. If we did, we would look to some of the human potential for compassion, courage, and creative problem-solving that we’ve seen this year to overcome our more primitive fears that result in stigma, stereotyping, and undue stress. 

Angela Merkel, just announced as Time’s Person of the Year, has illustrated that, as have we at Talk Ten Tuesdays in our own sphere – as has Secret Santa, among others. 

Everyone can successfully transition to healthier states of mind and body, if not wealth, as I wish for all in 2016.

About H. Steven Moffic, MD

H. Steven Moffic, MD is a tenured professor of psychiatry and family and community medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Over his 35-year career, his academic focus has been on psychiatric ethics and cultural psychiatry. Clinically, he has focused on underserved groups. He currently is the lead monthly blogger for two psychiatric publications, Psychiatric Times and Behavioral Healthcare. He is also a popular regular guest on ICD10monitor’s Talk Ten Tuesdays.

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