Recently, courtesy of Hersteltalent on Twitter, I came across this newspaper article: Doctors Urge Mental Health Screenings with Physicals. It appeared in USA Today, and was written by Jessica Contrera of the Lafayette, Indiana Journal and Courier. Dateline March 12.
The gist of the article, which is written for the general public, is that when you go in to your doctor for a check-up, you should ask for a mental evaluation as well. The article reminds us that “25% of American adults suffer from some form of mental illness each year.”
We are also informed that many people “attempt to cope” with these illnesses for an average of 10 years. This factoid is attributed to an organization called Mental Health America.
The author also tells us that “a new study from the University of Cambridge suggests everyone should get their mental health checked as often as they have an annual physical” (which I suppose would be once a year?)
Patti Wollenburg, executive director of NAMI, is also quoted:
“People shouldn’t be apprehensive about going to a psychiatrist,” Wollenburg said. “Mental health is just as important as physical health. You just need to take care of both.”
I tried to track down the “new study from the University of Cambridge,” but without success. The Great Google, however, did point out that the exact same phrase occurred in another article – this one by Rick Nauert, PhD, Senior News Editor for PsychCentral. It’s called: Mental Health Checkups as Important as Annual Physicals.” Dr. Nauert provides a little more information on the “new study.” He intimates (without actually stating) that it was written by Barbara Sahakian, “a leading UK neuroscientist.” Dr. Sahakian is quoted as saying:
“As a society, we take our mental health for granted…. But just like our bodies, it is important to keep our brains fit.”
(Note the neat slide from “mental” to “brain.”) Dr. Sahakian is also quoted as saying:
“We need to educate the public about what to look for and make them aware of the importance of early detection and intervention.”
Later in Dr. Nauert’s article, he mentions Dr. Sahakian’s “presentation,” so perhaps it was a lecture rather than a paper. In any event, I can’t find any recent paper by Dr. Sahakian on this subject. I have written to Dr. Nauert asking for a reference, but have not heard back.
Readers might be interested to know that Mental Health America, in the first half of 2011, received $346,850 from pharmaceutical companies. (I have been unable to find more recent figures.) This was 90% of the total funding listed on their website.
NAMI, of course, has been supported by pharmaceutical money for years.
And Dr. Sahakian, in another paper (“A UK strategy for mental health and wellbeing” – May 2010) acknowledges that she “consults for … several drug companies.”
Of course the fact that people and organizations are in the pay of pharmaceutical companies doesn’t necessarily mean that this contaminates their views.
But…what I see in all this is yet another pharma marketing ploy. Perhaps next they will put toys in cereal boxes with the words “Remember to ask Mommy to take you for your mental health check. 🙂 ” Or how about mandatory mental health screenings before newborns can be removed from the hospital?