One recent evening at Middletown’s Russell Library, a group of young millennials sat around a table in an out-of-the-way spot, sharing their experiences of debilitating depression and anxiety. “I think you just get to the point where you’re like, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore,’ ” said Old Saybrook resident Collin Schuster, 25, who has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. “The really important thing for me is to reach out for support.”
The session is one of more than 60 support groups offered by the Connecticut chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This one is specifically for young adults, age 18 to 29. Between 2014 and 2017, the prevalence rate for depression grew 31%, the largest increase of any health condition affecting millennials age 21 to 36, according to a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield report that examined those covered by commercial health insurance.
Jose DeJesus pulls his silver minivan out of a parking lot in back of a row of historic houses on New Haven’s Congress Avenue. He points with pride to the flowers he planted around the lot. Then he grimly spins a commentary as he gives a tour of the surrounding Hill neighborhood. • There’s the John C. Daniels School, where parents are dropping off kids and where a man overdosed and died near a rear stairwell over the summer. • Across the street, there’s the APT Foundation clinic, where clients in recovery from opioid use come every morning for methadone.
Among women, those who are low-income or minority are less likely to get treatment for depression, according to multiple studies. A report by the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership found that women were underrepresented in Medicaid-funded behavioral health services in the state even though research shows that women suffer from the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders more frequently than men. Racial and ethnic disparities, while still considerable, are decreasing in some physical illnesses. “But in mental health care, in the last 10 years, we see those disparities widening,” said Megan Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and in the Child Study Center in the Yale School of Medicine, who runs the Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership®, a program that offers mental health services to “overburdened and under-resourced mothers.”
In this podcast, sponsored by ConnectiCare, Colleen Shaddox discusses the hurdles to mental health care and the programs breaking barriers to care with Yale’s Megan Smith and UConn Health’s Dr. Sarah Nguyen. Lack of insurance coverage, the cost of treatment, a shortage of qualified clinicians, stigma and even fear of losing custody of their children can keep women from seeking help, Smith said.
Stephanie Almada’s journey to opioid addiction began with a prescription to relieve her premenstrual symptoms and accelerated after she had a cesarean section. “The pain pills came, you know, very quickly and I had bottles at home anyway,” she said. “And then it became energy for me. It became the way I coped with life.” Today Almada, 44, is a peer recovery specialist at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, where she helps women get off opioids. Americans are using opioids at record rates.
When it comes to alcohol advertisements, we could use an agreement similar to the one we have with Big Tobacco. But let’s put some punch behind it. Children are awash in media messages, and we keep missing opportunities to do the right thing. In 1998, then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal led the way for officials from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories to sign a Master Settlement Agreement with U.S. tobacco companies. In signing, tobacco companies agreed to stop marketing to young people, and the American Legacy Foundation was formed and began to discourage teens from smoking — often with edgy, hard-to-forget television ads.