three faces, sad, nonchalant, and happy

Anxiety Screenings – Helpful Or Not???

You may have seen in the news earlier this week that a health panel (specifically the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force) recommended that all adults under age 65 get screened by their doctors for anxiety. This comes on the tails of COVID, inflation, and the rise of crime (among other things) that have left many in our country (and the world) feeling a lot more anxious.

The Task Force cited a study which showed that between August 2020 and February 2021, adults with symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders increased to 41.5% from 36.4%.

Initially that doesn’t seem like a huge increase to me (about 5%), but the fact that over 41% of adults may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression does seem concerning in its own right.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to asking (or requiring) doctors to perform anxiety screenings on their patients. So let’s take a quick look at both sides of the issue:

PROS

  • Screenings could help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years
  • Standard screenings help to reduce the stigma of mental health – it would just be another thing to get checked out annually like any other health issue
  • Standard screenings could help “combat the effects of racism, implicit bias, and other systemic issues in the medical field” (you can read more about mental health disparities among people of color in this New York Times article)

CONS

  • Screenings alone will not solve a mental health crisis – patients who get flagged as being “at risk” would need other interventions and could not be forced to get treatment
  • Some worry that screenings may primarily favor doctors and healthcare providers financially if there is an uptick in diagnoses
  • Some doctors expressed concern that adding “one more thing” to their already long checklist for physical exams is not practical or doable – there are also staff shortages to consider

As a mental health advocate, I am in favor of making anxiety screenings (or more broadly, mental health screenings) a standard practice for all adults and children. But I understand the logistical problems with carrying that out, and I also understand the fear that it may allow the medical community to take advantage of people (due to over-diagnosing or over-prescribing medications).

I am also aware that mental health treatments like therapy are expensive, and that unless there’s a more cost-effective way for everyone to have access to that service, it may not be realistic for everyone.

The problems with increasing mental health services are real and something that need to be considered, but my hope is still that more and more people would be proactive in taking charge of their mental health – and standardizing screenings could be one way to help accomplish this.

What are your thoughts on the Task Force’s recommendation? What other pros and cons have you heard about the issue?

picture of book Acne: A Memoir (by Laura Chinn)

Can Our Emotions Cause or Cure Acne?

The other day I was walking around in downtown Abilene, and outside of one of the stores was a table of books. As any librarian and/or book lover would do, I paused to glance over the titles. Only one book really caught my eye:

Acne: A Memoir

I loved the simple design of the cover, light pink with varying sizes of red dots sprinkled all over it. It seemed like a no-brainer for me – I love memoirs, I love reading… I don’t love acne, but unfortunately it has had quite an impact on me and my story.

I scanned the book for a price, and suddenly saw a sign that said “Free books: Limit 1 per customer.” Free book??? Even better.

I had no idea what this book was really going to be like, but when I came to this paragraph on the second page, I knew I was going to like it:

“After genocide, nuclear war, famine, slavery, and child abuse, acne is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. Okay, fine, maybe cancer is worse, and probably a bunch of other stuff, but acne is bad, really bad, and if you haven’t lived though it then… honestly, go f*** yourself.”

— Laura Chinn (p. 2)

I laughed out loud when I read that last part! It was so honest and real. If you’ve never had bad acne, you will think these sentiments are crazy exaggerations. If you have struggled with bad acne, you’ll know that during your lowest points of dealing with red spots all over your face, you literally do feel like this sometimes.

My experience with acne is something that deeply affected me, more than I ever knew until I really started doing some reflecting upon the experience in my 30’s. It affected my body image (I stopped thinking I was pretty, and in fact, was convinced that because of acne scarring I could never be beautiful again), my idea of my own self-worth (I questioned why anyone would want to be friends with someone as ugly as me), and my mental and physical health (I had a few years of extreme dieting when I was trying to find the perfect diet to “cure” my acne, and instead ended up losing so much weight that my period stopped).

Acne is no joke.

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mural "You are exactly where you need to be"

Exactly Where You Belong

A few weeks ago as I was walking across my university’s campus to go to my Tuesday yoga class, I noticed these words written on the sidewalk in chalk: You are right where you belong.

"you are right where you belong" in sidewalk chalk

I knew that these words had been written for the incoming freshman to make them feel more welcome, but I honestly felt like they were written for me too.

I’d been struggling over the past few months with feeling like I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, or if I was going down the right path. I’d been laser-focused on accomplishing certain goals, and I had been failing at achieving them. For over two years now, I’ve thought I was going to have another baby – but infertility struggles have prevented that so far. Failure. At the beginning of 2022, I had a specific career path in mind, and even interviewed for a job I felt like I would be perfect for, but ended up not being chosen for it. Failure.

If you follow my blog, you know that what ended up happening with my job was that I worked with my boss to find a better fit at my current place of employment, and it’s been a really great change for me. And if I hadn’t been rejected by the other place I interviewed at, I would have never even considered moving to my current department. (I’m still in Library-land, now working in the Special Collections and Archives department.)

The unexpected job change still kind of rattled me though. (In a good way.) I had been so sure that I was going to be working at a different place, or possibly having another baby, that I never allowed myself to consider other possibilities. I had been stuck in a season of waiting, instead of a season of truly living. And I needed to be rattled in order to me to make me realize that.

It’s hard to give up on dreams – maybe “give up” is too strong of a phrase. It can be hard to simply have your dreams change. It sort of feels like a shift in identity. But I’m trying to lean in to the place where I’m at, and make the most of it.

As I go about each day, I’m trying to believe that I’m exactly where I need to be – that the people I interact with and the places I go are purposeful and important. That they are integral parts of my journey, and that someday I’ll look back and be able to see that so much more clearly.

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