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?

cross with flowers at church entrance

40 Days of Lent and My Own Personal Season of Disappointment

It has been a rough couple of weeks for me. There have been numerous disappointments over the past month. Things that I took for granted would happen, and then they didn’t.

Things that were a pretty big hit to my confidence and self-esteem. Things that were a hit to my faith.

I’m not talking about your casual, run-of-the-mill disappointment. I’m talking about the devastating feeling of being punched in the gut when you learned the news. I’m talking about the kind of disappointment that requires a mental health day (or two) off of work. The kind of disappointment that makes you think, “what’s the point!?”

Why would God let this happen? Why did he keep ignoring my prayers? Did he just forget about me, or did he not care about me anymore?

It’s been interesting because this season of disappointment and doubt has corresponded amazingly well with the season of Lent, which began on March 2 this year: Ash Wednesday.

I went to my first Ash Wednesday service this year. In the faith tradition I grew up in, we just didn’t observe Lent. I had never even heard of it until I went to college, when suddenly people were talking about giving up caffeine or chocolate for the 40 days before Easter.

I think some people feel very uncomfortable stepping outside of their own faith traditions, but I have found it beneficial to keep an open mind, and see if there is a potential spiritual benefit in partaking in other faith traditions. Lent is not even that far of a stretch for me, it’s still a Christian tradition, just not the brand of Christianity I was used to.

At our Ash Wednesday service, we sang hymns together and had a time of private and public confession of sin. It was a time to focus on our mortality, and our thankfulness that Jesus died for our sins. It was a time to be grateful for the grace of God.

I thought about giving up something for Lent, but nothing seemed right. I started out the season of Lent with a lot of hope, but found myself unfortunately collecting disappointment after disappointment. Our church had created a podcast especially for Lent, where members of our church shared prayers and Scripture and recited the Lord’s Prayer together. Many people talked about how much they loved the podcast, and how uplifting and meaningful it was for them to listen to it each morning.

But I found myself less and less able to listen to it as the weeks went by. I felt like my faith was failing as I watched and waited (and waited some more) for my prayers to be answered. And then they weren’t.

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