Aurora Offers Primary Care Physician Training on Behavioral Health

Identifying Mental Illness

  • Parents of a teenage son visit their primary care physician to find out why he is suddenly failing classes
  • A new mother sees her obstetrician because she has been sleeping all the time and has lost her appetite.
  • A man and his wife seek advice from the physician to find out why he is absent from work so frequently due to illness
  • A young woman makes a suicide attempt several days after seeing her physician for feeling lethargic and down

woman-in-crowdPeople with mental illness or addictions often seek help for physical symptoms. People with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or addictions typically are seen in primary care more than any other setting.  In a recent NAMI survey, 89 percent of families responded that they had discussed mental health concerns with their child’s primary care physician. Addiction, depression and other mental health problems can go undiagnosed  and untreated.  Primary care physicians can play a critical role in identifying a mental health or substance abuse issue and making appropriate treatment referrals.

Nearly one in 10 Americans 18 and older is depressed, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in the Oct. 1 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. One in four adults has a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Primary care providers have significant opportunities to identify behavioral health problems early and intervene in a manner that prevents further deterioration and avoids significant future costs. Screening and early intervention are priorities that may not only improve outcomes for individuals but also, over time, provide savings to the system.

In the primary care setting, physicians should look for signs of mental health problems, such as trouble sleeping and eating, experts say. In children, doctors should look for atypical behavior that begins suddenly, such as irritability or a drop in grades with a good student. Physicians should incorporate behavioral health screenings into wellness check ups for all patients, and routinely screen for depression, particularly with pregnant and perinatal women.

Mental Health America (MHA) believes that primary health care providers should be encouraged to identify signs of mental health or substance use issues at the earliest possible time. This position is also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and (for depression) the United States Preventive Services Task Force.

Training for Primary Care Providers

Aurora Behavioral Health Services, in partnership with Kubly Foundation, is offering on-line CME modules for primary care providers on the following behavioral health related topics:

If you or someone you know would benefit from addiction treatment or mental health services, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.

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Athletes and Eating Disorders; what parents and coaches need to know…

Elizabeth Hunkins is a therapist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Summit

Elizabeth Hunkins is a therapist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Summit

Sport activities offer such an array of benefits for individuals from improved confidence, self-esteem, social skills and healthy activity.  But when does having “fun” cross the line that places an individual at risk for possible eating disorder?

Competition in athletics can be a factor that leads to psychological stress, which increases risk factors for disordered eating patterns in males and females.  A study in 1992 found that 62 percent of females in sports suffered from eating disorders (mirror-mirror.org).  It is believed that since that study was completed that eating disorders among athletes continue to be on the rise.  Many parents, coaches and even physicians fail to recognize the signs of eating disorders in these individuals.  Athletes are at a greater risk of medical complication due to the demands they place on their body.

There are too many stories of athletes that have suffered from this disease. In July of 1994, top US gymnast, Christy Henrich died of multiple organ failure after a US judge told her she was “too fat and needed to lose weight to make the team”, and subsequently dropped to 47 pounds. She resorted to anorexia and bulimia, which eventually took her life.  Cathy Rigby, another Olympian suffered with this disease for 12 years and went into cardiac arrest two different times (mirror-mirror.org).  Not only is this happening on the elite level, it is happening on every level of competition in sports.

What are some early warning signs of an eating disorder in an athlete?

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Going to bathroom after meals
  • No breaks in weekly training (should have 1-2 days off per week)
  • Increased concern about body fat/calorie intake
  • Rigid behavior around food (refuses food groups, eating fat free/eating in isolation)
  • Social withdrawal from family and peers
  • Preoccupied with training/exercise and becomes upset if unable to workout
  • Will continue to workout even when ill/sick
  • Other areas in life becomes unmanageable (relationships, work, school)
  • Loss or irregular menses

Coaches need to educate themselves on the dangers of eating disorders and recognize early warning signs and intervene.  Education needs to be provided on healthy nutrition, and proper refueling.  Coaches need to be positive, encouraging and motivating; not harsh, negative and critical to athletes.  Parents should attend a training session to observe their child and the coach’s training.  A parent should not witness a coach pressuring their child to “WIN at any cost”.

Coaches should encourage athletes to develop a healthy routine with adequate emphasis on eating, hydration and life balance. Coaches should praise their efforts and their achievements.  If there are negative comments about an athlete’s appearance/weight and performance, then it is time to change coaches/programs for the well-being of the individual and seek assistance from a professional.

Liz Hunkins, LCSW is a therapist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Summit

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services