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Ask the Experts

Question:

Having a mental illness makes one more likely to have a medical condition. This is due to numerous reasons, genetics, stress, medications, and probably because medical conditions are frequently overlooked when your mentally ill. This needs to change!

Are there advocacy groups that fight for thorough medical workups for all of the mentally ill? Psychiatrists need to instead of just focusing on trying to find the perfect cocktail of medications for their patients, or delving into strange psychobabble ideology; incorporate other fields of medicine into their treatment regiment; especially, when previous treatments have proven to be unsuccessful.

Psychiatrist should be well rounded physicians especially in fields that can effect mental health like neurology, infectious disease, gastroenterology, cardiology, etc. The treatment of the mentally ill needs to change.

Answered by: Peter Shapiro

The effects of having a mental illness on one's general health can vary greatly, but there are numerous ways in which the mentally ill may suffer worse overall health status.

They may have poorer access to good screening and treatment services, more risk factors for developing medical problems (e.g., smoking is more common in the mentally ill than in the general population), or side effects from their treatments (e.g., some antipsychotic medications may exacerbate problems with blood sugar control).

Stigma and prejudice about mental illness sometimes prevent patients from receiving appropriate care. The American Psychiatric Association and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill are two organizations that have taken strong positions advocating for appropriate treatment and access to treatment for the mentally ill, appropriate training for psychiatrists, and organization of mental health treatment programs to provide optimal care.

Nevertheless, this is an ongoing problem and to some degree a political issue, because many mentally ill patients receive care in facilities that are underfunded. Adequate public financing of optimal mental health care that integrates good medical care is an important and unmet goal that requires political action.