When Did the Brain Become Disconnected From the Body?

Opinion.jpgMental health is often a taboo subject. It is a hushed topic for behind closed-door discussions and definitely not something for public consumption. Take look at any health insurance policy and you will see the unspeakable nature of these types of illnesses first hand. Most policies set limits on the amount of care a patient can receive in a calendar year. A good policy could contain 20 to 30 visits, however many do not cover this type of care at all. While many other medical conditions also have limited coverage, most requiring intensive care are covered. Surely, a heart condition would not have a yearly limit in care and an ear nose and throat doctor’s services would most likely be covered, but for some reason, mental illness is not seen as a medical condition worthy of normal policy coverage.

Somewhere along the way, health care providers and insurance companies have disconnected the brain from the rest of the body. They have made mental illness a condition and not a true medical illness, using the terminology disorder but not disease. If you asked a diabetic to stop treatment and go off all medication, yet still live a normal life, it would be simply absurd. They would have severe reactions to this disruption in their care and could end up having very serious complications because of it.

Quite often, patients with mental illness are made to feel that their illness is inferior to other serious medical problems. In reality, treating a mental illness can take years of therapy and adjustments in medication before an adequate treatment is realized. And more often than not, this extensive care mounts huge medical bills that are rejected by insurance providers. In order to make strides in the treatment of mental illness, much education is needed.

One important thing to remember when discussing mental illness and the problems associated with various disorders, it is to use the same terminology that would accompany a discussion on any other medical illness. If a heart patient has a blocked artery, they will have shoulder pain, chest pressure, general weakness, shortness of breath and various other symptoms that will lead a doctor to the correct treatment plan. In the same manner of thinking a patient with a mental illness will elicit various symptoms that should lead a doctor to treat a chemical imbalance.

The sooner the general public views the problems associated with mental health issues as symptoms rather than behaviors, the closer it will be to reconnecting the brain with the rest of the body and receiving the proper long term care needed to assist the thousands of people who so desperately need the proper treatment.

  • Scott

    I heard from a friend (who is in the mental health industry) that medical schools spend little to no time teaching mental health issues in family medicine. I think one of the main reasons why there is such a stigma against mental illness is because doctors are just as naive and uneducated about mental illnesses as the general public.

    Now that it has become somewhat “acceptable” to have some mental illnesses, mainly depression, I think that has become glaringly obvious how badly the medical community is lagging behind their patients’s needs. Rather than working with their patients to diagnose their mental illnesses and work on treatment plans, most doctors just whip out the prescription pad and prescribe the latest trendy antidepressant.

    It should be no wonder why insurance companies are reluctant to insure for mental illnesses. They probably don’t know anything about them. I wonder if their clients, i.e., the corporations who pay the premiums on insurance plans, were aware of the true costs of mental illness (and the impact on the bottom line from absenteeism and performance issues), and how far behind the medical community has fallen in treating MI, they would not put more pressure on insurance companies to provide proper funding for treatment of mental illness. There are some companies in Canada that seem to be leaning in this direction, but there needs to be a major change in how we measure and understand the impact on mental illness on society.

    However, the problem really comes back to the doctors. Until medical schools start to take mental illness seriously, it will never be given the same credibility as heart diseases or cancer.

  • You are SO right! It is like they think the brain is not located in the same ROOM. And it matters – for family support, for insurance, for law enforcement, for public knowledge.

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  • jon.work

    This is way too much, 20, 30 visit. The patients do not come so often, although they should come more often than that. Both doctors and pharmacists say that a healthy body and mind will be achieved if people come to consult at least 30 times a year and if they are in pain or have different illnesses they should come as often as the doctor tells them.

  • Elisa

    The last paragraph was brilliant.

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Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, MEd, MS, FAAN

Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, MEd, MS, FAAN, is a board-certified neurologist and pain specialist, medical educator, and scientist. He is the executive director of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation (GNIF). He is a published scholar in biomarkers, biotechnology, education technology, and neurology. He serves on the editorial board of several scholarly publications and has been honored by the U.S. President and Congress.

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