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Category: Mental Health

The Greying’s Cognitive Dissonance: Bipolar Disorder Meets its Match

TheGreying

While metal/hardcore isn’t usually my preferred musical genre, I honestly can’t think of a more apt way to address (stalk, do battle with, and eviscerate) the horrors and confusion of bipolar disorder. Listening to The Greying, a Cape Cod/South Shore-based metal/hardcore band (imagine that), is a visceral experience. But these guys are no literary slouches. They just know their subject matter, and this isn’t the kind of shit that can be properly expressed in a polite pop song. And that is why they’ve blessed us with their Cognitive Dissonance EP. It was written by singer/songwriter Ryan Meehan, as a way to cope with his bipolar diagnosis.

Each of the five tracks focuses on a particular aspect of this bone-crippling, soul-destroying illness. The desperate rantings of singer Ryan Meehan’s exquisite suffering is driven hard by a raucous racket courtesy of Robert Carlson (guitars), Derrick Darmody (bass) and Noah deVeer (drums).

“Panic” starts out slow and menacing, snarling and grinding its teeth.

Panic comes in droves and circles ’round the carrion
memories that fester in the background.
Suffocate on words I should have spoken.
Sadness turns to rage.
I am broken.

“Regenerate” speaks (screams) of the difficult process of working through the pain in search of healing, and choosing life, however excruciating, over suicide.

Shed your skin
Destroy what’s underneath
Regenerate
Kill what you can’t create
Separate reality from fate
I must learn to settle for myself

“I must learn to settle for myself.” Amazing. It’s all about self-acceptance, which seems like such an easy, straightforward thing, but lordy, it’s not.

“Demons Run” is a charming little ditty about confronting the devil within and the demons without, while one questions/confronts God. Nathan Calcagno of Regime lends his bone-chilling growl for multi-dimensional effect.

No promises of damnation
Wretched hearts go screaming toward the void regardless
Watch the world fall through the hour glass
Demons run when you relinquish hell

Lord forgive me. I’ve done nothing.
Lived a life in fear your hand would come to strike me down.
Felt the fault break with shepards spewing hate
Left the herd before the sickness caught me.

There’s something in there as well about our current political climate, but I won’t go there. Nope.

“Dissociate” is about running away from reality and not confronting your fears, while “Paranoia” is about how one tries to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. One is left wondering if, at times, the “cure” might be just as bad as the illness. “Dissociate” closes with a harrowing scream that ends in a sardonic chuckle. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for living with bipolar disorder, whether it’s your own or a loved one’s, I don’t know what is.

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Learn more about bipolar disorder, and if you’re struggling, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos introduces new album and becomes an advocate for mental health

Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit; photo by Jean Claude B

Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit; photo by Jean Claude B

It’s brave to write from the heart and let strangers learn about your inner thoughts and insecurities. It’s braver still to openly discuss your life honestly, in an effort to help others. Michael Angelakos has “come out” (so to speak), shedding his front man role in Passion Pit and his focus on being a commercial artist to become a highly visible advocate for those with mental health issues. To coincide with the release of Tremendous Sea of Love, he has founded The Wishart Group, an artist-driven organization focused on developing “programs and services that better serve and promote the mental, physical, financial, and creative well-being of artists.”

The group will be bringing together professionals from all disciplines, from researchers and scientists to lobbyists and advocates, to generate funding for mental health research, develop healthcare for artists, support new therapeutic treatments for mental illness and more. To introduce this campaign, he has been sharing his personal struggles with bipolar disorder, including this interview with NPR.

Angelakos is putting his money where his mouth is. Royalties from the sales of the new album are being donated to the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From first creating Passion Pit in his Emerson College dorm room 10 years ago to realizing considerable success with their unique brand of romantically-tinged synth-pop (thanks in no small part to Angelakos’ dreamy falsetto), the band has come a long way, giving him a strong platform of support from which to champion mental health awareness. And that’s a very good thing indeed.

And the music? It’s classic Passion Pit, steeped in their distinctive sound that has won them an army of fans, from Boston to far beyond. It can be streamed via Apple Music and on Spotify, and is available on Amazon. This is the band’s fourth album.

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Poor Prognosis: The AHCA and America’s Mental Health Care

Prognosis_1000x473

[This article was originally published on The Depression Army blog. Thank you, Dr. R., for editing. Note – this was originally written May 29. Three and a half weeks later, the Senate has indeed written their own AHCA proposal, and their “discussion draft” can be seen here].

People who struggle day-to-day with a mental health issue don’t usually spend a lot of time following politics. When the world is closing in, it becomes necessary to shut out all that extraneous noise, push away the distractions and focus single-mindedly on one’s well-being. However, with a new administration comes proposed changes to the American health care system that may make it more difficult for the less wealthy among us to find adequate mental health support.

Difficult as it is to take in all the information, ignorance is not bliss. People who are struggling need to be informed about — and sometimes even stand up for — one’s basic right to decent mental health care.

Mental Health Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare)

On HealthCare.gov, the official site of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a mental health and substance abuse coverage page that clearly states the legal requirements of all ACA Marketplace health care plans. This includes behavioral health treatment (for example, psychotherapy and counseling), mental and behavioral health inpatient services and substance abuse treatment. Specifics depend upon where you reside and your health plan, but the law states that all ACA plans prohibit spending limits and must cover pre-existing conditions, which includes any mental illness. The ACA also provides “parity protections” for mental health services. This means that it enjoys the same protections as any other kind of health coverage in terms of deductibles, co-payments, out-of-pocket limits, treatment limits and care management.

In fact, there’s an entire government website devoted to mental health, with clear information about how the ACA has improved access to mental health services for many people, regardless of where they live and what type of plan they have. This official source says, “As of 2014, most individual and small group health insurance plans, including plans sold on the Marketplace, are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services. Medicaid Alternative Benefit Plans also must cover mental health and substance use disorder services. These plans must have coverage of essential health benefits, which include 10 categories of benefits as defined under the health care law. One of those categories is mental health and substance use disorder services.” In the ACA program, mental health care is seen as an essential health benefit.

Despite the improvements to mental health care since the ACA first went into effect in 2014, a study by researchers at NYU’s Langone Medical Center found that mental care access in the U.S. is still inadequate. Nearly one in 10 Americans who had mental health problems in 2014 didn’t have insurance that would allow them access to treatment. For approximately 10.5 percent of people, there were delays in receiving professional mental health treatment due to insufficient coverage, compared to 9.5 percent in 2006. In 2014, 9.5 percent of those suffering with mental health issues couldn’t afford to pay for psychiatric medications, up from 8.7 percent in 2006.

The AHCA – Just Passed by the House of Representatives

The American Health Care Act, passed by the House of Representatives on May 4, seeks to roll back federal guarantees of mental health coverage and substance abuse treatment, instead leaving it to the discretion of individual states. Under the new plan, states can also opt-out of requiring that insurers cover pre-existing conditions. Other Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) left to the states to provide or not provide include emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, rehabilitative services, chronic disease management, pediatric services and prescription drugs. The AHCA, as currently written, allows insurers in states that have opted out of covering EHBs to charge people more for their health insurance if they have pre-existing conditions.

What Do We Stand to Lose?

The ACHA bill leaves critical mental health care treatment and prescription medication coverage for poorer people up in the air. Depending on where you live, there may be state-provided financial assistance for psychiatric evaluations, counseling and potentially life-changing psychiatric drugs — or not. Should this bill go into effect, coverage that you’re currently receiving from your insurer, whether it’s through your employer or through the federal ACA marketplace, might go away. In a worst-case scenario, those families who need certain medical coverage for pre-existing mental health conditions may have to consider moving to a state where insurers will cover them. Unable to get proper care in their community, people with a serious mental illness are increasingly ending up in local jails, a sad development that is straining law enforcement. Mental Health America states that 1.2 million people living with mental illness are in jails and prisons every year. The Sentencing Project study referred to in the article found that six out 10 of those states with the least access to mental health care (Southern states) also have the highest incarceration rates.

The New Health Care Proposal: Here’s What Happens Next

As the House’s AHCA bill moves to the Senate for approval, the Congressional Budget Office(CBO) has issued their findings on the House’s proposed bill. The CBO estimates that the AHCA will leave 23 million more people without insurance by 2026 than if the ACA were to stay in place. They also discuss the dangers of leaving coverage decisions to the states. A CBO breakdown confirms that a state opting out of covering mental health care and prescription medicines, as well as pre-existing conditions, could cause out-of-pocket expenses to significantly rise for that coverage, leaving many priced out of the healthcare marketplace. The good news is that the U.S. Senate is unlikely to approve the House bill and in fact, they’re writing their own version. The bad news is that there are senators who may not heed the warnings in the CBO report.

What Can You Do?

First, don’t despair! There are many people who are aggressively fighting these radical changes to a healthcare system that, although flawed and in need of fixing, many people rely on. However, if you’re someone who is especially sensitive to mental health issues, it is imperative that you add your own voice to the choir of discontent. Indivisible is a nationwide organization that encourages people to take local action to express their concerns and tell their personal stories. Town Hall Project has an interactive database of town hall meetings by members of congress that constituents can attend. Add yourself to the mailing list of upcoming events in your area. If you’re unable to attend a meeting in person, you can also contact your senators directly to tell them how important mental health care coverage is for you and your family. You can also contact your House Representatives. When your representatives aren’t legislating in Washington, they should be back in their states to meet with their constituents. You can view the senate schedule and house schedule for 2017.

Above all, keep yourself well-armed with information! Important decisions are being made right now that could impact your mental health care and essential support services. If you believe that healthcare is a basic right, and that those living with mental illness should have the same rights as anyone else who suffers from a crippling affliction, Speak Out and Speak Loudly!

Your voice matters, and the voices of millions of sufferers will be heard in the voting booths!

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Was 2016 The Year Mental Health Came Out Of The Closet?

Mental Health in the News

Overburdened law enforcement, soldiers and PTSD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, celebrities coming forward and election anxiety

The stigmatization of mental illness and the tendency to push mental health issues under the carpet is far from over, but the conversation has begun. The year 2016 has been chock-full of news stories, discussions and public figures in solidarity or coming out of the closet with their personal struggles. Whether your daily news source is the local newspaper, network television, NPR or Facebook and Twitter, it’s hard not to notice that mental health issues have been popping up with great frequency. Read more on Medium.com >>

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