Which Mental Health Concerns do Americans Worry About Most?

Which mental health concerns do Americans worry about most?

Which mental health concerns do you worry about?

Which mental health concerns do people worry about most in the United States? Why do we stress, and what do we stress about?

According to a recent study, more fellow Americans consistently suffer from mental and emotional distress. Unfortunately, many of them are unable to access adequate treatment, in spite of governmental efforts over the last 10 years to reduce such gaps in coverage.

The journal Psychiatric Services has analyzed interview data from census interviews and in 2017 estimated more than 3 percent of the U.S. population (in excess of 8 million Americans), suffer from what’s known as serious psychological distress (SPD). The term has been used to define feelings of worthlessness, despondency, and sadness dangerous enough to interfere with someone’s overall well being. Before the Psychiatric Services study, surveys have gauged SPD at around less than 3 percent.

SPD is more of a colloquial term than a medical diagnosis, though it overlaps significantly with clinical conditions like depression and anxiety. The survey consists of six questions, posed to participants in conjunction with an annual general health survey that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct. Every year the survey reaches over 35,000 households nationwide, and over 200,000 adults from several socioeconomic backgrounds.

Let’s discuss the implications.

Mental Illness in the U.S.

Research continues to indicate that reliable mental illness predictors remain difficult to pinpoint, even for common disorders such as depression. One factor that seems to lead many Americans into feeling depressed and anxious is an excess of free time with relatively few pressing demands. Interestingly, people  in less-developed countries are generally less depressed overall than we are in the U.S. For people in different parts of the world who are frequently in “survival mode,” dwelling on depressive feelings seems to take a back burner to more urgent demands. Based on this finding, one might argue that we’re “too comfortable”!

Over any given year, as many as 27 percent of American adults will go through some sort of mental health issue, making the U.S. the country with the highest prevalence of mental illness. Such disorders include anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mood disorders, and substance abuse.

During a typical lifetime, the average American has a 47.4 percent chance (nearly one in two people) of having any kind of mental health disorder. For projected lifetime prevalence, the odds are stacked even higher: for those who reach age 75, chances can go as high as 55 percent.

What are the Most Common Mental Illnesses in the U.S.?

Mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, dysthymic (persistent depressive) disorder, and major depression are the most prevalent mental illnesses in the U.S.:

  • 7 percent of adults will experience one of these disorders during a given year, and over 21 percent will experience one of them during a lifetime.
  • Women are 50 percent more likely to suffer from mood disorders than men.
  • About 19 percent of all American adults will go through some sort of anxiety disorder this year, but this number jumps to around 31 percent during a lifetime.

Mental Illness Continues to be a Problem

What mental health issues are people in your state most concerned about? That depends upon where you live.

The modern “American” lifestyle involves “burning the candle at both ends” : constant stimulation, working overtime, and “keeping up with the Joneses: all continue to be formidable challenges for those struggling with mental health issues. As awareness increases, we turn to the one source of information we feel we can rely upon: Google.

There is an abundance of information available online, and it continues to be important to review as information from as many perspectives as possible. It’s also helpful to seek expert opinion when necessary.

What Credible Mental Health Sites Indicate

Life insurance provider TermLife2Go accessed mental health-related sites such as MentalHealth.gov and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  to compile a list of the most common mental health conditions researched on Google, along with corresponding symptoms and stressors. The results were later run through Google Trends to pinpoint mental health concerns by state around the country between 2018 and 2019.

What are our mental health concerns?
Image courtesy of TermLife2Go

 

Some Discoveries

Right off the bat, major depressive disorder, internet addiction, and memory loss tied for the most Googled mental health concerns in America.

Other findings include:

  • Arizona, Maryland, and South Carolina were concerned about “stress at work,” while those in Georgia and Pennsylvanians researched “stress headaches.”
  • “Seasonal affective disorder” was the most Googled concern in Alaska, where days at a time can pass in the wintertime without even a glimpse of the sun.
  • Utah and Louisiana were wanting to know more about postpartum depression. As for Utah, the CDC typically ranks the state in the top ten for highest birth rates.
  • Massachusetts, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington worried about possible internet addiction, while Missouri was concerned about social media habits.
  • Alcoholism is the top mental health concern for those in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Moving Forward With Your Mental Health Management

Do your research and find out what you can about managing mental illness if you need to. Individuals can manage many mental health issues, but often they become overwhelming and seemingly unmanageable. This is when you might seriously consider seeking out a mental health professional.

What are your biggest mental health concerns? Leave us a comment below!

What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

 

7 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Boost Your Mental Health… Naturally

what can i do to feel better right now

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“What can I do right now to improve my mental health?” You may have asked yourself this more than once. Life comes at you fast, and some days can feel like a real uphill battle.

Sometimes external things like traffic, a difficult coworker, your significant other, finances can leave you feeling run ragged. Other things become internal stressors, like anxiety, depression, and excessive stress itself.

Internal battles can be stressful and scary, and sometimes they can leave us drained and feeling flat.

Why does feeling happy feel like so much work sometimes?

Happy and fun feelings aren’t always spontaneous. One thing you should always remember: Keep on doing things you enjoy, even if they feel like hard work. Keep in touch with friends. Meet them for dinner. Keep up with all your favorite movies and shows.

Mental illness often robs you of your “enjoying life” skills. But the good news is, it never has to be permanent. You have to relearn how to do it from time to time. Eventually, things will normalize and you can go back to feeling like yourself again.

There are no magic bullets to immediately relieve depression, stress, or anxiety. But, Mental Health Awareness month is just around the corner, so what better time to pick up some powerful new habits? Let’s walk through some things you can do RIGHT NOW to improve your positive outlook and boost your state of mind:

  1. Get your body movin’. Exercise boosts your endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and over time, it can sustain your good moods longer. It helps you reprogram your brain into positive patterns.

Again, start simple… just walking for 45-60 minutes or so a few times a week will be enough to help you feel accomplished and good about yourself.

  1. Be good to yourself. Speaking of your body, make sure you are:
  • Getting adequate sleep every night (6-8 hours). To help with this, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and avoid naps. Get your computer and TV out of your room. Before long you’ll notice your sleep improving.
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking
  • Eating a balanced diet and minding portion sizes (stay away from junk food, and go for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, as well as foods rich in folic acid like avocado and spinach). If you binge eat or overeat when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, getting a better handle on your eating will help you feel better about yourself.
  1. Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals. Depression leaves you feeling like you’re worthless and can’t do anything right. Prove that negative self-talk wrong. Start with small S.M.A.R.T. goals like cleaning and organizing your desk, cleaning out your car, fixing or building something as a hobby.

A S.M.A.R.T. goal is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound. (e.g., “I will clean out my car (or organize my desk), and vacuum it this Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.”)

As you get better and gain momentum, you can start tackling more challenging things. Make a game out of it.

  1. Say “No!” to negative thinking. In your struggles with anxiety and/or depression, much of the battle is mental, and you’ll learn that to win, you need to reprogram the way you think about yourself. Whenever you immediately jump to the worst-case scenario in your head or keep thinking about what a failure you are… You’re a fighter, right? Learn to recognize and logically challenge each one of those thoughts for what they are: just passing thoughts. You’re under no obligation to believe every single thought that passes through your mind.

What evidence do any of these thoughts have, anyway? Over time and with practice, you’ll get in a more consistent habit of sending those negative thoughts off running. And you’ll be in better control of your self-image.

  1. Get yourself into a routine. Depression is often described as the result of feelings of helplessness and despair. You don’t know what to do, and what’s worse, you don’t even know if you care enough to keep on trying. You feel a lack of meaning, purpose, and structure. You feel out of control. If you’re feeling depressed, nothing will help you get more of a grip on your day than getting into a gentle routine to help you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat.
  2. Take on new responsibilities. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, your first inclination might be to turn and hide inward, avoiding other people, the outside world, and life in general. Resist this temptation. Get engaged with life by involving yourself with daily responsibilities.

You can:

  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Get a new job, even if it’s just part-time.
  • Sign up for some online classes.

New responsibilities will give you a sustained sense of accomplishment, self-esteem, and worth.

  1. Try something new. Get yourself out of the rut you feel you’re stuck in when feeling anxiety or depression, even if you have to push yourself a bit. Check out an art exhibit. Go to the library and find some interesting books to read. Take an online class to learn a new language.  You’ll start seeing how interesting life really is.

You will want to touch base with your doctor if you’re thinking of taking some new dietary supplements like magnesium, Vitamin C, St. John’s Wort, or Vitamin B12. This goes double if you’re already taking medications.

Keep in mind that these things can help you right away, and over time, can develop into healthy habits. They will not cure serious depression and anxiety by themselves. For help with severe depression and/or anxiety, be sure to consult with a mental health professional.

What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

What if I Can’t Afford Mental Health Services? 7 Ways to Get Help on the Cheap

What if I can't afford mental health?

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What if you can’t afford mental health counseling? You read up on all the mental health blogs, you keep yourself informed, you study everything you can. But healthcare costs are so high, and if you don’t have insurance, it can be a huge challenge. Especially if you’re struggling with your mental health.

The demand for treatment of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to name a few, is increasingly on the rise. When demand for something goes up, so does its cost.

It’s estimated that around one in five adults experiences a serious mental illness in the United States, and that around 56 percent of them don’t get the mental health help they need. The percentage may be higher among teens-the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an exponentially increasing suicide rate for teens.

More Problems

It’s not just about cost, either. Unfortunately, in our modern American society there’s an unfortunate negative stigma regarding mental illness that intimidates and therefore discourages those who would otherwise consult a mental health professional.

Another problem arises because our health care system today in the U.S. does not treat mental health as thoroughly as it does physical health. Insurance often doesn’t entirely cover mental health exams or therapy, and those professionals who accept insurance often have to jump through plenty of hoops to get reimbursed by insurance providers.

What’s the use? It’s enough to make anyone want to give up.

Not to worry, here are seven ways you can get the mental health help you need, at minimal to no out-of-pocket cost:

  1. Several private mental health care providers frequently determine their fees by a sliding scale.

Most mental health care providers are very understanding and empathetic. They really want to get you help, and will be willing to negotiate something that works for you.

Some therapists do not accept insurance coverage, but, again, depending on your income (don’t forget your tax return!), you can get quality mental health care for as little as $10 per hour.

It’s not uncommon for professional mental health offices to ask patients how much they can afford, and do their best to work something out. If the office employs has interns or medical student on staff, they may be able to charge even less.

  1. If you have healthcare, find a professional within your network; if not, find a federally-qualified health center near you.

Insurance providers typically have a pool of mental health care professionals they work with, but typically cover at least a significant portion of visits to professionals outside of the company’s local network.

If you don’t have insurance, you can get help at a local social services agency, a student health center if you’re a student, or at other federally-qualified and funded health centers in your community.

If you’re eligible for Medicaid, you might qualify for free therapy (being below a certain income level is what qualifies individuals, so be sure to have documentation from your previous year’s tax return.

Some people try to check themselves into an Emergency Room, but this isn’t the best idea, especially if you don’t have insurance, because you could get stuck with a huge tab. Also, ER’s typically aren’t equipped to counsel individuals and work with them to help improve a mental health situation over an extended period of time. Only look into an ER if you find yourself in the middle of a critical crisis.

States and local communities also may offer fully-, or at least partially-funded mental health services. At the writing of this article, Georgia had become the newest state offering some kind of mental health service for free, via a smart phone app.

And don’t forget about NAMI. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a helpline offering free help 24 hours a day. Simply text NAMI to 741741.

  1. University hospitals employ and train medical students who can work for lower fees, and many of these hospitals are not-for-profit.

Most university medical programs have psychology/psychiatry programs, and most university hospitals offer on-the-job training to medical students, interns, and residents, based on an income-determined sliding scale.

Many state-funded non-profit agencies, and even private agencies offer top-notch mental health consultations and therapy at reduced rates for those whose lower incomes qualify them.

  1. Local psychotherapeutic training organizations often provide free consultations for up to two years.

If you’re willing to commit to going to therapy three to five times weekly for up to two years, you can get high quality, thorough mental health treatment by a professional in training, closely supervised, and very focused/specific.

  1. Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is another available option.

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective (OPPC) is a not-for-profit organization that will match what lower- to middle-income individuals and families can pay to get mental health services.  Those who need it can get good care, without hanging their mental health professionals out to dry. Rates range from $35 to $55 dollars per hourly session.

  1. Finally, never give up on yourself. The resources you need are waiting for you.

It may take some patience and due diligence on your part to find the right mental health professional, and in the meantime, your smartphone may be of more benefit to you than you’d thought.

Putting technology to work for good, what’s known as tele-mental health has become an increasingly valuable resource for states and communities to provide mental health care.

Some obstacles exist for the providers in terms of licensing (a provider can’t live in California and consult with someone in Colorado, for example),  but tele-mental health is officially a growing thing and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Check with your local healthcare network/hospital system to see if they have these services available.

  1. In case of emergency, get yourself to a clinic or call for help.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you are in a mental health crisis and needing immediate assistance, get to your local community mental health clinic. Such clinics can often offer low-cost therapy, as they are funded from organizations like United Way.

Another available option is to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1.800.273.TALK) if you are prone to harm yourself or someone else. This is another free resource, 100 percent confidential, and available 24 hours a day.

Are you having a hard time finding a mental health professional that you’re comfortable with? Is the stress making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Can Cooking Help Your Mental Health? 9 Reasons to Try it Out

Can learning how to cook help your mental health?

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“Cooking can help your mental health?” you wonder. Can you really manage your anxiety and/or depression by simply preparing your own meals? After a long day, maybe the last thing you feel like doing is putting together a meal, then having to clean up. But let’s take a closer look at cooking and how it can help your mental health.

For one thing, the process of chopping, stirring, tasting, and even cleaning can be meditative, introspective, calming, and just what you need to clear your mind. Maybe you’ve heard the zen instructive: “When you cook, just cook. When you wash dishes, just wash the dishes.”

Cooking has been described by aficionados as “therapeutic, cleansing, nourishing, centering,” and as “nothing else you will do at any other time of your day.”

Preparing a meal as a therapeutic exercise is also known as culinary therapy, therapeutic cooking, and culinary mindfulness. But at the end of the day, can cooking really help your mental health?

 

 

 

Here are nine reasons you might want to give it a try:

  1. Developing patience.

Patience may or may not be a virtue, but in a world where everyone needs to have everything right this minute, patience can instill a refreshing sense of calm in you. Think of patience as a super power, if you will. It means emotional freedom, allowing you to calmly observe, pause, and know when the ideal time to act is.

  1. Getting organizedYou might start with simple recipes, but eventually, a sense of what flavors go well together will become second nature. You will also learn another level of organization–when you start planning your meals for the week and go to the store, you’ll better know what ingredients you already have in the pantry, which will help you with the grocery budget, eating healthier, and staying organized.
  2. Helping you nurture a healthier relationship with food.

You might not have considered it, but learning how to prepare meals yourself can improve how you think about and approach food and eating. Teaching yourself how to cook not only boosts your confidence, but planning your meals in advance really gives you a victory over that feeling of not knowing what to do when it’s dinnertime.

  1. Exercising your creativity.

You may wonder what is so creative about cooking, but you’ll be surprised. Speaking of creativity, by getting your creative juices flowing, you not only refine those skills, you bolster your own mental health. Try it sometime. Drawing, singing, writing… cooking. You’ll see for yourself why creative people are happier people. As you prepare a meal, regardless of what recipe you’re using, try swapping out different ingredients, like substituting cauliflower for potatoes in this recipe for cauliflower mashed potatoes.

  1. Sparking that sense of accomplishment

Whenever you prepare a meal for yourself or someone else, you set a short-term achievable goal for yourself – then you accomplish it. This is otherwise known as behavioral activation, a method used to treat anxiety and depression by increasing a subject’s proximity to a “payoff” or reward.  Behavioral activation can also be implemented to overcome procrastination with reinforced goal-driven outcomes. You can try out whatever recipe or meal planner fits your skill level and voila! Dinner is served, and your self-esteem is boosted.

  1. Clean, healthy living.

Do you have health goals? Just start out cooking for yourself a couple of nights every week, then work your way up to more. Those who prepare their own meals tend to eat healthier than those who go out to eat more often. Keep in mind that 95 percent of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, your pain tolerance level, and your sleep) is generated in your gastrointestinal tract. Eating healthier also improves your mental health.

  1. Control over how you spend your time.

Nothing boosts your self-esteem more than feeling like you’re in control of things. Cooking for yourself will help you manage and allocate your time better, giving you a better sense of having a grip on your day rather than wandering without objectives through it.

  1. Sense of purpose.

You’re now on track to a feeling of purpose, direction, and determination, which is another way to feel more in control of your time and your day. No more wandering to the nearest fast food restaurant to get your dinner through the drive through. You know what you’re doing, and control how your meals come about.

  1. Better budget control.

Eating out less for dinner, and having leftovers ready to take to work the next day will help you keep more of a handle on your finances. It will also save you time and gas because you’ll be driving around less.

The truth is that culinary therapy is being used in treatment methodology for various mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, and eating disorders–the very process of mindfully preparing a good meal can nourish your psychological well-being.

Taking it a step further, preparing a meal with your partner can smooth communications and teamwork by setting aside differences in order to accomplish a mutual goal. It’s also a chance to work on conflict resolution skills when differences in taste and likes arise. Make it a date night!

Are you anxious about your lack of sleep? Is your lack of sleep making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Does My Bedtime Affect My Mental Health?

Does bedtime affect mental health

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Can your mental health be affected by your bedtime? We all know the age old mandate about “early to bed, early to rise,” and “get your 6-8 hours every night,” and so on, but how much does your bedtime matter?

Beware of sleep deprivation

First, let’s talk about not getting enough sleep and your mental health. It’s common knowledge that sleep deprivation can impact the quality of your mental health and psychological state, as sleep and mental well-being go hand in hand.

Experts will tell you that if you frequently feel sleepy throughout the day or experience what are known as “microsleeps” (i.e., briefly drifting off into a light doze throughout the day, even momentarily), then sleep-deprivation or a sleep disorder may be something you need to look into. Other signs that you’re not getting enough sleep include: trouble falling asleep (i.e., insomnia), not waking up feeling rested, pounding coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks to get through the day, fighting to stay awake while driving or during normal activities like watching a movie, trouble with your memory, waking up in the wee hours of the morning and then having trouble going back to sleep (a.k.a., terminal insomnia).

Some facts about problematic sleep and mental health follow.

  • Problematic sleeping is a sign of depression. Problematic sleep is a common symptom of depression, and it also contributes to it. From 65 to 90 percent of adults (and about 90 percent of children) in the U.S. with clinical depression are likely to have some degree of difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. Usually, the problem is insomnia, but about 20 percent of problematic sleepers have problems with sleep apnea. Hypersomnia (e.g., severe fatigue throughout the day) is also commonly reported by individuals with depression.
  • Concerns regarding sleep are more likely to affect individuals with mental health problems. Ongoing problematic sleep affects between 50 to 80 percent of those with mental disorders and from 10 to 18 percent of adults in the U.S. Treating a sleep disorder may help mitigate the effects of depressive symptoms, and vice versa.
  • Anxiety and problematic sleep are often co-occurring. Disordered sleep affects more than half of adults with generalized anxiety disorder and is also typical among those with bi-polar disorderpanic disorder, phobic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety can also fuel problematic sleep, taking the form of nightmares and/or insomnia, while sleep deprivation can increase the risk for the individual to develop an anxiety disorder.

Bigger answers for bigger bedtime questions

Now… Here’s a deeper question. If you get enough hours of sleep in, does it matter what time you go to bed?

The human body produces a wide range of molecular processes, including hormone levels and core body temperature, as well as sleeping and waking up. It is impacted by genes as well as many lifestyle factors including exposure to artificial light, jobs, activities, and diet.

A 2018 broad genetics study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom reports that individuals who are genetically inclined to wake up early are linked to a greater sense of being content with life, and with a lowered risk for depression and schizophrenia.

The researchers found results indicating that if you’re a “night owl,” chances are good that you could be at greater risk to develop some sort of mental health issue. Night owls have a tendency to constantly push back against their own bodies’ natural clock, which can be exhausting, especially for those who have to be at work or school early in the morning.

Good news for all the evening types out there, however. Though previous research linked poor sleeping habits to a higher risk for obesity and diabetes, this newest research did not find any links between these health issues and body clock genes.

It’s noteworthy that this new research underscores the need for further study of the link between someone’s genetic disposition to being an early versus a late riser and his or her mental health.

So I can just start going to bed earlier, right?

Can you just start going to bed and waking up earlier? Well, it’s not that simple. You have what’s known as a chronotype, also known as your tendency to fall asleep and rise at a certain time, and this is largely determined genetically.

Differences between early and late risers have to do with differences in the ways our brains react to external light signals as well as the normal functioning of our internal clocks. There’s not a lot to be done to change this.

There are some things you can do, however if you’re a night owl and want to get in the habit of hitting the sack earlier in order to arise earlier the next morning. It may take a week or two for your body clock to adapt to the change in schedule.

  • Be consistent. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and day.
  • Try going to bed an hour or two earlier, though this may not always be realistic.
  • Do something consistently every single night before bed, like taking a hot shower, brushing your teeth, reading with a dim light on, doing some gentle yoga stretches, or practicing some mindful breathing meditation.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine after about 4-6 p.m.
  • Get out into the natural light throughout the day, and get some exercise in (at least 30 minutes) at some point every day. Three 10-minute exercise sessions spread out through the day are just as effective as one 30-minute session.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep; avoid having a desk or keeping a laptop in your room, and avoid using your cellphone right before bed as much as possible.

Are you anxious about your lack of sleep? Is your lack of sleep making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Can You Treat Mental Illness with Psychedelics?

psychedelic drugs could well be the future of mental illness treatment

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Hallucinogens can provide a treatment solution for mental disorders?

Most people associate psychoactive drugs with hippies from the 60s, with all night rave party goers, perhaps with music festivals like Burning Man, or with burnout slacker cult heroes from TV shows and movies (Remember Jeff Bridges’ line from The Big Lebowski? When asked what he does for “recreation,” he mumbles something about how he likes to “Bowl… drive around..       . [and enjoy] the occasional acid flashback…”).

In the not too distant future, however, hallucinogenic substances may be a go-to method for mental health professionals as they help their patients working through mental health issues such as social anxiety and grief to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

Like the majority of antidepressant medications, hallucinogens affect how the brain utilizes serotonin, the brain chemical relevant to memory, sleep, and mood. Different from antidepressants, however, hallucinogens appear to change how different parts of the brain communicate with one other – that may be why many individuals who have taken hallucinogens take away a “significantly altered sense of self,” not to mention an increased degree of “open-mindedness.”

Powerful tools

Psychoactive drugs are among the most powerful substances known, and can have potent effects on the central nervous system. Like any powerful tool, they can be either hazardous or of benefit. If they are administered properly and monitored, they have shown potential to be extremely beneficial.

Research into psychedelics

According to researchers, when combined appropriately with psychotherapy, psychedelics such as MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), and ayahuasca have been known to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Research continues to help us better understand the possible benefits of these substances, while psychologists help bring awareness to any possibly related cultural, ethical, and clinical questions associated with using them.

MDMA. Another study’s findings reflect that symptoms of social anxiety in autistic adults may be manageable with a combination of MDMA and psychotherapy. The results of the MDMA and psychotherapy treatments showed positive results for months, and even years in some cases, for the majority of the research subjects. Notably, social anxiety, which is common among autistic adults, has seen few if any effective treatment options.

LSD,  psilocybin, and ayahuasca. Research studies have also delved into how people coping with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders may benefit from psychotherapy coupled with monitored doses of LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca.

In one study, participants discussed past experiences with hallucinogens, in terms of their relationship with their emotions, and their spirituality. The use of psychedelics was reported by the vast majority of participants to be associated with greater levels of spirituality, leading to enhanced emotional stability, and subsequently fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety, and disordered eating.

More on ayahuasca. Other research studies have indicated that the use of ayahuasca has shown increases in generosity, spiritual connection, and altruistic feelings; the use of ayahuasca has also been tied to the relief of depression along with mitigating addictive behaviors, as well as relieving stress for those dealing with trauma.

Other landmarks:

  • In December 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved plans for the third phase of a clinical trial testing MDMA in the treatment of PTSD. The study is expected to document the treatment experiences of over 200 people over the course of two to three years.
  • That same month, a research team at Johns Hopkins University released results of a study that tested psilocybin in a group of cancer patients who showed signs of depression and anxiety. High doses, around two to three times a typical recreational dosage, significantly reduced these symptoms, and four out of five continued on with significant overall decreases in depressed mood and anxiety six months later.
  • In studies of the effects of ketamine (also known as “Special K”) on severe depression, patients typically get ketamine either through an IV or a nasal mist about once a week, in a clinic under strict medical supervision. In some participants, ketamine can ease depressive symptoms in a matter of a few hours.

The times, they are a changin’

This new research coincides with a time when social and political attitudes toward drugs are shifting immensely.

The prevalent abuse of prescription opioid painkillers is framed more as a public health issue than as a law enforcement issue, and in the meantime, an increasing number of states are legalizing medical and even recreational marijuana.

Members of Congress asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to hold off on plans to make the herbal supplement kratom illegalscientists claim that kratom may be useful to treat addiction and chronic pain.

Researchers tell us that we are still “newcomers and amateurs” in our understanding of how hallucinogens may help. What all the studies are meant to help researchers understand is how permanent changes to the brain’s functioning may be, and how such changes might help those with depression, anxiety, and addiction.

There are currently hundreds of research projects underway, and to date, there is no known research that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has rejected or put the brakes on. Furthermore, the DEA has also been having talks with researchers and mental health professionals about streamlining the agency’s approval process.

Curious about better ways to address your own depression and/or anxiety? Both are treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

8 Things You Can Do to Boost Your Mental Health in 2019

8 things you can do to bolster your mental health in 2019

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Life changes are coming, as with every new year. Now with the holidays behind us, it’s time to take on 2019. Problems getting started? You want this year to be different, but you are not sure what to do? No worries.

Let’s get away from any nomenclature having to do with “resolutions” for the new year. Resolutions are easily forgotten, you get discouraged not too long after the new year, and then what? You’re going to wait until next January to start up with improving yourself? You can get a grip on your depression, anxiety, what have you.

Goals, not New Year’s Resolutions

You don’t need a new year, or a new week, even to start working on yourself. How about starting out by setting some short and long-term goals? It may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to start big. Maybe you want to get better at stress management, or incorporate a more healthy lifestyle. Personal growth is the key, so remember, to just keep moving forward!

One of the best things you can do to help bolster your mental health is to be prepared for and to anticipate change. Our ability to cope with and deal with changes that life throws at us determines in large part how well-adjusted we are, and how proficient we are at problem solving.

Once you get rolling and in the habit of setting and accomplishing goals, you’ll be unstoppable. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t ever give up on yourself. One step at a time. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  1. Be ProactiveProactive is a bit of a buzzword, and it is usually associated with something positive. Think of proactive (ahead, in front) versus reactive (afterward). See where you can “work ahead” on things at home, at work/school. If you’re a procrastinator, practicing the art of proactivity can get you out of just about any funk. Set a goal to not just meet the bare minimum, just in the nick of time, but get as far ahead of the curve as you can. Get that assignment done a week early. File that paperwork before the deadline. Set up that appointment when you have an extra 5 minutes on your lunch break. You’ll feel better about life, about yourself, and about your abilities.
  2. Get Organized. Which brings us to getting organized. Entering a space that is organized and tidy has a much more positive effect on your mental health than walking in to a messy space has. One is inspiring, while the latter is depressing and unsettling. Watch some YouTube videos and read some books if you need to, but start working on the habit of staying organized. Ever seen Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix?
  3. Watch What You Eat, Exercise, and Get Your Sleep. Taking care of your body has a huge impact on your mental health, though healthy eating, getting exercise, and getting adequate sleep (healthy living) are often overlooked. Avoid junk food, eat only wholefoods, more protein, fewer carbs, and in smaller portions. Exercise for at least 20-30 minutes, five times weekly. Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Get these things down, and you’ll be well on your way to being better able to manage your mental health effectively.
  4. Pick up a New Hobby, Learn a New Skill, Improve One of Your Talents. Maybe you think hobbies are too “old school” for you. You can develop your mind, ease stress, learn to breathe meditatively, etc., when engaging yourself in some pastime that interests you. Do you have a creative side? Take a class in watercolor painting. Do you like music? Have you ever thought of taking up the guitar or piano? Developing a hobby, skill, or talent will help lift your mood, and increase your self-confidence.
  5. Reign in Your Use of Technology.Excessive time on electronic devices, chatting, posting, gaming, etc. has been shown to be tied in with feelings of depression, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, negative self talk, etc. Have you ever thought of taking a break for a week or two from Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter? Why not give it a try? You may feel more liberated than you ever thought possible.
  6. Build Up a Reserve.  Research shows that investing time into quiet, introspective activities, like mindful meditation, can be a great help for mental health. Mindfulness practice also helps you build up a reserve of inner strength and groundedness to help you cope with any kind of future challenges you may find yourself facing.
  7. Get in the Habit of Telling Yourself Positive Things.It should come as no surprise that the way you think about yourself can have a huge effect on how you feel. Get in the habit of using words in your self-talk that reinforce feelings of self-worth and personal power. For instance, instead of saying: “I’m such a loser. I won’t get the award because I blew it writing my essay,” say something more like, “I didn’t do as well on my essay as I was hoping, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get the award.”
  8. Start a Gratitude Journal. Expressing gratitude and remembering the things you have to be thankful for have been unmistakably linked with a healthier sense of well-being, happiness, and mental health. Start a journal if you don’t already have one, and write down three things every day that you are grateful for. Think on them every day, and let them soak in. How does it feel?  Pretty good, right?

Now for a great year. Here’s to your mental health and winning 2019!

Gearing up for a great 2019? If you’ve ever struggled with mental illness or low self-esteem, now is the perfect time to address mental health issues. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

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8 Ways to Keep Family Members From Ruining Your Holidays

avoid family drama during the holidays

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You can avoid family conflict during the holidays (or at least minimize it).  Avoiding family drama during the Christmas/holiday season can be a bit of an art, but it is certainly something you can manage. And well.

Imagine: One person (or one person’s wife) ends up resentfully doing most of the organizing, cooking, and work, while another relative imbibes too much and blurts out a dark secret, and then another relative’s child throws an unbearable tantrum. Any single one of these occurrences, not to mention a combination of several, can be all it takes to ruin yet another annual family holiday gathering.

The holidays tend to be stressful for just about anyone. Combine this stress with the fact that some individuals can be thoughtless, inconsiderate, nitpicky, irritating, and sometimes outright spiteful. Worse, many such individuals (yes, including your own family members) never own their own behavior, and really don’t care how hurtful, problematic, or careless with the feelings of others they may be. It is always “someone else’s fault.”

Holiday stress + wanton emotionally reckless behavior. It makes quite the combination, and it’s enough to make everyone else hate the holidays, hate getting the family together and wish they could fast forward the clock past New Year’s.

 

What Drives it All?

What are some of the dynamics that create an atmosphere ripe for familial holiday conflict? Let’s look at a few:

  • “Short fuses.”A family member (or members) is prone to angry outbursts that are typically disproportionate to the situation or to the initial trigger (“I said NO PECANS!! Why can’t you do ANYTHING right???”).
  • Opinionated individuals tend to be extremely rigid in their thinking, suspicious without reason, unwilling to concede anything, or seemingly just defiant and argumentative for the sake of it (“I know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot!”).
  • Attention hogs. You know him or her. The family member who needs to be the center of attention at all times, who sometimes acts out when offended at feeling left out of any conversations, outings, events, or what have you.
  • The buzzkills. Then there are the family members around whom you feel ever physically and emotionally drained, or worse yet, you feel agitated, anxious, unsettled, or upset.
  • The martyrs. A relative who loves to play the victim, or who feels entitled to receive special treatment. Vindication for perceived injustices and having unreasonable demands met are the sought-after prize for these individuals. All at the expense of others, of course. (“One day you’ll be sorry when I’m gone!”)
  • The wound collectors. Fixates on past offenses, slights, mistakes/flaws of others, and is ever ready to bring them back up at the drop of a hat. No forgiveness or forgetting. No peace.
  • Irresponsible speech and behavior. A family member who always seems to irritate or hurt others’ feelings, as if the negligent perpetrator feels no obligation whatsoever to “turn on the filter” (“I tell it like it is!”).
  • The never-ending family feud. Not nearly as fun as the game show, family feuds among your relatives may be brief outbursts that last a few minutes, or that maybe go on for hours, days, even weeks and months with minimal effort (or even desire) to reconcile or end them.
  • Feelings of unhappiness, of being emotionally drained, edginess, lack of fulfillment, worthlessness, etc. You “walk on eggshells,” around the family get-together, constantly on your toes to avoid the next incident that will embarrass you or leave you feeling hurt.

The first thing you should do is recognize that none of this is your imagination. Such individuals may act reasonably one day, but that doesn’t mean you should simply ignore such flagrantly bad habits and behaviors, especially when they hurt you or others. These people need help and should seek out a professional who can help them become more aware of their behavior and manage it better. Meanwhile, you still have to protect yourself. Remember, such incidents can serve as a trigger to set off your own mental illness.

Mind your own boundaries

Here are some suggestions regarding what you can do when dealing with such bad behavior from family members and to help avoid family drama during Christmas break or any other time of year:

  1. This is no time for therapy. Remember that family time at the holidays is not the time for a therapy session. That is for professionals to handle in private at another appropriate time. Don’t let your holiday cheer be robbed by going for the bait and ending up being drawn into drama that you don’t want.
  2. Set boundaries. Without being too exacting, determine ahead of time what you will and won’t tolerate. You may have to separate yourself from the group or not attend at all if things start to head south. Do not ease up on your boundaries until inconsiderate behaviors change (e.g., if dinner is scheduled at 6, then start at 6. Latecomers will just be late. No attention hogs, no dramatic entrances, no shows of dominance, etc.). You are under no obligation whatsoever to be victimized.
  3. See reality for what it is. Words matter little if there is no action behind it to back it up. Don’t just write off hurtful behaviors.
  4. Taboo topics. Get a consensus upfront regarding what everyone else is willing to discuss and not discuss (e.g., religion, politics). These discussions can tend to bring out the worst in people.
  5. Taboo behaviors. Some individuals revert to coping mechanisms/behaviors such as binge drinking in order to create a divide in the group, antagonize, or irritate others, and such antics should be squelched beforehand. You can set the rules in your house, but if you and your family are elsewhere, don’t join into the discord.
  6. Call for help if you need to. If someone gets violent or draws a weapon (especially after drinking/drugging), don’t even hesitate to call the police.
  7. Safety is not a guarantee. Just because you are with family does not mean you are emotionally/physically/psychologically safe. Watch out for yourself and avoid/avert anything or anyone who might do you harm.
  8. Plan on having a good time together! Don’t give an audience to someone in the group who insists on hijacking the rest of the group and “holding them hostage.” Don’t give something unsavory a life by giving it your attention. Focus on creating positive memories together with your loved ones.

Awkward and unhappy family moments do happen, even with the best intentions, so don’t feel like you’ve failed if a family holiday get-together goes awry. Be polite, be loving, but be firm in taking care of yourself.

Holidays with the family got you down? It may not be just a case of the “holiday blues.” Depression and anxiety are treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about family dysfunction or other mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Are Video Games Really that Bad for You?

video gaming addiction

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Mental health advocates may now officially have something else to worry about. In the latest revision to its disease classification manual, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that compulsive video game playing now qualifies as a mental health condition.

By treating “gaming disorder” as its own separate addiction, WHO claims that it should serve as a help for families, friends, spouses, health care professionals, and governments to be more aware of the associated signs and risks involved. Don’t be too alarmed, however (at least not yet), as WHO and other professionals have clarified that incidence of the disorder is to date very rare, with the belief that less than 3 percent of all gamers are affected.

The trend seems to be on the rise, however, as the existing scientific evidence has been compelling enough to convince WHO to approach gaming disorder (also known as gaming addiction) as its own problem. There appears to be adequate demand for the disorder’s treatment in some parts of the world. You may already know someone or know of someone’s child who spends countless hours getting wrapped up and consumed playing violent role-playing games like “Fortnite.”

While there are those that express concern about the new classification being “something else to worry about,” a sizable contingent of interested parties welcome WHO’s assessment, claiming the critical necessity of identifying as soon as possible those who are addicted to video games, in order to get them help.

Should this be of concern? It’s been pointed out that compulsive gaming/gaming addiction could be a symptom of something deeper that needs to be addressed, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Some studies suggest that when individuals are engaged in playing online or other video games, certain pathways in the brain are triggered in an intense and direct way, similar to the way that the brains of drug addicts are manipulated by their substance of choice – in other words, gaming can set off a neurological response that influences the mechanism of enticement, pleasure, and reward. In severe cases, this dynamic has manifested itself as strikingly similar to the uncanny pattern of addictive behavior.

What is an addiction?

For the vast majority of people, video games are more about entertainment and novelty. Take the fad game “Pokemon Go,” for example. Even if most people play games like “Pokemon Go” a lot, it’s just a passing “phase,” more than anything, and when they get bored with the trend, they’ll just get on with their lives. No addiction. Others are not so fortunate.

Most people associate addiction with substances (usually alcohol or drugs), and maybe with some behaviors, such as compulsive gambling and compulsive promiscuity. Here are a few possible criteria for what could be considered to be an “addiction” in the context of psychology, psychiatry, and mental health:

  1. An individual continues to need more and more of a substance (or behavior) to keep him or herself going/engaged/entertained.
  2. If the individual runs out of the substance/behavior, he or she becomes unhappy and irritable.
  3. When in doubt, the quick definition of an addiction is: When an individual continues to indulge him or herself with a substance or behavior, even when that person is aware that it is detrimental and harmful.

Gaming likely meets these criteria, with many reports of severe withdrawal symptoms in game addicts. Episodes of aggression, anger, depression, and even violence have been reported.

What’s the big deal?

Gaming addiction is typically associated with teenagers, but it can be just as harmful to adults. Compulsive gaming for adult video game addicts can hinder job or school performance and can be harmful to relationships.

Many adult gamers often skip social engagements, work, meals, and sleep.

Be mindful of addiction warning signs

Remember that most people who play video games, even if they seem to play them a lot, don’t develop an addiction to them. Parents and friends of video gamers should be mindful and watchful for warning signs of potentially detrimental problems. Some warning signs of gaming addiction include:

  • Gaming for ever-increasing amounts of time
  • Declining performance at school or work
  • Playing video games to escape from real-time problems, depression, or anxiety
  • Thinking about and talking about gaming at other times throughout the day
  • Lying to friends and family to hide gaming
  • Becoming irritable when having to cut down on time playing video games

If someone’s gaming time appears to be taking over his or her life, when someone’s normal routine is consistently disrupted (e.g., schoolwork, socializing, work), then it may be time to seek professional help.

Do you or someone you know struggle with an addiction to video games? Behavioral addiction is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about behavioral/compulsive addiction or mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

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Did You Miss World Mental Health Day? 3 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Mental Health

lifestyle-changes-for-better-mental-health

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Mental health awareness can help you develop stress management skills and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. Did World Mental Health Day passed you by? Not to worry, because you don’t need to wait until next October 10th to start improving your mental health.

In fact, you can start implementing changes that can start helping your mood improve.


What mental health looks like

Individuals who might be considered to have “good” mental health share some common characteristics:

  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem
  • An overall  sense of contentment, satisfaction, and love for living
  • The flexibility to adapt to change and to learn new things
  • The ability to cope with and manage stress, and to bounce back from challenges
  • Good work/play/rest/life balance
  • A sense of meaning and purpose in activities and relationships
  • The ability to laugh easily and have fun
  • A healthy ability to build and nurture meaningful relationships

If any of these don’t sound recognizable to you, it’s OK. If you put some effort into it, you can learn to enjoy these same benefits.

Are you ready?

  1. What the heck are you eating? A brain-healthy diet is always good for your mental health.

Have you ever thought about the effects your diet has on the way you feel and think about life? Eating too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right ones can impacts your brain and your mood saps your energy, disrupts your sleep, and debilitates your immune system. So what to do? You need to change over to a healthy diet, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats.

Everyone is different and responds differently to foods. Genetics and other health factors come into play, so go ahead and experiment a little. First, get rid of your “bad fats,” the ones that can wreck your mood and optimism for life, and start consuming all the good fats that are healthy for your brain.

Foods/drinks that mess with your mood:

  • Fried foods
  • Sugary snacks and soft drinks
  • Trans fats/anything with “partially hydrogenated” oils
  • Refined carbs (e.g., white bread, white flour, white rice)
  • Foods with lots of chemical preservatives/hormones
  • Caffeine/soda/energy drinks
  • Alcohol

Foods that help your mood:

Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna

  • Avocados
  • Nuts (i.e., peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, almonds)
  • Flaxseed
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens such (i.e., spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale)
  • Fresh fruit (e.g., blueberries)
  1. Get moving!

Physical activity releases endorphins, which are mood-boosting chemicals that also give you energy. A regular exercise regimen (it doesn’t take a lot!) will also improve your memory, release stress, and improve your sleep. By getting on top of your physical health, you’ll start feeling better almost right away. Also, you can’t have a healthy mind without a healthy body.

How to get started

You can get away with as little as 30 minutes for your exercising to have a positive effect on your brain. Even broken up into three 10-minute blocks will work just as well.

  1. How about some rhythmic exercises that get your arms and legs moving? Walking, running, weights, swimming, dancing, martial arts, etc.
  2. Be mindful. Mindfulness can help enhance your exercise. Don’t let just let your mind run wildly and blindly, rather focus your thinking on your breathing, on how your body is feeling as you move, on the wind on your skin, on the way your feet feel as they touch the ground. This will help clear your mind, too.

So, take a walk at lunchtime and enjoy the fresh air. Play Frisbee with your dog. Dance to your favorite tunes. Play active video games with your family. Start cycling and walking more.

A little bit of exercise goes a long way and helps you get a sense of more vigor and control.

  1. Stress management

Stress will sap your mood as quickly as just about anything, leaving you feeling emotionally drained and bummed out. Life is always going to have some level of stress (if you had zero stress, you’d never be motivated to go to work, pay your bills, take care of yourself, etc.!), but it is unhealthy to have it in excess; fortunately, you can keep it controlled. Try some stress management activities and say “hello” again to a sense of balance in your life.

  • Learn to enjoy leisure time. Do plenty of things simply for the sake of doing them, and because they make you feel better. Watching funny movies, walking on the beach, diving into a good book, etc. And don’t feel guilty – you’re not being irresponsible. Your brain and body need to decompress from time to time.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Getting some face time in with someone who cares about you and your wellbeing is a surefire way to calm your nerves and insulate your stress. You’ll feel better quickly, even if you can’t change the stressful situation right away.
  • Be good to your senses. Big, scented candles. Soothing music. A hot bubble bath. The warmth and the scent of coffee in your favorite café. Do any of these things sound appealing? How about squeezing a stress ball? Opening the window and listening/smelling the rain? Start experimenting with some things that make your senses tingle to find out what you respond to best. You’ll always be able to get yourself to calm down and relax when you need to.
  • Gratitude. Nothing dissolves a bad mood quicker than being grateful. Pray and meditate on these things, keep a gratitude journal (write down at least three things daily you’re grateful for), remind yourself to be grateful more often. Your outlook on life will begin to improve drastically.

Bonus tip! Own your emotions

How well do you know yourself and what you’re feeling? How good are you at identifying and articulating those feelings for yourself and others? If you learn to be more aware of, identify, and take more responsibility for your emotions, you’ll be well on your way to better mental health management skills. Find an app or check out this free online pdf download that can walk you through some techniques.

When to seek professional help

If you’ve made honest and consistent efforts to get your mental and emotional health normalized where you’d like them to be and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, and in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. Input from a trusted mental health professional may be able to motivate you to do more for yourself than you’d otherwise do alone.

What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.