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Life at the intersection of health and mental health: Five lessons behavioral health could learn from cancer treatment

February 25, 2014
by Sue Bergeson
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  1. Understanding the value of a multi-screen approach

I was at a conference listening to someone from Google talk about healthcare.  One of the things they said really stuck with me: we live in a five or six screen world. I have four screens within a few feet of me here in my living room with a fifth upstairs in my home office.  I’m writing this on my iPad. I sent over a shell document to my iPad using my smartphone's email. I will email the document to my office computer when I am done for final editing. In a few minutes I will use my reader to pick up where I left off on my latest book and later I will enjoy a documentary on my television probably using a program I control through my iPad. Five screens in a few hours. This is the word we live in. That’s why I thought it was so great that the hospital sent me home with a video/DVD from the American Cancer Society. The video allows someone who prefers to receive their information in the video/television format to access what they need. And when I am done with it, I can slip it into the ready to use mailer and return it to the American Cancer Society for the next person to use. Why aren’t we doing that in mental health? Every few weeks I get an email about a new video/movie someone made about mental health that I can rarely see. I would have to fly/drive somewhere to see a movie viewing or buy a DVD at some high price just to see it once and set it aside. There were times in my mental health journey when reading was absolutely not possible for me – when my illness was too intense and I could not focus. But I could take in information, I just needed the information in a format that was more adaptable to my situation – like being able to listen rather than read. Being able to stop, start and replay when I was distracted – like a video. The solution the hospital has come up with – giving a standard video to everyone after surgery and making it reusable – is wonderful. The partnership they have with the advocacy group is something we should be emulating in mental health. (But remember my comment in an earlier blog; if we are not supporting advocacy groups with our donations there is no way any of this can happen.)

 

2. Free classes, groups and services 

Really? Free yoga classes? Free classes teaching me to meditate?  Free genetic counseling? This is something the breast cancer center at my hospital offers me and the rest of the community.  If the breast cancer people understand the value of yoga in coping with the trauma of living with breast cancer, it just seems like we could understand the value of yoga and meditation in mental health. Why can’t we empower mental health consumers with yoga, meditation and other tools that are offered to breast cancer patients? As a breast cancer patient I could stop by on designated days and get a free chair massage to help me with my stress  How great is that and how wonderful would that be for many of us struggling with depression or anxiety? They also offer a ‘fit club,” a yarn group, art therapy, scrap booking, card making – ways to connect with others, gain support and work my wellness as they pay attention to the “whole person.” Not just my diseased breast.

 

3. The importance of a smartphone app for the dark moments. 

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Sue Bergeson

Serves as the Vice President of Consumer and Family Affairs for a large managed care company

@@BergesonSue

Sue Bergeson is a behavioral health consumer and a family member of behavioral health consumers...