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Mental Health

One of the many things I learned at the Open Minds Technology & Informatics Institute in Washington, D.C. today is how closely related mental health and general health are. I was intrigued to learn 30% of medically ill patients also have some form of mental illness and 70% of mentally ill patients have some form of chronic medical illness. Despite this relationship, mental illness has been treated as an orphan of healthcare. If we want to improve the health of Americans and get control of the high cost of healthcare, we have to look at all forms of health and how they relate.

An interesting technology for mental health I learned about today is The 3 Minute Test for Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and PTSD (see What’s My M3). These serious conditions can affect not only a person’s quality of life, but her or his physical health. For example, having a mood disorder may increase heart attack risk and decrease the body’s ability to recover from other illnesses like stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer. The M3 score is a number which can help a person and his or her doctor understand the presence of a treatable mood disorder, like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or post traumatic stress disorder. Any consumer can use the smartphone app to monitor the M3 score to see how one’s mental health is changing over time. The free confidential test takes about three minutes.

A doctor can use the M3 score to guide treatment recommendations, which may help a patient feel better and feel better faster. As a patient’s mental health improves, his or her risk of serious medical events associated with mood disorders can be reduced resulting in improved overall health. Whatever the various causes of mental health problems may be, it is time we recognize the overall effects it has on the health of our country.