When someone is diagnosed with one mental health condition there is a 50% chance they are actually suffering from 2 or more. One common secondary mental health condition is substance use disorder (SUD). Alcohol and drugs of course impact a person’s mood, brain and behavior, and substance use only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse. A correct diagnosis is critical; more than 9.2 million adults have co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders in the U.S.
45% of those with a SUD have a co-occurring mental health condition yet sadly, only 7.4% receive the correct care. The problem is two-fold; (1) mental health and addiction treatment are separate systems of care and (2) inadequate diagnosis; the PHQ-9 is not enough. Recent studies show that people who struggle with combined conditions require specialized treatment, referred to as integrated services, or dual diagnosis treatment.
Carla visits her doctor on-and-off over the past several years for episodes of depression. Bipolar condition is not recognized, and she chooses to self-medicate with alcohol during manic episodes. Once she is finally correctly diagnosed, she struggles to remain off drugs and alcohol and on her bipolar medication since her Dual Diagnosis condition was not caught until well into her mid-thirties.
Doug struggles with anxiety and alcoholism. He self-medicates with alcohol and lately has been feeling that ending his life is his only answer. His primary care doctor has never tested him for a mental health condition, and he has never brought them up.
Rae is sixteen and in High School. She recently moved to a new school and she feels anxious and tired all the time. She has started taking drinks from her parent’s liquor cabinet so she can sleep at night. Her pediatrician has implemented a tool to screen for multiple mental health conditions. She takes the screening and finds she is suffering from both anxiety and alcohol abuse.
So why don’t people seek treatment in the early stages of mental illnesses before it becomes a stage 4 problem? In general, it is because they don’t recognize the symptoms. 84% of the time, between the first signs of mental illness and first treatment, symptoms are not recognized. Screening all patients in a primary care setting is a step in the right direction, but more importantly, assessing all patients for co-occurring conditions is key.
Connected Mind is a privately held company based out of McKinney, TX. Working with a team of psychologists, they developed Connected Mind with Fast Check technology. Designed solely for use as a computerized screening, it is the first tool of its kind to simultaneously screen for multiple conditions at the same time while minimizing questions. The tool was validated by a team of psychologists working as independent consultants from the University of North Texas.