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Mental Health: The Healing Power Of Connection

"An invisible crisis plagues America today. It's responsible for more sickness, suffering, and death than almost anything else. It is loneliness. It is often underneath addiction, suicide, and even obesity, " Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, author, head of Strategy and Innovation, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine


"If you have no intention of loving or being loved, the whole journey is pointless," Kate DiCamillo, author (from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - a story of connection for all ages)


Roni died late last night. Some years ago, Roni, an acquaintance at the time, asked my husband, John, if he would act on her behalf, accept power of attorney. She said she was estranged from her family. John agreed. The "yes" to that request ended up, over time, creating a mother-son like relationship (despite the fact that she was younger than he).


John visited Roni frequently, talked to her on the phone, listened to her needs, and moved her out of her apartment when she needed to go to the nursing home. He figured out how to help her continue doing crafts when she could only use one arm, brought her dolls to sit around her bedside, took her on shopping excursions.


My friend, Suzanne, and I talked this morning about Roni and John. We became struck by how many people have created their own families. Suzanne has, herself, grand mothered many strays – shared their joys and concerns, attended their ceremonies, and remembered their birthdays.


One of my own grandchildren thought for years that Suzanne was her aunt. In fact, several of us called ourselves “the aunties” though we had no biological connections to the kids we "aunted." (oldish pic of an aunty gathering)





These connections are critical for us as social creatures. We don’t do well without family and networks of friends and even acquaintances. We become depressed, anxious and lonely. Relational health cannot be separated from mental (nor physical health) for human beings.


We are hearing much in the news this month about many of these issues because it is mental health awareness month. People in our Cashmere community have told me that loneliness and disconnection is the number one issue standing in the way of their mental health.


This morning US surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released an advisory on loneliness, isolation, and mental health saying that people and public officials should treat the matter with the same urgency as drug abuse and smoking.


“Right now, millions of people are telling us through their stories and statistics that their tank is running on empty when it comes to social connection,” Murthy said.


If we don’t address these issues, we will see dementia increase, hospital visits of all sorts increase, polarization will increase. Civic engagement and trust will continue to erode. And of course – mental health will break down according to Murthy.


It’s not only a matter of getting together, but also of connecting in authentic ways. Ways in which we feel safe to tell each other how we’re really doing, how things are going for us - mutually share our life experiences.


Murthy is calling on everyone to step up to the plate. Churches, community leaders, policy makers. We need to emphasize the importance of good relationships over all the other stuff that is pulling our attention away from each other.


If we have families and friends, prioritize getting together. If we don’t have families, make our own. If we don’t have friends, go where we can find some. And open up.


Our Cashmere community has been doing community dinners each Thursday for the last year. People of all sorts show up. Yes, we cook and eat AND we’ve learned each other’s names. We’ve found out each other’s stories. We've learned each other’s needs.


Last week, one harried young mother told me, “Please, I need a surrogate grandmother. We have this darling little 2-year-old and she does have grandparents, but they live far away and aren’t all that interested in her. I need someone who will just walk outside with her occasionally, read her a book. And they’ll get lots of hugs and kisses in return. Please put the word out to good people.”


The mom is smart to authentically share her needs. We are often embarrassed to say that we need help. That we need to connect. That we need relationships and attention and love.


Some person will find that her life becomes more expansive, meaningful, rewarding, and fun when she raises her hand to “apply” for the surrogate grandparent position. That’s what happened to John when he said “yes” to Roni. Yes, he had less time for himself. And his ability to bring a smile to Roni’s face gave him purpose and pleasure. As social creatures we need to reciprocally give others our attention and love.


The main thing we have learned in the last few years is to take our need for connection and relationships seriously. Now we need to buck up. Get off our rears, off our cell phones, grease up our courage (which has been getting rusty), and do something.

I want to remember how important Murthy’s message is. I have ordered his book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. And with new resolve... even on those Thursdays when I think it would be easier to put my feet up and watch T.V., I am going to kick myself out the door, go to the community meal, put a name tag on, smile, and say, “Hello, I’m June.” And ...be open to authentic connection and...forming more family.


How might we journey together to the Good Life by taking the doctor's advice seriously...understanding that we are social creatures?


And if you would like to see how states fares with mental health. I've added this addendum...Forbes has gathered and organized data on psych health care in each state using 7 metrics... Here are some excerpts:

Over 50 million Americans have a mental illness, but more than half (55%) of adults with a mental illness don’t receive treatment. To determine which states are worst for mental health care, Forbes Advisor compared all 50 states and Washington, D.C., across seven key metrics. They also examined two metrics to uncover the states with the highest and lowest rates of mental illness. Key Takeaways

  • Texas tops the list of worst states for mental health care, while Vermont is the best state for mental health care.

  • Seven of the 10 worst states for mental health care are located in the South, including Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

  • Seven of the 10 best states for mental health care are in the East, including Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine and West Virginia.

  • Montana tops the list of states with the highest prevalence of mental illness; New Jersey has the lowest rate of mental illness.

<snip> 10 Worst States for Mental Health Care 1. Texas Texas’s score: 100 out of 100

  • With the highest percentage of adults with any mental illness who are uninsured (21.5%), Texas is the worst state for mental health care.

  • Texas is home to the highest percentage of adults with a cognitive disability who could not see a doctor due to cost (40.65%), and the highest percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year and did not receive treatment (73.1%).

  • Texas has the fourth highest percentage of children with private health insurance that does not cover mental or emotional problems (13.8%).

  • Texas has the fifth lowest number of mental health treatment centers in the nation (only 41.92 per 10,000 businesses).

2. Mississippi Mississippi’s score: 88.96 out of 100

  • Mississippi is the second worst state in the nation for two of the metrics we considered: Number of mental health treatment centers (36.33 per 10,000 businesses) and percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year and did not receive treatment (71.7%).

  • The state is also home to the fourth highest percentage of adults with any mental illness who are uninsured (18.2%).

3. Alabama Alabama’s score: 86.50 out of 100

  • Alabama has the second highest percentage of adults with a mental illness who are uninsured (19.3%, tied with Missouri).

  • Alabama has the third lowest number of mental health treatment centers nationwide (38.33 per 10,000 businesses).

  • More than one-third (38.35%) of Alabama adults with a cognitive disability could not see a doctor in the past 12 months due to cost, the fourth highest percentage in the country.

  • Alabama has the sixth highest percentage of children with private health insurance that does not cover mental or emotional problems (12.5%).

4. Georgia Georgia’s score: 86.02 out of 100

  • Georgia tied with Florida for having the second highest percentage of adults with a mental illness who did not receive mental health treatment in the past year (63.5%).

  • The state has the second highest percentage of adults with a cognitive disability who could not see a doctor in the past 12 months due to cost (39.18%).

  • Georgia has the fifth highest percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year and did not receive mental health treatment (67.8%).

5. Florida Florida’s score: 81.48 out of 100

  • Florida tied with Georgia for having the second highest percentage of adults with a mental illness who didn’t receive treatment in the past year (63.5%).

  • More than one-third (34.9%) of Florida adults with a cognitive disability could not see a doctor in the past 12 months due to cost, the fifth highest in the nation.

  • Florida is home to the sixth highest percentage of adults with a mental illness who are uninsured (17.8%).

6. South Carolina South Carolina’s score: 79.11 out of 100

  • South Carolina has the lowest number of mental health treatment centers compared to all other states (only 30.87 per 10,000 businesses).

  • South Carolina is home to the sixth highest percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year who didn’t receive mental health services (67.6%).

  • The state had the seventh highest percentage of children with private health insurance that does not cover mental or emotional problems (12.4%).

7. Arizona Arizona’s score: 72.75 out of 100

  • Arizona performed poorly in two of our metrics that assessed access to mental health treatment for youth.

  • The state has the fourth highest percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year who didn’t receive mental health treatment (70.1%).

  • Arizona also had the 10th highest percentage of children with private health insurance that doesn’t cover mental or emotional problems (10.2%).

8. Wyoming Wyoming’s score: 71.58 out of 100

  • Wyoming is fifth worst in the nation for three of the metrics that we considered: Percentage of adults with any mental illness who did not receive mental health treatment in the past year (61.7%), percentage of adults with any mental illness who are uninsured (18%) and percentage of children with private health insurance that doesn’t cover mental or emotional problems (12.7%).

  • Wyoming is home to the eighth highest percentage of adults with a cognitive disability who could not see a doctor in the past 12 months due to cost (32.94%).

9. Tennessee (my dear birth and growing up state) Tennessee’s score: 68.06 out of 100

  • Tennessee has the eighth lowest rate of mental health treatment centers nationwide (50.6 per 10,000 businesses).

  • Tennessee ranks 10th worst in two of the metrics that we considered: Percentage of adults with any mental illness who are uninsured (15.3%) and percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year and did not receive mental health treatment (66.5%).

10. Idaho Idaho’s score: 67.29 out of 100

  • Idaho ranks eighth worst in the nation for two of our metrics that evaluated access to mental health treatment for youth: Percentage of youth who had a major depressive episode in the past year who didn’t receive mental health treatment (67.1%) and percentage of children with private health insurance that doesn’t cover mental or emotional problems (12.2%). States With the Highest Rates of Mental Illness

  • Montana has the No. 1 highest rate of mental illness (25.76% of adults report having any mental illness and 6.75% of adults report having a serious mental illness).

  • New Jersey ranks as the state with the lowest rate of mental illness (18.74% of adults report having any mental illness and just 3.99% of adults report having a serious mental illness).





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