National Alliance on Mental Illness
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(800) 950-NAMI; firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical Self Advocacy
Many people living with mental illness do not have access to quality medical care that meets all of their health care needs. Often, when someone tells a health care provider that he or she is taking antipsychotic medications or has a serious mental illness, a person will receive a lower quality of care or less attention. That's why it is crucial that people who live with mental illness advocate for their own health care and work to change the very culture that promotes these unfair experiences.
Engaging in Primary Health Care
Health care providers are a key part in improving and maintaining overall wellness. They have access to tests and information that can help identify issues and areas of need. There are steps you can make to ensure the best from your primary health care visits.
Family History and Risks
If you smoke and have a family history of heart health issues, you will need to adapt your lifestyle. You should learn what risk factors your family member had, what risks you may face and what you can do to help prevent heart disease.
Although you may feel healthy, it's really important to routinely get tested or screened for common health conditions.
Dental health contributes to general health and wellness, self esteem and quality of life. For many people living with mental illness, dental health may be a low priority when other treatment and health issues must also be addressed.
Culturally Competent Care
The cultural competence of our health care providers is important to enhancing positive health care outcomes.
Many people living with mental illness are also living with substance abuse disorders and other medical conditions. The need for integrated health care is even more critical for individuals with these co-occurring, or dual-diagnosis, conditions.
Advanced Directives are a chance for you to direct where and what you want in your psychiatric care if, in the future, you are unable to make or seek a choice.
My Health Notes (PDF)
At age 19, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. My father was a Navy officer and, at that time, I was on my parents' insurance plan. Because of my circumstances, I have remained on that same insurance plan, and, since age 25, I've been fortunate enough to have the same psychiatrist.
Growing up, I saw what good professional care looked like because my parents were big advocates in my health care. They encouraged me to take my medications and realized how important my health was -- both mentally and physically.
They didn't look at my illness first -- they looked at my wellness. My parents aren't around anymore, so that means I have to be responsible where my physical health is concerned, including performing regular tasks such as making doctor's and dentist's appointments.
Make sure you talk honestly about any medical problems you have. I'm more trusting of my psychiatrist because I've known him for 26 years, but it's important I'm honest with my internist too. You need to establish trust to get the most out of your health care.