Ask the Doctor
2016 seemed to be a rough year for celebrities from my generation: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Maurice White, Vanity (Denise Matthews), Gil Hill, Merle Haggard, Prince, Patty Duke, Muhammad Ali, George Michael and Carrie Fisher all passed away, to name a few.
Though I don’t always want to admit it, I’m getting older, and many of these people had chronic health conditions such as heart disease or cancer. What stands out to me, though, are those who have struggled with mental health disorders, including alcohol and drug addiction, depression or bipolar disorder, and left us “too soon”.
Prince died of an opioid overdose at the age of 57, joining a list of celebrities who have died in recent years from addiction:
Michael Jackson (50), Whitney Houston (48), Heath Ledger (28), Philip Seymour Hoffman (46), Amy Winehouse (28), Cory Montieth (31), Lisa Robin Kelly (43), and Chris Kelly/Kris Kross (34).
Unfortunately, drug overdose death rates continue to climb in the U.S. In 2014 there were over 25,000 deaths due to prescription drug overdose in the U.S., and another over 15,000 overdose deaths from cocaine and heroin nationally. Alcohol reportedly kills over 110,000 people in the United States each year, including an average of 6 alcohol poisoning/overdose deaths a day.
In that same year, there were over 42,000 suicide deaths in the U.S. with over 830,000 emergency department visits for self-inflicted injuries. 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders, and 15 million adults battle depression each year. 29 million adults have diabetes, and we all know how deadly that can be if untreated.
Yet mental health disorders, including alcohol and drug addictions, are treatable. They are complex disorders that affect brain function and behavior, and effective treatments address all of the person’s needs. Help is available which can dramatically improve a person’s quality of life. Treatment includes talk therapy, medications, family and legal services, medical services, educational and vocational assistance.
While stigma and ignorance have kept many people away from talking about their troubles and seeking help, many other celebrities have gone public with their mental health conditions and treatment: Demi Lovato, Kesha, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Gwyneth Paltrow, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ellie Goulding, Jon Hamm, Hayden Panettiere, Serena Williams, Delonte West, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Lamar Odom, Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) and Larry Sanders.
Patty Duke and Carrie Fisher were both frank about their struggles, and strong advocates for treatment. Carrie Fisher was also a strong supporter of Mental Health First Aid, a program designed to teach the skills to recognize and respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use.
As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017, let’s take a moment to look into ourselves, and those close to us. This is a time for resolutions, and many resolve to eat better and get their bodies in shape. I ask you all to resolve to pursue healthy minds and spirits as well as bodies. Talk to someone if you are struggling. Approach a loved one if you think they are struggling. Look into a local Mental Health First Aid course: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/take-a-course/find-a-course/
And as always, the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority 24/7 helpline is there when you need it: (800)241-4949.
Dr. Carmen McIntyre is the Chief Medical Officer at Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. If you have a question for Dr. McIntyre, please submit it to AskTheDr@dwmha.com