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Dr. Jennifer Caudle is a board-certified family physician who is also an associate professor at Rowan University in New Jersey. Caudle is a well-known medical expert in the Philadelphia area often appearing on CNN, Fox 29  and CBS 3. Caudle wants African-Americans to prioritize mental health and to know the difference between mental health and mental illness.

African-Americans are undeserved by the nation’s mental health system. (Nat. Institute of Mental Health) Rates of mental health in African American communities are similar to those of the general population. But, only 1 out of 3 African Americans who need mental health care receives it. Compared to the general population, African Americans are more likely to stop treatment early and are less likely to receive follow-up care.

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control, mental health isa state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 

Mental illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Depression is currently the most common mental disorder among Americans affecting over 265 of the U.S. adult population.

Some symptoms of mental illness are:

  • Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
  • An unusual drop in functioning, especially at school or work.
  • Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch/
  • Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity; apathy.
  • A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or surroundings; a sense of unreality.
  • Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
  • Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
  • Uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
  • Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene.
  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings. 

Is anger management issues a mental illness?

Anger issues can certainly be a symptom of mental illness.

Does better nutrition aid in better mental health. Diet is a plus. Correct?

Good nutrition effects all aspect of health! Good nutrition is important for a healthy mind and body!

Does depression cause you to not want to have sex?

Decreased libido or decreased sex drive can be a symptom of depression.

Is it true that if you take psyche drugs and there are no mental health issues, the drugs can cause you to have mental problems?

Many medications have side effects. It is important to get a proper medical diagnosis and only take medications that have been prescribed to you for your health condition. It is possible to have side effects if a medication is taken when it should not be.

How do you find a doctor to take your problems seriously and are there any black doctors?

Finding the right doctor is KEY! Make sure that you feel comfortable talking with your physician- and that your doctor listens to your concerns. A good doctor-patient relationship is very important. If you don’t feel that you have found the right doctor, keep looking!

I’m diagnosed w/Lupus and Fibromyalgia both have depression & insomnia. My Doctor refuses to prescribe Xanax or Ativan that calm me and help me sleep. What recourse is there for me? 

There are many treatment options for depression and insomnia that not only include medications but therapy, counseling, support groups and other modalities. Consider speaking with your doctor about the other treatment options that exist.

I lost my daughter in 1999 I don’t think I never gotten over this. I catch myself just crying and blaming myself for everything. Is this depression?

Yes, your symptoms could be a sign of depression or other condition. It is wonderful that your insightful about how you are feeling- the fact that you recognize your behaviors and feelings is the first step to getting better. Please speak with your physician about your feelings. There are wonderful treatment options that can help.

I was put on depression medicine when my daughter left for college and I lost a uncle but they made me cry more and just sleep. Any happy medicine?

Medications affect everyone very differently. It is possible to not respond well to one medication, but to do very well on another. The key is to go back to your doctor and talk about how you are feeling on the medication that you are now taking. You might need a medication switch or other change in therapy.

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