Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949, reaching millions of people in the United States through the media, local events, and screenings.
Its purpose is to raise awareness and educate the public about: mental illnesses, such as the 18.1% of Americans who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder; the realities of living with these conditions; and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses. Additionally, Mental Health Awareness Month strives to reduce the stigma (negative attitudes and misconceptions) that surrounds mental illnesses. The month came about by presidential proclamation.
Common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include:
Excessive worrying or fear
Feeling excessively sad or low
Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
Avoiding friends and social activities
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
Changes in sex drive
Difficulty perceiving reality
Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality
Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes
Thinking about suicide
Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions
Changes in school performance
Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
Frequent disobedience or aggression
Frequent temper tantrums
Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Reach out to your health insurance, primary care doctor.
If you or someone you know needs helps now, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
Research conducted at Harvard could disprove another major myth about cannabis fans. A study published in February in the Human Reproduction medical journal found that male cannabis smokers might actually carry higher sperm counts and concentrations when compared to men who have never used the botanical drug.
Findings were contrary to what we hypothesized at the start of the study,” study lead author Feiby Nassan, a post doctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Tuesday. Experts found that men who reported to have smoked marijuana had an average sperm concentration of 63 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
“Those who had never used marijuana had 28 percent less potent semen.”
However, researchers also observed that people who stopped smoking tended to have slightly higher sperm counts than current pot smokers. One possible explanation could be that men who generally produce higher testosterone levels are more likely to use marijuana, rather than the implication that cannabis use itself affects sperm potency. Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We were very, very surprised about this.” “It is well-documented that within normal ranges, high testosterone levels are associated with greater engagement in risk-seeking behaviors, including drug use,” Chavarro said. “Higher testosterone levels are also related to slightly higher semen quality and sperm counts.”
“We could have found what we thought we were going to find, and maybe wouldn’t have been as surprised and would have ended up writing a very different paper,” said Chavarro. “But the fact that we showed the exact opposite forced us to look very, very deeply into the marijuana health effects literature. There is not that much. We are operating mostly on assumptions and good intentions and hunches.” Stanford University researchers found a similar surprise in 2017. Male daily cannabis consumers had 1.3 times more sex per month (6.9 sex instances) than never-users (5.6 instances) as well as very infrequent users of cannabis (5.5 instances). Female daily cannabis consumers had sex about one more time per month (7.1 occurrences) than never-users (6.0 occurrences) as well as very infrequent users of cannabis (6.0 times).
Chagas disease, also termed kissing bug disease is an infection caused by a protozoan parasite (Trypanosoma cruzi) that can result in acute inflammatory skin changes (chagomas) and eventually may cause infection and inflammation of many other body tissues, especially those of the heart and intestinal tract. The disease was named after Dr. Carlos Chagas, who discovered the disease in 1909. The disease may have three phases in an individual: acute, with mild or no symptoms that may last weeks to about two months; intermediate or indeterminate phase that has few if any symptoms and may last 10-20 years or longer.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 8-11 million people are infected in countries where the disease is endemic. The parasites are transferred to humans by the bite of blood-sucking triatomine bugs in the subfamily Triatominae, also termed “kissing bugs.” The disease has been diagnosed in the U.S., mainly in immigrants from South and Central America. Triatomine bugs have been detected in Texas, and recently the CDC communicated that the bugs have now been found in 28 states, including California and Pennsylvania.
Symptoms and signs
Swelling and/or redness at the skin infection site (termed chagoma)
Swollen lymph nodes
Headaches and body aches
Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
Treatment for Chagas disease
Treatment for Chagas disease depends on the phase of the disease. The prescription medications benznidazole (Ragonil) and nifurtimox (Lampit) may eliminate or reduce the number of parasites in the body. Some investigators suggest that drug-resistant parasites occur and others suggest these drugs of choice never eliminate all of the parasites. The CDC recommends drug treatment for “all people diagnosed with (Chagas) infection, congenital infection, and for those with suppressed immune systems, and for all children with chronic infection. Adults with chronic infection may also benefit from treatment.” The CDC cautions about treating adults over 50 years of age and recommends that treatment plans for older adults be individualized. Both of these anti-parasitic drugs are available in Central and South America. In America, however, the drugs can be obtained only through the CDC.