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Mental Health Demands Better Screening

National Mental Illness Awareness Week is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of behavioral and emotional wellness. It may also be a time to advocate for more widespread screening. 

More than one in five adults live with a diagnosable mental health condition. These can range from temporary concerns to pervasive conditions that profoundly challenge everyday life.  

When Effective Treatment Creates New Challenges 

Some patients who manage their mental health condition with prescription antipsychotic or neuroleptic medications may encounter yet another challenge, a condition known as tardive dyskinesia. The involuntary movement disorder, which develops from use of certain medications, leads to uncomfortable, uncontrollable and repetitive movements, often of the facial muscles.  

At least 500,000 patients are living with tardive dyskinesia, alongside other conditions.  

Tardive dyskinesia delivers a one-two punch for patients. They are first diagnosed with a mental health condition that is treated with antipsychotic medication. They commit to a medication regimen to manage that condition and maintain quality of life. But managing their mental health condition then leads to the development of another condition, tardive dyskinesia.  

Feelings of shame, embarrassment and isolation that can accompany tardive dyskinesia exacerbate the challenges that people with mental health conditions already face. Reluctance to seek help – or lack of awareness of available treatment options – can be a major barrier to treatment and improvement.  

Increased Screening Is Needed 

Improved screening practices are needed to identify, diagnose and treat tardive dyskinesia. Clinicians trained to recognize the mild twitching and more significant muscle movements that characterize tardive dyskinesia can recommend preventive steps. Greater awareness of – and reimbursement for – physician screening tools will be critical to ensure patients are being diagnosed and treated early. Managing medication use carefully, so as to treat mental health symptoms while minimizing side effects, is also important.  

For the millions of Americans living with mental health symptoms, treatment encompasses more than just addressing the primary condition. It also involves identifying and managing potential side effects or complications from treatment, including tardive dyskinesia.  

Raise awareness, share your story and advocate for improved screening this week using #MIAW.