Mental Health a Concern for Patients Battling Multiple Ailments

Following his mother’s death three years ago, Gary Myslinski was forced to grapple with his chronic medical issues of diabetes, pancreatitis and liver disease. The stress of losing a loved one, combined with the treatment of his medical conditions, led Myslinski’s doctors at Harris Health System to diagnose him with a common side effect afflicting thousands of people coping with multiple conditions—depression.

Dr. Asim Shah, medical director, Psychiatry, Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital and associate professor, Menninger Department of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, said seeing patients like Myslinski suffer mental health issues while battling other diseases is not unusual.

“A large number of psychiatric patients also suffer from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or other medical conditions, and don’t realize that they’re suffering from bouts of depression and anxieties outside of their control,” he said. “Many patients suffer silently not knowing that their medical conditions and treatments could be contributing or exacerbating their mental conditions.”

Mental health conditions can disrupt a person's thinking, mood, ability to relate to others and perform daily activities. The conditions include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four adults (about 57.7 million) suffers mental health issues annually.

“The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible,” says Charlzetta McMurray-Horton, nursing director, Psychiatry, Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital. “Mental illness affects people of any age, race, religion or income, and it’s not because of personal weakness, a lack of character or poor upbringing. Unfortunately, it’s an illness with stigma that many people won’t seek treatment.”

The important thing is that patients and medical providers communicate and work together to address mental illness in conjunction with the treatment plan for other medical conditions.

“You can’t separate these diagnoses and expect to get a positive outcome for a patient,” Shah says.
 
Myslinski was lucky. His medical team diagnosed his depression, and aligned his psychiatric care with the rest of his healthcare treatments. His doctors ensured medicines were effective and did not counteract each other. Today, he’s doing well and is hopeful a job prospect will add to his well-being.

“My health is still an ongoing thing. Every day is a new day,” he says. “I feel a whole lot better now than I did, but I don’t feel cured. I’m pretty much feeling this is as good as it’s going to get and that’s fine with me.”