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An Overview of Mental Health in Phoenix, Arizona (Maricopa Metropolitan Area)
At the heart of the Valley of the Sun, Arizona’s foremost metropolitan region, lies Phoenix, the state’s capital and the fifth most populated city in the United States. According to a study conducted by Mental Health America considering 15 various metrics, Arizona is one of the worst states for Mental Health. Its 49th place ranking reflected a considerable disparity between regional mental health needs and the availability of suitable care, particularly for youth. 70% of minors with major depression do not receive treatment
Maricopa County’s most recent comprehensive health survey revealed that 12.7% Medicare beneficiaries received aid for depression a 12.3% increase in depression prevalence from 2011 and demonstration of a slightly higher rate of depression in comparison to Arizona as a whole.
The region’s moniker is not without reason. With over 100 days each year creeping above 100 degrees, Phoenix is one of the hottest cities in the country. Its summers are slated to soon approach the 114-degree averages rivalling those of the desert Middle East. While studies suggest sunlight is vital for processes that support our mental health, just 10-15 mins of sunlight make enough melatonin to confer mood-regulating benefits), excessive sun can antagonize a healthy mind.
The Phoenix Climate and Mental Health
It is not the sun itself that instigates these negative consequences, but rather the associated heat. According to a blog post featured by the National Resource Defense Council, temperatures above 70 degrees stimulate more stress and anger temperatures above 70 degrees stimulate more stress and anger than do moderate temperatures and are associated with inadequate sleep. It is thought that warmer weather exacerbates the effects of existing social stress, and as over one-fifth of Phoenix residents live at or below the poverty line , a significant proportion of Phoenix residents are prone to amplified mental difficulties due to the climate.
For Phoenix residents with preexisting mental conditions, the Valley of the Sun poses more severe consequences. Researchers found a strong relationship between warm temperatures and the frequency of emergency room (ER) visits for mental and behavioral disorders. Unbeknownst to many patients using psychiatric medication to stabilize their moods or thwart the effects of demanding illnesses like schizophrenia, psychiatric medicine can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Psychiatric medication inhibits the body’s ability to sweat and discourages users against typical behaviors one would take to address overheating–such as proper hydration and wearing appropriate layers of clothing. A 2007 meta-analysis found that preexisting psychiatric illness tripled one’s chance of death during heat waves, more so than even cardiovascular abnormalities. Phoenix summers are further linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a temporary depression that the average person more often associates with sunless winters. When desert climates like that found in Arizona present consecutive days of scorching sun, the climate can disturb one’s circadian rhythm, which prompts exhaustion, insomnia, and a lingering sense of isolating melancholy.
Mental Health Concerns and the Roads to Resolution
As of 2016, Maricopa’s divorce rate is 3.8, or 3.8 divorces per 1,000 residents. This is only slightly higher than the national divorce rate of 3.2, and despite being relatively high, this rate reflects a 10% reduction in Maricopa divorces over the last decade. Overall, Arizona has the 13th highest divorce rate in the country, a statistic conducive to developmental disturbance for involved adolescents and emotional pain for divorcees. Phoenix hosts numerous family therapists to help heal and restore families before divorce is imminent. Couples who undergo extensive marital therapy report higher levels of desire to stay together and satisfaction with their partners than those who do not, benefits that also positively influence any possible children the couple may have. For clients who have exhausted other options, counselors can help all involved parties navigate the often-complicated quagmire of divorce in a healthy, drama-free manner.
The American Psychology Association (APA) recently reported that there were 1,885 active psychologists in Arizona. A physician search through the Arizona Medical Board suggests there are 466 practicing psychiatrists in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. (However, these search results display a comprehensive reflection of valid licenses and include both inactive and retired professionals. The actual number of practicing psychiatrists in Maricopa County is likely far less, and only 106 of them are proficient in adolescent psychology). Maricopa County–as well as the entire state of Arizona–is considered severely deficient in qualified psychiatrists and related mental health professionals.
However, the state has been taking impressive strides in addressing mental health issues through both private and public measures. Efforts have resulted in a 40% decrease in legal opioid prescriptions to combat drug addiction, and Arizona lawmakers are working to offer first-time drug offenders rehabilitation and mental health referrals rather than lengthy prison sentences, despite resistance. WellCare recently donated almost a quarter million dollars towards constructing a health facility in the Avondale Elementary School district, one of Maricopa’s most financially disadvantaged areas. The new health center will support Medicaid subscribers and offer mental support services to children and their families.
Maricopa also offers 12 government-suggest facilities devoted to combating mental health concerns, which operate alongside numerous private practices and programs offered through the Maricopa Integrated Behavioral Health System (MIHS). Many mental health organizations in the Phoenix community offer free support groups for individuals suffering from all mental issues. Non-profit organization Mental Health hosts listings of support groups throughout Maricopa County on its website, which cater to individuals affected by, but not limited to, any of the following conditions: anxiety, bipolarism, and depression. Family and friends of the clinically affected are welcome to attend these gatherings as well.
An effective therapist can be the defining factor in one’s mental health journey, helping you better understand and conquer the issues that harm your wellbeing. E-Counseling helps connect Phoenix residents with trusted professionals that are trained in addressing psychological issues and life’s hardships life with respect and empathy.