Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

As health care advances, so too does our understanding about the numerous conditions affecting patients, including their mental health and well-being. Messaging from federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about mental health is taking an inclusive, wholistic approach to the many aspects of mental health. CDC presented new educational applications for providers to consider when talking to their patients about mental well-being and their continued success in treatment.

CDC also posted its definition of mental health for providers to consider: “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Its actions show that the agency hopes to break down the existing stigmas associated with mental health, driving patients and providers to understand that treating the illness is also treating the whole person. CDC added that “chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness,” which oncology nurses need to assess for when treating patients with cancer. By raising awareness, CDC will increase the public’s and healthcare providers’ understanding of mental health well-being in conjunction with chronic diseases like cancer.

CDC also shared several statistics pointing to the need for better efforts in mental health:

  • More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, will have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
  • Mental well-being is impacted by experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditions, like cancer or diabetes.

The agency also provides patients and healthcare professionals with resources and tools to discuss and confront the mental impact of cancer treatments, including five things survivors should know about their mental health.