Most people will make it to their 80, 90, or even 100th birthday—but statistically people with serious mental illness don’t have a chance at growing old. In fact, they have a life expectancy that is 10-25 years shorter than average. Fountain House has teamed up with the World Health Organization (WHO) to put an end to that disparity.
On the eve of World Mental Health Day, more than 60 people gathered in the Wellness Center to learn about the connection between mental and physical health. The panel was the first in a series “Longer, Healthier Lives: Fountain House Shines a Light on Early Mortality” to raise awareness about the epidemic of early mortality among people with serious mental illness.
Kenn Dudek, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, Cindy Rodriguez, and Dr. Ezra Susser
Moderator Cindy Rodriguez of WNYC interviewed leading mental health experts, the Medical Director of the New York State Office of Mental Health Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer, Dr. Ezra Susser of University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and our own Kenn Dudek.
In his presentation, Dr. Sederer, who is also the Medical Editor for Mental Health for the Huffington Post, explained that “advanced primary care” is a better, more integrated solution to addressing mental health issues. “New York State is committed to delivering care that detects mental health problems,” he said.
Cindy Rodriguez and Dr. Lloyd I. Sederer
In an effort to give a global perspective of the early mortality epidemic, Dr. Susser shared findings from his work in Latin America designed to improve the integration of primary and secondary care for people with severe mental illnesses. He believes that public health professionals should identify what works in high-income countries and adapt these mental health programs in low-income areas. He also stated that many low- and middle-income countries need to do more community outreach to sustain effective mental health programs.
Kenn spoke about how Fountain House has created a health-conscious culture. The Wellness Unit provides ways for members to increase their physical activity, practice stress reduction techniques through yoga and meditation classes, and improve their overall wellbeing through fitness, nutrition and health education activities. He explained that WHO is analyzing best practice programs to reverse the trend of early mortality and that we anticipate our health home model and community wellness programs will be among them. “Our partnership with the World Health Organization reflects our mutual commitment to address early mortality among people living with mental illness,” he said.
In November, Kenn, Dr. Aquila and Dr. Susser will join over 20 leading scientists from around the world at a gathering convened by WHO. Interim results of the project will be shared. They will also discuss guidelines and best practices for healthcare practitioners around the world that increase the likelihood of people with serious mental illness living longer, healthier lives.
The next panel in the series “Getting Better Health Care for Your Mind and Body” will be held in early 2016.