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How Hypnosis Works as a Therapeutic Treatment

First, let’s clarify some of the myths. All the following statements about hypnosis are demonstrably false:

  1. People who are easily hypnotized are mentally weak. (In fact, hypnosis requires a good deal of concentration and self-control, while being open to suggestion does not override one’s pre-existing values and behavioral patterns.)
  2. People who are hypnotized are asleep, helpless, and/or unable to lie.
  3. Hypnosis can cure people’s problems or show dramatic results in a single session.
  4. Hypnosis can be reliably used for memory retrieval. (While people may conjure images and memories while in a hypnotic state, but the veracity of these memories is often questionable at best.)
  5. The manner and stage presence of show-business hypnotherapists is needed to induce a hypnotic state.

So, what then is hypnosis? A hypnotic state is characterized by a focused meditation that causes one’s surroundings to recede from their conscious mind, while making one open to suggestion. To this point, it’s not that someone can force you to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Instead, hypnosis ideally enables you to do, perceive, or experience things in a way you wanted to all along but were unable to in a normal state of mind.


Does Hypnosis Work?

In a general sense, yes, it works. Studies going back more than 50 years have consistently found improved mental health for those who receive hypnotherapy, compared to control groups. Yet, to this day, we’re still not really sure how it works. But don’t let this lack of explanation put you off hypnosis. The same thing can be said for antidepressant drugs and several other types of mental health therapy. Also like other forms of treatment, hypnotherapy doesn’t work for everyone. It is most often recommended for clients who are trying to quit smoking, lose weight, sleep better, or deal with depression or anxiety. A full list of conditions can be found here.


Will Hypnosis Work for You?

Overall, how effective hypnosis can be may depend more on the client’s natural proclivity than the therapist’s skill. Studies have shown that about 5-10 percent of people can reach a hypnotic state—guided or self-induced—with relative ease. On the other end of the spectrum, 25-30 percent of people are highly resistant, with the remainder falling somewhere in the middle. That said, it may be impossible to know how strong a candidate you are for hypnotherapy without giving it a try.


Connecting with a Hypnotherapist

That said, the therapist certainly has a role to play, especially when guiding a client toward a therapeutic goal. Finding the right hypnotherapist starts the same way as it does for most professionals: looking at the person’s qualifications and experience. In Utah, a hypnotherapist may be a licensed mental health therapist or an unlicensed practitioner. You can learn more about this difference here. When choosing among the many qualified options, look for someone with whom you can easily develop a rapport. Being comfortable with your hypnotherapist is a process that should start well in advance of an actual hypnotherapy session.


Getting the Most out of Hypnotherapy

Some common truisms about hypnosis are, in fact, true. For example, you are more likely to be hypnotized if you believe you can be. So whether you’re trying to take the edge off your anxiety or nicotine cravings, give the therapy an honest and earnest attempt. Moreover, as hypnosis is not a “miracle cure,” many mental health issues are best addressed through multiple approaches to therapy. If you believe hypnotherapy may help you make a life change, better cope with a mental health issue, or strengthen your mental health overall, don’t hesitate to get a consultation from an experienced hypnotherapist.


How to Evaluate an Online Mental Illness Test

A mental illness test is not one thing, but a collection of formal and informal tools that offer reports based on audience-level and clinical application. In other words, depending on the context, all of the following might be referred to a test for mental illness:

  • A free online test with a catchy title that’s meant to drive clicks and web traffic.
  • A free or fee-based screening test that’s developed within the parameters of a well-established assessment resource.
  • Basic testing and evaluation protocols used by physicians and emergency responders as a provisional assessment of someone’s mental health status.
  • Protected protocols and testing materials that must be administered by a qualified clinician.

So, how do Utah residents know what’s they’re dealing with? It’s easy to get the impression from a numbered list of questions and a respectable-looking website that there is a certain amount of standardization involved in test construction and results. In reality, very few online tests have gone through the rigorous process of measuring the test’s reliability and validity.

There’s an easy trick to find out, though. Do a search for the test’s sensitivity and specificity. These measurements reveal how likely it is that a mental health problem will be missed (sensitivity) and how likely it is that a non-existent issue will be falsely reported (specificity). Unless the site is fabricating data, these types of measurements suggest rigorously analyzed protocols. For both categories, the higher the percentage, the better the test performs.


How to Judge an Online Mental Illness Test

This doesn’t mean that the vast majority of online mental health tests are published by charlatans. No doubt there are a few shams out there, but most online tests are developed by conscientious organizations or specialized clinicians with expertise in the area. Many screening tools are created by modifying or extracting some essential portion of a well-established diagnostic tool. This is most commonly seen in depression tests and the Beck Depression Inventory or Hamilton Rating Scale. As a general rule of thumb, the best way to judge an informal mental illness test is to consider the credibility of the publisher and what information is available about the test’s trustworthiness.


Find a Mental Illness Test or Health Provider

Maybe it’s not the credibility of the test you’re most concerned with but the goal or subject area. If you don’t know where to start, a mental health assessment is often a good starting point. Test screening for a specific mental illness—mood disorder, developmental disorder, other mental disorders—may be found here.

In the proper context, a mental health survey is a valuable resource as a basic referral tool, but it is no substitute for a direct clinical interview. It’s one thing to use a test as a barometer for taking action and to distinguish those behaviors and symptoms which may warrant the attention of qualified mental health services. But if you know something isn’t right, don’t rely on a free online test to tell you what the problem is. Instead, seek help from a mental health professional in Utah.

Taking the Stigma out of Mental Disability in Utah

In many cultures, a mental disability is one of the stigmatizing conditions a person can have. While the pressure and idealized forms of physical beauty are more visible, the way we value intellectual functioning—or rather the ways in which devalue a lack of intellectual ability—can lead to some pretty harmful avoidance and isolation of those with less cognitive capacity.

And yet, intelligence is far from a silver bullet. Persistence is a better indicator of success. As it is, the vast majority of people are never going to be rocket scientists or linguistic analysts. Those who struggle with substance abuse or a personality disorder may struggle to maintain gainful employment, while an individual with far less intellectual functioning can accomplish immense things given the right environment.


Cognitive Assessment and Mental Disability

While it’s typically possible to get a rough idea of cognitive performance from a person’s daily behavior and communication skills, some results may surprise even experienced clinicians. That’s why they conduct the tests! The primary goal of these assessments is not say how smart someone is but rather what level of functioning the person can expect to achieve—both with and without skills training services.

Most intelligence tests create a single, aggregate number, but it’s often the results of each subscale that are the most revealing. These subscales describe major areas of cognition including verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, processing speed, and working memory. By identifying relative cognitive strengths and weaknesses, psychologists can then describe the environmental factors and skills training programs that are likely to produce the best outcomes.


Causes and Individual Factors in Utah

Diseases and developmental disorders are the most common causes. Many people are familiar with Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, and heavy metal poisoning. Likewise, Many Utah parents know about the state’s high autism rates, a developmental disorder that results in mental disability about half the time. Later in life, a few different types of dementia also have the potential to create cognitive disruptions.

Between the hazards of the Utah wilderness and a high participation for military service, trauma and head injuries are another common source of mental disability in Utah. Rather than a disability, most mental health professionals in Utah will refer to the effects of these injuries as a deficit or impairment. In fact, cognitive impairment may be used to describe any lack of cognitive functioning.

Without a supportive environment, almost anyone can suffer from social stigmatization. But even in an ideal environment, many people with new cognitive impairments may struggle with their sense of self-worth. Put another way, the stigma placed on these individuals by society may not compare to the judgment and feelings of inadequacy they lump on themselves.


Accessing Mental Health Services

We wish there was some magic wand we could wave and remove the stigma associated with mental disability. Sensitivity training and community outreach programs are moving the needle in the right direction in a wider content. For the individual, however, there is no difference-maker like skills training programs that provide personalized assistance and resource building. In Utah, there are numerous programs and professionals who can provide these mental health services. A reticence to seek out these types of services can substantially lower quality of life and prevent a fuller cultural assimilation. This barrier to access is one of the negative impacts of social stigmatization.


How to Understand Mental Health Statistics in Utah

In Utah, a lot of mental health statistics are misunderstood because the essential meaning of the information is lost in the game of telephone between research study, news reporting, and general audience. Even in the best of circumstances, for example, there is likely to be a sizable difference between the actual rate of depression, the number of people who choose to seek therapy, and a physician’s likelihood of prescribing antidepressant medications. Something as fundamental as what the study is studying and how the information is packaged can be easily misconstrued if you don’t know what to look for. Here are some things we suggest you keep in mind as you seek to educate yourself about mental health realities in Utah.


Prevalence, Incidence, and Base Rates

What’s the average rate of depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder? It depends what rate we’re talking about. The most commonly cited mental health statistics are prevalence rates: this is the percentage of people who experience a mental disorder within a given time frame (i.e. currently, over the last 12 months, over their lifetime). This is calculated by asking health providers how many individuals held a diagnosis within a given timeframe. The incidence rate is instead the number of new cases that occur. This is determined by counting the new cases initiated by mental health providers.

Finally, the base rate is the prevalence rate of a mental disorder in the population as a whole. This is done by randomly sampling the population and assessing each individual’s mental health status. Cost-prohibitive for most organizations, the best example of this type of research is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the definitive guide used by mental health professionals in the U.S. Thus, even when prevalence and incidence rate information is published by the Utah Health Department, clinicians in the state are still more likely to know or consult the national-level data.


Diagnostic Criteria

Even the way in which the base rates are calculated can change substantially over the years. This is not because the underlying rates of symptomology change in the individuals who are surveyed. Rather, scientists and researchers tend to change and refine the criteria for what counts as autism or addiction or depression.

For example, the most recent edition of the diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, included a new category—disruptive mood dysregulation—which a form of depression that occurs in childhood and adolescence and is characterized by persistent irritability and temper tantrums that go beyond what’s considered developmentally appropriate.

Moreover, there is also momentum to expand the depressive criteria in a way that would include more men. Rather than gender parity for its own sake, researchers claim to recognize a pattern of male-type depression characterized by “anger attacks, aggression, substance abuse and risk taking.” At the very least, this study is something to keep in mind the next time you read that women are about twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.


Mental Health Statistics and Media Reports

Research studies rarely describe these differences because it’s assumed that the academic, scientific, and health provider audiences already understand the terminology. Meanwhile, contemporary journalists are rarely given the attention, space, and freedom needed to accurately qualify the information contained in research studies.

And yet, differences between base rates and prevalence frequently have a bigger story to tell about the mental health services in that area. When the prevalence is significantly higher than the base rate, for example, this can be a sign that the condition is being over-diagnosed. Likewise, when the prevalence dips much lower than expected, this can be a sign the condition is under-diagnosed.

To this point, some Utah mental health statistics do have a compelling story to tell, if only we could read the script. In 2010, shortly before the CDC issued a report that said antidepressant use had skyrocketed 400% in the previous two decades, Utah was completing its own antidepressant use report. Not only had the state seen its own escalation of antidepressant use, but the highest use rates were concentrated in northern Utah, not Utah County as many believed. Meanwhile, the part of the story that remains inscrutable is whether this higher use rate reflected greater access to health services, physicians who were too quick to get out the prescription pad, or some combination of factors.

Interventions for Depression in Utah

Interventions for depression are commonly associated with ambush-style group meetings led by an intervention specialist. In some cases, a planned strategy to convince an individual to participate in a treatment program can be effective, but this is far from the only type of intervention. A mental health screening completed during a routine medical check-up, talk therapy, prescription drugs, and residential programs are all examples of treatment interventions.

On the other hand, not all interventions for depression are conducted by mental health professionals or through dedicated care programs. In fact, whether people realize it or not, their desire for a friend or family member to get better often manifests as an informal intervention. With a general understanding of clinical depression, these conversations can be more productive.


Personalities and Personal Misconceptions

There’s a big difference between being in a funk and clinical depression. If an individual feels depressed or apathetic for two weeks or longer, if the individual begins to manifest physical symptoms in addition to their low mood, if the individual begins to internalize their feelings into an attitude of guilt and worthlessness, the path forward is often more nuanced than simply: Get off the couch, or Get out of that bed! At the same time, stepping back completely and letting the problem run its course is also not a recipe for success. Instead, an encouraging, empathetic posture that is directed toward helping an individual participate in depression therapy is usually the best bet.

We admit that this is often more difficult than it sounds. With its pioneering spirit, emphasis on self-reliance, and industrious values, Utah culture presents unique barriers to accessing mental health services. Even very proud and highly motivated people can struggle with depression, and these individuals can be especially reticent to admit they need the help of a mental health professional. Conversely, individuals who weren’t born with a lot of innate ambition and pluckiness may be more easily stigmatized when a depressed mood does set in. At the same time, Utah is also known for tightly knit communities and loving families who can provide timely counsel and life-saving support when an individual needs them most.


Treatment Interventions for Depression in Utah

Here is an overview of relevant mental health professionals in Utah and the types of interventions for depression they have to offer:

Physicians—More than just antidepressant medications, physicians first play a role in screening for mental health issues during routine check-ups. Depending on your insurance plan, primary care physicians may be necessary to authorize coverage for other mental health professionals. Medical doctors can also play a key role in determining whether a depressive episode is due to an underlying medical condition.

Therapists—Talk therapy is often a first-line defense for depressed mood. Even before a clinical diagnosis is possible, counseling services can provide an initial buffer against the effects of personal loss and depression triggers. Moreover, there is evidence that talking to a therapist reduces the risk of suicide even years after the fact.

Assessment—To consider the effects of a dual diagnosis, to distinguish between different types of depressive disorder, or to refine a severity rating and make treatment recommendations, a qualified psychologist can make an assessment with the goal of improving mental health outcomes.

Psychiatric & Inpatient Care—Like most states, there is a shortage of psychiatrists in Utah, especially in rural areas. While all hospitals can provide emergency care services, only certain locations have a dedicated unit for behavioral health.

Residential Programs—On the upside, the state has more than its fair share of residential programs. Along with locations along the I-15 corridor that offer expressive therapies and customized care services, Utah has multiple wilderness programs that are designed as interventions for depression.

Bipolar Disease in Utah: Current Practices and Services

As we currently understand it, bipolar disease is not a disease at all but a mental disorder. To be classified as a disease, a health condition must have clearly understood causes. With bipolar, we’re just not there yet. But what we do have is a pretty clear picture when it comes to the prevalence, symptomology, and potential outcomes for bipolar disorder.

We know, for example, that these individuals all seem to struggle with extreme mood swings that persist for several days, weeks, or even months at a time. We know that about 2.6 percent of people are affected by bipolar disorder each year. And judging by the rates of major depression, the prevalence in Utah is probably quite comparable. The condition is most often diagnosed somewhere between adolescence and middle-age. We know that many people can manage the symptoms with treatment, some even to the point where the disorder goes into remission. Depending on severity, early and accurate identification, and the strength of the person’s support system, there can be a wide range of disruption to the individual’s personal life. And, unfortunately, approximately one in five people who struggle with the disorder end up taking their own lives. Additional facts can be found at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.


The Study of Bipolar Disease

While we know many of the characteristics of the disorder, we still know very little about bipolar disease. But this does not mean there’s nothing we can say about the physiological processes associated with the condition. Much like major depression, we recognize that bipolar disorder has something to do with the dysregulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine, but we don’t know why or exactly how this dysregulation occurs.

Thus, although we don’t understand the underlying causes of a would-be bipolar disease, we do suspect there is a biological underpinning. We’d love to be able to say that we’re close to solving the puzzle—as presumably this increased understanding would lead to more effective treatments. But the truth is that it would take a major breakthrough—or, more likely, several—if we ever do get there.

In Utah, research is also being done on treatments that may help alleviate bipolar symptoms and improve mental health outcomes. The Brain Institute at the University of Utah, for example, is conducting a study on the possible benefits of uridine for adolescents and young adults with bipolar disorder. A nutritional supplement, uridine is found in breast milk and most infant formulas. It has already shown promising antidepressant effects in preliminary studies.


Get Help in Utah

It can be instructive to put our knowledge of the disorder into perspective, but if you are currently struggling with intense and sustained mood swings, you can’t wait for the science to catch up. Although we can’t cure bipolar disease, we can certainly treat bipolar disorder. A psychological assessment will help determine what, if any, mental disorder is present. Talk therapy can help an individual mitigate the harm that’s often caused by periods of mania and depression and lower the risk of suicide. Prescription medications can have an effect on the dysregulation of neurotransmitters in the brain. There are also a host of nutritional supplements, noninvasive, and experimental procedures available for more personalized and advanced treatment options.

Moreover, in an ideal scenario, not all help needs to come from mental health professionals. Family members and community resources may provide additional layers of support, while a therapist can also recommend support groups and different types of community involvement that are most likely to produce a positive effect. Don’t let any stigma, real or perceived, stop you from getting the help that can make a positive difference.

What You Need to Know about Community Mental Health in Utah

Community mental health is one of those buzzwords that some health practices like to use in branding their services. In the course of choosing their mental health provider, people may come across this phrase and wonder what precisely it means. The short answer here is that “community” most often equals residents with limited financial means and/or who have issues associated with impoverished neighborhoods. So while there are plenty of exceptions, people living in poverty are most likely to access the services offered by community mental health providers.


Community Mental Health vs. Universal Access

One of the potential misconceptions about community mental health is that it provides universal access. Often, these practices are associated with expanding access because of the vulnerable, underserved, or underprivileged populations they serve. Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean they accept every form of financial authorization. Some practices have Medicaid contracts and other agreements with public assistance funds that do not include private insurance coverage. Some practices sit on insurance panels from a different insurance carrier. Likewise, these practices may or may not have a sliding fee scale that make a private-pay arrangement feasible for more Utah households.


Getting Help: Referrals and Emergency Services

It’s nearly impossible for even the largest providers to offer universal access. Even those providers who have the infrastructure to gain contracts with Medicaid, Medicare, and major insurance carriers, as well as independent grants and private-pay arrangements may reach their service capacity or specific contract quotas. In these cases, a referral is typically made that allows the individual to seek services elsewhere.

That said, there is one case in which universal access is available—a mental health emergency. If someone poses an immediate risk of harming themselves or someone else, call 911 or a Utah mental health hotline.


Standardized Mental Health Services

With all this in mind, what can one expect from these types of mental health services? There are no hard-and-fast rules, but overall there is more standardization associated with these services. When a social worker refers someone for a psychological evaluation, there is usually a prescribed number of hours and type of assessment (psychological, neuropsychological) that is authorized. The psychologist, meanwhile, still has discretion and authority over the specific tests and assessment tools that they employ. This standardization process may fail to accurately reflect the varying levels of complexities to individual cases. On the other hand, it’s also a relatively straightforward way to gain financial authorization for those who qualify.


Seeking out Financial Assistance

While we still have a long way to go before achieving universal coverage, it’s arguably easier than ever to get coverage for essential mental health services. Between newly enforced mental health parity rules and an agreement between the federal and Utah government to expand access to low-income households, many residents are gaining coverage to mental health resources for the first time. But more than just general eligibility, residents must apply and enroll in many programs in order to receive benefits. It’s crucial to consider all possible options before concluding that a lack of financial resources is, in fact, a barrier to access. And once services are authorized, don’t wait to get help from a Utah community mental health center or other qualified health providers.


Are there Gender Differences in Utah for Mental Illnesses?

The rates of mental illnesses are different for men and women in Utah, but the size and nature of the difference has a huge amount of uncertainty attached to it. Below, you’ll find an overview of what we do know and how Utah residents can better interpret the circus of information that’s out there. For details and stories closer to home, we recommend you check out the MHAU resource on the treatment of men, women, and mental health in Utah.


Gender Research on the Rates of Mental Illnesses

Even for many of the most basic questions about rates of mental illnesses, there is little consensus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Overall rates of psychiatric disorder are almost identical for men and women but striking gender differences are found in the patterns of mental illness.” The article then goes on to list the most commonly cited facts about specific disorders:

  • Depression is twice as common in women—and more persistent.
  • Alcoholism is more than twice as common in men.
  • Antisocial personality is almost three times as likely in men.

A recent TIME Magazine article directly disputes this claim. By carefully looking at international epidemiological data, researchers concluded that “in any given year total rates of psychological disorder are 20-40% higher in women than men.”

Who’s right? By reading each article closely, it becomes clear that the difference between the two claims isn’t all that big. You know how people can make statistics say anything? Here’s a great example: Easily the most common disorder, depression has an outsized effect on the overall rates of mental illnesses. Dual diagnosis, in which at least two mental disorders are present, can also be counted a couple different ways in this calculation. By looking at the total number of cases, it’s pretty clear that women are somewhat more likely than mean to receive a diagnosis. By instead looking at the overall distribution of gender populations across multiple mental health criteria, it’s easy for the WHO to equivocate.


More Depressing Numbers

The complications don’t stop there. The ways in which conceptualize and classify mental illnesses have a huge impact of their own. In just one example, there is an ongoing debate in the mental health field about how the expression of anger and reckless behavior might fit into the criteria for depressive disorder. Already the DSM-5 has included a new depression category for childhood and adolescent individuals with unusually high anger and irritability. If one includes these characteristics, which disproportionately affect men, the gap between men and women essentially disappears for both depression and mental illness.


Media Representations

Rather than the different claims about the statistical realities, it’s the presentation of both these articles that deserve more scrutiny. The title of TIME title, “It’s Not Just Sexism, Women do Suffer more from Mental Illness,” is out of context to draw more clicks and eyeballs. Moreover, the title provides its own context for condoning and acting out of sexism as in: “See, I’m not being sexist, women really are crazier than men.”

In the context of the article, it’s clear rather that the sexism is not water-cooler conversation, but a subtle—if potentially damaging—form of institutional bias. In this case, the example is the WHO appearing to be afraid of being sexist, or at least overly sensitive to socio-political pressures, by marginalizing the difference in overall numbers of men and women who face a mental illness. In today’s publishing world, titles more often reflect a media marketing strategy than the actual approach taken by the authors. But think about how different the connotation would be if the Time article were instead titled: “WHO ignores Facts about Mental Illness Rates in Men and Women.”

It’s Not Just Sexism, Women Do Suffer More From Mental Illness


How to Use Mental Health Assessment Forms for Better Outcomes in Utah

Mental health assessment forms are important tools for evaluating the level of need for various therapy interventions and other mental health services. As you can learn more about here, there is a long list of mental health test forms that might be used based on the types of symptoms and behaviors that are of concern. But first, you might also consider some of the ways these forms can be used to get better results from mental health services in Utah.


Getting Help: Without knowing exactly where to start, some people suspect that they, or someone they know, is experiencing a mental health issue of some kind. For acute symptoms, a mental status examination is often the most helpful form. Ideally, this information is gathered by a qualified health clinician or emergency response personnel, but an informal checklist can be viewed here. In terms of identifying cognitive impairment, the mini mental state examination is a common tool for evaluating potential signs of dementia, traumatic brain injury, and stroke.

Finally, there are also mental health assessment forms that address non-emergency situations. One good example is this 12-item questionnaire from PsychCentral about whether someone is likely to benefit from therapy services.



Self-Monitoring: With many mental disorders—and mood disorders especially—the duration and variability of mental health symptoms may be crucial diagnostic information. There are a couple of easy ways to help provide this information:

  1. Make a diary that describes the feelings or behaviors that are the cause of concern, along with other potentially important information.
  2. Find a mental health assessment form or mental disorder test that speaks to the symptoms you’ve observed. Answer the questions each day or week and consider what answers, if any, have changed.

Attempting to create an accurate record of the severity and the time/dates of psychological symptoms is one of the ways in which almost any client can contribute to better mental health outcomes. Even in the presence of symptoms that threaten the control individuals typically have over their own behaviors, this is an indirect method to gain some measure of control.


Provider-Issued Forms: This method of self-monitoring is not a replacement for a clinical evaluation and directed therapy interventions. In fact, the best time for self-monitoring may be during the interval between when symptoms are first observed and the date of an appointment with a mental health professional.

As such, it doesn’t hurt to ask a mental health practice what type of self-report diary or assessment form they recommend. Some practices will even have their own customized forms for you to fill out, often times beforehand. Often called an intake form, this information can make the time at a clinician’s office more productive, while also working to create a better fit between client and clinician.


Documentation and Common Reference: Another reason to use mental health assessment forms is that they can provide a common reference for changes to symptoms over time. Documentation should not be a fear but rather a resource that guides future interventions. And this resource may be especially important if you need health services from another provider down the road. This isn’t to say that the most commonly used tests are necessarily the best ones, but this does help explain one of the advantages of standardized forms over diary-style documentation.


Getting Started

If you recognize that a serious mental health issue exists but you’re not sure where to start, don’t hesitate to contact an actual mental health provider, rather than relying on a form or using a questionnaire as an excuse to avoid seeking help.

Mental Health Disparities in Utah

Mental health is a collection of individual behaviors, social and environmental factors, and health provider services that work together to improve behavioral functioning, quality of life, and an overall sense of self-worth. In Utah, this fairly universal definition is quickly muddled by contradictory facts. Studies have shown, for example, that the state has the highest rates of mental illness as well as the highest ranking for happiness.

But maybe these statistics aren’t as contradictory as they first appear. Hypobaric hypoxia is prolonged oxygen deprivation associated with living at higher elevations. The effects may include euphoria and increased moodiness, along with fatigue, headaches, cognitive disruptions, and other symptoms associated with mental illness. Yet, this is largely a mental health difference between Utah and the rest of country. What about inside the state? Here are a few of the factors that create disparate outcomes for Utah residents with a variety of mental disorders.


Geography and Mental Health in Utah

It’s easy to imagine geographic barriers in the counties that are not along the I-15 corridor, and indeed access to health services in rural areas is a big issue in Utah. Yet, many would be surprised by the number of residents in Tooele, Summit, Morgan, and even Utah County who struggle simply to get to and from their health provider appointments.

At the same time, living in one of Utah’s valleys presents its own risk profile. These areas are known for their winter inversions and poor air quality. The three largest cities in Utah (Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo) are all located in valleys which produce the worst air quality in the state. This is significant as air pollution has been linked to autism, suicide, and other mental disorders.


Financial Inequality

A lack of financial resources compounds the problem for individuals and families with minimal access to daily transportation and clean mountain air, but this is far from the only consequence of poverty on mental health in Utah. Whether it’s public assistance, affordable health insurance premiums, and/or private fees for services that are deemed “medically unnecessary,” a certain level of financial resources is a must.

Unfortunately, existing health coverage may act as a deterrent for upward mobility. The working poor may guard against making just enough money to get kicked off public assistance, a situation that would leave household members without access to badly needed health services.

Rising income inequality is also a big source of mental health disparities in Utah. This enables a relatively small portion of the population to inflate the fees for select or extended health services. This is an issue that every state struggles with, and the good news for state residents is that Utah has one of the lowest rates of income inequality overall. We used to be best in the nation, but the latest data has us trending in the wrong direction.


Religious and Cultural Factors

Much like living at higher altitudes, the overall weight and effect of cultural influences is difficult, if not impossible, to measure. There’s little doubt, for example, that the LDS church manages a robust financial assistance program for both its members and generally underprivileged populations. Yet, it’s also true that a complicated heritage has led to many state residents who are generally distrustful of civil authorizes, a distrust that can spill over to the state’s health provider services.

People from other states also underestimate the cross-cultural dynamics that are at play in the state. Several different ethnic groups, religious immigrants, non-religious or “cultural” Mormons, new urbanites, and a strong LGBT community are just a few of the groups that contribute to a culturally diverse population. At the end of the day, we must keep working toward positive mental health outcomes, even as we recognize that perfect parity is unattainable.