Recent statistics highlight the mental health epidemic our country is facing. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in five U.S adults experience mental illness each year and one in six U.S. children aged 6-17 experience a mental disorder each year. This month marks Mental Health Awareness month, a time for us to reflect and prioritize our mental health. We know, now more than ever, that mental health is as important as our physical health, but it is often ignored or pushed under the rug. Many feel stigmatized by mental illness and may not seek out the care they need. We need to continue to speak out in support of ways to reduce the stigma and find ways to openly and honestly have these important discussions with colleagues, friends and family.
As someone who has long been a proponent for mental health awareness, I see the tremendous importance of access to healthcare, including oral health care, to overall health and wellness, mental health being an important component of that. One of my proudest achievements to-date was helping to bring a dental benefit to adults in New Hampshire who qualify for Medicaid benefits. Twenty-five years of lobbying led to a momentous day in July 2022 when New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill into law providing vital dental benefits to adults in New Hampshire. On April 1, 2023 it was finally available to the over 120,000 adults in New Hampshire who are eligible. I encourage you to read more about this day in a recent blog post of mine: New Hampshire Adult Medicaid Dental Benefit
Neglecting oral hygiene can be one of the symptoms of someone managing mental health challenges, and oral health issues contribute to a number of other major health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. This is why you will constantly hear me talking about the importance of good oral hygiene and advocating for access to dental care as a crucial step towards closing the gap in healthcare equity and fighting for those that are struggling with their mental health. Take a moment this month and check in with yourself and make sure you are giving yourself the care you need and if you are able, speak up for those that are struggling. We are in this together.
Everyone deserves a healthy smile!