Mental Health Awareness Month-The Orlando Times

The Orlando Times

Mental Health Awareness Month


New Treatment Options Offer Hope For Better Mental Health




Photo Cutline: (left to right) Dr. Francisco Cruz, May Nunez, Dennis Diaz, Dr. Raul Cruz, and Jillian Barsimantov


1 in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. In 2014, 1 in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. Not to mention, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, impacting 16 million Americans and 300 million people worldwide.


Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in1949 by Mental Health America (MHA) to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. Since then, the organization has released an annual toolkit of materials to guide preparation for outreach activities. During the month of May, MHA and other organizations interested in mental health conduct a number of activities which are based on a different theme each year.


MHA announced the 2018 theme as “Fitness #4Mind4Body”. Meanwhile, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has announced their 2018 theme as "Cure Stigma".


The U.S Department of Health & Human Services defines mental health as “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 choices.”


According to WebMD the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, yet research shows that they are likely caused by biological, psychological, and environmental factors.


Some mental illnesses have been linked to nerve cell pathways not functioning properly. The biological factors could be genetics, certain infections, brain injury, prenatal damage, substance abuse- which has been linked to anxiety, depression, and paranoia- and other factors like poor nutrition and exposure to toxins, like lead.


Psychological factors that may contribute to mental illness include: emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, the loss of a parent or guardian figure, and neglect.


Additionally, certain environmental stressors can trigger a person who is susceptible to mental illness. It could be a death or divorce, a dysfunctional family life, low self-esteem, changing jobs or schools, and social or cultural expectations- for example, a society that associates beauty with thinness can be a factor in developing an eating disorder.


Early warning signs of mental illness are eating or sleeping too much or too little, pulling away from people and usual activities, feeling like nothing matters, feeling helpless or hopeless, hearing voices or believing things that are not true, thinking of harming yourself or others, and more.


African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. With major depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), suicide- among young African American men, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as common mental health disorders among the race.


As for Latinos, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, major depression, PTSD, suicide attempts- among young Latinas, and alcoholism are the most common. Additionally, a 2001 Surgeon General’s report found that only 20% of Latinos with symptoms of a psychological disorder talk to a doctor about their concerns.

According to the American Psychological Association, women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, while men lean toward substance abuse or antisocial disorders.


Thankfully, people with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely through various individual or group treatment options.


Psychotherapy paired with medication has been found to be the most effective way to recover. However, other options include: case management, hospitalization, joining a support group, creating a self-help plan, electroconvulsive therapy, and art therapy.


Recently though, a street drug is being used as a successful and specific treatment option for the about 30% of people with treatment-resistant depression. Called Ketamine Infusion Therapy, patients have reported relief from suicidal thoughts within 24 hours as it targets the NMDA glutamate receptor, unlike other anti-depressants.


Ketamine has been listed as an “essential medicine” by The World Health Organization since 1865. The dissociative anesthetic alleviates a wide variety of mental and chronic pain conditions such as depression, suicidal ideation, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), fibromyalgia, and more. It works by affecting certain brain pathways to quickly produce a general state of anesthesia and pain relief. Unlike many other general anesthetics, ketamine maintains breathing and a normal muscle tone.


Low-dose ketamine infusions are noted as safer, stronger, and a more effective alternative to opioids. Since it is not prescribed to anyone under any circumstance, opportunity for patients to misuse it is minimalized. Patients receive a total of six infusions during a 2-3 week period.


Ketamine Health Centers (KHC) is the only full-service center in South Florida fully dedicated to ketamine infusion therapy through the joint expertise of a board-certified anesthesiologist and board-certified psychiatrist. With more than 800 infusions, KHC administers low dosages to minimize side effects, and conducts drug testing to prevent any attempts at drug abuse.


Ketamine Infusion Therapy is the process of receiving ketamine in low doses, intravenously, in a medically-monitored setting for the treatment of mental health conditions and chronic pain.


“We believe in a revolutionary treatment that is innovative and could possibly really help a lot people,” said Dr. Francisco Cruz, a board certified psychiatrist, who started Ketamine Health Centers with his brother, a board certified anesthesiologist, in 2016. “There are certain things that are doing right away that is allowing it to work much more quickly than anything else out there in terms of helping people with depression and their suicidal thoughts.”


The Miami-based centers have since expanded to Central Florida with the opening of its third location in The Villages. At the helm of KHC in The Villages are anesthesiologist Dr. Rosemary Daly, and psychiatrists Dr. Sylvia Johnson and Dr. Henry Boilini, all of whom will serve as the medical directors.

“We are happy to provide such a crucial full-service treatment to those in the area that suffer from mental health conditions or severe pain,” said Dr. Daly. “We seek to provide patients with a better quality of life and the highest level of care in Ketamine Infusion Therapy.”


KHC is the only center in Florida that offers Ketamine Assisted Therapy (KAT) – a talk-therapy-style session that occurs while a patient undergoes ketamine infusion treatment. Additionally, KHC holds an 85+ percent success rate for treating depression, which exceeds the national average of 70 percent.


Patients may have mild illusionary experiences and feel drowsy after the treatment so they are often asked to have someone drive them to and from their sessions.


NAMI also has locations to assist those with other mental health illnesses in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Lake Counties.


According to your diagnosis there are different treatment options. While there is no treatment that works for everyone, individuals can chose the treatment, or combination of treatments, that works best. Consult with you doctor before attempting any treatments.


For more information regarding mental health awareness visit,, or For more information on Ketamine Infusion Therapy visit