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National Wellness
Week 2014

September 15–21

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Last Updated: 1/30/2014

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Focus on Wellness to Increase Life Expectancy and Healthy Living of Individuals with Mental Health Problems

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Compared to the general population, Americans diagnosed with major mental illness typically lose decades of normal life span due to preventable medical conditions. This disparity in life expectancy is unacceptable. People with mental health problems should expect to live as long and as healthy as other Americans and deserve the same access to care and services.

According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) Medical Director's Council report, Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness, "increased morbidity and mortality are largely due to treatable medical conditions that are caused by modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity, substance abuse, and inadequate access to medical care."1 It is clear that second generation antipsychotic medications are highly associated with weight gain, diabetes, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. This medical co-morbidity, in combination with health care disparities and fragmentation in the mental health and medical service delivery systems, is associated with early mortality.

In response to the alarming statistics, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services held a two-day National Wellness Summit and initiated the 10x10 Wellness Campaign to improve life expectancy for people with mental health problems by 10 years in 10 years. The Campaign sets forth a clear framework for action including a comprehensive, multi-dimensional, and holistic approach that comprises effective policies and practices, training and education, and data and surveillance. The Pledge for Wellness, with more than 2,000 signatures to date, offers organizations and individuals the opportunity to support the Campaign's vision and demonstrate their commitment to promoting wellness for people with mental health problems and to reducing early mortality.

Wellness is a multi-dimensional process that recognizes interrelated connections, which constitute the whole person. A wellness-supportive lifestyle includes a self-defined balance of health-promoting habits and self-care. It places emphasis on collaboration between the recipient of mental health services and the healthcare provider working in partnership to achieve optimal health.

Goal: Increase awareness of wellness, understand the key causes of early mortality and co-morbidity among people with mental health problems, and learn effective health promotion and wellness strategies.

This training teleconference, the first in a series of six, will stress the urgent need for all stakeholders to take action. Presenters will review the history, background, and evidence base of the SAMHSA 10x10 Wellness Campaign and describe how wellness models can be used to support persons with mental health problems. Barriers, challenges, and possibilities for positive change will be emphasized. Participants will be inspired to examine how to implement wellness, inclusion, and health promotion principles and practices in collaboration with persons served and others.

This training will provide an overview of:

  • history and evidence base of the magnitude of the health disparities between people diagnosed with mental health problems and the general public;
  • the health promotion framework and the dimensions of wellness;
  • information on current wellness activity practices and the engagement of peers;
  • immediate, mid-term, and long-range strategies and activities needed to implement change, such as policy, training and education, funding, clinical assessment and care, data collection, and regulatory issues; and
  • activities planned to engage stakeholders, disseminate information, and develop and disseminate promising practices.

Target Audiences

  • Consumers, survivors, current and past recipients of mental health services, peers, family members, and mental health organizations.
  • Mental health providers
  • Primary care providers


Joseph Parks, MD, is the chief clinical officer for the Missouri Department of Mental Health and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health and University of Missouri. He serves as president of the Medical Director's Council of NADMHPD. Dr. Parks practices psychiatry on an outpatient basis at Family Health Center, a federally-funded community health center established to expand services to uninsured and underinsured patients in the Columbia area.

Dr. Parks has authored or coauthored a number of original articles, monographs, technical papers, and reviews on implementation of evidence-based medicine, pharmacy utilization management, and behavioral treatment programs. His work has appeared in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Psychiatric Practices, Psychiatry Quarterly, Manual of Clinical Emergency Psychiatry, Behavioral Interviews, Hospital and Community Psychiatry, and Advanced Studies in Nursing. He was awarded the 2006 American Psychiatric Association Bronze Achievement Award for a program controlling pharmacy costs by improving prescribing practices.

He will discuss the history and science behind the epidemiological findings, implications of the data including the fact that some psychiatric medications contribute to the risk factors and the need for collaboration of federal partners in tracking health and mortality data.

Margaret (Peggy) Swarbrick, Ph.D., O.T.R., C.P.R.P. is the director of the Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives, CSP-NJ (a large statewide agency run by persons living with mental illness in collaboration with professionals) and assistant clinical professor, Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, School of Health Related Professions, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Her early personal life challenges and experiences in the mental health system led to a career focused on promoting wellness within the mental health system. Peggy has worked for many years an occupational therapist in a variety of settings providing wellness and recovery-focused services. She has published on wellness and health issues and lectures nationally and internationally on wellness, employment, and recovery. She earned a doctorate in Occupational Therapy from New York University and completed a post doctoral fellowship, Advanced Training and Research, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Dr. Swarbrick will engage us with a call to action on the goals of the 10x10 Wellness Campaign and the need for changes in policy, funding, regulations, clinical assessment, care, and training. She will talk about the eight domains of wellness and innovative work being done in each domain.

Lauren Spiro, M.A. is director of the National Coalition of Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Organizations (, a national grassroots organization, where she advances the values, vision, policies, and legislative priorities of mental health consumers across the country. She has served on a number of boards of directors and advisory boards, and she co-founded the Arlington Recovery Empowerment Center, a consumer-run corporation, and Housing Unlimited, Inc., which provides housing for nearly 300 adults labeled with mental illness. Lauren also works half-time as the Inclusion and Mental Health Recovery Manager for Vanguard Communications where she works on the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Education for Social Inclusion project.

Much of her life has been a journey to wellness, particularly since she was labeled with chronic schizophrenia as a teenager. She is passionate about her vision of an America where every individual is respected and included as a valued member of the community. She is an artist and has an M.A. in Clinical/Community Psychology.

Ms. Spiro will share the vision of the 10x10 Wellness Campaign and discuss the strategies that make up the National Wellness Action Plan, including promoting consumer leadership, social marketing efforts, training and education, and integrating wellness approaches into mental health services and supports.

1Parks, J., Svendsen, D., Singer, P. and M.E. Foti eds. (2006). Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness. Alexandria, VA: NASMHPD.

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