When people think of reasons a person would wear medical ID jewelry, they typically list things like diabetes, food allergies, drug allergies, epilepsy, heart conditions, and Alzheimer's. And while all of these conditions are important reasons to wear medical alert jewelry, there is one group of conditions that is largely overlooked: mental health disorders.
As with any health issue, living with a mental health disorder presents its own set of challenges and difficulties. In particular, mental health disorders are often, "invisible illnesses," meaning that they aren't readily apparent to the casual observer. Just as people with diabetes often hear the typically unwelcome, "You don't look sick..." comment upon explaining their condition, people with mental illness often do not show outward signs of their conditions, particularly if they are being treated appropriately.
In an emergency, however, having certain mental health disorders (such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.), and being on the associated medications, is absolutely something that EMTs and other first responders need to know. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), "Antipsychotics can produce unpleasant or dangerous side effects when taken with certain medications. For this reason, all doctors treating a patient need to be aware of all the medications that person is taking."
Even more common medications, such as antidepressants, can have significant interactions and risks, making it important for treating physicians to know a person is taking them, something wearing a medical ID bracelet can facilitate. For example, the NIMH states,
"People taking MAOIs need to be careful about the foods they eat and the medicines they take. Foods and medicines that contain high levels of a chemical called tyramine are dangerous for people taking MAOIs. Tyramine is found in some cheeses, wines, and pickles. The chemical is also in some medications, including decongestants and over-the-counter cold medicine.
Mixing MAOIs and tyramine can cause a sharp increase in blood pressure, which can lead to stroke. People taking MAOIs should ask their doctors for a complete list of foods, medicines, and other substances to avoid."
Beyond the risk of drug interactions, people living with mental illness often wear medical ID jewelry because their conditions make it hard for them to articulate their needs in certain situations. For example, for people who have severe anxiety/panic attacks and those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), medical ID jewelry is a helpful tool that can help advocate for them in the event that they are unable to do so. Not only will this help first responders provide better assistance, but because these conditions are often treated with medications, it will help medical professionals provide the right treatment without exacerbating the situation through an unintentional drug interaction.
Therapies and medications are tools that help people live better with, and even overcome some, mental illnesses. Adding medical ID jewelry to that treatment toolbox helps patients live more safely by articulating their needs to first responders and giving patients the peace of mind that, in an emergency, their medical IDs can speak for them if for any reason, they cannot speak for themselves.