Clinical Mental Health

Why Should We Sleep Every Night?

By Mohamed Ahmed Abu Elainein

Sleep is a fundamental aspect of human life, often underestimated in its profound impact on our health and well-being.

In the midst of exams and busy schedules, the temptation to sacrifice sleep for extended work hours may arise, but understanding the inherent benefits of sleep is crucial to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults should aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night. [1]

This guideline is not arbitrary; it is rooted in extensive research that highlights the multifaceted advantages of adequate sleep.

Sleep serves as more than just a period of bodily rest; it is a vital process that contributes significantly to our physical, mental, and immune functions.

A cross-sectional study conducted from April 2013 to December 2014 examined the sleep patterns of night shift workers and found that those who slept fewer hours had a higher incidence of high body mass index (BMI) and weight gain. Remarkably, this association persisted independently of age and gender. [2]

This underscores the intricate link between sleep duration and metabolic health, shedding light on the importance of sleep in weight management.

Athletes, whose physical performance is paramount, also stand to benefit significantly from sufficient sleep.

A systematic review of the literature revealed that sleep extension positively influences athletes’ performance and enhances their recovery. [3]

This insight emphasizes that sleep is not only a recovery mechanism but also a proactive factor that can contribute to improved athletic outcomes.

A Review Article demonstrated the significant impact of sleep on enhancing athletic performance through various mechanisms. It helps the body restore its immune and endocrine systems, recover from the strain of waking hours, and supports cognitive development. Different stages of sleep, like REM and NREM, contribute to memory consolidation and physical recovery in their own ways. NREM helps save energy and recover the nervous system, releasing growth hormone and reducing oxygen consumption. REM is important for brain activation, localized recovery, and emotional regulation. Overall, quality sleep with its various stages is crucial for athletes, influencing memory consolidation and adapting to the cognitive demands of sports. [4]

Moving beyond the physical realm, the mental health implications of sleep cannot be overlooked. Studies consistently show that individuals who experience poor sleep quality are more likely to report mental distress and anxiety. [5]

The intricate relationship between sleep and mental well-being underscores the role of sleep in emotional regulation and cognitive functioning. Adequate sleep is not merely a luxury but a foundational element in maintaining optimal mental health.

Sleep is important for a healthy brain. Different sleep stages affect how we think and remember things. Research shows that sleep has a big impact on our emotions and mental well-being. Getting enough sleep, especially the type with rapid eye movement (REM), helps our brain process emotions. If we don’t get good sleep, especially the positive kind, it can affect our mood and emotional reactions. It’s not just that sleep problems can show up because of mental health issues; they can also be part of what causes these problems. [6]

Moreover, the influence of sleep extends to our immune system. Research demonstrates that insufficient sleep can compromise the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. [7]

A study published on European Journal of Physiology demonstrated that Sleep and our body’s internal clock have a big impact on our immune system. When we sleep, certain immune factors peak, promoting inflammation and aiding in immune cell functions. Daytime wakefulness, on the other hand, is associated with different immune responses. Sleep seems to help immune cells move around and interact effectively. Research also shows that a good night’s sleep enhances our immune memory, especially during specific sleep stages. These effects are linked to the hormonal changes that occur during sleep, like increased growth hormone and prolactin, and decreased cortisol and catecholamine levels. [8]

The intricate interplay between sleep and immune function highlights the role of sleep as a protective factor against illnesses and underscores its significance in overall health maintenance.

In essence, sleep is a dynamic process that encompasses a myriad of benefits for both the body and mind.

The CDC’s recommendation of 7 hours per night is not arbitrary but a well-founded prescription for fostering a holistic state of health. Whether it’s the regulation of body weight, enhancement of athletic performance, or preservation of mental and immune functions, sleep plays a pivotal role.

Recognizing the importance of sleep not only dispels the notion that it is a form of time-wasting but prompts a reconsideration of its prioritization in our lives.

In the hustle and bustle of daily activities, acknowledging sleep as a non-negotiable element of self-care becomes imperative.

As we navigate the demands of modern life, ensuring that we allocate sufficient time for restorative sleep is a conscious investment in our long-term health and well-being.


1. How much sleep do I need? [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2022 [cited 2024 Feb 5]. Available from:

2. Brum MC, Dantas Filho FF, Schnorr CC, Bertoletti OA, Bottega GB, da Costa Rodrigues T. Night shift work, short sleep and Obesity. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. 2020 Feb 10;12(1). doi:10.1186/s13098-020-0524-9

3. Bonnar D, Bartel K, Kakoschke N, Lang C. Sleep interventions designed to improve athletic performance and recovery: A systematic review of current approaches. Sports Medicine. 2018 Jan 20;48(3):683–703. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0832-x

4. Fullagar HH, Skorski S, Duffield R, Hammes D, Coutts AJ, Meyer T. Sleep and athletic performance: The effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Medicine. 2014 Oct 15;45(2):161–86. Doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0260-0

5. Blackwelder, A., Hoskins, M., & Huber, L. (2021). Effect of inadequate sleep on frequent mental distress. Preventing Chronic Disease, 18.

6. Mental health and sleep [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 14]. Available from:

7. 8 health benefits of sleep [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2024 Feb 5]. Available from:

8. Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology. 2011 Nov 10;463(1):121–37. Doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0

Empathy General Mental Health Narrative Psychiatry

From Her Mind to Mine

By Jessica D Simon

Walking down the familiar dead-end hall of Psych 2, I nearly walked right past the thin woman almost drowning in her hospital gown as she calmly allowed the nurse to take her vitals. I stopped to confirm her identity and introduce myself. “Oh hello, how are you?” came the polite response. Stories of Betty had wafted down from the consult-liaison team for the past week with a macabre fascination. Her image was contradictory; it seemed implausible that the frail, proper lady sitting in front of me, hair pulled neatly back into a graying ponytail, had just a few days prior made the desperate decision to violently shoot herself in the chest with the intention of ending her life.

I held my breath in anticipation, unable to deny my excitement at being assigned to this case followed immediately by the familiar sensation of guilt. How can I be fascinated by someone’s dark tragedy? I would soon learn that this dissonance, walking the line between compassion and self-gratification, lies at the heart of providing effective psychiatric care.

We exchanged pleasantries as together we made our way to the optimistically named “comfort room,” home to one large battered upholstered chair, a modest wooden table, and a window with an AC unit, culminating in a poor excuse for a respite on Psych 2. Betty shuffled slowly, still healing physically from her wounds, until finally making it to the red armchair where she would spend much of her time over the coming weeks. She looked at us expectantly with a hollow stare. She had a defeated yet pleasant energy about her, and the gentle wrinkles surrounding her dead-set gaze told me that I was sitting in front of a woman whose life I knew nothing about.

Betty met her husband Steve in high school, forming an immediate infatuation that continued to blossom into 45 years of loving marriage. They had no children and spent their days attending church, going for long walks with their dogs, and volunteering together in the community. Their lives were filled with a beautiful simplicity that bestowed long-lasting contentment, a sentiment for which many spend their whole lives searching. When Steve was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma on September 1, 2021, Betty’s life quickly evolved into an endless cycle of hospital appointments, research, and clinical trial investigation. Yet she helplessly watched as Steve’s condition steadily worsened, his movements slowing and memory fading. In May 2022, when Steve failed multiple clinical trials, Betty fell into a deep despair that ultimately pushed her past the precarious edge of desperation.

Betty’s hopelessness was palpable, leaving an icy chill hanging in the room. I was alarmed to find myself feeling her agony to the extent that I almost wished for her sake that she had fulfilled her wish to die. I knew I could not promise this woman that she would have a happy future, devoid of the comfort and love that she had shared with a now dying man for the greater portion of her life. I took a deep breath. Working with Betty, I would slowly realize the therapeutic power of carrying the hope that individuals have lost in the flooding sea of mental illness until they again emerge and attempt to swim.

On Monday, Betty’s third day of admission, we received news that Steve had passed away in hospice earlier that morning. I hesitantly approached her for our usual session, preparing myself for an explosive encounter. I was shocked to find her eerily calm, her tone level, her response rational, her composure unscathed. She stared at me with the same dead eyes and motionless face that seem to challenge me, now what?

Betty guarded her true emotions with years of protective layers built from privacy and stoicism, speaking slowly with stiff unmoving facial features. I spent hours sitting across from her, watching her sip her two vanilla ensures that she ordered for lunch and racking my brain for how to engage her in a therapeutic relationship. A two-hour session with her felt equivalent to about twenty minutes of meaningful conversation, and for days it felt like we were getting nowhere. One day she said, “No one actually cares. You come and talk to me, but you don’t think about me once you go home.” Remembering the numerous times I had neurotically checked Epic late at night, my immediate unfiltered reply came, “actually I do think about you when I go home.” I saw her face soften ever so slightly, yet immediately regretted responding with my own emotional response rather than creating a space for self-reflection.

This moment brought me face-to-face with my own humanity and its effect on my patients. My response had centered myself in her healing, needing her to see my goodness and selfishly wanting our relationship to be special to her. The real question was why had she made that statement in the first place? The grief of losing her husband had clearly left her in the depths of an extreme loneliness, and this statement had unveiled a desperate longing to be held. An opportunity to guide her towards conscious awareness of her deepest desires became instead a chance for me to prove my compassion, a band-aid for her depression. I began questioning my habit of spending two hours daily speaking with her. What expectations was I setting? Was I doing it for her or for me? Doctors of course are all human, affected by the accumulation of past life experiences with flaws and strengths alike. I now realized the extreme importance of having self-awareness and acknowledging my own emotional needs as a future psychiatrist.

Betty thanked me politely after each session, maintaining her image of a proper, well-brought up woman despite her circumstances. As we approached more difficult questions, her eyes would close tight with a wide grimace that displayed all her teeth, the veins in her face tensing with discomfort – a look as if she was about to break-down into heaving sobs. Yet I never saw her shed a tear. Over time, I slowly began to see changes in her as she learned to label her emotions, reflect on her self-isolating nature, and even display a forward-thinking attitude about what her future life may look like. Eventually, she entrusted me with the information that her suicide attempt had been a “joint act” with her husband, in a Romeo and Juliet moment where they had felt that life was not worth living without one another.

It is hard to know how to react to such information, and my mind swarmed with questions and wonder upon this disclosure. The juxtaposition of romance and violence was truly something out of a movie. I was struck by the commitment of their love, yet deeply saddened by the decision to which it had led. Is love dangerous? Is grief inescapable? Are parts of life worse than death? Betty’s story was a reminder to withhold assumptions, and in the world of psychiatry it is often better to ask questions than it is to demand answers.

On her day of discharge, I stared at the familiar phrase in Epic that I had copy and pasted many times: “Betty Wolff* is a 64-year-old female who presents after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest s/p pulmonary wedge resection.” The brief summary evoked alarming images of the well-intentioned, loyal woman I had gotten to know intimately over the past couple of weeks. As I watched her walk out the door that day, neatly dressed in the button down and tennis shoes that her brother had brought, a wild mix of emotions swelled inside me. I felt proud to have played a role in her recovery process yet fearful of how she would respond to her new reality.

Psychiatry is wrought with uncertainty, with mistakes potentially resulting in devastating consequences that can keep you up at night. Yet I found solace in knowing that we had given Betty the potential to reclaim her life after unimaginable tragedy had left her in the dark sea of hopelessness. Everyone deserves that chance. I left my rotation with a deep appreciation for the complex nature of psychiatry with an increased comfort in relinquishing control over the unknown, acknowledgement of our shared humanity and limitations as clinicians, and an acceptance of the unpredictability of life and fellow humans.

And when Betty returned to the unit two days after her discharge having asked her brother to kill her, I learned to see this not as a failure but as a small stepping-stone in the complex journey to recovery.

* all names and identifiable information have been altered for patient privacy

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂
General Healthcare Disparities Mental Health Public Health

Let Me Be Brief: Addressing Health Disparities Among the AAPI Community

A series of briefs by Texas Medical Students

By: Jasmine Liu-Zarzuela, Emily Liu, and Justin McCormack

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, with Texas ranked 3rd in overall population and 2nd in an increase in population over the past 20 years.1 While this group is often referred to and perceived as a monolith, the label of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) encompasses over 50 ethnic groups speaking over 100 languages.2 With such a variety of ethnicities and language barriers within one group there also comes a variety of unique healthcare problems this population faces. AAPI individuals have been shown to face health disparities in cancer screening and mental healthcare, amongst many others, despite the population being relatively understudied compared to others.3 Thus, it is paramount for healthcare providers to be aware of AAPI health disparities to ensure access to adequate resources and outreach for proper screening, preventative care, necessary follow-ups, as well as proper research and study of this population to ensure disparities can be prevented. 

The AAPI community is composed of distinct ethnic subgroups which differ significantly by socioeconomic status, educational attainment, cultural background, amongst other major social determinants of health. For example, Asian Americans are the most economically divided racial group,4 and access to healthcare can depend on factors such as insurance coverage and interpreter access, which vary wildly based on subgroup.5 Thus, disaggregation of demographic data is paramount in order to identify within-group disparities in health outcomes and representation in medicine. The disaggregation of AAPI data will also aid in helping determine necessary initiatives to decrease disease burden in subgroups within the AAPI community. 

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, AAPIs have the lowest rate of seeking mental help of any minority group, with just under a quarter of AAPI adults with mental illness receiving treatment.7 Several barriers contribute to difficulties seeking care, ranging from language barriers, stigma, the model minority myth, and alternative treatments, amongst others.8 The COVID-19 pandemic has increased xenophobia against Chinese Americans and the AAPI community as a whole, and these experiences have been associated with an increased level of depressive and anxiety symptoms.9  

In the US, incidence and death rates for liver cancer are second-highest in Asians compared to other ethnic groups (after Hispanic), reaching as high as twice the rates of other racial or ethnic groups.10 Liver cancers have been attributed to Hepatitis B (HBV) and C virus (HCV), which are often silent infections.11 Compared to other demographics, Asian Americans have the highest rates of HBV infection and are least aware of their HCV status.11,12 However, AAPIs with Hepatitis infection do not engage in established risk factors for HCV in other populations, and hence are often under-diagnosed.13

TMA Policy

Currently, TMA policy 260.126 supports the Texas Department of State Health Services efforts in addressing racial/ethnic healthcare disparities and the funding needed to lessen such disparities. However, there are no current TMA policies that acknowledge disparities in healthcare specifically among the AAPI population. TMA does support AMA policy H-350.954, which advocates for the restoration of web pages on AAPI initiatives that address disaggregation of health outcomes concerning AAPI data.

Recently, the medical student section (MSS) of the TMA have submitted several resolutions to address the health disparities within the AAPI population. One of the proposed policies calls for the TMA to support the disaggregation of demographic data regarding AAPIs to reveal the within-group disparities that exist in health outcomes and representation in medicine. A second proposed policy calls for the TMA to support legislation for the funding and promotion of HBV screening, treatment, and education among the Asian American and Pacific Islander population. Lastly, a third proposed policy urges the TMA to support raising awareness and educating providers about the discrepancies in mental health among AAPI populations. 

Advocacy Goals/MSS Perspectives

Advocacy goals on increasing HBV screening and education among the AAPI community would improve health outcomes, education, and treatment for HBV and HCV screening, while decreasing the prevalence of liver cancer among one of the most commonly impacted racial and ethnic groups in Texas and the United States. Similarly, advocacy goals on increasing mental health screening and education among this population would improve health outcomes and quality of life. By bringing awareness and policy to decreasing the prevalence of liver cancer, HBV, HCV, and mental illness among the AAPI community, the TMA-MSS has an intricate and influential role in building a stronger screening program and culturally specific interventions to improve the livelihoods and health outcomes in the AAPI community.

Current Bills

Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act (H.R. 3573) (7) is a current bill that instructs the SAMHSA to provide outreach and education strategies for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.14

Call to Action

It is imperative that medical professionals and students acknowledge the health disparities that exist within the AAPI community and further spread awareness and policy to ultimately improve the health outcomes of this community. 


  1. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S. (2021, April 9). Pew Research Center.
  2. Asian American and pacific islander. (n.d.). Nami.Org. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from
  3. The center for Asian health engages communities in research to reduce Asian American health disparities. (n.d.). Nih.Gov. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from
  4. Kochhar, R. (2018, July 12). Income inequality in the U.s. is rising most rapidly among Asians. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.
  5. Lee, S., Martinez, G., Ma, G. X., Hsu, C. E., Robinson, E. S., Bawa, J., & Juon, H.-S. (2010). Barriers to health care access in 13 Asian American communities. American Journal of Health Behavior, 34(1), 21–30.
  6. Misra S, Le PD, Goldmann E, Yang LH. Psychological impact of anti-Asian stigma due to the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for research, practice, and policy responses. Psychol Trauma. 2020;12(5):461-464. doi:10.1037/tra0000821
  7. Duh-Leong C, Yin HS, Yi SS, et al. Material hardship and stress from COVID-19 in immigrant Chinese American families with infants. J Immigr Minor Health. Published online 2021:1. doi:10.1007/s10903-021-01267-8
  8. Why Asian Americans don’t seek help for mental illness. Accessed December 20, 2021.
  9. Cheah CSL, Wang C, Ren H, Zong X, Cho HS, Xue X. COVID-19 racism and mental health in Chinese American families. Pediatrics. 2020;146(5):e2020021816. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-021816
  10. Products – data briefs – number 314 – July 2018. (2019, June 7). Cdc.Gov.
  11. Ho, E. Y., Ha, N. B., Ahmed, A., Ayoub, W., Daugherty, T., Garcia, G., Cooper, A., Keeffe, E. B., & Nguyen, M. H. (2012). Prospective study of risk factors for hepatitis C virus acquisition by Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian American patients: Ethnic differences in risk factors for HCV. Journal of Viral Hepatitis, 19(2), e105-11.
  12. Kim, H.-S., Yang, J. D., El-Serag, H. B., & Kanwal, F. (2019). Awareness of chronic viral hepatitis in the United States: An update from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Journal of Viral Hepatitis, 26(5), 596–602.
  13. Products – data briefs – number 361 – march 2020. (2020, June 26). Cdc.Gov.
  14.,Hawaiian%2C%20and%20Pacific%20Islander%20 population
General Healthcare Costs Healthcare Disparities Mental Health Public Health Women's Health

Let Me Be Brief: Maternal Mortality

A series of briefs by Texas Medical Students

By: Radhika Patel and Sanika Rane

Maternal mortality continues to be one of the more pressing public health issues in Texas. In December 2022, Texas’ Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee released a report reviewing pregnancy-related deaths in Texas since 2019 1. The review found that despite policies implemented to prevent these cases, there has been little improvement in rates since 2013, with Texans continuing to experience above-average rates of pregnancy- & childbirth-related deaths – about 12 deaths per month with 89% of cases being preventable 1. The report also found that 19% of pregnancy related deaths were attributed to discrimination, with people of color, particularly Black patients being at the highest risk of pregnancy related discrimination and subsequently the highest risk for maternal mortality.

So what gaps remain to be addressed? In a recent issue of Texas Medicine, TMA announced that “women’s reproductive health” and “Medicaid coverage for women and children” amongst its priorities to address in the 2023 legislative agenda 2 . The federal administration has developed a Maternal Health Blueprint specifying policies on Extending Postpartum Medicaid Coverage; A Maternal Mental Health Hotline; Investments in Rural Maternal Care; No More Surprise Bills; and Better Trained Providers (addressing implicit bias), and in February, Dr. Jackson Griggs testified on behalf of TMA at the Texas Senate Finance meeting seeking adequate state funding for maternal & child health – the written testimony highlights similar issues regarding maternal mortality in Texas (more below) 3. Currently, there are a number of bills proposed this legislative session to address some
of these issues:

Medicaid coverage

  • In the last session, House Bill (HB) 133 requesting extension of coverage for 12 months postpartum was passed by Texas’ House of Representatives – but the Senate reduced this to 6 months, causing the expansion to be stuck requiring waiver approval by the federal government 4
  • Due to this, despite Medicaid covering half of births in Texas, insurance still only extends coverage to 2 months postpartum – with nearly one-third of maternal deaths in Texas occurring after this coverage ends 5
  • Medicaid will undergo further “unwinding” this year as Texas restarts disenrollments – currently, a pregnant woman earning up to 198% of the FPIL can be covered by Medicaid through 60 days after pregnancy 6; but on day 61, she must earn less than 17% to maintain her coverage ($3,733 for a family of three), leading to loss of coverage for many 7. In Texas, rates of delayed and foregone preventive care for children and adults have increased, resulting in potentially missed and delayed diagnoses.
  • Gregg Abbott has even stated that one of his budget priorities is to request funding for 12 months of Medicaid postpartum services 8.
  • Bills proposed this session to expand Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum include House Bill (HB) 56 (currently still in Health Care Reform committee) & Senate Bill (SB) 73 (currently still in Health & Human Services committee).

Racial disparities

  • Nationally, Black people giving birth are three times more likely to die than their white counterparts – and twice as likely in Texas.9
  • Bills proposed this session addressing racial disparities include:
    • HB 663: Creating an unbiased maternal mortality and morbidity data registry for Texas.
      • Passed vote in the House, now in the Health & Human Services committee in the Senate.
    • HB 1164: Obtaining funding to conduct a study specifically investigating maternal mortality and morbidity among Black women in Texas.
      • Passed vote in the House, now in the Health & Human Services committee in the Senate.
    • HB 1162 & 1165: Establishing requirements for medical provider licensing should include hours for cultural competency and implicit bias training.
      • Both still in the Public Health committee

Life-saving care

  • Maternal death rates have been found to be 62% higher in contraception-restriction states like Texas 10
  • In two Texas hospitals, 57% of patients were reported to have significant maternal morbidity as a result of state-mandated management of obstetrical complications (like access to life-saving medication) compared to 33% in states without such legislation. On average, patients were withheld life-saving care for 9 days, simply being observed instead as their conditions worsened – before they eventually developed complications severe enough to be qualified as an immediate threat to maternal life for physicians to legally take action under Texas law. 11
  • Bills proposed this session addressing life-saving care include:
    • SB 79 & HB 3000: Ensuring that current restrictions will not negatively impact pregnant patients requiring termination for their care, including not being susceptible to criminal penalties.
      • Both still in the State Affairs committee.
    • HB 1953: Establishing exceptions to current restrictions to ensure that physicians are able to provide life-saving care to high-risk patients in their third-trimester.
      • Currently still in the Public Health committee.

Mental health resources

  • 84% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable – leading underlying issues varied by race & ethnicity, including: mental health conditions (23%) (suicide and overdose/poisoning) disproportionately affecting Hispanic & non-Hispanic White people. 12
  • In Texas, rising rates of drug abuse, suicide, and domestic violence reflect the mental anguish and distress so many patients face – suicide and homicide represented 27% of pregnancy-related deaths with homicides most often perpetuated by the individual’s partner 1
  • Establishing funding to allow PCPs to provide up to 4 postpartum depression screens in the year following delivery, especially given the current shortage of both adult & child psychiatrists, may help address these issues. 8
  • Bills proposed this session addressing mental health resources include:
    • HB 3724: Establishing a maternal mental health peer support pilot program for perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.
      • Currently still in the Health Care Reform committee.
    • HB 2873: A strategic plan for improving maternal health, including improving access to screening, referral, treatment, and support services for perinatal depression.
      • Passed vote in the House, now awaiting vote in the Senate.

Maternal health deserts

  • Texas leads the country in maternal health deserts – communities with limited or no local prenatal and maternity care services, even for insured women – jeopardizing the health of expectant mothers and their unborn babies.8
  • Bills proposed this session addressing maternal health deserts include:
    • HB 3626: Implementing a public outreach campaign to increase the number of maternal health care professionals in rural areas.
      • Currently still in the Health Care Reform committee.
    • HB 617 & SB 251: Establishing a pilot program for providing telemedicine and telehealth services in rural areas.
      • HB 617 passed & signed into law by Governor Abbott, effective 9/1/2023.
      • SB 251 passed vote in the House, now in the Jurisprudence committee in the Senate.
    • HB 1798 & SB 663: Developing a strategic plan for providing home and community-based services under Medicaid to children and mothers, especially in low-resource settings.
      • HB 1798 passed vote in the House, now in the Health & Human Services committee in the Senate.
      • SB 663 currently still in the Health & Human Services committee.

In summary, please consider the following goals for advocacy this session:

  • Ensuring safe access to life-saving procedures.
  • Extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum for all mothers in Texas.
  • Increasing access to evidence-based community and crisis mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Addressing gaps in medical education to prevent the impact of racial discrimination on maternal mortality, including cultural competency & implicit bias.
  • Improving access to comprehensive healthcare in rural settings and maternal health deserts.

Since most of these bills are still being discussed within committees, it is an especially pertinent time to speak with the representatives sitting on these committees and urge them to move the bills forward to be voted on and signed into law. Stay informed about issues pervading your communities, reach out to your local representative to ask for their support on proposed bills, and engage in this legislative session by joining physician advocates at the Capitol!


  1. Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee and Department of State
    Health Services Joint Biennial Report 2022. Accessed January 26, 2023.
  2. Texas Medicine March 2023. Accessed April 1, 2023.
  3. House TW. FACT SHEET: President Biden’s and Vice President Harris’s Maternal Health
    Blueprint Delivers for Women, Mothers, and Families. The White House. Published June 24,
  4. Klibanoff E. Texas health agency says its plan to extend maternal Medicaid coverage is “not
    approvable” by feds. The Texas Tribune. Published August 4, 2022. Accessed April 1, 2023.
  5. Waller A. Maternal health care advocates applaud new state law to extend Medicaid coverage,
    but say it doesn’t go far enough. The Texas Tribune. Published August 27, 2021.
  6. Comments on the Status of the Texas Maternal Health Coverage Bill. Texans Care for
    Children. Accessed April 1, 2023.
  7. Maternal deaths are public health and health equity problems. They’re also preventable. |
    Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Kinder Institute for Urban Research | Rice University.
  8. Texas Medical Association. Senate Finance Committee – Senate Bill 1, Article II Hearing
    Texas Health and Human Services Commission. TMA; 2023
  9. Salahuddin M, Patel DA, O’Neil M, Mandell DJ, Nehme E, Karimifar M, Elerian N, Byrd-
    Williams C, Oppenheimer D, Lakey DL. (2018) Severe Maternal Morbidity in Communities
    Across Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler/University of
    Texas System.
  10. Declercq, E., Barnard-Mayers, R., Zephyrin, L., & Johnson, K. (2022, December 14). The U.S.
    Maternal Health Divide: the Limited Maternal Health Services and Worse Outcomes of States
    Proposing New Abortion Restrictions.
  11. Nambiar, A., Patel, S., Santiago-Munoz, P., Spong, C. Y., & Nelson, D. B. (2022). Maternal
    morbidity and fetal outcomes among pregnant women at 22 weeks’ gestation or less with
    complications in 2 Texas hospitals after legislation on abortion. American Journal of Obstetrics
    & Gynecology, 0(0).
  12. CDC Newsroom. (2016, January 1). CDC.
General Healthcare Costs Healthcare Disparities Mental Health Public Health

Let Me Be Brief: Addressing The Texas Mental Health Crisis

A series of briefs by Texas Medical Students

By: Jasmine Liu-Zarzuela, Isreal Munoz, Rozena Shirvani


Addressing the Texas mental health crisis is a multifaceted challenge that requires the coordination of various entities and an approach that addresses the underlying causes. Some of the most important aspects of addressing the national mental health crisis is increasing access to mental health care services, improving mental health literacy among the general public, and promoting a collaborative effort between various sectors of society, including government agencies, healthcare providers, schools, employers, and community organizations.¹ Collaboration can help ensure that mental health resources are accessible, that policies and regulations support mental health, and that individuals receive the care and support they need to maintain appropriate mental health.

In accordance with the mental health of minors, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared a National State of Emergency
in Children’s Mental Health in 2021.² It is estimated that 16.5% of children under 18 have at least one mental health disorder, but about 49% did not receive treatment or counseling from a professional.³ To combat this, the 86th Texas Legislature created the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium that funded the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT) initiative, which provides telehealth services at no cost to the school or students, such as mental health evaluations, short term therapy, psychiatric care, and referrals to long term treatment to students of participating districts.4 It is important to support funding for these initiatives as they aim to have resources in every school district in Texas; however, only about a third are estimated to be involved.4

TMA Policy

In June 2022, The TMA submitted written testimony that emphasizes the increasing need for mental health resources in Texas, particularly with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and incidences of gun violence, such as the Uvalde incident.5-8 In fact, Texas has had more school shootings than any other state since 2012 with 43 incidents.9 In this testimony, TMA strongly encourages the importance of firearm safety promotion, mental health investments, and adolescent, family, and community interventions that foster resilience in the midst of childhood adversity. A key issue for the TMA agenda at the 2023 legislative session is preventing suicide and supporting Texans’ mental health. The TMA also has many policies aimed at increasing funding and coverage for services including:

  • 55.033 Children’s Mental and Behavioral Health- supports improved
    access to mental health services and payment systems that fully integrate mental health care services in primary care10
  • 145.019 Mental Health Equitable Treatment and Parity- supports lobbying state and federal government to increase scope of limited parity laws to include all mental health disorders and supports state funding for pilots to improve treatment 11
  • 215.019 Public Mental Health Care Funding & 215.020 Improved Funding for Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorder(s) – supports increasing funding from Texas Legislature for the mental health care system 12,13
  • 100.022 Emergency Psychiatric Services- supports funding to sustain and expand state investments to redesign mental health crisis services 14

Fast Facts

  1. 198 (out of 254) Texas counties are considered Health Professional Shortage Areas for mental health.15
  2. An additional 23 Texas counties are considered a mental health Health Professional Shortage Area for low-income populations. 15
  3. 221 of 254 (87%) of Texas counties lack adequate mental health resources. 15
  4. Among adults with serious mental illness, only 64.8% received mental health services in the past year. 16
  5. The economic burden of mental illness in the United States is estimated to be $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year. 17

 Current Bills

Senate Bill 672 is a current bill that advises Texas Medicaid to construct a mental health collaborative care model.

Call to Action

It is imperative that medical professionals and students acknowledge the rising national mental health crisis and further promote awareness and create policy to ultimately improve health outcomes.




  1. Saxena, S., Funk, M., & Chisholm, D. (2020). World Health Assembly adopts resolution on mental health. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(8), 655-656.
  2. AAP-AACAP-CHA declaration of a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2023, from
  3. Spotlight 1: Prevalence of mental health services provided by public schools and limitations in schools’ efforts to provide mental health services. (n.d.). Bing. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from
  4. Texas child health access through telemedicine (TCHATT). (2021, July 27). MMHPI – Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.
  5. Kathirvel, N. (2020). Post COVID-19 pandemic mental health challenges. Asian journal of psychiatry, 53, 102430.
  6. Vadivel, R., Shoib, S., El Halabi, S., El Hayek, S., Essam, L., Bytyçi, D. G., … & Kundadak, G. K. (2021). Mental health in the post-COVID-19 era: challenges and the way forward. General psychiatry, 34(1).
  7. Shanbehzadeh, S., Tavahomi, M., Zanjari, N., Ebrahimi-Takamjani, I., & Amiri-Arimi, S. (2021). Physical and mental health complications post-COVID-19: Scoping review. Journal of psychosomatic research, 147, 110525.
  8. Ren, F. F., & Guo, R. J. (2020). Public mental health in post-COVID-19 era. Psychiatria danubina, 32(2), 251-255.
  9. States With the Most School Shootings. (2022, May 27). Retrieved March 17, 2023, from
  10. 55.033 Childrens Mental and Behavioral Health. TMA Policy . (2022, June 14). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from
  11. 145.019 Mental Health Equitable Treatment Parity . TMA Policy. (2022, June 14). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from
  12. 215.019 Public Mental Health Care Funding. TMA Policy. (2021, July 21). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from
  13. 215.020 Improved Funding for Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders.TMA Policy . (2020, October 29). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from
  14. 100.022 Emergency Psychiatric Services. TMA Policy. (2018, August 20). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from
  15. Special committee to protect all Texans. (2022).
  16. Mental illness. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved March17, 2023, from
  17. Mental disorders cost society billions in unearned income. (2015, September 19).National Institutes of Health (NIH).