By Laura Brown Chavaree
Nearly all patients living with cancer experience some form of cancer-related distress. Yet, less than half are referred to mental health specialists. Learn how one patient is inspiring Blue Note as he advocates for cancer awareness and mental health support.
As head of patient engagement at Blue Note Therapeutics, I’m constantly searching for ways to connect with and empower people living with cancer. Blue Note has assembled a team of diverse patient advisors representing various backgrounds and demographics, who have provided critical insights, feedback and advice that informs almost every aspect of our work to develop prescription digital therapeutics to treat cancer-related distress. Justin Birckbichler is one of those patient advisors.
Justin’s perspective has been invaluable to Blue Note, so I was pleased to see him have the chance to speak to Cancer Today about his experience with depression. Justin, who faced clinical depression as a high school student, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 2016 at age 25. While his cancer treatment was successful, he found that his mental health was not initially prioritized as part of his care. About a year after completing chemotherapy, he was hit with a second diagnosis—another bout of depression.
Justin’s experience isn’t unusual either. There are about 18 million cancer patients and survivors in the United States today and as many as 1 in 4 experience depression. Unfortunately, fewer than half of patients who experience cancer-related distress, which can be defined as any unpleasant feeling, emotion, or experience that affects a patient’s quality of life or ability to cope with cancer diagnosis and treatment, are referred to mental health care specialists due to the acute supply and demand mismatch between patient need and available care providers.
As Justin continues to manage the mental health impacts of his own cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, I am inspired by how fiercely he advocates for testicular cancer awareness and mental health support for other people living with cancer.
To treat cancer most effectively, we need to treat more than just the physical disease. We need to treat the psychosocial symptoms and effects of cancer, as well. One way we can help close this treatment gap is by continuing to draw more attention to it. Thank you Justin and Cancer Today for doing just that.
Blue Note is always looking for additional patients to provide input on its digital therapeutic programs. If you are a patient and you’d like to be part of helping to develop future mental health solutions for other patients, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is experiencing increased distress related to COVID-19 and having cancer, COVID Cancer Care is a digital wellness program available for FREE from Blue Note Therapeutics. Learn more at CovidCancerCare.com.