Mental Health in the Headlines: March 1, 2010
Mental Health in the Headlines offers summaries of the latest news and views in the mental health field. Coverage of news items in this publication does not represent Mental Health America's support for or opposition to the stories summarized or the views they express.
*DID YOU KNOW?
Depression can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in adolescent girls and boys but trigger obesity only in girls...more
*HEALTH REFORM UPDATE
Obama, Democrats Plan to Pass Reform with Simple Majority
Democrats plan to press ahead and pass a health care overhaul on their own. A summit convened by President Obama last week confirmed the belief of Democrats that it is impossible to work with Republicans on a bipartisan bill. Under a plan conceived by leaders, the House would pass the health care bill approved in December by the Senate. Then both chambers would approve a separate package of changes using a parliamentary device known as budget reconciliation that would prevent a Senate filibuster. The legislation would revise the Senate health bill to reflect compromises between House and Senate Democrats and suggestions by President Obama, who will make an announcement this week on the way forward on health care. It is still unclear whether Democrats have enough votes to win passage of the legislation. (The New York Times, 2/26/10)
Senators Seek to Eliminate Limit on Medicare Inpatient Psychiatric Care
A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last week would eliminate the 190-day limit for inpatient psychiatric care under Medicare. The “Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act” is sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). There is no such lifetime limit for any other Medicare specialty inpatient hospital service. (MHH Reporting, 2/26/10)
Civilian Contractors in War Zones Come Home with Mental Health Difficulties
Thousands of civilian contractors who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan may be experiencing mental health problems. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from one defense contractor showed signs of depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after returning home. That figure is about the same percentage of soldiers who report difficulties after returning home. Some families of civilian contractors who have committed suicide have tried to get help through a government program designed to provide health insurance and death benefits to civilian contractors injured or killed on the job. But the law blocks payment of death benefits in the case of almost all suicides. (Pro Publica, 2/26/10)
African Americans Have Lower Drinking Rates Than Others
African Americans drink less than other racial groups, according to a government survey. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that blacks ages 18 and older use alcohol at a rate of 44.3 percent compared with the national average of 55.2 percent. African Americans ages 18 to 25 are also less likely than other young adults to engage in binge drinking. With respect to the rate of illegal drug use, the survey found black adults have a higher rate than the national average. (The Los Angeles Times, 2/25/10)
Nurturing Can Protect Against Effects of Prenatal Stress: A mother’s nurturing during infancy can protect against the cognitive development risks a fetus faces from prenatal stress caused by the hormone cortisol, a new study finds. Researchers recruited 125 women at an amniocentesis clinic in an urban maternity hospital, taking a sample of their amniotic fluid so that stress hormones in it could be measured. Among children showing an insecure attachment to their mothers, a high prenatal cortisol level was linked with shorter attention spans and weaker language and problem-solving skills. But with kids who enjoyed secure relationships with their moms, any negative link between high prenatal cortisol exposure and kids' cognitive development was eliminated. The researchers say their study represents the first, direct human evidence that fetuses exposed to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol may have trouble paying attention or solving problems later on. (ScienceDaily, 2/26/10)
Stress Hormone Tied to Obesity in Young Girls: Depression can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in adolescent girls and boys but trigger obesity only in girls, new research asserts. A team of researchers, whose findings are reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health, used a child behavior checklist to assess 111 boys and girls ages 8 to 13 for symptoms of depression. They next they measured the children’s obesity and the level of cortisol in their saliva before and after various stress tests. Statistical analyses of the data suggest that depression is associated with spikes in cortisol levels for boys and girls after the stress tests, but higher cortisol reactions to stress are associated with obesity only in girls. Researchers have long known that depression and cortisol are related to obesity, but they had not figured out the exact biological mechanism. (eMaxHealth, 2/23/10)
Acupuncture May Reduce Depression During Pregnancy: Acupuncture specifically designed for depression may reduce symptoms during pregnancy, a new study suggests. Researchers followed 150 pregnant women with major depression and tested "depression-specific" acupuncture against massage and acupuncture sessions that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, does not specifically target depression. They found that after eight weeks, women who received depression-specific acupuncture were more likely to have less severe symptoms by at least half. In addition, they no longer met all of the criteria for diagnosing major depression. Overall, 63 percent responded to the therapy, versus 37 percent of the "control" acupuncture group and half of the massage group, according to findings published in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. (Reuters, 2/22/10)
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*Mental Health America MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
A recent national survey found that individuals who are unemployed are likelier to have thoughts of harming themselves. If the trend of past economic downturns holds true, this one will probably increase the rates of suicide and domestic unrest, said David Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America. National Journal, “Anger Management,” January 29, 2010
Stay Up to Date With More News, Views and Tools
- New national survey shows economic downturn taking toll on Americans’ mental health
- Survey reveals obstacles to health care for people who have schizophrenia
- New report reveals link between states’ depression status and access to treatment
- Join Mental Health America’s Advocacy Network
- Check out previous issues of Mental Health in the Headlines
Mental Health in the Headlines is produced weekly by Mental Health America. Mental Health America's Mental Health in the Headlines staff: Steve Vetzner, senior director, Media Relations; Robert Redpath, senior director, Web Technology & Strategy.
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