Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of September 12, 2011
MENTAL HEALTH IN THE HEADLINES
Week of September 12, 2011
Mental Health in the Headlines is a weekly newsletter produced by Mental Health America, providing the latest developments at Mental Health America and summaries of news, views and research 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.
About half of U.S. adults will develop a mental illness during their lifetime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports...more
IN THE NEWS
Most Medical Schools Offer Poor Mental Health Coverage
Most U.S. medical schools offer their students poor health insurance coverage for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, researchers report. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they found that fewer than 22 percent of the 115 medical schools studied provided their students with complete coverage, without co-pays or coinsurance, for mental health and substance use treatment. Medical students face intense stresses from their work, but many don't reach out for help. "Research shows out-of-pocket costs discourage patients from getting mental health and substance abuse treatment," said Dr. Rachel Nardin, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, chief of neurology at CHA and lead author of the study. (WBUR, 9/7/11)
ERs Aren't Evaluating Self-Harm Patients: Study
Doctors in the emergency rooms often don't evaluate the mental health of patients who've cut or otherwise hurt themselves before sending them home, a new study shows. Less than 48 percent of patients who were discharged after self-harming had a mental health assessment while in the ER, researchers report in the Archives of General Psychiatry. An equal proportion of them don't get follow-up therapy in the next month, the researchers found. Yet those people have higher rates of suicide and are especially vulnerable soon after a self-harm incident, according to researchers. (Fox News, 9/8/11)
Canadians Say Entry to US Blocked Over Mental Health Records
More than a dozen Canadians have told the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office in Toronto within the past year that they were blocked from entering the United States after their records of mental illness were shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Canadian officials say it could result from records stored in a database of police records that American authorities can access when screening visitors to the country. Even when police respond to non-violent incidents linked to someone's mental health problems, a record of it ends up in the database. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Canadian law enforcement agencies have not yet explained why entry was denied. (CBC, 9/9/11)
Marijuana Use Rises, But Declines for Meth and Cocaine
A new government survey on illegal drugs says use of marijuana rose but consumption of methamphetamine and cocaine is trending downward. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that pot use rose among Americans aged 12 and older from 5.8 percent in 2007 to 6.9 percent in 2010. That's 17.4 million American teens and adults. The survey, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, also showed methamphetamine user rates have plummeted by nearly half, from 731,000 users in 2006 to 353,000 in 2010. Cocaine use also dropped from 2.4 million users in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2010. Overall, however, illicit drug use is slightly up, from 8.7 percent of the population in 2009 to 8.9 percent in 2010. (USA Today, 9/8/11)
Mental, Neurological Disorders Affect 38 Percent of Europeans
New research shows that 38 percent of the European population, or 165 million people, have a mental or neurological disorder. Experts estimate that only one-third of people affected by the disorders get help. Researchers reviewed data from previous studies involving more than 500 million people in 27 European countries, plus Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway. They considered more than 90 mental and neurological problems, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other problems that are more common in children as well as those typically found in the elderly, such as dementia. The rate of disorders was similar to a study conducted in 2005. Experts not connected to the study say the findings may seem high because most patients don't report their illness and because this study includes disorders in children and the elderly. (CBS News, 9/6/11)
Half of US Adults Will Have Mental Illness
About half of U.S. adults will develop a mental illness during their lifetime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. The study also finds that that anxiety disorders are apparently as common as depression and as debilitating in terms of their effects on mental and overall health. There are "unacceptably high levels of mental illness in the United States," said Ileana Arias, principal deputy director of the CDC. The report estimates that the cost associated with mental illness was about $300 billion in 2002. "We know that mental illness is an important public health problem in itself and is also associated with chronic medical diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer," Arias says in a statement. "The report's findings indicate that we need to expand surveillance activities that monitor levels of mental illness in the United States in order to strengthen our prevention efforts." (USA Today, 9/5/11)
Partner Violence Damages Mental Health: Researchers
Victims who suffer violence at the hands of a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or other intimate partner suffer disproportionately higher rates of mental health distress, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Using data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), researchers found that of the 3.5 million Californians who reported ever having been the victim of intimate partner violence (IPV), more than half a million said they experienced recent symptoms of "serious psychological distress," which includes the most serious kinds of diagnosable mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Adult victims of IPV were more than three times as likely as unexposed adults to report serious psychological distress in the past year. Victims of IPV were also far more likely than non-victims to seek mental health care and to engage in coping strategies like binge drinking. (Psychcentral.com, 8/31/11)
Climate Change Affects Mental Health: Study
Flooding, drought and storms related to climate change have a negative impact on mental health, Australian researchers say. "The emerging burden of climate-related impacts on community morale and mental health-bereavement, depression, post-event stress disorders, and the tragedy of self-harm-is large," said Tony McMichael, a professor at Australian National University. Statistics from Australia show higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, violence, family breakups and suicide after extreme weather events, with impacts more pronounced in rural and semi-rural areas according to the report. (New York Daily News, 9/2/11)
Florida Mental Health Groups Protest Changes
A coalition of 13 mental health groups has asked the federal government to help determine whether Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida is violating the federal mental health parity law by canceling its psychologists' and mental health counselors' contracts. The move could force some patients to change mental health providers or pay higher out-of-network rates, a provider group says. Not all providers will sign new contracts because of lower rates. (Palm Beach Post, 9/4/11)
Genes May Influence PTSD
A gene that regulates serotonin may predispose individuals to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if they experience or witness trauma, according to a new study. Researchers used imaging to study the specific differences in the brain between people who have PTSD and others who have had traumatic experiences but do not have PTSD. They found that people with PTSD had changes in the serotonin 1B receptor, a key neurotransmitter that in animal studies appears to be especially sensitive to stress. And the younger a person was when the trauma occurred, the bigger the difference. The findings, which need to be confirmed by bigger studies, offer a first step in developing drugs specifically designed to target brain changes that occur in people with PTSD. (Medpage Today, 9/7/11)
Advocates, Providers Criticize Medicaid Drug Restrictions
Illinois is one of several states that are moving to limit access to brand name psychiatric drugs to people on Medicaid. The state says they consulted with experts before deciding that the less expensive drugs would be acceptable for most patients. But advocates and providers charge the move has made patients worse, with some having to be hospitalized. And they say the state has made it difficult to provide brand name drugs to people who need them. (Chicago Tribune, 9/7/11)IN DEPTH
The St. Louis Beacon and the Los Angeles Times report on the impact of 9/11 and resilience, while another article in the Times looks at the study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the wake of the tragedy.
NPR examines dignity therapy.
The Chicago Reader profiles the success of a man with schizophrenia.
Governing magazine looks at how one Florida county offered a place for people with mental illness and substance use problems to avoid jail.
American Medical News looks at Medicare and payment parity for mental health treatment.
VOICES AND VIEWPOINTS
A Huffington Post column addresses "Mental Health During This Economic Downturn."
Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, writes in his Director's blog on the need for better strategies in addressing the needs of people with serious mental illness.
Effects of Combat Stress May Diminish Over Time: A part of the brain's circuitry called the amygdala may prevent soldiers from developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a new study asserts. Researchers, whose findings are reported in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, used functional MRI scans to measure activity in this region of the brains of 23 soldiers who were sent to Afghanistan for four months. They compared the results of these scans to those of 16 soldiers who were not sent to Afghanistan before deployment, shortly after deployment and again 18 months later. The amygdala lit up on the scans shortly after deployment among soldiers sent to Afghanistan, compared to those who were not. However, there were no differences in amygdala function between the two groups of soldiers 18 months after returning. Some amygdalas may simply be more resilient than others, researchers say. (Los Angeles Times, 8/30/11)
Mental Health Problems Common Among 9/11 Responders: Mental and overall health problems are common across a large group of 9/11 emergency responders-and remain persistent for 10 to 30 percent of them, according to a new study. The findings, reported in the journal Lancet, reviewed the health of over 27,000 emergency workers. Among rescue and recovery workers, 27.5 percent had been diagnosed with depression and over 31 percent had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Police officers were at lower risk for mental illness than other responders, according to researchers who say training and experience may have better equipped law enforcement personnel with dealing with traumatic situations. (HealthDay News, 9/1/11)
Child's Grief over Parent's Death Can Persist: Grief reactions among children following the death of a parent continue for about 40 percent of those affected, researchers say. They studied 182 children, 7 to 18 years old, who had lost a parent without warning. They were interviewed at several points afterward. Grief was still severe at nine months for 31 percent of the group. Another 10 percent remained intense nearly three years after the parent's death. Prolonged grief appeared to be a significant predictor of new-onset, full-blown depression as well as functional impairment involving school performance, peer relations, and other activities important for children and adolescents, researchers report in the Archives of General Psychiatry. (Medpage Today, 9/7/11)
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