Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of December 7, 2009
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?
Fear of anxiety may push "above-average" worriers into depression...more
*HEALTH REFORM UPDATE
New Public Option Proposal Being Considered
Democratic Senators negotiating an alternative to the public insurance option included in the Senate health plan are considering giving the government's Office of Personnel Management the power to run a new national health plan. The office currently oversees the federal employee health plan, and administration officials pointed to it as an example of how the government can successfully run a health insurance program. Under the proposal, the office would negotiate terms of the plan with private insurers, and contract with nonprofit entities set up by the private sector to run the program. (The Wall Street Journal, 12/07/09)
California Experience Shows Government Oversight of Parity Law Needed
Government oversight of the laws requiring mental health parity in insurance coverage is needed to monitor cost and coverage issues as well as access to and quality of care, a study of California’s experience finds. Consumers also need more information, say researchers who used interviews and focus groups to evaluate the experiences of individuals, health plans and doctors with the California law. Costs associated with parity were in line with, or even below, the projections. Among the findings, the authors say that most health plans responded to the parity law by lifting limits on the annual number of days allowed for inpatient treatments and the number of visits allowed for outpatient treatment. They also recommend public education campaigns to acquaint individuals with the new federal parity law, which could also reduce stigma associated with mental health conditions. (The Los Angeles Times, 12/01/09)
Mental Health Social Network Launched
A new social network has been launched to let people with mental health conditions or those interested in those conditions connect in a comfortable online environment. Mentalhealthsocial.com is designed to allow people to share experiences anonymously, reach out to others with similar problems, and connect caregivers assisting loved ones facing mental health conditions. The service, which has the same major features as Facebook, was founded by Colin Spencer Wood who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999. (Information Week, 12/02/09)
Study Finds Emotional Toll on Children of Military
Children of military parents deployed to serve abroad were twice as likely as children of civilians to have emotional or behavioral difficulties, a new study finds. The study covers children between the ages of 11 and 17. Other studies have focused on children below the age of 12. The study was based on interviews with about 1,500 military families in which a parent had been or was currently deployed and was carried out by researchers at Rand Corporation with funding from the National Military Family Association. It found that 30 percent children from military families reported experiencing elevated anxiety symptoms, such as getting frightened or feeling that they couldn't be alone. Fifteen percent of children from civilian families reported those symptoms. (The Wall Street Journal, 12/07/09)
Confidentiality Rules in Military Raise Questions
Soldiers, lawyers and mental health workers say that confidentiality rules governing relations between therapists and patients in the military lack safeguards. The rules create suspicion among troops toward therapists and reduce the effectiveness of treatment, which hinders the military’s efforts to encourage personnel to seek care. Experts say military rules do not protect the confidentiality of communications and records as strongly as federal rules governing civilians. (The New York Times, 12/07/09)
Climate Change Could Significantly Impact Mental Health: The most significant health consequences of climate change will be on mental health, researchers say. Although the issue is unlikely to receive attention at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, scientists urge greater research on the issue. In an article published online in Psychological Medicine, Dr. Lisa Page and Dr. Louise Howard from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London say the effects of climate change will be felt most by those with pre-existing serious mental illness, but that there is also likely to be an increase in the overall burden of mental health conditions worldwide. (ScienceDaily, 12/07/09)
Loneliness Can Spread From Person to Person: Lonely people attract other people who are lonely and can influence others to feel lonely, a new study finds. The average person feels lonely about 48 days a year, but for the lonely, that feeling can be ever-present. The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finds that people who felt lonely were more likely to lack friends or shed friends a few years later. Compared with those who are never lonely, lonely people can lose about 8 percent of their friends over a four-year period. The study suggests that lonely people tend to isolate themselves in small groups that increase feelings of solitude. (HealthDay News, 12/01/09)
Fear of Anxiety May Push Worriers into Depression: Fear of anxiety may push "above-average" worriers into depression, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed questionnaires completed by 94 volunteers, average age 19, who were moderate to high worriers. The questionnaires assessed worry, generalized anxiety and depression. The responses showed that anxiety sensitivity significantly predicted depression symptoms. The researchers also found that two of the four issues that comprise anxiety sensitivity—the "fear of cognitive dyscontrol" and the "fear of publicly observable anxiety symptoms”—specifically predicted depression symptoms. (HealthDay News, 12/01/09)
Children of Mentally Ill Parents at Greater Risk of Dying: Children of mentally ill parents have a higher risk of dying, a new study asserts. Researchers tracked children born between 2001 and 2003 whose mother, father, or both parents had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or affective disorder. They categorized all deaths into those occurring from natural and unnatural causes. Unnatural causes were further categorized into accidents and homicides. They found children of mentally ill parents have a 2.4 times higher risk of dying compared with offspring of control patients. That figure increases to 8.35 times the risk for unnatural causes of death such as accidents and homicides, according to the study published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry. (Medscape, 12/03/09))
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*Mental Health America MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
The House health care reform bill could improve access to mental health services for SCHIP beneficiaries because all of the plans under a proposed insurance exchange must include mental health care as part of the minimum benefits package. “In the past, when things have gotten tough, there have been cases of states not including mental health benefits within their [SCHIP] health care package,” said Kirsten Beronio, vice president of public policy and advocacy at Mental Health America. “So [the House bill] is a positive thing.” Psychiatric News, “Proposal to End SCHIP Generates Anxiety, Optimism,” December 4, 2009
A Harris Interactive poll found that 38 percent of Americans say the economy will saddle them with more stress and anxiety this holiday season than last. According to Mental Health America, one of the causes of “holiday blues” is finances. The Clarion-Ledger, “Many Mississippians face season's grievings,” December 6, 2009
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
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