Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of September 10, 2012
MENTAL HEALTH IN THE HEADLINES
Week of September 10, 2012
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.
Older adolescent girls experiencing major depressive episodes were more likely to receive treatment than younger ones…more
2012 National Zarrow Symposium and Mental Health America Annual Conference, September 19-21: Agenda is now online—find out more at http://www.fromhousingtorecovery.org/.
The MHA Career Center matches the best employers with the best talent in the mental health field. Find your employment match at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/mhacareercenter
IN THE NEWS
New National Strategy on Suicide Prevention Released: The Obama administration today released a new nationwide strategy to prevent suicides, especially among U.S. military veterans and younger Americans. The strategy will tap Facebook as part of a community-driven push to report concerns before someone takes their own life. The strategy highlights four immediate priorities to reduce the number of suicides: integrating suicide prevention into health care policies; encouraging the transformation of health care systems to prevent suicide; changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention; and improving the quality of data on suicidal behaviors to develop increasingly effective prevention efforts. The new Facebook service will allow users to report suicidal comments they see online from friends. The website will then send the potential victims an email urging them to call the hotline as well as chat confidentially online with a counselor. The plan also includes $55.6 million in grant funding for suicide prevention programs. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said: "Preventing suicide is everyone's business." (Reuters, 9/10/12)
Most Young Girls with Depression Don’t Get Treatment: Older adolescent girls experiencing major depressive episodes were more likely to receive treatment than younger ones, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. About two-fifths of girls aged 15 to 17 received treatment as opposed to only one-third of the girls aged 12 to 14. Episodes of depression are more common among teenage girls than among boys, and more common among older teenage girls than younger ones, the report finds. (Psychiatric News, 9/7/12)
VA Won’t Cover Cost of Service Dogs for PTSD Treatment: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will not cover the costs of service dogs to help veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to new regulations. VA said that despite many individual veterans’ testimonials of the assistance that mental health service dogs provide, it lacked research substantiating the efficacy of mental health service dogs. "VA has not yet been able to determine that these dogs provide a medical benefit to veterans with mental illness," the department said. "Until such a determination can be made, VA cannot justify providing benefits for mental health service dogs." A research study to determine the benefits was temporarily suspended for several months, but is now continuing. (NBCNews.com, 9/6/12)
Obama Issues Executive Order to Improve Mental Health Care for Veterans, Hire More Counselors: President Obama has signed an executive order directing key federal agencies to expand suicide prevention strategies and improve access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for veterans, service members, and their families. It also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to contract with community health centers, community mental health clinics, community substance abuse treatment facilities and other HHS grantees and community resources to help reduce VA mental health waiting lists. The order instructs VA to hire 1600 new mental health counselors, including 800 peer-to-peer support counselors, and to increase the VA veteran crisis line's capacity by 50 percent before the end of the year. (The Hill, 8/31/12)
Repeated Exposure to Graphic Media Images May Have Mental and General Health Consequences: Repeated exposure to graphic images of the attacks of September 11 and the Iraq War led to an increase in general and mental health problems, a study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults finds. The study sheds light on the lingering effects of “collective traumas” such as natural disasters, mass shootings and terrorist attacks. “A steady diet of graphic media images may have long-lasting mental and physical health consequences,” says study author Roxanne Cohen Silver. People who watched more than four hours a day of 9/11 and Iraq War-related television coverage (in the weeks after the attacks and at the start of the war) reported both acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms over time. Those who watched more than four hours a day of 9/11-related coverage in the weeks after the attacks reported physician-diagnosed general health ailments two to three years later. (Counsel & Heal, 9/4/12)
Scientists Plan to Develop Objective Way to Diagnose PTSD: A consortium of the nation’s top scientists plans to develop an objective means of diagnosing the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The group hopes that the illness can be diagnosed using medical techniques like blood tests or brain scans, rather than self-reported symptoms. Relying on self-reported symptoms to make a diagnosis is often difficult. In addition, many soldiers avoid seeking help and go undiagnosed. Researchers plan to track more than 2,000 people (military and civilian) who are exposed to traumatic events from across the country. They would then measure several different biomarkers to identify a select group of “markers” that can accurately diagnose PTSD. From there, the group hopes to come up with a systematic diagnostic plan, such as a combination of a blood test and fMRI scan, which can replace (or at least markedly enhance) self-reporting. (Forbes, 9/4/12)
European Austerity Measures Affecting Mental Health: A growing number of global and European health bodies are warning that the introduction and intensification of austerity measures on the continent has led to a sharp rise in mental health problems with suicide rates, alcohol abuse and requests for anti-depressants increasing as people struggle with the psychological cost of living through a European-wide recession. “No one should be surprised that factors such as unemployment, debt and relationship breakdowns can cause bouts of mental illness and may push people who are already vulnerable to take their own lives,” Richard Colwill, of the British mental health charity Sane. “There does appear to be a connection between unemployment rates and suicide for example,” he said, referring to a recent study in the British Medical Journal that stated that more than 1,000 people in the U.K. may have taken their own lives because of the impacts of the recession. “This research reflects other work showing similar rises in suicides across Europe.” (CNBC, 9/4/12)
Obesity-Linked Changes May Affect Children’s Minds--Study: Metabolic syndrome—a combination of obesity, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low levels of good HDL cholesterol—may be affecting children’s minds, a new study asserts. Researchers say that adolescents with abdominal obesity, unhealthy cholesterol/triglyceride levels and high blood pressure are more likely to perform more poorly on tests of mental ability compared to their healthy peers. MRI scans also showed certain differences in brain structure among children with the metabolic syndrome, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. According to study lead author Dr. Antonio Convit, until recently it's been thought that "the bad things that can happen among kids with metabolic syndrome are 20 years in the future. But, this work demonstrates that these health issues are having a deleterious impact on a kid's brain now.” (ABC News, 9/3/12)
Study Shows Football Retired Football Players More Likely to Die from Brain Damage: A first-ever government study finds retired National Football League (NFL) players are three to four times more likely to die from diseases caused by brain damage compared with the general population. The findings come from a new analysis of a 1994 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on 3,439 former players (1959-1988) with at least five seasons in the NFL and add to a growing body of research detailing the harmful effects contact sports can have on the brain. Researchers reviewed mortality causes on death certificates for neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and also looked for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is not defined as a cause of death, but it can be mistaken for Alzheimer's, the authors write. "These results are consistent with recent studies suggesting an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease among football players,'' says Everett Lehman, lead author of the NIOSH report. The NFL announced last week it had pledged $30 million for medical research to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. (USA Today, 9/5/12)
Sleep Training Techniques for Infants Don’t Cause Mental Health Difficulties—Study: Techniques to train infants to sleep won't cause mental health difficulties, a new study finds. The infant sleep training techniques, such as "controlled comforting" and "camping out" were also found to improve children and mothers’ mental health through the time infants were 2-years-old, but the effects faded overtime. Australian researchers, who published their findings in the journal Pediatrics, found that of 225 six-year-olds, those who participated in sleep training when they were babies were no different in terms of emotional health from those who did not. (CBS News, 9/10/12)
FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Romney Says He Would Cover Pre-Existing Conditions, But Only for Those with Continuous Coverage: Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday he would like he liked the Affordable Care Act’s provision that requires insurers to cover preexisting conditions, and would support something similar. However, Romney’s campaign stated it would support coverage for pre-existing conditions only for those who have had continuous coverage. That means that those who go a month or two without coverage could later be denied insurance for a medical condition. If there has been a gap in coverage—for example, because of unemployment—an insurer could not deny your application due to a pre-existing condition. A recent study found that between 2004 and 2007, 89 million Americans had at least a single one-month gap in insurance coverage. (The Washington Post, 9/10/12)
Coalition for Whole Health Active at Conventions, on Party Platforms: The Coalition for Whole Health (CWH), which was formed in 2008 to promote recognition of the need to address mental illness and substance use conditions as part of the national elections, provided support for Recovery Rooms at both national conventions. The Recovery Rooms were intended to serve as a safe haven for persons suffering from the effects of mental illness or substance use conditions while they were participating in the Conventions. CWH, as it did in 2008, also sought to have its mission incorporated into the two party platforms. This year, the Republican Party Platform recognizes both substance use and mental illness as serious health problems. It also voices strong support for health insurance coverage, clinical prevention services, and coordinated care. The Democratic Party strongly supports the Affordable Care Act and “accessible, affordable, high quality health care….”, and acknowledges the important role of clinical prevention services. It also addresses the need for a strong health care workforce and continued investment in public health infrastructure, including community-based efforts to prevent disease. (Behavioral Healthcare, 9/5/12)
The Washington Post reports on new training program offering one- and two-year residencies in addiction medicine to physicians.
Bill Lichtenstein writes in The New York Times on the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms in schools: “A Terrifying Way to Discipline Children.”
Paul Gionfriddo, a former state legislator, writes firsthand in Health Affairs on the devastating consequences of past policy mistakes—and imagines what he’d do differently now: “How I Helped Create A Flawed Mental Health System That’s Failed Millions—And My So.”
WBUR Radio looks at how children’s mental health care in Massachusetts is still treated unequally.
Exposure to Combat Stress Can Affect Brain Wiring: Exposure to combat stress can have subtle, long-lasting effects on brain wiring, although most war-related brain changes clear up with time, according to a new study. Researchers evaluated 33 healthy soldiers just back from deployment in Afghanistan found that problems with concentration during complex thinking tasks were common early on, but eventually improved. But, subtle changes involving brain circuitry appeared longer-lasting. Published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers looked at members of the NATO International Security Assistance Force peacekeeping operation, before and six weeks after a four-month deployment in Afghanistan. The investigators compared these soldiers with 26 soldiers who were never deployed. A year and a half later, they followed up. Using neuropsychological tests and functional MRI, the researchers did identify changes in brain function, specifically in the midbrain. (HealthDay News, 9/4/12)
Young Women Who Experience Repeated Sexual Assaults at High Risk for PTSD: Young women who experience repeated sexual assaults are at very high risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to national surveys. Researchers surveyed 1,763 teenage girls, 2,000 college women, and 3,001 adult women residing at home, asking them about history of sexual assault and PTSD symptoms. College women who reported suffering multiple sexual assaults had a nearly seven-fold increase in the likelihood of having PTSD within the previous 6 months, researchers report. Adolescent girls repeatedly assaulted also had significantly high rates of PTSD, as did adult women that were not college students, researchers report in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Although previous studies have found high rates of PTSD, depression, and panic disorder among women experiencing sexual assault, little is known about the effects of two or more such experiences. (Medpage Today, 9/4/12)
MORE NEWS AND VIEWS:
Mental Health in the Headlines is produced weekly by Mental Health America. Staff: Steve Vetzner, senior director, Media Relations.
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