Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of May 16, 2011
MENTAL HEALTH IN THE HEADLINES
Week of May16, 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.
An analysis of the plan by House Republicans to repeal the new health care law and convert the Medicaid program into a block grant to states finds that it could force as many 44 million poor and disabled Americans out of the program over the next decade...more
IN FOCUS: VETERANS AND MILITARY MENTAL HEALTH
Court Calls for Overhaul of VA Mental Health Services: A federal appeals court has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to dramatically overhaul its mental health care system. The court criticized both Congress and the administration for failing vets. The "unchecked incompetence" in handling the flood of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health claims is unconstitutional, the court said. It noted that it takes the VA an average of four years to fully provide mental health benefits owed to veterans and often takes weeks for a veteran with suicidal thoughts to get an initial appointment. One member of the three-judge panel dissented, stating that the decision would only prolong litigation and complicate the agency's efforts to improve services. (Reuters, 5/10/11)
More Than Half of Recent Vets Have Mental Health Problems: More than half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated in Department of Veterans Affairs' hospitals since 2002 have been diagnosed, at least preliminarily, with mental health problems, according to statistics. The data, which is released quarterly, also shows that the raw number of returning soldiers with psychological problems is rising. Nearly 18,000 new patients were treated for mental health issues at VA facilities in the last three months of last year-the most recent time period for which data is available- upping the total to more than 330,000. (Pro Publica, 5/11/11)
Stress of Troops Reaches Five-Year High: U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan are experiencing some of the greatest psychological stress and lowest morale in five years of fighting, according to a military study. Mental health strain was most severe among veterans of three or more deployments, with a third of those showing signs of psychological problems defined as either stress, depression or anxiety. The report notes that the number of mental health staff has doubled in war zones in order to ensure treatment is available immediately for soldiers who suffer psychological trauma. (USA Today, 5/8/11)
Few Troops Exposed to Bomb Blasts Examined for Concussions: More than half of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan have been exposed to bomb blasts in the last year, but only about 1 in 5 of them said they were examined for concussions, according to a draft of a recent military survey. Medical officials failed to screen about 80 percent of soldiers and Marines who reported being within 50 meters of a roadside blast during their tour of duty, according to combat troops surveyed in July and August of last year. However, the survey was conducted before the full implementation of a new policy beginning in June that mandates screening of troops exposed to bomb blasts. (Pro Publica, 5/10/11)
IN THE NEWS
Study: GOP Budget Plan Would Cause Deep Cuts in Medicaid Coverage
A plan by House Republicans to repeal the new health care law and convert the Medicaid program into a block grant to states could force as many 44 million poor and disabled Americans out of the program over the next decade, according to a new analysis. The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation and Urban Institute report concluded that Medicaid's role as the nation's safety net health care program would be "significantly compromised ... with no obvious alternative to take its place." States in the south and west that have not built up their health care safety nets in recent years would be hardest hit. These states, which currently have the tightest Medicaid income eligibility rules and the highest proportion of poor people, would gain the most under the Medicaid expansion in the federal health overhaul, and they would be the biggest losers under the Ryan plan, the report said. (Kaiser Health News, 5/110/11)
Proposals Urged to Improve Safety at California Mental Health Facilities
Legislators and groups representing employees are proposing legislation to improve safety at California's mental health facilities. These include bills that would allow officials to better assess patients' potential for violence, speed up the process to involuntarily medicate certain individuals and punish those who give tobacco and cash to patients. The state lifted a hiring freeze last month and called for better alarm and surveillance systems at the facilities. (Los Angeles Times, 5/16/11)
Budget Cuts Threaten Treatment for Children Exposed to Trauma
The administration's 2012 budget has proposed a 70 percent cut in funding for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Established in 2001, the program evaluates and develops treatments for traumatized children nationwide through a network of 130 clinics and universities in 38 states. An estimated 322,000 have received treatment through its work from 2002 to 2009. The network has started to document how trauma affects developing brains differently from those of adults exposed to wartime violence. (The New York Times, 5/10/11)
Two Teams of Scientists Discover Genetic Link to Depression
Two separate teams of scientists have reported that they have discovered evidence that variations in some peoples' genes may cause depression. The first study analyzed more than 800 families with recurrent depression. The second examined depression and heavy smoking in a series of families from Australia and Finland. Both studies reported a strong link between depression and genetic variations in a region called chromosome 3p25-26. The researchers, whose findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, said they hoped the discovery would help develop more effective treatments. (Reuters, 5/16/11)
Researchers Studying Whether Depression Predicted by Vague Memories
Researchers are conducting studies to determine whether teenagers with "overgeneral" memory are more likely to develop depression later on. The results could help predict whether someone will experience mental illness. Overgeneral memory refers to a tendency to recall past events in a broad, vague manner. Some have suggested it could also be a risk factor for Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder. "It's an unsung vulnerability factor for unhelpful reactions when things go wrong in life," said Mark Williams, a clinical psychologist who has been leading studies on the subject. (The New York Times, 5/9/11)
Patients with Depression Often Ignore Other Health Problems
People suffering from depression are less likely to stick to a medication regimen to treat chronic health problems, putting them at increased risk of more serious health issues, according to a new study. The RAND study found that depressed patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease were 76 percent less likely to adhere to their medication schedule, when compared to patients who are not depressed. Researchers combined information from 31 previous reviews involving more than 18,000 people. In addition to heart disease and diabetes, the study evaluated patients suffering from conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and asthma. (Santa Monica Daily Press, 5/10/11)
NPR examines how to best shop for psychotherapy.
The New York Times' "18 and Under" column explores whether a child's focus on a video game is a cause or an effect of attention deficit problems.
The Los Angeles Times looks at the difficulties of tackling mental health problems in Afghanistan.
VOICES AND VIEWPOINTS
The Huffington Post's Medical Editor for Mental Health looks at the good and bad news about mental health care.
Another Huffington Post contributor examines the stigma of drug addiction.
Adults with ADHD and Emotional Reactions Appears to Run in Families: Some adults who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that also experience excessive emotional reactions appears to run in families, according to a new study. Researchers studies 83 participants-23 who had ADHD alone, 27 with ADHD plus deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR), 33 with neither condition-plus their siblings. The study, which appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that the siblings of people with both ADHD and DESR were much more likely to have both conditions than those with ADHD alone. (HealthDay News, 5/9/11)
Successful Treatment of Depression in Mothers Benefits Children: Children whose mothers are successfully treated for depression show progressive and marked improvement in their own behaviors even a year after their moms discontinue treatment, a new study asserts. Moms and their children were followed as part of the nation's largest multisite clinical trial on treatments for depression, begun in fall 1999. The latest findings, reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, also showed that children's improvement, in terms of both depressive symptoms and social functioning, was related to the time it took their mothers to get better. Children whose mothers remitted-or recovered from all depressive symptoms-early within the first three months of treatment continued to show improvements in both symptoms and social functioning more than a year later. (Science Daily, 5/10/11)
Low Levels of Oxytocin Linked to Postpartum Depression: Women with lower levels of the hormone oxytocin in their blood during late stages of pregnancy are more likely to develop Postpartum depression, new research suggests. The study, published online in Neuropsychopharmacology, examined blood samples of 73 women volunteers. Fourteen of this group later developed Postpartum depression. This group tended to have lower levels of oxytocin. The study is one of the first to explore the relationship between oxytocin levels during pregnancy and the risk for postpartum depression. (The Washington Post, 5/9/11)
Stress in Pregnancy Linked to ADHD: Mothers who are depressed or severely stressed during their pregnancy face a far greater chance of having children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study. British researchers studied thousands of children from before birth until they were at primary school. They discovered a strong link between antenatal stress, "mixed-handedness"-using the left or right hand to perform different tasks-and severe childhood behavioral problems, with ADHD the most common. The neurologists who conducted the research said their findings suggested stress hormones in the womb disrupted the normal passage of neurons between the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in the inability of one hand to become dominant, and a range of behavioral problems. Although previous studies have discovered a link between stress and low birth weight and lower IQ, this is the first time a connection has been made between antenatal stress and ADHD. (The Australian, 5/8/11)
NEWS FROM MENTAL HEALTH AMERICA
May is Mental Health Month 2011: Do More for 1 in 4. For information on this year's May is Mental Health Month activities, go to http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may.
The Los Angeles Times writes on Mental Health Month and Mental Health America's emphasis that people with mental health conditions can live full and productive lives.
Mental Health America's Annual Conference, June 9-11, in Washington, DC: Find out how health reform will be implemented; how to start a peer specialist program; and what new programs we are launching. Go to http://www.nmha.org/go/conference.
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Mental Health in the Headlines is produced weekly by Mental Health America. Staff: Steve Vetzner, senior director, Media Relations.
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