Entries in Mental Health (27)


Researchers Link Childhood Stomachaches with Mental Health Issues

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could a simple tummy ache be a warning sign of future mental health problems? A new study says it might.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University studied nearly 500 children with and without "chronic abdominal pain," and found that more than half of those who reported pains went on to experience an anxiety disorder. Just 20 percent of the children who did not report abdominal pain suffered from anxiety disorder. Kids with chronic stomach pain were also more than twice as likely to deal with depression.

Doctors hope that this study may help them understand the link between psychiatric problems and how the body processes pain.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Reading, Writing May Help Stall Mental Decline

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Dementia, the severe decline in mental abilities, such as memory and reasoning, affects four to five million people in the United States, most of whom are elderly. A study in the journal Neurology finds that keeping the mind active, specifically by reading and writing, can help prevent mental deterioration.

Researchers studied 294 elderly people for six years before their deaths at an average age of 89 and found that those who took part in "mentally stimulating activities" -- like reading and writing -- over the course of their lives had a slower rate of mental decline as compared to those who hadn't.

In fact, those subjects who frequently took part in mental activity late in their lives decreased the decline of their mental faculties by about 32 percent.

Researchers believe that it is important to begin partaking in mental activity during childhood and to maintain it well into your later years.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Nev. Psychiatric Hospital Accused of Busing Patients to Calif.

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The largest psychiatric hospital in Nevada is accused of busing mentally ill patients to California and dumping them in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas is suspected of exporting its mentally ill to neighboring California over the last five years.

“No medicine, no treatment, no care – people who have mental issues just dumped," said Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

It’s both unfair to the patients and unfair to the citizens of California, Trutanich explained. “It taxes the resources of the residents of Los Angeles in terms of their ability to receive the services that they may need.”

Officals at Rawson-Neal deny the allegations, and indeed no documented cases of busing have been found, though homeless community outreach groups are keeping an eye out.

“We don’t just put people on buses and dump them,” Dr. Tracey Green, Nevada state health officer, explained. “I mean, every time I hear that I cringe.”

Green claims that the accusations do stem from one instance of a Rawson-Neal patient being bused to Sacramento, but says that was an isolated documentation error, not a trend. The patient, described as unhinged and suicidal, had been mistakenly discharged and put on a bus with a three-day supply of medication and some snacks.

“This is about an error, a documentation error. This is not about a system error. That’s not our statewide policy, that’s not how we treat people here,” Green said.

Trutanich said that his office is launching a full investigation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Budget Includes $235 Million For Mental Health Care

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is asking for $235 million as part of his new budget proposal to fund mental health initiatives. Of the funds, $130 million will be used to train teachers and others to identify signs of mental illness in students and provide them with access to treatment.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog on her agency's website Tuesday that the funds include $205 million to help identify mental health problems, improve access to mental health services and support safer school environments. The plan would affect at least 8,000 schools, according to Sebelius. Another $30 million will go toward public health research on gun violence.

"We cannot ignore the fact that 60 percent of people with mental health conditions and nearly 90 percent of people with substance use disorders don't receive the care they need," Sebelius said in the post.

According to a January report, the Obama administration planned to spend $50 million to fund Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which would train teachers to identify signs of mental illness or provide "Mental Health First Aid" and ensure that students have access to mental health care. According to the report, Project AWARE would reach 750,000 young people.

Another $50 million would go to training 5,000 people to become mental health experts at the master's level to help alleviate the shortage of mental health professionals. The funds would also support state-based strategies aimed at helping those between the ages of 16 and 25 get access to and navigate behavioral treatment programs.

Mental health experts say it is vital to treat mental illnesses as early as possible. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness can be diagnosed by age 14 and approximately three-quarters of these cases are diagnosed by age 24.

Dr. Paramjit Joshi, chair of Behavioral Health at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C., says that on average, eight years pass between a person showing signs of mental illness and being diagnosed with a disease. She says if children and teens are diagnosed early, they are less likely to drop out of school or turn to substance abuse.

"Like other illnesses, if you can catch this early, the benefits are monumental," said Joshi. "Children spend the majority of their day in the school setting. I think it will be wonderful for teachers to be better prepared and be aware what are signs and symptoms of these conditions early and refer them for appropriate services."

By centering the initiative in schools throughout the country, Joshi says it could also help make mental illness a less taboo topic.

"I think I also there's a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, if there is service provided in that school it puts a dent in that stigma," said Joshi. "It would be great if mental health is incorporated into overall health of the child."

Mel Riddile, associate director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says in order for these initiatives to work they need to be more than just short training sessions.

Riddile says it's important schools have relationships with parents and the local mental health care system so that teachers and school officials feel there is someone that can help them if they have concerns about a student.

"When people have nobody to talk to, they won't ask the question if they don't think they're going to get [help]," said Riddile. "It's a matter of creating a network, where when issues come up they can ask a question."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Parents of Violent Mental Disorder Patients Share Their Stories on Capitol Hill

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The father of a young man whose battle with mental illness ended in suicide told a bipartisan group of Congress members Tuesday about the sometimes nightmarish struggles he faced trying to help his son.

“I can’t tell you the horror it is to have a child, behind you, going down an interstate highway, trying to get him to the place to save him and he tells you, ‘If you stop the car, I’ll jump out and kill myself with these trucks behind us,’” Pat Milam said, recounting the trauma of care for his young adult son, who had swallowed a bottle of pills in one of several attempts to commit suicide.

That attempt was ultimately unsuccessful. But at the age of 24, Matthew Milam would take his own life, a mere eight days after being discharged from a psychiatric ward where he was treated for bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.

He used a makeshift explosive device on that final attempt. Police had previously told his father they could not charge Matthew with a crime after he had alerted them to finding materials to construct pipe bombs in his room at home.

Milam was one of three parents who appeared at a mental health and violence forum discussion Tuesday on Capitol Hill that was hosted by the oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The body called the meeting due to its bearing over the private health industry.

The event Tuesday is the latest such panel to be formed as the nation calls for investigations into the causes of a series of mass shootings in recent years.

The guests blamed what they perceived as a failed American mental health system for their family’s ordeals, and in the case of Milam, death.

Pete Earley, whose own adult son had been successfully treated for illness, said vigorous and constant outpatient service was required.

“We need to change the commitment process,” he said. “But we can’t just change that if you don’t back it up with services. Because there’s no place to go.”

According to the Child Mind Institute, 15 million Americans under the age of 24 suffer from a mental disability, but there are only approximately 7,500 certified child psychiatrists.

A national stigma surrounding mental illness, combined with costs, weak health insurance coverage, and a bureaucratic maze of state and local guidelines have resulted in the average patient requiring two years to be identified and seek treatment according to the institute.

Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, documented his son’s case in his book, Crazy. He told the panel a turning point came when the family found a dedicated case worker, who helped the young man adjust into independent living with two roommates also undergoing treatment.

“That took a tremendous job off of me,” Earley said. “I could be the parent.”

Earley’s son is now employed in the state of Virginia as a “peer-to-peer” support specialist, helping incarcerated individuals with mental illness overcome their disability.

“Most people with mental illnesses can get better. You got to give them hope. You’ve got to give them the tools to do it,” he said.

The panel was also joined by Liza Long, whose blog about her own trials with a violently mentally ill 13-year-old went viral after the December shooting deaths of 20 Connecticut first graders and six adults. “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” was named for the gunman.

Long, who said her son is currently taking a “cornucopia of drugs” to control his rage, says sometimes parents’ only safe option is to have their children charged with a crime.

“We live in fear of the future,” she said. “What will happen when my son turns 18? Will my son harm himself or others? How will I pay for all the services I need to keep my child functioning?”

The mother asked for increased funding for the school counselors, research, and consistent community resources. In addition, she asked the lawmakers to consider an expanded budget for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Representative Timothy Murphy, D-Pa., led the forum. In his closing remarks he told the assembled experts and lawmakers that while the discussion helped members, “understand the fears, the worries, the love, the frustration,” of the issue at hand, the general welfare of the country demanded a thoughtful and deliberate way forward.

“I want to make sure we don’t do some knee-jerk reactions and think because we did something, we did the right thing,” he said. “The worst thing we can do is lull ourselves into some state of sleep, and say, ‘Well, we took care of mental illness so we’re done for the next decade.’”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Children with ADHD More Likely to Suffer from Mental Health Issues

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has found that children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to suffer from a number of mental health problems later in life.

According to the study, which is set to be published in the journal Pediatrics, almost thirty percent of children with childhood ADHD continued to deal with the disorder into adulthood.

The study also found that children diagnosed with childhood ADHD had higher rates of alcohol and drug use, anti-social personality disorder, anxiety and depression as compared to children without ADHD. Those children afflicted with ADHD also have a higher rate of suicide when they grow up, according to the study.

In fact, the study showed that just 37 percent of the ADHD afflicted children were free of mental health problems later in life.

The authors of the study say these grim numbers show an urgent need to improve long-term treatment of affected children, as well as working towards improved follow-up care as adults.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Displacement Takes Its Toll on Still Homeless New Yorkers

John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- At the height of superstorm Sandy, Leigh Devine and her 8-year-old daughter waded through a flooded lobby in a total blackout to leave their apartment in lower Manhattan, and they have not returned. In fact, since then they've stayed with four different friends who live further uptown, on drier grounds.

They're not alone. The neighborhood below Manhattan's City Hall was battered by wind, rain and 14-foot surges. Although there's no official tally, many buildings along the edges of the East and Hudson rivers that suffered extensive wind and water damage have been evacuated indefinitely.

Consequently, thousands of downtowners are still wandering from couch to couch, showering at the gym and recharging cell phones at Starbucks. This downtown diaspora is beginning to take an emotional toll on displaced residents.

"I try to take it in stride and feel thankful no one lost a limb, but I have moments when I get upset and anxious," said Devine.

Ellen Tyson, a mother of two, has been told her building located at the tip of the island just across the street from Battery Park may not be habitable for at least another week – but it could also be months. Her building management said it's a moving target because they are still assessing the damage and coordinating with Con Ed and other utilities. She's been searching for a short-term sublet just in case it's the latter, but they're few and far between and prices are sky high.

"I feel super displaced like a vagabond – I don't even feel like putting on my makeup," she said. "I just don't feel like myself most of the time."

Holly Parker, a psychologist with Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., said all of these emotions are to be expected, considering everything that people are going through.

"Daily hassles can be draining in the best of circumstances. But when the basics we all take for granted, such as having a home, are lost, it can be completely disorienting," she said.

Parker said people like to feel a sense of safety and control. When they live through a natural disaster such as Sandy, it suddenly becomes clear they can't control everything.

"It can completely shake up your worldview."

Moving from place to place can be particularly hard on children, Parker said, because they don't have a lot of control over their lives to begin with and they're less able to wrap their heads around what's happening. Parents can allay their kid's fears by staying calm, providing comfort and maintaining routines as much as possible – but Parker warned that parents need to be mindful that this extra responsibility can ratchet up their own stress even higher.

Then there's the guilt. Many find it embarrassing to ask friends and family for a favor, particularly when it's something big, like a place to stay. As Devine pointed out, "You don't want to inconvenience anyone or become a burden, especially if you don't know how long it's going to be for."

But Parker said it's important to understand how much others want to help those in need. "Everyone wants to do something for those they care about," she said.

There may be a double dose of guilt for some. How can you gripe about temporary inconveniences when people in places like New Jersey, Staten Island and the Far Rockways in Queens have lost cars, homes, and in some truly heartwrenching cases, loved ones? Tyson, for example, admitted it's hard to complain when she knows what others are going through.

"People have homes that are flooded away forever. Some can't help themselves financially. We can always find another place and suck it up. What have I got to be angry about, really?" she said.

According to Parker, it's common for people to invalidate their own feelings with this sort of thinking. "On the one hand they can acknowledge they're feeling bad about their situation and on the other hand, they assume they don't have the right to feel the way they do because there are others who have it worse."

Recognizing that others have had a rougher go than you can be comforting. Parker said it makes you grateful for what you have left. But she cautioned against minimizing your own hardships.

"You still have the right to feel upset and anxious about everything you're going through."

Parker also encouraged anyone who's waiting out the aftereffects of the storm to give themselves credit for holding it together and doing what they need to do for themselves and their families to make it through.

"Keep looking forward and keep reminding yourself, It's not forever," she said.

That's just what Devine is trying to do.

"I just try to focus on the gratitude and remind myself that at the end of the day, this will all be a distant memory someday."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Likelihood for Mental Health Problems Greater in Deaf People

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LINZ, Austria) -- Seven per 10,000 people all over the world are severely deaf, according to The Lancet. Of students who suffer from hearing impairment, 25 percent have other disabilities such as learning or developmental issues and autism. A review published online in the The Lancet has found that deaf people are more likely to experience mental health problems.

Researchers found not only that the likelihood for mental health problems doubles for those who are deaf, but that they have greater challenges in receiving quality health care to treat their issues.

Deaf children who have trouble communicating with their families are four times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, and are usually more likely to be mistreated when at school, when compared with deaf children who can communicate within their family or home setting, according to a Lancet news release.

The review, conducted by Dr. Johannes Fellinger of the Health Centre for the Deaf at the Hospital of St. John of God in Linz, Austria, and colleagues, also noted studies, which found that:

Deaf boys are three times more likely than hearing boys to report sexual abuse.  Deaf girls are twice as likely to report sexual abuse, compared to girls who can hear.

Deaf patients generally seek health care, reporting fear, frustration and mistrust.  They also often have trouble communicating with health care professionals.

The review's authors say that deaf patients have the same need for good health care and communication as those without hearing impairment.  To improve the deficiency in communication between physicians and deaf patients, the authors suggest that health care providers be trained to directly communicate with deaf patients who may have challenges in communicating their needs.

Dr. Gail Murray of the UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital says mental health services should have sign language interpreters:

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Laughter Yoga: Smiling for Better Health?

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) -- Laughter yoga instructor Dawn Thurmond in Texas says laughter yoga techniques reduce stress and counteract depression.  

Watch Here:

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mental Health 'Bible' Criticized for Financial Conflicts of Interest

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Controversy continues to swell around the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as DSM-5. A new study suggests the 900-page bible of mental health, scheduled for publication in May 2013, is ripe with financial conflicts of interest.

The manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, details the diagnostic criteria and recommended treatments -- many of which are pharmacological -- for each and every psychiatric disorder. After the 1994 release of DSM-4, the APA instituted a policy requiring expert advisors to disclose drug industry ties. But the move toward transparency did little to cut down on conflicts, with nearly 70 percent of DSM-5 panel members reporting financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies -- up from 57 percent for DSM-4.

"Organizations like the APA have embraced transparency too quickly as the solution," said Lisa Cosgrove, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine. "Our data show that transparency has not changed the dynamic."

The DSM is developed by APA-appointed panels consisting of experts in various fields of psychiatry. But many of these experts serve as paid spokespeople or scientific advisors for drug companies, or conduct industry-funded research. Some of most conflicted panels are those for which drugs represent the first line of treatment, with two-thirds of the mood disorders panel, 83 percent of the psychotic disorders panel and 100 percent of the sleep disorders panel disclosing "ties to the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the medications used to treat these disorders or to companies that service the pharmaceutical industry," according to the study.

"We're not trying to say there's some Machiavellian plot to bias the psychiatric taxonomy," said Cosgrove, who is also a research fellow at Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. "But transparency alone cannot mitigate unintentional bias and the appearance of bias, which impact scientific integrity and public trust."

The DSM-5 has also drawn criticism for introducing new diagnoses that some experts argue lack scientific evidence. Dr. Allen Frances, who chaired the revisions committee for DSM-4, said the new additions would "radically and recklessly" expand the boundaries of psychiatry.

"They're at the boundary of normality," said Frances, who is professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University. "And these days, most diagnostic decisions are not made by psychiatrists trained to distinguish between the two. Most are made by primary care doctors who see a patient for about seven minutes and write a prescription."

Under the new criteria, grief after the loss of a loved one, mild memory loss in the elderly and frequent temper tantrums in kids would constitute psychiatric disorders. An online petition challenging the proposed changes, which would label millions more Americans as mentally ill, has accrued more than 12,000 signatures.

"We're not opposed to the proper use of psychiatric drugs when there's a real diagnosis and when a child or an adult needs pharmacological intervention," said David Elkins, president of the American Psychological Association's society for humanistic psychology and chairman of the committee behind the petition. "But we are concerned about the normal kids and elderly people who are going to be diagnosed with these disorders and treated with psychiatric drugs. We think that's very, very dangerous."

Elkin said he's "dismayed" that seven in 10 panel members has ties to drug companies.

APA medical director and CEO Dr. James Scully insisted the DSM-5 development process "is the most open and transparent of any previous edition of the DSM."

"We wanted to include a wide variety of scientists and researchers with a range of expertise and viewpoints in the DSM-5 process. Excluding everyone with direct or indirect funding from the industry would unreasonably limit the participation of leading mental health experts in the DSM-5 development process," he said in a statement.

Cosgrove said she believes there are plenty mental health professionals with no financial ties to drug companies. If necessary, experts with conflicts could still participate in the process as non-voting advisors, she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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