Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of May 18, 2010
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?
Children exposed to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables could have a higher risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder…more
Limits on Mental Health Care May Violate Federal Law
New restrictions on mental health care being imposed by a Massachusetts health insurer may violate the federal mental health parity law. Group Insurance Commission now requires therapists to undergo lengthy and repeated phone interviews, discussing patients’ progress before further treatment will be approved. Patients and therapists say the interviews are burdensome and intimidating, and have sometimes prompted patients to end treatments. Legal advocates say the restrictions aren’t used for other medical services and aren’t consistent with the federal parity law that requires mental health coverage to be offered at the same level of service as other types of medical care. (Boston Globe, 5/17/10)
Supreme Court Bars Life Sentences for Juveniles in Non-Murder Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life without parole for crimes other than murder. The 5-4 decision says imposing such sentences violates the Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling extends a 2005 decision when the court said defendants who were younger than 18 at the time of their offenses could not be sentenced to death. (The New York Times, 5/17/10)
Mental Health Care Leading Reason for Hospitalizations in Military
U.S. troops were hospitalized for mental health conditions more than any other reason during 2009, according to Pentagon data. A historic high, it marks the first time that hospitalizations for these conditions were higher than those for injuries or pregnancies in the 15 years it has been tracked by the Pentagon’s Medical Surveillance Monthly report. Mental health care accounted for almost 40 percent of all days spent in hospitals by service members last year, the report said. Army Col. Robert DeFraites, director of the office which produced the study, said it was "the equivalent of 488 soldiers spending an entire year in the hospital for mental disorders.” (USA Today, 5/14/10)
16-State Survey Finds Suicide Leading Cause of Violent Death
Suicide was the leading cause of violent death in 2007, according to a government survey of 16 states. Homicide was the next leading cause, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Most suicides were among people 45 to 54 years of age. That represents a demographic shift; people over 80 typically have the highest suicide rates. The study said the change might be related to mental health conditions, joblessness, finances or relationships. Most suicides were among American Indians/Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic whites. (HealthDay News, 5/13/10)
Administration Unveils New Drug Strategy Focused on Prevention
The Obama administration unveiled a new drug control strategy last week that will focus on prevention and treatment. It follows President Obama’s pledge to treat illegal drug use more as a public health issue than a criminal justice problem. The strategy increases community-based anti-drug programs, encourages health-care providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in, and expands treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream health-care facilities. (The Washington Post, 5/11/10)
People with Serious Mental Illness More Likely in Prison than Hospital
People with seriously mental illness are three times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized, a report released last week finds. While the percentages vary among states, there is no state where individuals with conditions such schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital, the report by the National Sheriffs' Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center found. It also reported that states that spent less on mental health care services had more individuals with mental illness in their jails. (USA Today, 5/12/10)
House Chair Says Health Programs Likely to Receive Less
Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said last week that education, health and labor programs are likely to receive less than requested under President Obama’s budget. At a hearing where officials representing health and education organizations asked for an increase in funding, Obey said they were going to be disappointed because of the political pressure to cut the record budget deficit. Obey said he expected about $3.5 billion to be cut from Obama’s budget for those programs—a 2.3 percent reduction. (The Hill, 5/13/10)
Report Details Changes in Substance Use Treatment
A new report detailing changes in substance use treatment finds that admissions among youths ages 12 to 17 declined by 10 percent between 2002 and 2008. The decrease follows a 13 percent increase from 1998 to 2002. The report, released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, was based on data from the agency's survey of state-licensed substance abuse treatment facilities across the nation. Treatment admissions attributed to drug use alone rose from 26 percent in 1998 to 37 percent in 2008, according to the study. Admissions involving alcohol abuse alone dropped from 27 percent in 1998 to 23 percent in 2008. (The Los Angeles Times, 5/12/10)
Dr. Lloyd Sederer writes in The Huffington Post on the need to integrate health and mental health.
The New England Journal of Medicine has several articles on the new health care reform law.
Pesticides May Increase Risk of ADHD in Children: Children exposed to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables could have a higher risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study has found. Researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Pediatrics, looked at a sample of 1,139 children between 8 and 15 years old, and measures of pesticide compounds, known as organophosphates, in their urine. Kids with higher-than-average levels of the compound were about twice as likely to have ADHD as kids with undetectable levels of the compound. The study does not prove pesticides cause ADHD, but the link is significant, researchers say. (Reuters, 5/17/10)
Changing Thoughts, Rather than Behavior, Can Help Lessen Depression: Moderate to severely depressed clients showed greater improvement in cognitive therapy when therapists emphasized changing how they think rather than how they behave, according to new research. For the study, researchers reviewed videotapes of therapy sessions of 60 patients with major depression and rated how much the therapists relied on cognitive and behavioral methods. They then examined the relationship between specific techniques and the improvement in patients’ depression scores over the course of four sessions. The results, reported in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, showed that patients' depression scores improved significantly when their therapists focused on cognitive techniques, but didn't change when their therapists focused on behavioral techniques. (The Los Angeles Times, 5/13/10)
Mother’s Voice May Help Relieve Sress: A mother’s voice over the phone can provide as much stress relief as a hug, researchers report. The study, conducted by University of Wisconsin researchers, involved 61 mothers and their daughters who were between 7 and 12 years old. They measured hormone levels before, during and after a stressful assignment: speaking and solving math problems before an audience. As expected, the levels of the stress hormone cortisol soared. Researchers also measured the hormone oxytocin, which helps mothers bond with their infants. Oxytocin levels spiked sharply in girls who saw their mothers after the exercise, confirming that a hug or pat on the back have measurable biological effects. But Oxytocin levels rose just as much in girls who spoke to their moms on the phone, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. That suggests that the human brain responds to sounds as much as sight and touch. (NPR, 5/12/10)
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*Mental Health America MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
May is Mental Health Month and according to Mental Health America it was created to promote health and wellness in homes, communities, schools, and inform those who don't believe that it is attainable. Care2, “Mental Illness in Older Adults 'Very Common'—and Underdiagnosed,” May 13, 2010
According to a survey taken by Mental Health America, one-third of Americans are living with extreme stress. It has assembled 10 tools on its website to help people manage stress and improve their well-being. The News & Advance, “Staying healthy amid the stress,” May 13, 2010
Stay Up to Date With More News, Views and Tools
- Attend Mental Health America’s 2010 Annual Conference—Get Connected: Social Inclusion in Wellness and Recovery; June 9-12, Washington, DC
- 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
Mental Health in the Headlines is produced weekly by Mental Health America. Mental Health America's Mental Health in the Headlines staff: Steve Vetzner, senior director, Media Relations; Robert Redpath, director, Web Technology.
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