Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of November 23, 2009
mental health in the headlines
Week of November 23, 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?
People with schizophrenia and other mental disorders are more likely to die of heart disease than mentally healthy individuals...more
*HEALTH REFORM UPDATE
Senate Votes to Begin Debate on Health Plan; Major Disputes Remain
The vote by the U.S. Senate to allow consideration of a sweeping health reform plan is being called the end of the beginning. Debate will now focus on reaching consensus on issues such as a public option and financing of the measure. Several senators who voted in favor of beginning debate have indicated that they oppose a public plan and that the contours of the bill will have to change to win their support. At the same time, other lawmakers are insisting that a public option must be included in a final version of an overhaul. (The Washington Post, 11/23/09)
Suicides Increased in 2008; Recession May Be Reason
The number of suicides in the U.S. has gone up and the recession may be the reason. A review of 2008 data from 19 states shows there was a 2.3 percent increase in suicides from the year before. While the increase can’t be definitively tied to the economy, suicides have historically risen during tough economic times. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline estimates it will receive about 630,000 phone calls this year. That's a 15 percent increase from 2008, which saw a 36 percent rise from the year before. (The Wall Street Journal, 11/23/09)
Economy, Budget Cuts Straining Mental Health Services
Police departments and emergency workers are struggling to respond to the needs of individuals with mental health conditions put at risk by declining services. Around the country, as many as 1,300 police departments have set up crisis intervention teams modeled after Memphis, Tenn., program. The teams get specialized mental health training and work with the community on the responses. Because resources were not adequately invested in community services following deinstitutionalization, many communities don't have enough beds in inpatient hospitals or community mental health programs to respond to people in crisis. The problem is likely to get worse as more states slash budgets. By the end of 2011, state mental health budgets are expected to be slashed by 21.8 percent, on top of what has already been trimmed, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. (Associated Press, 11/23/09)
Army Suicides to Reach New High in 2009
Suicides in the U.S. Army will hit a new high this year, the Pentagon confirmed last week. The number of active-duty suicides so far in 2009 has already matched last year's record of 140 deaths. Another 71 soldiers committed suicide after being taken off active duty in 2009—nearly 25 percent more than the end-year total for 2008. Some had returned home only weeks before taking their own lives. (CNN, 11/17/09)
More Americans Going Hungry
The number of Americans that have trouble putting food on the table shot up last year to a record 17 million households, the government reported last week. The Department of Agriculture report, which has been released annually since 1995, said the number of Americans that were hungry rose to 14.6 percent. In 2007, 13 million households or 11.1 percent of Americans had trouble getting enough food. The percentage of hungry Americans had never been higher than 11.9 percent since these surveys began. (Associated Press, 11/17/09)
New Law Prohibits Genetic Discrimination
A federal ban on discriminating on the basis of genetic background took effect on Saturday. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which has been called the most sweeping anti-discrimination law in nearly 20 years, prohibits employers from hiring or firing based on a person's genetic makeup. In addition, health insurers will not be allowed to consider a predisposition to a disease to set insurance rates or deny coverage. The new law removes a significant obstacle to genetic testing, which can help prevent and treat serious illnesses. (The Los Angeles Times, 11/21/09)
Senate Passes Bill to Aid Rural Veterans
The Senate last week passed by unanimous vote legislation to expand services to veterans in rural area. The bill authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with community mental health centers in rural areas when providing care to vets of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it provides financial assistance to families who care for critically injured vets. In addition, it authorizes the VA to award grants to service organizations that drive vets to medical appointments, and it directs the VA to establish Indian health coordinators to provide better care in areas with large American Indian populations. The legislation must be combined with a similar House bill before becoming law. (Missoulian, 11/20/09)
Military Studying PTSD Risk Factors
U.S. military researchers are trying to identify genetic and other factors that may help identify soldiers most at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Members of certain Marine and Army units are undergoing extensive physical and mental assessments before combat deployment. The soldiers are monitored in the war zones and assessed again when they return home. The military hopes a better understanding of risk factors will prevent incidence and improve treatment. (Associated Press, 11/20/09)
Smoking During Pregnancy, Lead Exposure Raise ADHD Risk in Children: Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who were exposed to lead have more than double the risk of having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as other children, new research shows. Using data on 2,588 children who took part in the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers concluded that about 38 percent of ADHD cases among children aged 8 to 15 in the United States may be caused by prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke. About 25 percent of ADHD cases are due to lead exposure, according to the study, which appears in the online issue of Pediatrics. (ScienceDaily, 11/23/09)
People with Schizophrenia More Likely to Die of Heart Disease: People with schizophrenia and other mental disorders are more likely to die of heart disease than mentally healthy individuals, a new study finds. Researchers looked at nearly 150,000 veterans who had completed a 1999 survey. Just 11 percent had never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, while 15.5 percent had schizophrenia, 10 percent had bipolar disorder, 5 percent had psychotic symptoms but hadn't been diagnosed with schizophrenia, 24 percent had major depression, and 34.5 percent had other types of depression. Within 8 years, 8 percent of the study participants had died of heart disease. Individuals with psychosis were nearly twice as likely to die of heart disease during follow-up compared to those who'd never been diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to the study, which appears in General Hospital Psychiatry. (Reuters, 11/17/09)
Fearless Kids More Likely to be Adult Criminals: Children who lack a normal fear response are more likely to commit crimes when they grow up, a study asserts. Researchers assessed the "fear conditioning" of nearly 1,800 three-year-olds by measuring skin activity such as sweat secretion, which is part of the fear reflex, after the children had been blasted by a short, loud, unpleasant sound or a neutral tone. Twenty years later, the researchers looked at the official court records of the study participants. They found that, by the age of 23, 137 had committed serious crimes. None of the adults with a criminal record had shown a normal fear response at age three, according to the study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The findings of this study “potentially provide some support for a neurodevelopmental theory of antisocial and criminal behavior," the researchers write. (HealthDay News, 11/17/09)
Psychological Trauma Widespread and Long-lasting Following Virginia Tech Shooting: Virginia Tech students experienced long-lasting and widespread psychological trauma following the 2007 mass shooting, new research suggests. A research team analyzed two surveys of female Virginia Tech students—one taken two months following the shooting, and another taken six months after the tragedy. All the women had previously completed a survey designed to identify victims of sexual assault and had provided information regarding depression and anxiety levels, as well as social support networks. At the two-month assessment, 94 percent of participants reported post-trauma symptoms in the past week. Thirty-six percent of participants reported at least some loss in their sense of life direction, 54 percent reported loss in optimism, and 16 percent reported loss of interpersonal resources, according to the study, published in journals Violence and Victims and Psychological Trauma. (Miller-McCune, 11/12/09)
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*Mental Health America MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Before passage of a federal mental health parity law, insurance companies could discriminate against those with mental illnesses by setting higher co-payments and stricter limits on mental health benefits. Nearly 70 percent of adults and 80 percent of children requiring mental health services in America have not received treatment because of such insurance barriers, according to figures compiled by Mental Health America. The Capital Times, “State lawmakers want parity in insurance coverage for mental health,” November 23, 2009
David L. Shern, Ph.D., Mental Health America president and CEO, said a national survey of the impact of the recession on the mental health of Americans showed "the consequences of economic uncertainty and economic displacement and that they cause real problems that are a real concern from a public-health perspective." That 13 percent of the unemployed think of harming themselves is a "very startling" statistic, he added. Medical News, Inc., "’Recession Depression’ a Growing Mental Health Concern,” November 20, 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
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.
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