Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of November 30, 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?
Individuals diagnosed with major depression are at risk for developing osteoporosis...more
*HEALTH REFORM UPDATE
Senate Begins Debate on Health Reform Plan
The Senate begins debate this week on its health reform plan, with just 25 days to meet a goal of passing a bill by Christmas. However, there is no agreement yet on a plan that would win 60 votes. Among the issues that must be agreed to are whether to include a public option and how to finance an overhaul. A possible compromise on a public option is a proposal offered by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), which would allow a public insurance plan to be created only in states where the legislation fails to meet a target for increased insurance coverage. (The New York Times, 11/29/09)
Policy on Soldier Suicides Challenged
Two members of the House of Representatives from Indiana are asking the President to reconsider a long-standing policy that prevents letters of condolence from being sent to families of troops who have committed suicide. The White House has not yet formally responded to the request by Republican Rep. Dan Burton and Democratic Rep. Andre Carson. Under an unwritten policy that has existed at least since the Clinton administration, presidents have not sent letters to survivors of troops who took their own lives, even if it was at the war front (The Wall Street Journal, 11/25/09)
Media Coverage Plays Role in Suicides
The way the media reports on suicide can be critical because attention can trigger other suicides, according to psychiatric epidemiologist Madelyn Gould at Columbia University in New York City. The size of the increase in suicides following a story is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage. The media can reduce the risk of additional suicides by focusing on the complex factors that may have led up to a suicide and emphasizing that most individuals who complete suicide have mental health conditions. (NPR.org, 11/30/09)
Surgery for Mental Health Conditions Present Hope, Risks
There is a resurgence of interest in psychosurgery for conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. This year the Food and Drug Administration approved a surgical technique for some cases of OCD. Although the surgeries offer hope, there are also risks. For one, the results are often unpredictable. Some people may improve, while others experience no improvement or get worse. High demand could also spur surgeons who don’t have the necessary experience to attempt them. (The New York Times, 11/26/09)
Blood Tests Could One Day Diagnose Serious Mental Health Conditions
Blood tests could one day diagnose serious mental health conditions, a new study asserts. Using a technique termed convergent functional genomics, researchers say they could identify blood biomarkers for two key psychotic symptoms: hallucinations and delusions. The same approach has been used to look for genes and gene pathways linked to bipolar disorder, alcoholism and schizophrenia. Although more work is needed, the technology could be a scientific milestone and even prevent health insurance companies from refusing to pay for treatments for mental illness. (The Los Angeles Times, 11/25/09)
Holiday Suicide Myth Persists; Detracts Attention from Real Factors
Although studies show that there is no link between the holidays and an increase in suicides, many continue to accept the myth as fact. One reason may be that the holidays are a difficult time for many people. The myth also detracts attention from other, more serious factors. Researchers are continuing to look for patterns in suicidal behavior and factors that can prevent it. One such factor is how connected people are to their friends and families. (USA Today, 11/30/09)
Connection Found Between Depression and Bone Loss: Individuals diagnosed with major depression are at risk for developing osteoporosis, new research asserts. Young women have the highest risk, according to the study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. Researchers at Hebrew University assembled data from all studies on the subject conducted to date, and analyzed them using a special statistical approach called meta-analysis. The results, they say, show that depressed individuals have a substantially lower bone density than non-depressed people and that depression is associated with a markedly elevated activity of cells that break down bone. The association was stronger in women, especially young women. (ScienceDaily, 11/30/09)
Bipolar May Be Linked to Body Clock: An internal body clock that fails could be a factor in the development of bipolar disorder in children, a new study suggests. Researchers examined the genetic makeup of 152 children with bipolar disorder and 140 children without the disorder. They linked variations in a gene known as RORB to the children with bipolar disorder. "Our findings suggest that clock genes in general, and RORB in particular, may be important candidates for further investigation in the search for the molecular basis of bipolar disorder," said the study's co-author, Dr. Alexander Niculescu, of the Indiana University School of Medicine. (HealthDay News, 11/27/09)
Older Women with Major Depression at Greater Risk of Urinary Incontinence: Older women who suffer from major depression are at greater risk of developing urinary incontinence than women of the same age who are not depressed, a new study finds. Previous studies have found a high rate of depression among women being treated for urinary incontinence but none had examined whether one condition led to the other. Using data from the ongoing Health and Retirement Study of the financial and physical health of recent retirees, investigators found “just the one pathway, very strong, leading from depression to incontinence and in fact incontinence not leading to depression," said Dr. Jennifer Melville from the University of Washington in Seattle. (Reuters, 11/26/09)
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*Mental Health America MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
The holidays are one of the most taxing and tense times of the year. Some of the major reasons are finances, according to Mental Health America, followed by painful memories, too many activities, overindulgence, being alone and relationships. The Washington Post, “I'm dreaming of a right-size Christmas,” November 24, 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
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- 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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