Mental Health in the Headlines: November 19, 2013 | Mental Health America

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Mental Health in the Headlines: November 19, 2013


Depression can make people physically older by speeding up the aging process in the body’s cells…more



Debbie Plotnick, Mental Health America Senior Director of State Policy, appeared on CNBC on “Making Mental Health Care a Priority.”

Urge Your Members of Congress to Support a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction: TAKE ACTION!

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace: Mental Health America has just released a new toolkit with a wealth of information and resources.

Mental Health America Produces Comprehensive, Objective Resource Describing Principal Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Mental Health Conditions.

The MHA Career Center matches the best employers with the best talent in the mental health field.  Find your employment match at

PARITY: Final Rule Released

Advocates Applaud Release—Mental Health America and other organizations applauded the release of a final rule by the Obama administration for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). The regulations take effect on July 1, 2014. This final rule does not apply to Medicaid or state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to issue parity guidance for Medicaid and CHIP plans later in 2014. The final rule addresses non-quantifiable treatment limitations (NQTLs) in health plan design for the six benefit classes—inpatient, in network; inpatient, out-of-network; outpatient, in-network; outpatient, out-of-network; emergency care; and prescription drugs. It also clarifies the role of Employee Assistance Plans and managed behavioral health organizations. Under the final rule, criteria guiding access to treatment cannot be more restrictive for behavioral health benefits than for medical/surgical benefits. The final rule differs from a 2010 interim rule in the following ways:  health plans must disclose criteria for determining medical necessity; standards for provider network adequacy can be examined in light of admission and payment rates to ensure that health plans are applying standards comparably; the scope of services recognizes that treatment goes beyond medication, and that access to rehabilitation services for a behavioral health disorder must be on par with access to rehabilitation services for a medical/surgical condition. (Medpage Today, 11/8/13)

Kaiser Health News Analyzes the Final Rule.

Mental Health America News Release on Final Parity Rule.


DECEMBER 5—Text, Talk, Act to Improve Mental Health-A Text-Enabled National Creating Community Solutions Dialogue: On December 5, Creating Community Solutions is holding a nationwide discussion on mental health…through cell phones.  All over the country that day, people will get together in small groups for one-hour discussions on mental health. The process is simple: join 3-4 of your friends, family, classmates, students, and/or colleagues and text “start” to 89800. Your group will then receive polling questions, discussion questions, and process suggestions via text messaging. Text, Talk, Act on Mental Health” is designed to engage high school and college students in particular, using technology that is ubiquitous in their lives. Results from the live polling questions will be tabulated almost instantly, so that people will be able to see how participants across the country responded. The discussion questions will provide a safe space for candid dialogue on mental health, one of the most critical and misunderstood public issues we face. The process will also provide an opportunity for participants to discuss actions they can take to strengthen mental health on their campuses and in their communities. More information is available at

SAMHSA Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Toolkit: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has released a training resource toolkit, developed through the Enrollment Coalitions Initiative, entitled “Getting Ready for the Health Insurance Marketplace.”  The toolkit will assist organizations with outreach, education and enrollment of individuals in the Health Insurance Marketplace. It is composed of three sections: A description of the health care law, how it works, and why it is important for uninsured individuals with behavioral health conditions; An explanation of how the Health Insurance Marketplace works, how to apply for health coverage and where to get help; and Numerous communication ideas and materials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that can be used to raise awareness and encourage uninsured individuals to enroll. The toolkit has been developed in six slightly different 30-minute, interactive formats, each of which can be accessed and viewed online: (General information);;;;;

Become a Champion for Coverage: Help make sure all Americans can get the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford. Go to


Administration Fix to Obamacare May Help People Whose Policies Were Cancelled: A proposal made by President Obama to the health care reform law may actually work for people who have had the policies cancelled. Under the law, starting January 1, 2014, no insurance company can sell or renew a policy in the individual or small group market that doesn't meet all the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act. This led to the cancellations. The proposed changes would allow plans in existence as of this past October 1 to be renewed for people who already have them, for one more year anytime through 2014. That means they could be extended to 2015.But it’s up to the insurance company to decide if it wants to continue to offer the policy, not to the individual or small business. And second, it depends on the state. Some states have already passed laws to make their state insurance laws conform to the federal rules, so it would be difficult for these policies to be extended in those dozen or so states. (NPR, 11/16/13) 

Depression May Accelerate Aging Process—Study: Depression can make people physically older by speeding up the aging process in the body’s cells, according to a new study. Researchers were looking for changes to structures found deep in cells called telomere length, which is used to measure cell aging. Previously observed changes to the telomere length could not be linked to lifestyle changes like smoking. Researchers in the U.S. and the Netherlands studied 2,407 people; some who were currently depressed, some who had experienced depression in the past and others who had never experienced depression. Telomeres, which cap the ends of chromosomes, protect against unwanted loss of vital genetic code during cell division. When cells divide, the telomeres get shorter and shorter, making them useful markers for aging. Researchers report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry that people who were depressed or had experienced depression in the past had much shorter telomeres as compared to those who weren't depressed. This difference was apparent even after lifestyle differences, such as heavy drinking and smoking, were taken into account. In addition, the most severely and chronically depressed patients had the shortest telomeres. (UPI, 11/12/13) 

Military Suicides Fall by 22 Percent: Suicides across the military have dropped by more than 22 percent this year, defense officials report. However, they were reluctant to say that the decline was the result of increased detection and prevention efforts. Because many suicides were among those who had never served in the war front, officials also do not attribute the decrease to the end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan. But the military is hopeful that an emphasis on prevention across all the services may be finally having a positive impact. There have been 245 suicides by active-duty service members as of October 27. At the same time last year, there had already been 316. Each of the military services has seen the total go down this year, ranging from an 11 percent dip in the Marine Corps to a 28 percent drop for the Navy. The Air Force had a 21 percent decline, while Army totals fell by 24 percent. Last year the number of suicides in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines spiked to 349 for the full 12-month period, the highest since the Pentagon began closely tracking the numbers in 2001, and up from the 2011 total of 301. (CBS, 11/11/13) 

Veterans Still Wait Weeks for Mental Health Care: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) keeps more than a third of new mental health patients waiting longer than its goal of 14 days to begin treatment, internal data show. Delays are worse for certain therapies. For example, it takes more than a month on average to begin seeing a VA psychiatrist for therapy or to see one who can assess psychiatric conditions for disability compensation, according to statistics provided by the VA following a request for public records. In nearly half of 47,700 first-time psychiatric therapy appointments in 2013, veterans waited longer than two weeks, records show. The average time it took to start any type of behavioral health therapy was 15 days. Some of the worst bottlenecks are at large VA hospitals in Orlando, Houston and Los Angeles, where at least two of every five veterans have to wait more than two weeks to see a counselor. In Houston, veterans needing new appointments waited an average of 28 days to receive services. (USA Today, 11/4/13)


MinnPost reports on a public education campaign to reduce stigma.

CNN asked a panel of experts to explore the stigma of mental illness.

Psychiatric Times looks at stigma and mental illness.

Slate examines how families dealing with mental illness need support, too.


The Washington Post presents a map of depression rates around the world.

NPR looks at how “Gut Bacteria Might Guide The Workings Of Our Minds.”

The New York Times reports on “Schools That Separate the Child From the Trauma.”

The Wall Street Journal looks at the Rise in Pets as Therapy for Mental Health Conditions

Latest Research

Multiple Military Deployments in Families May Raise Teen Suicide Risk: Teenagers with family members in the military were more likely to contemplate suicide if their relatives were deployed overseas multiple times, according to new research. After analyzing survey data from 14,299 secondary school students in California—including more than 1,900 with parents or siblings in the military—the researchers found a link between a family member's deployment history and a variety of mental health problems, including "suicidal ideation," or thoughts about suicide. The study, published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health, joins a growing body of evidence that the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken a hefty toll on children in military families. This study went further than other research, which has focused on those who are already receiving treatment or attending special summer camps. The researchers piggybacked on a statewide health survey of public school students in 2011 and added questions for seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders in four Southern California school districts — all near military bases — about the military status and deployment histories of their parents and siblings. Students with close relatives serving in the military were no more likely to suffer mental health problems than students with no relatives on active duty, the team found. The key factor was how many times a parent or sibling—currently serving or not—had been deployed during the previous decade. Even among students whose relatives had never deployed—most often because they had never been in the military—researchers found surprisingly high rates of mental health problems: 29 percent reported extended periods of feeling sad or hopeless during the previous year; and 22 percent had symptoms of depression in the previous month. (Los Angeles Times, 11/18/13)

Playing a Musical Instrument May Boost Young Brains: Playing a musical instrument can cause fundamental changes in a young person's brain, shaping both how it functions and how it is physically structured, researchers say. A trio of studies presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego, suggested that musical training can: improve a person's ability to effectively process information from several senses at once; affect the way a young person's brain develops if they begin playing music prior to age seven; enhance connectivity between the parts of the brain associated with creativity and improvisation. Researchers from Northwestern University found that brain responses to speech are faster among older adults who took childhood music lessons—even if they haven't touched an instrument in decades. And the positive effects seemed to be stronger the longer a person took music lessons as a child, the researchers noted. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study is based on testing of 44 adults ages 55 to 76. The study participants had the electrical activity of their auditory brainstem measured as they listened to the speech syllable "da." The brain response to the sound was fastest among people who had had four to 14 years of musical training in childhood, with the response being a millisecond faster than those who had no musical training as children. (HealthDay News, 11/12/13)


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