Category Archives: Mental Health
Media Coverage of Mass Shootings Harms Attitudes on Mental Illness
Media coverage of mass shootings by people with mental illness can increase support for policies to reduce gun violence, but can also increase the stigmatization of people with mental illness and lessens the chance they will seek help, according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. “The aftermath of mass shootings is often viewed as a window of opportunity to garner support for policies to reduce gun violence, and this study finds public support for such policies increases after reading news stories about a mass shooting,” said study author Emma E. McGinty, MS, a PhD candidate with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “However, we also found that the public’s negative attitudes toward persons with serious mental illness are exacerbated by news media accounts of mass shootings involving a shooter with mental illness.” Read more on violence.
Study Links Excessive Television Viewing, Antisocial Behavior in Young Children
Antisocial behavior is more likely in young children who watch three or more hours of television a day, according to a new study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers found that five-year-olds in that demographic were more likely to exhibit such behavior by the age of seven. Study author Alison Parkes, of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, said the findings support the decision by many parents to limit television time. Still, the researchers noted that this correlation does not equal causation. Excessive television watching by kids has also been linked to poorer physical health and performance in classrooms. Read more on mental health.
Cutting Medical Interns’ Hours Reduces Training Time, Increase Risks to Patients
Efforts to increase the amount of sleep by medical interns by reducing the number of continuous hours they work actually decreases the number of training opportunities and increases the risk to patients, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. They also don’t get any more sleep in an average week. "Despite the best of intentions, the reduced work hours are handcuffing training programs, and benefits to patient safety and trainee well-being have not been systematically demonstrated," said study leader Sanjay Desai, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the internal medicine residency program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. "We need a rigorous study. We need data to inform this critical issue." Read more on access to health care.
CDC: U.S. Kids Consume Nearly as Much Salt as U.S. Adults
The average U.S. kid consumes about as much salt in a day as the average U.S. adult—which is to say far too much, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the average youth age 8 to 18 has a daily sodium intake of approximately 3,387 mg; the recommended daily limit is 2,300 mg. Processed foods are one of the biggest culprits. Excessive sodium is linked to a myriad of health issues. "We found that higher sodium intake was associated with higher blood pressure," said Janelle Gunn, a public health analyst with the CDC. "We found among overweight and obese participants (in the study), that for every 1,000 mg of sodium they consumed, their blood pressure response was seven times greater (compared to healthy-weight children)." Read more on nutrition.
Norovirus Top Cause of Pediatric Medical Care for Acute Gastroenteritis
Norovirus will cause about 1 in every 14 children to seek emergency care treatment and 1 in 6 to need outpatient care before the age of 5, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers determined the highly infectious norovirus is now the number one cause of the need for medical care for acute gastroenteritis in that age group. From 2009 to 2010 there were about 1 million pediatric medical care visits linked to norovirus. “Infants and young children are very susceptible to norovirus infections, which often result in a high risk of getting dehydrated from the sudden onset of intense vomiting and severe diarrhea,” said Daniel Payne, MD, an epidemiologist in the Division of Viral Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious disease.
Study: Online Venting Will Probably Just Make You Angrier
That little bit of relaxation you feel right after responding to an infuriating comment on the internet may just be a brief respite on the path to long-term frustration, according to a new study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Lead author Ryan Martin, an associate professor of human development and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said the anonymity and social distance of many online sites makes responding quickly and in anger too easy. While there are many good reasons to be angry, he said the healthier approach is to get involved with an issue that frustrates you and try to change things, rather than railing at a stranger on Facebook, Twitter or a blog site. "Most of these sites encourage venting as a way of dealing with anger," Martin said. "They think of venting as a healthy adaptive approach, and it's not." Read more on mental health.
AAP Policy Statement Supports Same-sex Marriage
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new policy statement in the journal Pediatrics in support of same-sex marriage, as well as the right for all to adopt kids and provide foster care. "Children thrive in families that are stable and that provide permanent security, and the way we do that is through marriage," said policy statement co-author Benjamin Siegel, MD, chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. "The AAP believes there should be equal opportunity for every couple to access the economic stability and federal supports provided to married couples to raise children.” Added Ellen Perrin, MD, another co-author: "If a child has two loving and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond, it's in the best interest of their children that legal institutions allow them to do so." Read more on LGBT issues.
1 in 50 U.S. Kids Have Autism
Approximately one in 50 youth ages 6 to 17 had autism from 2011 to 2012, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration. The share was about 1.2 percent in 2007. The greatest increase was seen in boys an in those ages 14 to 17. Health officials say the increase doesn’t mean autism is becoming more prevalent, but that it is being diagnosed more frequently, according to CBS News. Under the new statistics approximately 1 million U.S. children have autism. Read more on mental health.
Study Links Gulf War Syndrome to Brain Damage
A link has been found between Gulf War Syndrome and damage to the brain, according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE. James Baraniuk, senior author and professor of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, said the study clearly demonstrates that Gulf War Syndrome—a collection of symptoms experienced by approximately 250,000 veterans of the 1991 war—is not psychological. Researchers and Georgetown University used fMRI machines to identify “anomalies in the bundle of nerve fibers that interpret pain signals in the brain in 31 Gulf War veterans,” according to USA Today. This quick form of diagnosis could also end up helping people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Read more on the military.
CDC: Daily Caloric Intake Down, But Obesity Rates Still Rising
Obesity rates continue to climb despite the fact that U.S. adults are consuming fewer and fewer calories, according to a survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Average daily caloric intake dropped by 74 from 2003 to 2010, after rising 314 calories from 1971 to 2003. About 35 percent of U.S. adults are obese. "It's hard to reconcile what these data show, and what is happening with the prevalence of obesity," said co-author William Dietz, MD, former CDC director of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. Read more on obesity.
Agencies Outline Responsibilities for Restoring Public Transportation after a Disaster
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that outlines the roles and responsibilities of both agencies in providing federal assistance to repair and restore public transportation systems in areas the president has declared a major disaster or emergency. “After disasters hit, our federal, state and local partners must be able to move quickly and make the necessary repairs to our nation’s transit systems, roads, rails and bridges,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. FEMA will continue to have primary federal responsibility for emergency preparedness, response and recovery in major disasters and emergencies. The new emergency relief authority provides FTA with primary responsibility for reimbursing emergency response and recovery costs after an emergency or disaster that affects public transportation systems and for helping to mitigate the impact of future disasters. Read more on transportation.
Exercise Can Improve Self-Control in Kids, Young Adults
Short bursts of exercise—such as a half hour of running—can help youth and young adults improve their self control, according to a new study in the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine. "Tests conducted immediately after short bouts of exercise showed a clear improvement among higher-order functions like self-control, a cognitive [brain] function that is really important for daily activities in terms of both social life and academic performance," said lead author Lot Verburgh, a doctoral candidate in the department of clinical neuropsychology at VU University in Amsterdam. The results could help in the treatment of disorders associated with impaired inhibition, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. Read more on exercise. If exercise can also be linked to long-term improvement in higher-order mental processes, exercise may soon be not only a treatment option for heart disease patients and individuals looking to control their weight, but also for ADHD and Alzheimer's patients," said Ali Weinstein, an assistant professor and deputy director of the Center for Study of Chronic Illness and Disability at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Read more on mental health.
Study: Better Fitness Equals Better Grades for Kids
Getting kids more exercise may also make them more likely to get better grades, according to a new study in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study found that physically fit elementary and middle school students were 2.4 times more likely to pass math tests and about 2 times more likely to pass reading tests . The findings are especially significant at a time when schools across the country are cutting physical education programs. "Schools sacrificing physical education and physical activity time in search of more seat time for math and reading instruction could potentially be pursuing a counterproductive approach," said lead researcher Robert Rauner, MD, of Creighton University and Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Neb. Read more on physical activity.
Personalized Risk Assessments Lead to Smarter Patient Decisions
Providing patients with personalized risk assessments instead of generalized assessments makes them more likely to make educated decisions about screening tests, according to a new review of 41 studies published in the Cochrane Library. The personalized evaluations include factors such as age, race, gender, weight, lifestyle and family history. "Knowing your individual risk for a particular health problem may help you make an informed choice about what screening services you might be interested in," said Michael LeFevre, MD, MSPH, co-vice chair of the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. "Over time, what would be ideal is that we're able to make more specific, individualized recommendations and fewer population recommendations.” Read more on access to health care.
Study: ADHD, Autism, Depression May Share Genetic Link
Autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depression and other mental disorders may share genetic risk factors, according to a new study in The Lancet. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were also linked. Researchers do not yet understand the link between the gene variants and the disorders, but the knowledge may help improve prevention and treatment methods. "This is the first clue that specific genes and pathways may cause a broader susceptibility to a number of disorders,” said lead researcher Jordan Smoller, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Now the important work will be to figure out how this actually happens.” Read more on mental health.
An article in the New York Times reports that health departments in some states are increasing their efforts on gun safety and suicide prevention in part because of a startling finding by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health: far more Americans die from guns they aim at themselves than in mass shootings.
By the numbers:
- Nearly 20,000 of the 30,000 deaths from guns in the United States in 2010 were suicides.
- Wyoming, Montana and Alaska are the states with the three highest suicide rates; they’re also on the list of top gun owning states.
- The national suicide rate has climbed by 12 percent since 2003.
- Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for teenagers.
- Suicide attempts using a gun are fatal 85 percent of the time; suicide attempts with pills are successful 2 percent of the time.
State health departments in Missouri, North Carolina and Wyoming, the state with the highest suicide rate, are giving out gunlocks. In New Hampshire some gun shops post flyers with warning signs for suicide and a recommendation to keep guns from people who are at risk of harming themselves. Some gun owners in Maryland are considering a similar outreach project.
>>Read the article.
>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth post about the Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, launched last year.
Certain Alcohol Brands Dominate Underage Drinking
A small number of alcohol brands in particular are most popular with underage drinkers, according to a new study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. About 27.9 percent of underage youth reporting they’d had Bud Light in the past 30 days, making it the most used. Smirnoff Malt Beverages and Budweiser were second and third. “Importantly, this report paves the way for subsequent studies to explore the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing efforts and drinking behavior in young people,” said study author David Jernigan, PhD, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read more on alcohol.
Report: Informational Tools Help Men Make Better Prostate Health Decisions
Decision-making aids help men make better—and more informed—decisions about prostate screenings, according to a new report in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers found the aids help the men weigh different possible outcomes, such as catching extra cancers, possibly reducing their risk of death or avoiding unpleasant side effects. As many as one in four family physicians regular perform prostate screenings without first getting a patient’s permission, according to Reuters. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against prostate-specific antigen tests for men who are not at high-risk. Read more on cancer.
Study: Kids Treated for ADHD Still Show Serious Symptoms
As many as 90 percent of kids who are treated for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) still show serious symptoms after six years, indicating the chronic condition requires advancements in long-term behavioral and pharmacological treatments, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The study did not look into issues such as whether medications were ineffective or not taken as prescribed. "Our study was not designed to answer these questions, but whatever the reason may be, it is worrisome that children with ADHD, even when treated with medication, continue to experience symptoms, and what we need to find out is why that is and how we can do better," said lead investigator Mark Riddle, MD, a pediatric psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. ADHD causes difficulty in concentration, restlessness, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Read more on mental health.
U.S. Adults with Mental Illness Have Higher Smoking Rates
Adults with mental illness have a smoking rate 70 percent higher than adults with no mental illness, according to the February 2013 Vital Signs report released yesterday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was done in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and found that 36 percent of adults with a mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21 percent of adults who do not have a mental illness. Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence is especially high among younger adults, American Indians, Alaska Natives, those living below the poverty line, and those with lower levels of education. Differences also exist across states. Smoking prevalence for people with mental illness ranges from 18.2 percent in Utah to 48.7 percent in West Virginia. The data used to determine the smoking rates in the Vital Signs report comes from 2009–2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months. The report also found that, on average, adult smokers with mental illness smoke more cigarettes per month than those without mental illness (331 vs. 310 cigarettes) and are less likely to quit smoking. “Special efforts are needed to raise awareness about the burden of smoking among people with mental illness and to monitor progress in addressing this disparity,” said SAMHSA administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. Read more on tobacco.
NIH Announces Three Major Clinical Trials for Influenza Treatments
Three clinical trials aimed at finding more effective flu treatments are enrolling volunteers who have the virus at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., as well as at several dozen other domestic and international sites.
- One study will look at whether the drug Tamiflu reduces the time that infected people continue to produce virus in the upper airway.
- The second trial will test whether a combination of three licensed antiviral drugs works better than Tamiflu in people with influenza that have chronic health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, which put them at greater risk of severe illness.
- The third trial will test whether treatment with plasma enriched with anti-influenza antibodies improves the condition of hospitalized influenza patients compared to standard antiviral treatment on its own.
“This year’s flu season came earlier than usual and has been particularly hard on the elderly,” said Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases. “Despite our best efforts to prevent influenza through vaccination, people still get sick every year with the flu. At best, influenza infection is a miserable experience. At worst, it can be a deadly one. We need better ways to treat people with influenza, which kills thousands of people in the United States each year, and clinical research supported by NIAID helps to address that need.” Read more on flu.
Doctors Miss Opportunities for Underage Alcohol Screening
A new survey of more than 2,500 10th grade students published in Pediatrics found that 34 percent reported drinking alcohol in the past month and 26 percent said they had binged, defined as five or more drinks per occasion for males, and four or more for females. However, while more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they’d seen a doctor in the past year, just 54 percent of that group was asked by their physicians about drinking, and only 40 percent were advised about dangers associated with alcohol. In addition, of those students who had been seen by a doctor in the past year and who reported drinking in the past month, only 23 percent said they were advised to reduce or stop drinking. The survey was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA). The researchers say studies have shown that screening and brief interventions by health care providers, such as asking patients about alcohol use and advising them to reduce risky drinking, can result in significant, lasting reductions in drinking levels and alcohol-related problems among adults. “Alcohol is by far the drug of choice among youth," says NIAAA acting director Kenneth R. Warren, PhD. “The findings reported [in this study] indicate that we must redouble our efforts to help clinicians make alcohol screening a routine part of patient care for young people in the United States.” Read more on alcohol.
CDC: Adult Vaccine Rates “Unacceptable Low”
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that current adult vaccine rates are “unacceptably low” in the United States. The vaccines that need improvement prevent diseases such as pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis, shingles and whooping cough. Pneumonia alone killed approximately 4,000 people in the country in 2011, with most of those over the age of 50. The CDC recommends adults speak with their health care providers about which vaccines they may need. Read more on vaccines.
Non-drug Treatments Have Little Effect on ADHD
Non-drug interventions do little to address key symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study found no positive effects from treatments such as cognitive training, neurofeedback and behavioral training, and little benefits from with dietary treatments. Study author Emily Simonoff, MD, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College London, said it’s important for families to realize that in addition to being ineffective, non-drug interventions can also have adverse effects. "For example, does a highly selective diet limit the way a child can play and socialize, making them feel different from their friends? And for parents, if a child doesn't improve under these therapies, does it affect how the parents feel about themselves?" Approximately 3 to 7 percent of U.S. children have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Read more on mental health.
CDC Report to Help Combat Future Foodborne Illnesses, Set Policy
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its first ever comprehensive report on the food sources of all foodborne illnesses. The paper uses historical data to determine how many illnesses are caused by individual food categories, which will give CDC and other organizations a solid foundation on which to establish new food safety interventions and policies. The report appears in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Read more on infectious diseases.
The keynote address at last week’s 2013 Public Health Law Research (PHLR) annual meeting was from Pamela Hyde, JD, administrator of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“People are just beginning to wake up to the knowledge that behavioral health [issues are] so common and that half of all Americans have a mental health issue at sometime in their lives,” Hyde told meeting attendees. Depression, according to the World Health Organization, is the most common medical disorder worldwide. And among the eight million people in the past year who had a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder, only 6.9 percent received treatment.
“The country has to spend as much time helping children develop their emotional skills as they do their soccer skills,” said Hyde.
Just prior to the PHLR meeting, NewPublicHealth spoke with Administrator Hyde about public health law research and some new initiatives aimed at helping address behavioral health in the United States.
NewPublicHealth: What research is critically needed on mental health issues to help improve awareness and treatment?
Pamela Hyde: Often people don’t think of behavioral health as part of the larger public health message or initiatives or infrastructure in the country and so they don’t think about mental health research when they think about other kinds of public health research. But you can think about behavioral health needs in the same way. It is just important to protect people from lost hope as it is to protect them from bacteria in the water.