Category Archives: Mental Health

Sep 5 2013
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APA ‘A Healthy Minds Minute’ Video Series: Reversing the Stigma Against Mental Illness

It’s been more than forty years since a U.S. vice presidential candidate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, was forced to withdraw his name from the ticket after it was revealed he’d been treated for depression. Medical science and understanding have come a long way since then. Still, for many there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness—a stigma that can leave people, already hurting, feeling even more alone.

This is a clear and major public health issue which dramatically reduces the likelihood that someone with a mental health condition will seek out and have access to effective health care and social services. In fact, only 38 percent of U.S. adults with diagnosable mental illnesses receive the treatment they need. The numbers are even worse for children and adolescents, with less than 20 percent getting treatment.

September is Suicide Prevention Month and Sept. 10 is the 11th-annual World Suicide Prevention Day. This year’s theme is “Stigma: A Major Barrier for Suicide Prevention.” Suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States—with more than 38,000 deaths each year—and many of those people suffered in silence rather than reaching out to loved ones and available avenues of help.

As part of the collective effort to combat this barrier to full and compassionate care, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is working to raise awareness so that people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders can feel more confident in seeking treatment, just as anyone with most any other medical concern would be.

APA’s new Public Service Advertisements (PSAs) series, called “A Healthy Minds Minute,” features a number of celebrities and prominent figures calling for equal access to quality care and insurance coverage for people with mental illness and substance use disorders. Below is a video with Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

>>Watch the APA’s “A Healthy Minds Minute” online video series.

Aug 22 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 22

U.S. Circumcision Rate Down 10 Percent over Past Three Decades
The circumcision rate of U.S. newborns dropped approximately 10 percent from 1979 to 2010, according to new date from the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2010 about 58.3 percent of boys born in U.S. hospitals were circumcised; the rate was 64.5 percent in 1979. While beginning as a religious ritual, the use of circumcision expanded due to potential health benefits such as reduced risk of urinary tract infections in infants and reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Last August the American Academy of Pediatrics said that these benefits outweigh any risks. However, the procedure also has many opponents. While the report did not go much into the reasons for the decline, possible explanations include the fact that Medicaid has stopped paying for circumcisions in 18 U.S. states, some insurers are not covering procedures without strong medical justifications and shorter hospital stays for new mothers means some circumcisions are performed later as outpatient procedures. Read more on maternal and infant health.

Eating Fruit Helps Prevent Certain Aneurysms
An apple—or any other fruit—a day may lower a person’s risk of an abdominal aneurysm, according to a new study in the journal Circulation. The thirteen year study of 80,000 people ages 48 to 64 in Swede found that people who reported eating more than two servings of fruit daily had a 25 to 31 percent lower risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm than those who ate little or no fruit. High levels of antioxidants in fruits might protect against abdominal aortic aneurysm by preventing oxidative stress that can promote inflammation, according to the researchers, who found no similar association for vegetables, which are also rich in antioxidants, but may lack some of the components in fruits. However, vegetables remain important to a person’s diet, say the study authors. Combined with fruit they may help decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and several cancers. The American Heart Association advises the average adult to eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Read more on nutrition.

Study: CTE Victims First Present with Impaired Mood or Thinking
People suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a neurodegenerative disease that can only be diagnosed after death—will likely first begin exhibiting either impaired behavior and mood or impaired memory and thinking abilities, according to a new study in the journal Neurology. CTE is characterized by impulsivity, depression and erratic behavior. "The study itself is relatively preliminary, [but] we found two relatively distinct presentations of the disease," said study co-author Daniel Daneshvar, a postdoctoral researcher at the university's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. "So little is known about the clinical presentation of CTE that anything we found is not necessarily surprising, simply because there's a dearth of information about CTE." Researchers emphasized that far more study is needed. CTE and other head trauma have become increasingly prominent issues over the last several years, with cases linked to both sports injuries and battlefield injuries. There is currently a lawsuit by almost 4,000 former NFL players claiming the league did not properly inform them of the dangers of concussions or adequately protect their health. Read more on injury prevention.

Aug 12 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 12

Kids’ Chronic Stomach Pain Could Be Sign of Anxiety Disorder
Kids with chronic stomach pain without a clear medical explanation— such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disorder—are more likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Previous research indicates as many as one in four youth have what is known as functional abdominal pain. Lynn Walker, from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., and researchers found that about 51 percent of people with stomach pain as children had experienced an anxiety disorder and 30 percent at the present met the diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis; only 20 percent of people without stomach pain had experienced an anxiety disorder and 12 percent currently had one. In addition to helping identify present and later anxiety disorders, knowing and treating the issue is also critical for kids because of how the chronic pain can impact their lives and education. "It's very prevalent, and it's one of the most common reasons that children and adolescents end up in their pediatrician's office. It's one of the most common reasons kids are missing school," said Eva Szigethy, MD, head of the Medical Coping Clinic at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center. Read more on pediatrics.

Study: Genetic Overlap in Common Mental Disorders
A shared, common inherited genetic variation was seen in an analysis of five major mental disorders, which could ultimately help improve the classification and treatment of the disorders, according to a new study in the journal Nature Genetics. The greatest overlap was between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with about 15 percent, followed by bipolar disorder and depression with about 10 percent; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression with about 10 percent; and schizophrenia and autism with about 3 percent. Researchers noted that as they only looked at common gene variants, the actually genetic overlap could be much greater. "Such evidence quantifying shared genetic risk factors among traditional psychiatric diagnoses will help us move toward classification that will be more faithful to nature," said Bruce Cuthbert, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) adult translational research and treatment development division, as well as coordinator of an NIMH project to develop a mental disorders classification system for research based more on underlying causes. Read more on mental health.

FDA: Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Drug to Treat Low Calcium
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced a nationwide voluntary recall of all products for sterile use manufactured by Specialty Compounding, LLC, of Cedar Park, Texas, related to possible bacterial bloodstream infections due to calcium gluconate infusions. The drug, which is used to treat low calcium levels, has been linked to 15 infections in two Texas hospitals. Facilities, health care providers and patients who have received the products after May9 should immediately quarantine them and return them to the manufacturer. The products were shipped to patients, hospitals and physicians’ offices, depending on the area of the country. “The FDA believes that use of these products would create an unacceptable risk for patients," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Giving a patient a contaminated injectable drug could result in a life-threatening infection.” Read more on infectious disease.

Aug 5 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: August 5

Six States to Split $89.2M for Early Learning Programs
Six states will split approximately $89.2 million in federal funding as supplemental awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), which works to expand and improve early learning programs. The six states are California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. Each must now submit detailed budgets, budget narratives, revised performance measures and signed assurances. The funds will go toward developing new programs and strengthening existing programs that help close the “opportunity gap,” according to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Added U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “Kids who attend high-quality early learning and pre-school programs are more likely to do well in school. They're more likely to secure a good job down the road; and they're more likely to maintain successful careers long-term.” Read more on education.

A Single Fight-related Injury Can Reduce Adolescent IQ by Equivalent of One Lost School Year
A single fight-related injury can reduce an adolescent or teen girl’s IQ by about 3.02 points, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. For a boy it can mean a loss of 1.62 points. Studies have measured the effect of missing a year of school as about a 2-4 point decrease in IQ. IQ loss is generally associated with poorer school and work performance; mental disorders; behavioral problems; and longevity, according to the researchers from the Florida State University researchers noted. About 4 percent of U.S. high school students suffer from fight-related injuries annually. "We tend to focus on factors that may result in increases in intelligence over time, but examining the factors that result in decreases may be just as important," said study co-author Joseph Schwartz, a doctoral student in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, in a release. "The first step in correcting a problem is understanding its underlying causes. By knowing that fighting-related injuries result in a significant decrease in intelligence, we can begin to develop programs and protocols aimed at effective intervention.” Read more on violence.

Study Links Sugary Drinks, Obesity in Preschoolers
Even though the percentage as a calorie source is relatively minor, preschoolers who drink sugar-sweetened soda, sports drinks or juices every day are at greater risk for obesity, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. The findings parallel studies on teens and adults, which show a link between sugary drinks and extra weight. Kids who consumed at least one of the drinks each day were 43 percent more likely to be obese than their counterparts. They were also more likely to have an overweight mother and to watch at least two hours of television daily from ages four to five; researchers adjusted for these factors, as well as socioeconomic status. Potential reasons include the possibility that the sugary drinks were not filling, so did not replace other calories in the children’s diets. The study did not account for other eating habits or physical activity. Read more on nutrition.

Jul 18 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: July 18

Much Like Television, Excessive Cell Phone Use Lowers Fitness Levels
Are you reading this on your smartphone? If so, it’s probably not doing your weight any good. A new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity has linked cell phone use by college students to decreased physical activity and fitness levels. Much like watching television, cell phone use is a largely sedentary activity that is easy to get lost in. It can also lead to casual overeating. Researchers found the average student spent about five hours on the phone each day and sent hundreds of text messages. "We have to look at this similar to what happened in the industrial revolution and how it changed us," said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System, in Great Neck, N.Y. "A study like this raises the importance of how this technology affects how we move, eat and sleep. We have to look at the impact of technology on our health." Read more on technology.

Study Links Bipolar Disorder, Early Death
A new study showing that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to die early and from a variety of causes also illustrates the difficulty of treating the physical effects of the illness. "Whatever we're doing, these people are not dying (just) because of suicide. That's not the reason for increased mortality. That's a hard thing to get across," said David Kupfer, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who was not a part of the study. The study found that people with bipolar disorder—an estimated 1 to 5 percent of the global population—die about nine years earlier and are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, the flu and pneumonia. However, people who knew they were bipolar had the same death rates as those who were not, which suggests "that timely medical diagnosis and treatment may effectively reduce mortality among bipolar disorder patients to approach that of the general population," according to the study. Read more on mental health.

One Dose of ADHD Medication Improves Balance in Older Adults
A single dose of an attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication can improve the balance of older adults who have difficulty walking, according to a new study in The Journals of Gerontology. Methylphenidate (MPH) is also used to treat narcolepsy. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that it can reduce the number and rate of step errors in both single and dual tasks. "Our results add to a growing body of evidence showing that MPH may have a role as a therapeutic option for improving gait and reducing fall risk in older adults," said Itshak Melzer of BGU's Schwartz Movement Analysis and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences. "This is especially true in real-life situations, where the requirement to walk commonly occurs under more complicated, 'dual task' circumstances with cognitive attention focused elsewhere (e.g., watching traffic, talking) and not on performing a specific motor task." Read more on aging.

Jul 1 2013
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Building a More Resilient New York City

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In several recent and upcoming posts, NewPublicHealth is connecting with communities that have faced severe weather disasters in the last year. New York City, for example, is continuing to regroup and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy struck the region eight months ago. The city, and its health department, recently announced several initiatives aimed at “building back better” while supporting residents still facing housing as well as mental health problems since the storm last October. Some examples are detailed below.

  • The New York City Building Resiliency Task Force, an expert panel convened after Hurricane Sandy to help strengthen buildings and building standards, recently issued a report with recommendations for buildings and homes of all sizes in the city. The report recommends establishing backup power in the event that primary networks fail; protecting water supplies and stabilizing interior temperatures if residents need to shelter in place. ”Making our city’s buildings more resilient to coastal flooding and other climate hazards is a challenge that requires collaboration among government, designers, engineers, and building owners, among others,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden. “The Task Force's work exemplifies the kind of innovation and cooperation necessary to prepare our city for a changing climate.”  To create the report, the Task Force convened over 200 volunteer experts in architecture, engineering, construction, building codes and real estate.

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Jun 6 2013
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Recommended Reading: Book on Suicide Among Military Veterans

A new American Public Health Association (APHA) Press book, “Veteran Suicide: A Public Health Imperative,” addresses the critical and growing issue of suicide among military veterans. The book is a collaboration between the APHA and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both organizations previously partnered on a supplement to the American Journal of Public Health on suicide risks among veterans.

Topics addressed by the book include

  • suicide prevention,
  • substance abuse, and
  • suicide surveillance.

The new book includes very recent research on suicide among veterans. "The research represented by the collection of manuscripts included in this volume is an important step towards addressing the national problem of suicide and a reminder that even one death by suicide is too many," said Janet Kemp, RN, PhD, Department of Veterans Affairs National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention.

Veteran Suicide: A Public Health Imperative” is available for purchase online.

>>Bonus Link: This week the Huffington Post published an article by Kimberly Williams, Director of the Center for Policy, Advocacy, and Education of the Mental Health Association of New York City, pointing out that the connectedness members of the military feel with each other often disappears when they return to their communities, which may be a factor in the rising suicide rates among veterans.

Jun 5 2013
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March of Dimes: Treating Mental Health Concerns During and After Pregnancy

file Siobhan Dolan, March of Dimes and Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Each year, the March of Dimes National Communications Advisory Council, which includes journalists from many websites and magazines that cover pregnancy and early childhood, holds a reporters’ luncheon to share information that can lead to healthier births, babies and mothers. This year’s luncheon, being held tomorrow, focuses on treating mental health conditions in mothers during and after pregnancy. The issue is important for many reasons, in particular because many women have been taking prescription medications for depression, anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, and other mental health issues since adolescence and may need to change or stop the medicines in order to have a healthy baby, yet run the risk of a relapse or worsening of their health condition.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with, Siobhan Dolan, MD, a consultant to the March of Dimes and an obstetrician gynecologist and clinical geneticist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine about communicating information about treating mental health during pregnancy to both mothers and health care professionals.

NPH: For the upcoming luncheon, the March of Dimes has singled out mental health medications. Why that area of health?

Dr. Dolan: There is a huge overlap between women of reproductive age who are dealing with becoming pregnant and having families and caring for families and women who have mental health issues and may be entering their reproductive years already on medication.

And we know that bonding and creating a family and getting your family life off to a good start in the early postpartum period is much, much better when a woman is in a balanced mental health state. So if there’s either a preexisting depression or a postpartum depression, we need to pay attention to that.

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Jun 3 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: June 3

Regular Aerobic Exercise Best for Treating Depression
Researchers have pinpointed which types of exercise are best for combating major depressive disorders, according to a new study in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice. By reviewing and analyzing data from nine trials, they discerned that aerobic exercise is best, three to five sessions a week are necessary, each session should last 45 minutes to one hour, at least 10 weeks of training are needed, and other details. Karen Cassiday, PhD, board member and secretary of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, said physicians should help patients identify barriers to proper exercise. “Discuss with them how you can pair exercise with something fun—audio books, podcasts, music,” she said. “Suggest that they exercise with other people. If you are meeting someone, you are more likely to do it.” Read more on mental health.

Survey: Doctors Seeing Shortage of Critical Cancer Drugs
Shortages of cancer-fighting drugs are affecting patient care and increasing treatment costs across the country, according to new findings to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. "These drug shortages are persistent and pervasive," said Keerthi Gogineni, MD, an oncologist in the Abramson Cancer Center and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "They are affecting the treatment of curable cancers, forcing physicians to improvise." About 94 percent of physicians say their treatments were impacted, 83 percent said they couldn’t even offer standard chemotherapy and 13 percent said the shortage caused trouble with clinical trials. Leucovorin, liposomal doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil, bleomycin and cytarabine are the most common drugs to see shortages. "Clearly, it impacts the treatments patients receive," said Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, in reference to cytarabine, which is used to treat leukemia. "It takes a long time to develop an understanding of effective drug regimens. When you can't use a proven effective drug and you have to go to an alternative plan, you certainly become concerned about the effect of that switch on the health of your patient." Read more on cancer.

CMS: Estimates for Average Charges of 30 Hospital Procedures
Building on the release last month of the average charges for the 100 most common inpatient procedures, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today released selected hospital outpatient data that includes estimates for average charges for 30 types of hospital outpatient procedures from hospitals across the country, such as clinic visits, echocardiograms and endoscopies. Read more on access to health care.

May 20 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: May 20

CDC Issues First Comprehensive Report on Children’s Mental Health in the United States
As many as one in five American children under the age of 17 has a diagnosable mental disorder according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report is the first expansive report on children's mental health ever done by the U.S. government and looked at six conditions:

  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • behavioral or conduct disorders
  • mood and anxiety disorders
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • substance abuse
  • Tourette syndrome

The most common disorder for children age 3 through 17 is ADHD (7 percent) followed by behavioral or conduct problems (3.5 percent), anxiety (3 percent), depression (2 percent), and  autism spectrum disorders (1 percent).

Five percent of teens reported abusing or being dependent on illegal drugs, 4 percent abused alcohol and 3 percent reported smoking cigarettes regularly. Boys were more likely than girls to have the disorders. Read more on mental health.

New PSAs Help Parents Talk to Younger Kids about the Dangers of Underage Drinking
“Talk. They Hear You,”
is a new national public service announcement (PSA) campaign from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to empower parents to talk to children as young as nine about the dangers of underage drinking. SAMHSA research shows that more than a quarter of American youth engage in underage drinking, and  though there has been progress in reducing the extent of underage drinking in recent years, particularly among those aged 17 and younger, the rates of underage drinking are still unacceptably high, according to SAMHSA. A report from late last year shows that 26.6 percent of 12-20 year-olds report drinking in the month before they were surveyed and 8.7 percent of them purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank, despite the fact that all fifty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws prohibiting the purchase and use of alcoholic beverages by anyone under age 21.  

“Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death,” said said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

The goal of the new PSA is to help parents start a conversation about alcohol before their children become teenagers. Read more on addiction.

Advocacy Groups Petition FDA to Ban Menthol Flavored Cigarettes
In response to a Citizen Petition by close to twenty health and tobacco control advocacy groups, the Food and Drug Administration has opened a docket for public comment on banning menthol in cigarettes. In 2009, according to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, the lead group on the petition, Congress banned all flavors in cigarettes except menthol, and directed the FDA to decide whether continued sale of menthol cigarettes is “appropriate for public health." According to the petition, menthol cigarettes are the source of addiction for nearly half of all teen smokers. Read more on tobacco.