Mental Health in the Headlines: Week of November 14, 2011


Week of November 14, 2011

Mental Health in the Headlines is a weekly newsletter produced by Mental Health America, providing the latest developments at Mental Health America and summaries of news, views and research 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.


A new study has found that a significant portion of people contemplating suicide can be identified and referred to mental health providers to help prevent attempts …more


Supreme Court to Review Health Reform Law

The Supreme Court has announced that it will review a challenge to the health reform law. Oral arguments are expected to take place sometime this spring. A key issue is whether the law’s individual mandate of coverage is constitutional. (MHH Reporting, 11/14/11)

Majority of States Cut Mental Health Budgets: Report

A new report by National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 28 states and the District of Columbia have reduced mental health funding by nearly $1.7 billion since fiscal year 2009. Modest increases in some states' mental health budgets have done little to erase massive cuts nationwide over the past three years and a reduction in Medicaid funds. California and New York have the largest mental health budgets, but between 2011 and 2012, California cut its funding by $177.4 million and New York by $95.2 million. Between 2009 and 2012, South Carolina cut 40 percent of its mental health allocations, and Alabama, Alaska, Illinois and Nevada cut their mental health budgets more than 30 percent. Ten others reduced their budgets by more than 10 percent. (Kaiser Health News, 11/10/11)

Suicide can be Predicted: Study

A new study has found that a significant portion of people contemplating suicide can be identified and referred to mental health providers to help prevent attempts. Columbia University researchers said their tool—the Columbia Suicide Rating Scale—can help predict suicidal behavior and suicide attempts. Their study, which is reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, examined 124 teens who had attempted suicide, 312 teens diagnosed with depression and 237 adults who came to a hospital emergency room with psychiatric problems. The researchers say the scale is the first scientifically validated tool for use in suicide prevention. (Los Angeles Times, 11/08/11)

Researchers Identify Brain Differences in ADHD

An area of the brain works less efficiently in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, researchers say. Using a functional magnetic imaging scanner to track signs of neural activity among 19 affected children and 23 other children, the scientists discovered that a critical mental control area, called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, worked much harder among children with attention problems. The findings suggest that the function as well as the structure of this brain area is different in children with ADHD. (Wall Street Journal, 11/14/11)

Veterans Face Waits for Mental Health Care

Veterans face waits of over 14 days for mental health care at nearly a third of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) hospitals, according to internal data. The VA has set a goal of seeing patients in less than two weeks. The findings contradict the department’s assertion that fewer than 5 percent of patients face long waits to begin therapy. "These numbers show that … in many communities, the VA is unable to give our veterans the timely access to health care they deserve," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) chair of the Senate VA Committee, who plans a Nov. 30 hearing on the issue. (USA Today, 11/10/11)

Nicotine May Increase Chance of Becoming Addicted to Drugs

Nicotine appears to enhance the effects of cocaine and possibly increases the chances of becoming addicted, according to new research performed on mice. Researchers treated mice with nicotine and then exposed them to cocaine. The mice who were exposed to nicotine responded differently to the cocaine (exhibiting more characteristics of addiction) compared to mice who weren't exposed first to nicotine. Reversing the order of the drugs had no such effect on behavior. The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, finds that nicotine influences substances called histone proteins in the reward center of the brain that in turn activates certain genes and leads to an exaggerated response to cocaine. (Los Angeles Times, 11/11/11)
Survey of Mental Health Providers Finds Waits

A survey of mental health providers at 57 California Kaiser Permanente facilities found that mental health patients do not receive needed care in a timely manner. Conducted by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the survey found that managers ask employees to make it appear that they meet requirements of a California law that an initial appointment occur within 10 days. The findings raise questions about compliance with the federal mental health parity law. (USA Today, 11/14/11)


Health Policy Solutions examines how costs are preventing the integration of care in Colorado.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Georgia’s mental health reform efforts.

NPR’s “Science Friday” looked at causes and cures for Seasonal Affective Disorder

The Atlantic interviewed mental health expert Kay Redfield James.

Latest Research

Inactivity Tied to Depression: Inactivity can cause a number of symptoms associated with depression, researchers say. Their study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, included close to 50,000 women who were surveyed every couple of years from 1992 to 2006 as part of the U.S. Nurses' Health Study. Participants recorded the amount of time they spent watching TV each week in 1992, and also answered questions about how often they walked, biked, ran and swam between 1992 and 2000. It found that women who regularly exercised were around 20 per cent less likely to get depression compared to those who rarely exercised. Researchers say more time spent being active might boost self-esteem and women's sense of control, as well as the endorphins in their blood, although the study could not prove directly that avoiding exercise caused depression. (Reuters, 11/14/11)

Depression, History of Suicide Attempts May Increase Risk of Heart Disease: Depression and a history of suicide attempts among young adults could elevate their chances of dying from heart disease, according to a new study. Researchers, whose findings are reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, analyzed data from 7,641 people aged between 17 and 39 years who participated in a study between 1988 and 1994. Deaths were tracked through 2006. Women with depression or a history of attempted suicide had a three times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 14 times higher risk of dying from a heart attack. For men, the risk for cardiovascular disease was 2.4 times higher and 3.5 times higher for a heart attack.


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Mental Health in the Headlines is produced weekly by Mental Health America. Staff: Steve Vetzner, senior director, Media Relations.

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