May is Mental Health Month and numerous organizations and celebrities are speaking up to raise awareness about the often taboo topic.
In a report for Cronkite News journalist Luke Wright focuses on famous athletes who describe their experiences with depression, panic attacks and suicide. The report features athletes from sports including basketball, football and track. The statistics mentioned in the story may shock from readers, for example Wright reports that, “Nearly 24 percent of 465 athletes at NCAA Division I private universities reported a “clinically relevant” level of depression, according to a 2016 study by researchers at Drexel and Kean universities. Female athletes had a higher prevalence rate: 28 percent vs. 18 percent.”
The science magazine “Nature” also features a collection of articles this month focused on mental health awareness in the science research industry. One article by Emily Sohn reports that graduate students are especially vulnerable to mental illness and includes tips from mental health experts on how to avoid it. In an opinion essay for “Nature” scientist Dave Reay describes his symptoms of depression as a “black dog,” similar to the one Winston Churchill made famous, that haunted his pursuit of a Ph.D.
In a story for NBC’s “Today Show” reporter Cynthia McFadden interviewed three teenagers with mental health disorders reacting positively to the social media campaign #MyYoungerSelf. The campaign features candid testimonies from sports and entertainment celebrities describing their experiences living with depression and anxiety.
Steven Loch doesn’t know why his obsessive-compulsive disorder subsides while he’s dancing, but he’s grateful for the relief it provides from the “torture” of his symptoms. In a compelling interview with Brendan Kiley of The Seattle Times, Loch gives a candid description of the disturbing thoughts that cause his unpleasant behavior and prompted him to find treatment at psychiatric hospitals.
Kiley’s excellent article also features an explanation by Dr. Sam Zinner, a specialist in neurological development, of OCD’s medical origins.
“The human brain has a cluster of neurons called the basal ganglia. Put together, he explained, they’re the size of a walnut, and take in the deluge of cognitive, motor, memory, emotional and sensory information that floods through our brains when we, say, kick a soccer ball or watch out for poisonous snakes while walking through a swamp. The basal ganglia are supposed to filter out all the extraneous noise so we can focus on the task at hand. “In every picosecond of time,” Zinner said, “the basal ganglia have to decide what is relevant, what not to block out so you can survive.”
But the basal ganglia in brains with OCD — and related conditions, including Tourette syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — are, in his words, “leaky filters.” Those leaks lead to information overload and behavior that, to the casual observer, might seem odd — like compulsively touching a magazine three times before picking it up, or hiding on a bathroom floor in costume during a ballet performance to avoid horrifying, intrusive thoughts.”
Hear Steve Loch describing his OCD symptoms in his own words and watch him dance in this captivating video by Seattle Times’ video editor Corinne Chin.
Students at Columbia are seeking help from disability rights lawyers to convince university housing officials that multiple assistance animals are a medically required disability accommodation. Olivia Deloian of the Columbia Chronicle interviewed business major Lindsey Barrett who says her therapist prescribed dog companionship to treat symptoms of adjustment disorder. The problem is, Barrett already has an emotional support cat for her severe anxiety disorder, which means she needs new approval from Columbia to house the second animal. Deloian carefully describes her journalism process in contacting Columbia officials to request their side of the disagreement. With Barrett’s help, Deloian also provides a useful explanation of the distinction between emotional support animals and other service animals.
Vice President Joe Biden said it’s “astounding” what the country does not know and what it will learn about mental illness and disorders at the inaugural gala of the Kennedy Forum on mental health in Massachusetts Wednesday night. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also spoke at the conference marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy signing a law funding mental health centers. She applauded the new federal health care law for requiring insurers to provide more equal coverage of mental health disorders. Read more.
Despite assurances from federal officials that the Affordable Care Act classifies mental health care as an essential benefit, the underlying rules of coverage remain unclear, according to a report from The New York Times.
The problem lies in deciding how to treat mental illness because there is little consensus on a standard of care among doctors and researchers.The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 has more or less fallen short of its goal to require insurers to cover psychiatric illnesses and substance abuse disorders the same way they do other illnesses.
As millions of uninsured Americans prepare to sign up for coverage under the ACA on Tuesday, those seeking treatment for mental health must be ready to do a lot of the digging on their own. Read more.
The suspect in Monday’s deadly shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., had sought treatment for mental health problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to investigators.
Officials said Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist, sought treatment for paranoia and told others he had been “hearing voices.” Navy officials also reported behavioral issues, citing up to ten conduct offenses over the course of the four years Alexis spent in the Navy.
Monday’s shooting left 13 dead, including Alexis, and eight wounded. Read more.
Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are, on the whole, younger than other vets who served prior and they may be at greater risk for homelessness, according to a report from the News21 program.
In particular, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other mental and behavioral health issues are some of the leading causes of homelessness among post-9/11 veterans. Groups such as Vet Hunters and various shelters are working to find vets and address their issues in an effort to curb homelessness. Read more.
An Arizona program that teaches participants how to spot and respond to individuals in a mental health crisis will continue after receiving a $250,000 appropriation. Mental Health First Aid was established following the January 2011 shooting that killed six people and seriously wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Part of the training would be to first address the stigma associated with mental health disorders. Read more.