May articles highlight “Mental Health Month”

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.

Art workshop offers vets with PTSD an outlet for peace and creativity

Navy veteran Scott Beaty hosts an art workshop every Friday night and Saturday morning at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. Many of the veterans who attend experience symptoms of PTSD and appreciate the opportunity to express their feelings in a creative medium. The class is sponsored by Vision for Vets and the coordinators are hoping to expand to more locations. “Everybody here has some kind of disability, but we don’t give a damn,” Beaty said. “It doesn’t matter. We’re family. We’re all in this together. We help each other with our issues.”

Check out this article in the local Illinois paper Belleville News-Democrat to learn more.



Mental health therapists helping Harvey survivors cope with ongoing psychological trauma

Anticipating, escaping and recovering from a natural disaster takes a heavy psychological toll on survivors. As they rebuild their lives economically they frequently need emotional support from their community. This article by Tony Plohetski, Andrea Ball and Melissa B. Taboada in the Austin American-Statesman (and reprinted in Chicago Tribune) describes how Texas social workers and psychologists are treating patients with psychological trauma after the storm.  

The New York Times

The Opinion Pages: Fake Disability Claims

In a letter to the editor, Les Greene, president-elect of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, wrote a recent article about fraud charges against first responders was “hardly” shocking. The Jan. 7 article “Charges for 106 in Huge Fraud Over Disability,” detailed retired New York City police officers and firefighters accused of faking symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological injuries. According to Greene, “The tragedy is that compensation doled out by government agencies can be readily taken advantage of…by those who need to identify themselves as victims, and thus entitled to reparations by others.” Read more.

News21 ‘Back Home’

Veterans at Greater Risk for Homelessness

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. 

News21 ‘Back Home’

VA Workers Rewarded for Avoiding Difficult Disability Claims

Despite a growing backlog of disability claims and appeals, the Department of Veterans Affairs gave workers millions in bonuses through a system that values quantity over quality, according to an investigative report from the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.

VA claims processors said they were encouraged to avoid complex claims that needed extra work to verify veterans’ injuries and disabilities in order to meet performance standards. As of September 2012, veterans injured on duty waited more than 429 days on average for their claims to be handled while those appealing decisions often waited for years to receive help.

The Associated Press

“Entry on mental illness is added to AP Stylebook”

The Associated Press recently announced that it is adding an entry to its stylebook to help journalists cover the topic of mental illness in a fair and appropriate manner. Some of their recommendations include being specific when including information about a diagnosis by using the name of the disorder and proper sourcing.

Another aspect of the new entry has ties to the Newtown school shooting in December, 2012. AP cautions not to “assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime,” and advises reporters to use more neutral language when describing a condition, such as “has obsessive-compulsive disorder” rather than “suffers from” or similar terms.

The complete AP entry, which will be included in the upcoming Spring edition, can be found at the link above. The National Association of Broadcasters also released a statement on the new addition, which is linked to here.

The Daily Beast

“Nearly 30 Percent of Vets Treated by V.A. Have PTSD”

In September, it was announced that an estimated three out of every ten veterans who have served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars since 9/11 have Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This comes after criticism was leveled at the agency for its delays in making decisions on disability claims filed by veterans.

The issue of what life is like for veterans after their tours of duty has been well-covered by news outlets over the past decade, and recently, NBC Rock Center with Brian Williams profiled one soldier’s post-war experience back home.

The article from The Daily Beast, written by Jaime Reno, quotes a source as saying the V.A. did not want to make the fact that nearly 250,000 veterans are living with PTSD public. Over 830,000 service members have fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, according to the article.

CNN — Anderson Cooper 360

“Hundreds of thousands of war vets still waiting for health benefits”

Mike Rioux waited 18 months to have his disability benefits claim processed after returning from the war in Afghanistan. As Randy Kaye of CNN reports, when the decision was finally reached, Rioux was told he qualified for a monthly payment of under $700 and was only 40 percent disabled. The Department of Veterans Affairs did not provide compensation for his traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder, both acquired during his military service. His PTSD diagnosis was even given by a VA doctor.

According to CNN, Rioux and his family are not alone in fighting with the VA to obtain monetary benefits, and the economic struggles are taking their toll.

  • Most of the difficulty with making decisions and evaluating claims appears to be the result of “severe and complex mental injuries” like traumatic brain injuries and PTSD.
  • The report compared these injuries to Agent Orange and Gulf War syndrome, meaning that the VA is trying to determine the right benefit amount for those affected by things like PTSD. Because terms used to describe these conditions are relatively new, it can be hard to compare these more “hidden disabilities” to those with obvious physical manifestations.
  • Officials with the VA are expecting to process approximately one million applications from veterans by the end of 2012, and they say the goal is to process incoming applications within 125 days, according to CNN.