Whether it’s media coverage of a celebrity battling a mental health challenge, the increasing number of veterans seeking mental health services, or a recent mass shooting, mental health issues are increasingly in the public spotlight. Unfortunately, the steady decline in mental health resources leaves increasing numbers of citizens without much-needed treatment, and crisis intervention falls to those who may be inadequately trained to spot and respond appropriately to mental health concerns. In many cases, that intervention may come too late.
“Mental health first aid” programs have also been getting a lot of attention lately. These programs aim to promote mental health literacy among community members, particularly those who work with the public, such as first responders, medical professionals, and teachers. Like any medical first aid training, the program offered by Mental Health First Aid USA, for example, teaches strategies for identifying and addressing mental health challenges and seeking appropriate professional help. The organization also offers a Youth Mental Health First Aid program designed for adults who interact with children on a regular basis. Teachers in the Newtown Public School District—where the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred in 2012—participated in the three-day training program this month in preparation for the new school year.
Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Begich of Alaska recently called for mental health training for police officers, clergy members, teachers, and other professionals on the “front lines” who can help direct people in need to appropriate mental health resources. The two senators argue that such a program could command bipartisan support and provide much-needed assistance to people with mental health difficulties.
Patients lucky enough to stay in University Medical Center of Princeton’s newly redesigned rooms may experience a faster recovery. The private rooms feature a sink in plain sight, enabling patients to see doctors and nurses washing their hands. The rooms also feature a fold-out sofa for visitors, increased natural light and views of the outdoors, and a locked box for delivering and retrieving medications. Not only have people staying in the new rooms reported higher satisfaction with the hospital’s food and nursing care, but more importantly, they requested pain medication at a rate 30% lower than patients who stayed in older rooms, and reduced pain improves recovery and rehabilitation and limits costs.
From extended breastfeeding to adorable first day of school photos, parents—particularly mothers—face increasing pressures to do it all, have it all, and be perfect parents. This stress, researchers say, can be so severe that it leads to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Among the one in five parents who experience mental health difficulties, the pressure to become a super parent can be even more damaging.
Medicare has finally begun offering the same level of coverage for mental health services that it offers for physical health care. Medicare previously covered 50% of mental health services, but a law passed in 2008 means that the amount has increased to 80% as of 2014.
For some people, faith issues play a central role in mental health issues. Concerns about God’s role in the world and about remaining connected to one’s religion can greatly affect mental health. It’s common for people to turn to pastors and priests when they experience mental health difficulties or relationship challenges, and six states now license pastoral counselors. Pastoral counselors typically have extensive theological training in addition to some mental health training. Some pastoral counselors view themselves as just another brand of mental health therapist, and may have advanced training in psychology and mental health. In rural states such as Kentucky, where mental health care can be challenging to access, pastoral counselors can help fill the mental health gap.
In a world ruled by social media, it’s easy enough to believe that everyone has a large group of friends. According to a recent study of 5,000 people in the United Kingdom, though, 1 in 10 people report having no close friends. The study’s authors caution that this might not be as terrible as it sounds. Men are increasingly more likely to call their wives their best friends, and many of the “friendless” may rely on their romantic partners for companionship and support.
Mental health experts have long believed that insufficient serotonin can lead to depression, and popular antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft act directly on serotonin. A new study has found that mice who can’t make serotonin don’t show depression symptoms, though. There are important differences between mouse and human brains, and mice can’t report their subjective experiences to researchers. If the mouse model applies to humans as well, though, it could be that serotonin does not play the role in depression that most experts once thought it did.
According to a new study, people who feel that they have a strong, collaborative relationship with a mental health professional are more likely to report feeling better. The study highlights the need for therapists to focus not only on clinical strategies, but also on building strong alliances with their clients.
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