According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in five adults in the United States suffered from a mental illness in 2011. This federal government report defined mental illness as a person having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, and included more than 65,000 Americans aged 12 and above.

The rate of mental illness was found to be twice as likely in the 18-to-25-year-old age group, close to 30 percent, than it is in those age 50 and above (about 14 percent). Furthermore, women were more likely to have suffered a mental illness than men (about 23 percent versus 16 percent).

Of the 45.6 million people with a mental illness, about 11.5 million reported a serious mental illness, about 5 percent of the adult population. About 38 percent of adults with a mental illness in 2011 received treatment during the year – and about 60 percent of those with a serious mental illness sought help during that time.

Youth also were studied, and it was found that 2 million adolescents between age 12 and 17 had a major depressive episode in 2011, about 8 percent of the population. Young people who had a major depressive epsidoe were more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs than those who did not (36 percent versus 17 percent).

Rates of mental illness remained stable from the prior year.
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, an annual event hosted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 9, 2012.  PAR has always been a strong advocate for children’s mental health, and we are delighted to announce our participation as a “Champion Level”

co-sponsor of this year’s program.

On May 9, PAR will be joining SAMHSA for a special evening program at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC.  This program will be a tribute to honor children and youth who have demonstrated resilience after traumatic experiences, as well as their “Heroes of Hope,” people in their lives who have helped and inspired them along the way.  The American Art Therapy Association has put together a unique exhibit featuring artwork from students all across the country, which will be displayed during the event.  Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will present a Special Recognition Award to artist, advocate, and Awareness Day Honorary Chairperson Cyndi Lauper, whose work with her True Colors Fund and the True Colors Residence exemplifies the “Hero of Hope” spirit. Live performances by youth from around the country will also honor the young people and their heroes.



Since its inception more than 30 years ago, PAR has been giving back to our community in the form of volunteer time and financial support. We understand the importance of children’s mental health, and we are proud to work with organizations like SAMHSA to promote awareness of this vital issue.  Children and wellness have always been priorities, and through the years we have supported organizations that help families including the United Way, A Brighter Community, the PACE Center for Girls, the Children’s Home of Tampa, and many others.  To learn more about PAR’s community service work, please visit our Community PARtners page.
According to a new study conducted at Princeton University, many survivors of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina are still struggling with poor mental health even today, years after the storm.

Lead researcher Christina Paxson and her team began this project in 2003 as a study of low-income adults enrolled in community college. They used sites around the country for their research, three of those sites were located in New Orleans. Their original questionnaire asked participants for their opinions on topics related to education, income, families, and health.

After Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, the researchers decided to continue to track the New Orleans-based participants because the type of information they had was very rare in disaster studies, as they already knew much about the individual’s mental and physical health. In most disaster studies, researchers are never able to determine if the participants are suffering because of the disaster or because they already had underlying conditions that would have led to poor mental health even before the disaster hit.

With data collected one year before, 7-19 months after, and 43-54 months post-Katrina, they found that although symptoms of posttraumatic stress and psychological distress declined over time, these symptoms were still high 43-54 months after the storm. They also found that damage to the home was an especially important predictor of chronic posttraumatic stress symptoms, with and without symptoms of psychological distress. Those individuals with higher earnings and better social support reported better outcomes in the long run, but results indicate that mental health issues still remain a concern for hurricane survivors.

Even four years after the storm, researchers found that about a third of participants still reported high levels of posttraumatic stress and about 30 percent reported suffering from psychological distress.

According to Paxson, “I think the lesson for treatment of mental health conditions is don’t think it’s over after a year. It isn’t.”

To read more about the study, see January’s issue of Social Science & Medicine.

What do you find most beneficial in working with survivors of traumatic events?
According to a recent release from the government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), mental health disorders were among the five most commonly treated medical conditions in children in 2008. Coming in ahead of mental health treatment were acute bronchitis, asthma, trauma-related disorders, and middle-ear infections. About 40 percent of all children in the U.S. suffered from one of these five conditions in 2008, which accounts for about 60 percent of all children’s ambulatory care visits to a medical office or outpatient hospital.

Although mental disorders were the fifth most commonly treated condition, the average expense per child was the highest, billing out at about $2,480 per child. Five million children in the U.S. were treated for mental disorders in 2008, adding up to a total price tag of $12.2 billion in expenses. While private insurance paid the largest share of treatment costs for bronchitis (at about 55 percent of expenses), Medicaid picked up the largest share of treatment costs for mental disorders, at about 46 percent. Approximately 31 percent of treatment costs for mental disorders were paid for by private insurance, and just fewer than 14 percent of treatment costs were paid out-of-pocket by the family of the patient.
The physical benefits of yoga, such as increased strength, greater flexibility, and surges in feel-good chemicals like dopamine, have been proven through science. But is there a psychological component to this type of exercise, as well?

The Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living is attempting to scientifically evaluate the effects yoga has on those who practice. The institute supports a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School who are researching the impact yoga has on a wide range of mental health issues.

One such study funded by the institute is using brain-imaging studies to better understand how contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation can alter behavior, mood, and states of consciousness. Dr. Sara Lazar, principal investigator, is analyzing these images to assess if a yoga practice can change the actual structure of the brain. If so, how do these changes influence attention, fluid intelligence, and cognitive and emotional functioning? Previous work by Dr. Lazar has shown that the brains of individuals who regularly practiced Buddhist meditation are different from the brains of a control group who did not. This study will evaluate a group of highly experienced yogis to investigate whether they show similar changes to the meditation group.

Several other studies focusing on the link between yoga and mental health are ongoing. One study is attempting to reduce posttraumatic stress disorder severity and symptoms through yoga, and is currently recruiting military veterans for the next phase of research. Another study is using yoga as a preventive mental health measure in high school students — and initial results show that it improves mood states and resiliency when compared to traditional physical education. A third study involving yoga in mindful eating and weight gain prevention programs has documented changes in participants physical and mental health.

Do you recommend yoga to your clients? Do you think yoga helps psychologically as well as physically?

 
Those who practice meditation tout the benefits of this practice, but is there any truth to the idea that meditation can influence one’s psychological health?

In a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness, 16 healthy individuals were given MRIs two weeks before beginning a mindfulness-based stress reduction course. During this course, individuals took part in weekly classes, listened to guided meditation audio recordings, and logged the amount of time they meditation on their own each day, with the average being about 27 minutes. The same participants were given a second MRI two weeks after completing the course.

The brain scans showed some interesting findings. The hippocampus, important in learning and memory, showed an increase in brain cell mass. Other areas that showed an increase in brain cell mass were structures linked to self-awareness, introspection, and compassion. Some areas – such as the amygdala, which controls anxiety and stress –  showed a decrease in mass, an interesting finding since most participants rated themselves as less stressed after taking part in the program.

The study shows that the psychological benefits people are reporting are very real shifts in the biological structure of the brain. While the underlying mechanisms that cause the brain to change in response to meditation need further research, it is an important step to know that individuals practicing meditation can play an active role in their well-being.

To read more about this study, you can read more in the January 2011 issue of Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging.

Do you use meditation with your clients? What kinds of outcomes have you witnessed?
As those who work in the field of mental health know only too well, mental illness carries a stigma that adds a significant burden to the challenges already facing many clients. Unlike other medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease, mental illness is often seen as a personal weakness or a character flaw. The detrimental effects of this stigma are well understood. In his 1999 Mental Health Report, former Surgeon General David Satcher asserted that “Stigma assumes many forms, both subtle and overt. It appears as prejudice and discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping. It prompts many people to avoid working, socializing, and living with people who have a mental disorder. Stigma impedes people from seeking help for fear the confidentiality of their diagnosis or treatment will be breached.”

What perpetuates the stigma? Unfortunately, it’s not just outdated social attitudes. In fact, negative images and distortions about mental illness abound in current popular media. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an advocacy group for people affected by mental illness, publishes a regular column on their website called “StigmaBusters”, which asks members to send in alerts about stereotypes they find in the media. Examples include a November 2010 episode of the popular musical comedy “Glee”, which mocked and trivialized bipolar disorder in a scene where a “crazed” Mary Todd Lincoln is shown shouting at a teapot. A recent issue of Vs., a high-end fashion magazine, features actress Eva Mendes as a patient in a psychiatric institution, writhing on a bed to keep from being restrained. A new television commercial for Burger King shows “The King” on a rampage, chased and then taken away by men in white coats. Some of the most egregious examples have appeared around Halloween. This past fall, “The Pennhurst Asylum,” a Halloween “insane asylum” attraction, opened on the grounds of the former Pennhurst State School and Hospital outside Philadelphia, sparking a controversy that included protests from former residents of the facility (http://www.nami.org/).

If negative images in the media are helping to form the popular perception of mental illness, what are some ways to help clients cope with their effects and counter the stereotypes that the images perpetuate? Advocacy organizations like NAMI offer support to individuals with mental illness and their families, and participating in groups like “StigmaBusters” is one way that people can become advocates, doing their part to fight inaccurate and hurtful representations of mental illness. The Mayo Clinic website (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mental-health) is another excellent resource that describes steps to cope with stigma, including advice on how to seek support and educate others about mental illness.

And it’s not all bad news in the media. The Voice Awards, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recognize writers and producers of television and film who have given voice to people with mental health problems by incorporating dignified, respectful, and accurate portrayals of people with mental illness into their scripts, programs, and productions. In 2010, a Voice Award for best documentary went to actor Joe Pantoliano for his film No Kidding, Me Too!, which explores the journey of several individuals with mental illness and includes a candid account of his personal struggle with depression. Although best known for his roles in The Matrix, Memento, and the televisions series “The Sopranos,” Pantoliano is an activist, working to raise social awareness and understanding of mental health through a non-profit organization that he created to encourage members of the entertainment industry to help educate the public about mental illness. “We know this is a tough fight,” says Pantoliano. “We know years of ingrained socialization causes people to recoil or isolate anyone with the scarlet letter of mental illness…. However, we also know that by releasing the talents of those with mental illness—by giving them the opportunity to use their outstanding artistic and intellectual skills—we will vastly improve the world. And this is a cause worth supporting” (http://nkm2.org/about-us/).

In your practice, is stigma affecting your clients? How do you help clients to cope with stigma, and what resources have you found to be most useful? We want to hear from you, so post your comments and let’s start the conversation!


With spring training now underway, people’s thoughts tend to move toward thoughts of America’s favorite pastime – baseball. You may not be aware, however, that major league baseball (MLB) is, perhaps, the most progressive of all professional sports when it comes to issues involving mental health. In fact, on April 1, 2009, the MLB put in place a disabled list (DL) for players suffering from emotional disorders. Teams were then allowed to place players on the DL if they were evaluated and diagnosed as suffering from a psychological problem that prevents them from playing, the same way they handle physical injuries.

During the 2009 season, five players were put on the disabled list with diagnoses ranging from clinical depression to anxiety attacks to social anxiety disorder.

While the MLB may be bringing more awareness to mental health issues, no other professional sports league has followed this path. While we know there are many professional athletes who live with mental health diagnoses (remember Ron Artest thanking his psychiatrist after winning the NBA championship?), why do you think they have not created similar programs? Do you believe that mental health still has a stigma in professional sports?