May 8, 2014 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), PAR is proud to be a supporter of this national event.

National launch activities will be held during the National Council for Behavioral Health annual conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center near Washington, DC. Registration for the Awareness Day general session and the “What Really Works for Young Adults: A Candid Conversation” workshop is free.

Even if you are not going to be in Washington, DC for the event, you can show your support during one of the many local events taking place throughout the country that promote the importance of caring for every child’s mental health. You can also tune into the live Webcast of the national launch event on May 6 from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. EDT.

Awareness Day focuses on positive mental health and its important relationship to a child’s healthy development. More than 1,100 communities and 136 national organizations are collaborating to make this year’s event bigger and better than ever.
Halloween is coming! Children and adults alike are carving pumpkins, dressing in costumes, and getting ready for an exciting evening of trick-or-treating. For those suffering with mental health issues, however, this can be an especially difficult time of year as they are reminded of the heavy stigma associated with their illness. A drive through your city or a stroll down the aisles of your local department store is all it takes to confirm that offensive stereotypes are alive and well when it comes to the mentally ill. Billboards and advertisements depicting “Haunted Asylum” or “Psychopath Sanctuary” attractions are hard to miss. “Mental Patient” costumes, complete with straightjackets, perpetuate the stereotypes further.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an advocacy group that is fighting these stereotypes and pressuring businesses to remove offensive attractions and costumes. “NAMI loves Halloween as much as anyone else,” says Bob Corolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations, in a recent blog. “But would anyone sponsor a haunted attraction based on a cancer ward? How about a veterans’ hospital with ghosts who died from suicide while being treated for posttraumatic stress disorder?”

NAMI encourages its members to help raise awareness about the problem in their own communities. Corolla says that the first step is to personally contact sponsors of “insane asylum” attractions or stores that carry offensive costumes. In some cases, small changes to the attraction or its marketing can make a big difference. Further steps include enlisting others to make calls and write emails of protest. Local television stations and newspapers can be educated about the problem—and many are willing to cover a protest as a news event.

Will it make any difference? In response to protests from mental health advocates, the U.K. superstore Asda (a Wal-Mart company) and major grocery chain Tesco were persuaded to remove offensive costumes from their shelves. Both stores apologized for their insensitivity; Asda called it “a completely unacceptable error” and has donated £25,000 to the U.K. mental health charity Mind.

Corolla cautions that you should be prepared for a backlash when people feel that you are criticizing their fun. But even then, you may be more effective than you know. “Even if it seems that too many people disagree with your position,” he says, “you win simply by raising awareness.”

Visit the NAMI Web site to learn more about what you can do to fight the stigma against mental illness.
In 1949, Mental Health Month was founded to bring attention to the importance of mental health issues in America.

President Barack Obama issued a decree on April 30 in honor of this month. He stressed the idea that people should reach out if they feel they are in need of help. “For many, getting help starts with a conversation,” he stated. “People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of strength.”

Furthermore, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a statement emphasizing how everyone has a role in building awareness. “All of us – including teachers, parents, neighbors, and friends – have a role to play in helping to increase awareness and breaking down the stigma around mental health. Now is the time to bring conversations about mental health into school auditoriums, community centers, houses of worship, and kitchen tables across the country. Together, we can bring mental illness out of the shadows.”

For more information on how you can build awareness in your community and participate in National Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America.

How are you honoring Mental Health Awareness Month?
“The reason creativity and craziness go together is that if you’re just plain crazy without being able to sing or dance or write good poems, no one is going to want to have babies with you. Your genes will fall by the wayside. Who but a brazen crazy person would go one-on-one with blank paper or canvas armed with nothing but ideas?”

Author Mark Vonnegut poses this question in the first chapter of his book, Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So. In this intimate and sometimes comic memoir, Vonnegut goes one-on-one with his past and present struggles with bipolar disorder, his family history, and his qualms with the medical field. His medical background and first-hand experiences provide readers with an eye-opening portrayal of life with mental illness.

In order to understand his own disorder, Vonnegut looks at his family’s history as far back as his paternal great-grandfather. He ventures into his childhood, endearingly poking fun at his not-yet-famous father’s eccentricities and struggles as “the world’s worst car salesman who couldn’t get a job teaching English at Cape Cod Community College.” He also provides honest depictions of his mother’s bouts of depression and paranoia.

“My mother, who was radiant, young, and beautiful even as she lay dying, heard voices and saw visions,” he says, “but she always managed to make friends with them and was much too charming to hospitalize even at her craziest.”

In his twenties, Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed hippie, experimenting with illegal drugs and eventually suffering three psychotic episodes leading to hospitalization. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, later with bipolar disorder. He found stability in adulthood, graduating from Harvard Medical School, and was eventually named Boston Magazine’s “number one pediatrician.” He was shocked when the voices came back years later, causing his fourth break and ironically leaving him strapped to a bed at the hospital where he works.

Vonnegut’s conversational and often self-deprecating tone has a universal appeal. He shows how mental illness affects the successful and brilliant as well as the poor and disenfranchised. He contends that not any one person is completely sane and that defining insanity is a slippery slope.

“None of us are entirely well, and none of us are irrevocably sick,” he says. “At my best I have islands of being sick entirely. At my worst I had islands of being well…. You either have or don’t have a reluctance to give up on yourself. It helps a lot if others don't give up on you.”

Vonnegut watched his father use writing as tool to deal with posttraumatic stress disorder following his experiences in World War II.  He believes that art and creativity are excellent outlets for those suffering from bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. When asked about this in an interview with Sliver of Stone magazine last year, he concluded by saying, “Art is a lifeline and a form of insanity.”

Editor’s note: This week, PAR is pleased to welcome guest blogger Grace Gardner. A recent graduate of the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Mass Communication, Grace is working as an editorial assistant this summer in the production department at PAR.

 
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.
The statistics are sobering.  According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • approximately 695,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2010;

  • more than 80% of those victims were maltreated by a parent; and

  • children younger than 1 year had the highest rate of victimization.


Adult survivors of child maltreatment are more likely to have a poor quality of life, with higher levels of chronic diseases and mental health issues, than non-abused adults. “Childhood exposure to abuse and neglect has been linked…to a lifetime trajectory of violence perpetration and victimization,” says Dr. Phaedra Corso of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health (Prevent Child Abuse America, 2012). Child abuse can be a vicious circle, and some families under stress need support to help break the pattern of abuse.

Now in its 30th year, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to encourage public awareness of child abuse and neglect, recommit resources to the cause, and promote involvement through national, state, and local activities.

Potential Early Indicators

The prevalence of child abuse and its long-term consequences—not only for the child but also for society as a whole—clearly demonstrates why prevention is so important.  An early indicator that a family may be at risk for child abuse is high levels of parenting stress, and research has clearly demonstrated that parenting stress is positively correlated to child abuse potential (Rodriguez & Green, 1997).

“Parenting stress is a universal phenomenon that all parents experience to one degree or another,” explains Dr. Richard Abidin, emeritus professor of clinical and school psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the newly revised Parenting Stress Index™ (PSI™-4). “What we have learned is that high levels of stress relate to a variety of dysfunctional parenting behaviors and negative child outcomes. Screening for and evaluating the sources of parenting stress allow for the implementation of prevention and early intervention in both primary health care and education systems.”

More Resources on Child Abuse Prevention and Parenting

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway is an excellent starting point for information on preventing child abuse and neglect.

  • Prevent Child Abuse America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building awareness, providing education, and inspiring hope to everyone involved in the effort to prevent the abuse and neglect of children. Information about PCA state chapters, as well as advocacy, research, conferences, and events, can be found on their Web site.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention Web site includes a wealth of information on child maltreatment prevention, including data and statistics, risk and protective factors, and prevention strategies.

  • An excellent source of general parenting information for sharing with families, the Child Development Institute offers strategies and tips on topics such as “Parenting 101,” socialization for kids and teens, parent-child communication, single parenting, divorce, and more.


What special programs or events are happening in your community to recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month? Leave a comment and join the conversation!
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), and partners from all across the healthcare spectrum are working together this month to spread the word about traumatic brain injury prevention, recognition, and response. PAR is proud to join these advocates in recognizing March as National Brain Injury Awareness Month.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. Concussion is one of the most common forms of brain injury.

The CDC estimates that 1.7 million Americans sustain a TBI, including concussions, each year. Of those individuals, 52,000 die, 275,000 are hospitalized, and 1.4 million are treated and released from an emergency department.

“Since anyone can sustain a brain injury at any time, it is important for everyone to have access to comprehensive rehabilitation and ongoing disease management,” says Dr. Brent Masel, national medical director for BIAA. “Doing so eases medical complications, permanent disability, family dysfunction, job loss, homelessness, impoverishment, medical indigence, suicide and involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system.”

Good sources of information about TBI signs and symptoms include the CDC’s Traumatic Brain Injury Web site, as well as their “Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports” program.  The BIAA “Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone” awareness campaign site is another excellent resource for understanding and disseminating information about brain injury.

PAR recognizes the importance of brain injury awareness.  To help address this problem, we have partnered with concussion experts from the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC and the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at UNC Chapel Hill to produce two new apps designed to help parents, coaches, athletic trainers, and medical professionals recognize and respond to potential concussions.  The Concussion Recognition & Response™: Parent and Coach Version and the Concussion Assessment & Response™: Sport Version are easy-to-use, inexpensive downloads for Apple® or Android™ smartphones, tablets, and other devices.  Click on the links to learn more—and help spread the word about National Brain Injury Awareness Month.

 

 

 

 
Individuals who are deaf and communicate via American Sign Language are “among the most at-risk segments of the population in terms of mental health knowledge, illness prevalence, and treatment access,” according to Robert Pollard, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Deaf Wellness Center (DWC) at the University of Rochester Medical Center (DWC News and Updates, January 2012). The DWC focuses on clinical services, teaching, and research activities that pertain to mental health, healthcare, sign language interpreting, and other topics that affect the lives of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Pollard asserts that the deaf population is severely underserved in the mental health arena, with only 2% of deaf individuals who need mental health services receiving them. A major factor contributing to this problem is that the deaf population lacks access to mental health information via the mass media—TV, radio, newspapers—and Pollard wants to do something to change that.  In a project sponsored by the American Psychiatric Foundation, he is leading an effort to produce a series of television public service announcements featuring deaf actors who will share mental health awareness information using sign language. The PSAs will be aired in the Rochester region where there is a large deaf population; their effectiveness will be evaluated and results disseminated nationally.

Do you have clients who are deaf or hearing impaired, or do you have another connection to the deaf community? If so, PAR wants to hear from you! In the course of standardizing new assessment instruments for publication, we need to obtain clinical subsamples to determine if there are statistically significant differences between the normal sample and those with specific impairments.  PAR is committed to including the deaf population in our standardization process, and we are currently seeking qualified examiners who work with hearing impaired children ages 5 to 18. To learn more, please contact Sue Trujillo, PAR’s Data Collection Coordinator, at strujillo@parinc.com.  Thank you!
Jacob Barnett, a 12-year-old boy from Hamilton County, Indiana, has caught the attention of researchers from some of the most prestigious universities in the country with his challenge to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Jacob grasps some of the most complex concepts in mathematics and physics. Instead of junior high school, he attends Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where there is a movement to get him on board as a paid research assistant. Recently, he created a YouTube video in which he explains his work, using markers on the windows of his home to show the mathematical calculations behind some of his ideas. Not bad for a boy who didn’t speak his first words until after his second birthday and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder, a mild form of autism. But then again: Einstein didn’t speak until age four, and many psychiatrists now believe that he may have had Asperger’s disorder, as well.

Early on, Jacob’s parents were concerned that he might have problems in school. “Oh my gosh, when he was two, my fear was that he would never be in our world at all,” Jacob's mother told The Indianapolis Star last month. “He would not talk to anyone. He would not even look at us.” Instead, his abilities have soared. He taught himself algebra, geometry, and calculus, leaving high school at age eight and enrolling at IUPUI, where he is currently studying and excelling in his advanced physics and mathematics courses.

Although they give him plenty of opportunities to explore his interest in physics, Jacob’s parents also insist that he spend time with friends his own age. He plays video games and basketball with friends; he has a girlfriend and he recently attended his first dance.

In his YouTube video, Jacob explains his expanded hypothesis, based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. Professors at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey have followed Jacob’s work with interest. “The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics,” Professor Scott Tremaine wrote to Barnett’s family.

Jacob’s professors at IUPUI agree. “We have told him that after this semester . . . enough of the bookwork. You are here to do some science,” physics professor John Ross told The Indianapolis Star. “If we can get all of those creative juices in a certain direction, we might be able to see some really amazing stuff down the road.”
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!