According to a new survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), suicide is one of the most important issues facing this generation of veterans, with 37 percent of respondents saying they know a veteran who has committed suicide and 45 percent know of an Iraq/Afghanistan war veteran who has attempted suicide.

Furthermore, nearly one in three veterans have considered taking their own life and 63 percent of vets say they have a friend who they feel needs mental health care. Half of respondents have had people close to them suggest they seek mental health care (19 percent of those individuals did not seek care, with most of those people stating that they were concerned it would affect their career or would make their peers perceive them in a different light).

On a positive note, 93 percent of individuals know that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs offers a suicide helpline, and 91 percent of vets say they have recommended that their friends seek out mental health treatment.

In an unrelated study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from the Naval Health Research Center found that the rising number of suicides in the military may not be caused by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, they believe that untreated depression, manic-depressive disorder, and alcohol abuse are much stronger indicators that an enlisted individual will commit suicide. For more information about the study, visit JAMA.
As the new school year approaches, children and teenagers can experience a range of emotions, from the normal excitement associated with new teachers and activities to more serious or long-term anxiety about school.  Mental Health America, a national advocacy organization that addresses mental health and substance abuse conditions, offers tips to help children and teens adjust as they return to school.  Their suggestions include the following.

  • Know that your child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health.

  • Start the conversation! Talk to your child about your expectations as well as his/her expectations for the upcoming school year. Take time to listen to your child and discuss aspects of the new school year that he or she is worried about.

  • Remember to let your child know that it’s normal to feel nervous about the start of school.

  • Spend time each day talking to your child about what happened in school. Be open to hearing the good and the not so good. Give your child positive feedback about his or her new experiences.

  • Praise and encourage your child to become involved with school activities and to try new things.

  • Attend school functions and stay involved in your child’s education and engaged with school staff.

  • Be proactive in learning about how your child is developing not just physically, but socially and emotionally, as well. If you are aware of what’s typical for your child's stage of life, you will be able to tell more readily when things may not be right.

  • Know the signs of bullying.


For the full story or to locate additional resources for a healthy back-to-school season, visit the Mental Health America Web site.
Have you downloaded our Concussion Recognition & Response™ (CRR) app yet? The app is now available free of charge for download through the Apple® App StoreSM and Google Play for use on your iPhone®, iPad®, iPod® Touch, Android™ device, or tablet!

The CRR app helps coaches and parents recognize whether an individual is exhibiting and/or reporting the signs of a concussion. In fewer than 5 minutes, a parent or coach can complete a checklist of signs and symptoms to help determine whether to seek medical attention. The app allows users to record pertinent information regarding the child with a suspected concussion, allowing them to easily share that information with health-care providers. Post-injury, it guides parents through follow-up treatment.

Click here to view the PARtners and Supporters of the CRR, including Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback Steve Young!
Have you noticed lately that your favorite smartphone app or videogame greets you with an occasional surprise or random reward when you log on? For example, a popular app for an upscale taxi service called Uber rewards its customers with unexpected one-day options such as on-demand roses, ice cream, or even helicopter rides. The offers are “just for fun” says Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, and customers seem to agree: traffic to their app spikes on days when these special services are offered. But there is nothing random about this kind of marketing, according to Steve Henn, Technology Correspondent for National Public Radio.

“Many of the most popular technologies of our time tap into powerful reward mechanisms in our brains,” said Henn in a July 24 story on NPR’s All Tech Considered program. “Many techies and marketers are tapping, sometimes unintentionally, into decades of neuroscience research to make their products as addictive and profitable as possible.”

As every student of psychology knows, unexpected rewards are much better at driving behavior than predictable ones; this was proved by the famous behaviorist B.F. Skinner in the 1930s with his Skinner Box experiment. Skinner trained rats to press a lever in order to receive a food pellet; he then set the mechanism to release the pellet only occasionally and randomly. This caused the rats to obsessively click the lever again and again, hoping to trigger a reward.

This kind of behavior, in both rats and humans, is a response not to hunger but rather to the boost of dopamine released by the brain in anticipation of a reward, says Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Volkow and others have studied the effects of dopamine on the brain and its role in addictive behavior, and a large body of research has shown that unexpected rewards trigger the release of more dopamine than expected ones. So the repeated clicks to your favorite app might be a desire for the dopamine rush in anticipation of the latest special offer.

What do you think? Are apps with random rewards just for fun, or are they cultivating genuinely addictive behavior? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
Although overall life expectancy in the U.S. has increased from 75 years to 78 years in the past decade, information from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle has found that Americans are spending more of their lifetime dealing with disability.

According to the research, Americans are now spending an average of 10.1 years living with a disability, up from 9.4 years reported before 1990.

Of the top five disabilities, two are mental health diagnoses – major depressive disorder (ranked No. 2) and anxiety disorders (ranked No. 5). These rankings have not changed from the 1990 report. The researchers hope that this report can help focus on which diseases, injuries, and health problems are the greatest losses of health and life, with the hope of using that information to better serve these problems with improved health and medical care.

More information about this study is available in the July 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
$4 Million: The fine Kaiser Permanente will face for failing to provide mental health treatment in a timely manner.

1 in 4: The number of stroke survivors who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a new study from Columbia University Medical Center.

70%: The ability of a computer to accurately guess a person’s emotions in a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

85.8%: The percentage of gang members diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder in new research from the Forensic Psychiatry Research Unit at Queen Mary, University of London.

49.4%: The number of adolescents reporting zero mentally unhealthy days in 2010 (a significant decrease from 60.9%, which was reported in 2005-2006).
We are pleased to announce the release of the new Self-Directed Search® (SDS®) Web site.

The new SDS site has been completely revamped, enabling users not only to complete the test but also to learn more about the history, theory, and applications of the SDS. Targeted resource sections, supplemental information and links, case studies, and more are all swathed in a brand-new, contemporary design.

You can also visit www.self-directed-search.com using your tablet or mobile device—the site automatically adjusts its interface to your device’s size and specifications!

 
The transition from military career to civilian life can be a real challenge, and finding a good job is one of the most important factors in a veteran’s success. This month, PAR is pleased to introduce The Veterans and Military Occupations Finder™ (VMOF), a new product designed specifically to help veterans meet this challenge.

Working in conjunction with the Self-Directed Search® (SDS®), the VMOF allows users to explore career options by linking military occupation titles with civilian jobs. After taking the SDS, users can match their three-letter Holland Summary Code to Occupational Information Network (O*NET) career options and education requirements. The VMOF will help users to better understand how they can apply the skills they developed in the military to civilian occupations.

The VMOF includes two indexes. The first lists current Military Occupational Classifications (MOCs), along with corresponding two-letter Summary Codes, from each of the five branches of the military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard). The second lists MOCs from each of the five branches along with corresponding civilian occupations and their two-letter Summary Codes.

An online edition of the VMOF, which includes select portions of the print edition, is available at the newly revised SDS Web site; the full version is available in a print format.

The SDS will be featured at the National Career Development Association’s Global Conference in Boston next week! Visit PAR at Booth #12 to learn more about the VMOF and the upcoming SDS 5th Edition.

Some NCDA program highlights include:

Monday, July 8:


“Remembering John Holland and Furthering His Impact on Career Services” (3:00-4:10 p.m.)


“Understanding Relationships among Holland’s Self-Directed Search, the Career Thoughts Inventory, and the Career Tension Scale” (3:00-4:10 p.m.)


“The Development of the Working Styles Assessment” (4:30-5:40 p.m.)


Tuesday, July 9:


“Improving Career Interventions by Better Assessing Readiness for Decision Making” (3:00-4:10 p.m.)


Wednesday, July 10:


“The Development of a Revised Version of Holland’s Self-Directed Search” (8:00-9:00 a.m.)


We hope to see you at NCDA!
Ira L. Cohen and colleagues from the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities presented their research on video tracking as a valuable way to study autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at last month’s International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

Using EthoVision XT, a video tracking software that analyzes behavior, movement, and activity, the team examined correlations between data from various ASD rating scales (including the PDD Behavior Inventory™ [PDDBI™]), and information gathered through video tracking. Researchers studied 31 children between the ages of 2 and 14 in a large room with toys on the floor and on a table. Twenty-two of the children in the study were diagnosed with an ASD. The child’s parent was seated in the corner of the room during the free play time. Data was collected on mean distance from the parent, mean time spent in different zones in the room, path complexity, and other factors.

Researchers were able to draw correlations between the tracking data and the results on the rating scales, finding that the tracking data could be used as a predictor of the scores on the rating scales. Results from this study may be a basis for creating new objective methods of assessing children with ASD as well as measuring the results of intervention.
If you are looking to exercise both your body and your mind, then you may be interested in some new research conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Neha Gothe, a graduate student at Illinois who is now a professor of kinesiology at Wayne State University, led a research team to uncover data that shows a 20-minute session of hatha yoga significantly improved participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control. Participants showed significantly better results on these tests of retention of new information after a yoga session than after completing a moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.

Participants underwent a 20-minute progression of seated, standing, and supine yoga postures, concluding with a meditative posture and deep breathing. They also completed a 20-minute aerobic exercise where they walked or jogged on a treadmill for 20 minutes, with each subject maintaining 60 to 70 percent of her maximum heart rate throughout the workout. All subjects in the study were female undergraduates. No significant improvements in working memory or inhibitory control were found after the aerobic exercise.

Researchers believe that following a yoga practice, participants were better able to focus because the breathing and meditation exercises aim to calm the mind and body, possibly translating into better mental performance beyond the yoga practice. Furthermore, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which may help improve scores on some cognitive tests.

The full study is available in the May issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.