College Campuses Increasingly Offering Recovery Programs

The New York Times (1/20, ED14, Moore, Subscription Publication) reported that “over the past several years recovery programs” for students with substance abuse problems “have been popping up at colleges, large and small, public and private.” Currently, “there are more than 20 programs, with more in the pipeline.”

Report Discusses Potential Risks Of Social Media For Healthcare.

Modern Healthcare (1/20, Conn, Subscription Publication) writes, “A report from the not-for-profit ECRI Institute, a patient-safety and quality-improvement organization, details social media’s potential as a public-engagement tool for healthcare organizations but warns that risk management is necessary.”

Researchers “found that 41% of roughly 23,000 respondents reported using social media to research healthcare decisions.” Other results include that “most hospitals use social media ‘as an extension of their existing marketing and public relations plans’; physicians use the sites also to market themselves and their practices while often mixing in personal information.”

The report also warned, “A disorganized approach to social media will be obvious to other users and will damage the organization’s credibility and reputation.”

For First Time In Four Years, Army Suicide Rates Decline

USA Today (1/20, Zoroya, 1.78M) reports, “Army suicide rates declined for the first time in four years in 2011, the result of a complex effort to identify soldiers engaged in risky or self-destructive behavior, according to the outgoing vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli.” USA Today adds, “Suicides among active-duty soldiers and those in the National Guard and Reserve who are not on active duty fell by 9% last year from 305 deaths in 2010 to 278 in 2011.” However, the Army suicide rate, “about 24 per 100,000 last year, remains higher than a similar demographic among civilians, about 19 per 100,000.”

The New York Times (1/20, Bumiller, Subscription Publication, 1.23M) depicts the findings in a different light, saying that “suicides among active-duty soldiers hit another record high in 2011,” while noting “there was a slight decrease if nonmobilized Reserve and National Guard troops were included in the calculation.” Chiarelli also said it is “unacceptable,” that “violent sex crimes” increased “nearly 30 percent.” Chiarelli “said factors driving the increase in sex crimes were alcohol use and new barracks that offered more privacy.”

The CNN (1/20, Shaughnessy) website, meanwhile, reports, “The latest numbers released by Chiarelli during a briefing with reporters Thursday show that active-duty Army suicides were up again in 2011, compared to 2010,” and that “suicides throughout the Army, the Army Reserves and the National Guard, while down in the past year, are still nearly 40% above what they were from 2008, the year before Chiarelli began overseeing the Army suicide prevention effort.” Chiarelli, who “believes that one way to reduce soldier suicides is to get guns away from soldiers who exhibit high-risk behavior,” commented on the numbers, emphasizing, “What I would look at here is the fact that for all practical purposes for the last two to three years,” the numbers have “leveled off.”

Two Idaho Mental Hospitals Saw Admissions Rise As State Funding Fell.

The AP (1/20) reports Idaho Division of Behavioral Health Administrator Ross Edmunds said that “two Idaho hospitals that care for severely mentally ill patients have seen big increases in admissions over the past five years.” State Hospital North in Orofino had admissions rise by 50 percent even as its state funding dropped 11 percent. State Hospital South saw “a 90 percent increase in admissions and a 22 percent funding decrease.” Edmunds suggested that the “admission increases are partly because of greater demand for services and partly because of improved cooperation with community support groups.” The Lewiston (ID) Tribune (1/20, Spence) also covers this story.

Mortality Rates May Be Doubled In Elderly Patients With Schizophrenia.

MedWire (1/19, Cowen) reports that according to a study published online Jan. 17 in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, “the overall mortality rate among elderly patients with schizophrenia is more than twice that in the general elderly population.”

Researchers arrived at this conclusion after examining “mortality rates between 1999 and 2008 among 9,461 patients with the mental health disorder who were aged 65 years or older in 1999,” then comparing those findings “with mortality rates in the age- and gender-matched general population over the same period, and expressed as standard mortality ratios.”

Teenage Girls In New York With Mysterious Symptoms Labeled “Conversion Disorder.”

USA Today (1/19, Jayson) reports that “the mysterious symptoms of facial tics and verbal outbursts affecting 12 teenage girls in the small community of LeRoy,” New York “has brought new awareness to a very unfamiliar stress-related condition referred to as ‘conversion disorder.'” David Fassler, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Vermont in Burlington, explains that “conversion disorder is characterized by problems with voluntary motor or sensory function that suggest a neurological or other general medical condition but aren’t fully consistent with known biological causes or explanations.”

Fassler says that the disorder is more common in women and is related to stress or anxiety. Neurologist Laszlo Mechtler of the Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, who treated 11 of the girls, said, “When conversion disorder occurs in a larger group, it’s called ‘mass psychogenic illness.'”

Report: 20% Of US Adults May Suffer From Mental Illness Each Year

The Washington Post (1/19, Brown) reports, “About 20 percent of American adults suffer some sort of mental illness each year, and about five percent experience a serious disorder that disrupts work, family or social life, according to a government report released Thursday” by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health sketches a now-familiar picture of a country where mental illness is common and the demand for treatment high.” For example, “mental illness is most prevalent in women, young adults, the unemployed and people with low incomes.”

USA Today (1/19, Lloyd) points out, “A majority of Americans with mental disorders did not receive professional help in 2010,” according to the SAMHSA report. “Although about 20% of American adults (45.9 million) reported any mental illness in 2010, only 39.2% of that group said they got treatment,” the report found. The article also pointed out that a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “also showed how few people are seeing professionals for help: Less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.”

WebMD (1/19, McMillen) explains, “The number of adults who contemplated or attempted suicide was also tallied. According to the report, 8.7 million Americans seriously considered suicide, and 2.5 million of them made plans to kill themselves,” and approximately “one million adults attempted it.” What’s more, the report found that “adults who had a diagnosable mental disorder were about twice as likely to abuse illicit drugs, such as cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin. Binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and smoking were also significantly higher among adults who had a mental illness,” the report found. Reuters (1/19, Nichols) also covers the story.

Babies appear to lip read as part of language acquisition

NBC Nightly News (1/16, story 8, 0:30, Williams) reported, “There’s Interesting new research out about how infants learn to talk. While they tend gaze directly into the eyes of those holding them until the age of six months, they often then switch to reading lips, watching mouth movements intently as a way of learning how to sound out words themselves.”

The AP (1/16) reported, “Babies don’t learn to talk just from hearing sounds. New research suggests they’re lip-readers too,” according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Florida scientists discovered that starting around age six months, babies begin shifting from the intent eye gaze of early infancy to studying mouths when people talk to them.”

“Scientists from Florida Atlantic University studied 89 infants ranging in age from four months to 12 months old,” ABC News (1/17, Conley) reports. “They also studied 21 adults. Participants watched a 50-second video of a woman reciting a monologue in their native English, while researchers used an eye tracker to determine where they directed their pupils while watching and listening to the video.”

MSNBC (1/17, Raymond) points out, “Results showed that at four months of age, babies focused almost solely on the women’s eyes.” However, “by six to eight months of age, when the infants entered the so-called ‘babbling’ stage of language acquisition and reached a milestone of cognitive development in which they can direct their attention to things they find interesting, their focus shifted to the women’s mouths. They continue to ‘lip read’ until about 10 months of age, a point when they finally begin mastering the basic features of their native language. At this point, infants also begin to shift their attention back to the eyes.”

HealthDay (1/17, Preidt) explains, “The finding challenges the conventional belief that infants learn to talk only by listening to people around them, according to the Florida Atlantic University researchers. They also said their discovery may suggest new ways to diagnose autism spectrum disorders.” That is because “contrary to typically developing children, infants who are as yet undiagnosed but who are at risk for autism may continue to focus on the mouth of a native-language talker at 12 months of age and beyond.”

Related Links:

— “HEALTHBEAT: Babies don’t just listen, they try lip-reading while turning babble into words,” Associated Press via Washington Post, January 16, 2012.

Small Study Associates Exercise Capacity With Global Functioning In Schizophrenia

MedWire (1/17, Cowen) reports, “Functional exercise capacity is significantly, positively associated with global functioning in patients with schizophrenia,” according to a study published online in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. After assessing 93 patients with schizophrenia with the “six-minute walk test [6MWT],” the Global Assessment of Functioning tool, and the Psychosis Evaluation Tool for Common Use By Caregivers (PECC), researchers found that “6MWT results were significantly, negatively associated with negative, depressive, and cognitive symptoms on the PECC, as well as with BMI, smoking, and antipsychotic medication dosage.”

Related Links:

— “Exercise capacity linked to global functioning in schizophrenia patients,” Mark Cowen, Medwire News, January 17, 2012.

Anxiety Most Common Psychiatric Complaint

In the New York Times (1/15, Subscription Publication) “Opinionator” blog, author Daniel Smith wrote, “According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders now affect 18 percent of the adult population of the United States, or about 40 million people. By comparison, mood disorders — depression and bipolar illness, primarily — affect 9.5 percent. That makes anxiety the most common psychiatric complaint by a wide margin, and one for which we are increasingly well-medicated.” Smith observed, “Just because our anxiety is heavily diagnosed and medicated, however, doesn’t mean that we are more anxious than our forebears. It might simply mean that we are better treated.”

Related Links:

— “It’s Still the ‘Age of Anxiety.’ Or Is It?,” Daniel Smith, New York Times, January 14, 2012.