Veterans Affairs Official Says Department Is Working To Fix Suicide Hotline

The AP (4/4, Yen) reports Steve Young, a Department of Veterans Affairs deputy undersecretary, testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee that the department has improved the operation of its suicide hotline. Young said that calls are now answered within eight seconds on average and that it was now “rare” for calls to be bumped to a backup center.

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Psychology Professors Skeptical Of Video Game Addiction.

In an opinion piece, psychology professors Christopher J. Ferguson, of Stetson University, PhD, and Patrick Markey, PhD, of Villanova, wrote in the New York Times (4/2, SR6, Subscription Publication), “A large-scale study (4/3, Subscription Publication) of internet-based games recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry bears out our skepticism about” video game “addiction.” The pair wrote, “Using the American Psychiatric Association’s own metrics for ascertaining psychiatric disorder, the study’s researchers found that at most one percent of video game players might exhibit characteristics of an addiction and that the games were significantly less addictive than, say, gambling.” The study also revealed that nearly “none of those classified as being possibly addicted to video games experienced negative outcomes from this addiction.”

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— “Video Games Aren’t Addictive,” CHRISTOPHER J. FERGUSON and PATRICK MARKEY, New York Times, April 1, 2017.

Couples Raising Autistic Children Spend Less Time Together

HealthDay (3/31, Pallarito) reported couples raising children with autism may spend less time together than couples who are raising children without autism, according to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Researchers found that couples raising a child with autism on average spent “21 fewer minutes a day with their partner than a comparison group of parents.” The study, which included 174 couples with a child with autism and 179 couples without a child with autism, was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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— “Parents of Kids With Autism May Sacrifice ‘Couples Time’,” Karen Pallarito, HealthDay, March 31, 2017.

Johns Hopkins Withdraws From Marijuana Study Over Dispute Concerning Federal Rules

The Washington Post (3/31, Gregg) reported, “Johns Hopkins University has pulled out” of a study to test whether marijuana can “treat post-traumatic stress disorder.” A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins “said the university’s goals were no longer aligned with those of the administrator of the study, the Santa Cruz-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS),” while “a spokesman for MAPS said the dispute was over federal drug policy, and whether to openly challenge federal rules that say medical cannabis research must rely on marijuana grown by the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse.”

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— “Johns Hopkins was ready to test pot as a treatment for PTSD. Then it quit the study.,” Aaron Gregg, Washington Post, April 2, 2017.

Adults Who Self-Harm May Be At Increased Suicide Risk Over The Next Year, Research Suggests.

HealthDay (3/31, Preidt) reported, “Adults who self-harm appear to be at increased risk for suicide over the next year,” researchers found after examining “Medicaid data on more than 62,000 people in 45 states diagnosed with an initial self-harm episode between 2001 and 2007.” The findings were published online March 21 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, a publication of the American Psychiatric Association.

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— “Self-Harm Can Be a Harbinger of Suicide,” Robert Preidt, HealthDay, April , 2017.

Report Recommendations Aim To Rectify Severe Shortage Of Psychiatrists In The US

Medscape (3/30, Anderson) reports a panel of experts has “released a new report [pdf] containing recommendations to rectify the severe shortage of psychiatrists and the dearth of mental health services in the” US. Contained in the report are “a wide-ranging set of recommendations that touch on every area of the specialty, including training, funding, and models of care delivery.” American Psychiatric Association (APA) CEO and Medical Director Saul M. Levin, MD, joined the report’s lead authors to discuss “the report’s recommendations at a press briefing on March 28.” The experts “recommended new and advanced forms of treatment, such as collaborative care and telepsychiatry. ‘We should all be advocating for new, innovative models of care, such as telepsychiatry, which can increase access to specialty psychiatric services across the country,’ said Dr Levin.” The APA now “has a toolkit to help educate psychiatrists and other healthcare” professionals “on how to practice telepsychiatry, said Dr Levin.”

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Depression Now Leading Cause Of Ill Health, Disability Around The Globe, WHO Says

Reuters (3/30, Kelland) reports, “Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO)” announced on March 30, “with more than 300 million people suffering” from the disorder. In fact, “rates of depression have risen by more than 18 percent since 2005, but a lack of support for the mental health combined with a common fear of stigma means many do not get the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives.” The organization is now “running a mental health campaign to tackle stigma and misconceptions called ‘Depression: Let’s Talk.’”

The New York Daily News (3/30, Jagannathan) reports the WHO campaign “urges sufferers to both seek and get help for depression.” Currently, the WHO “estimates depression and anxiety fuel a global loss of roughly $1 trillion associated with lost productivity, people being unable to work and health care expenses…said” Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Even in countries with higher incomes and “advanced health care systems,” almost “half of people suffering from depression aren’t properly identified or treated.”

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— “‘Let’s Talk’, WHO says, as depression rates rise 18 percent in a decade,” Kate Kelland, Reuters, March 30, 2017.

Trauma, Stress In Teen Years Associated With Greater Risk Of Mid-Life Depression In Women

The Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer (3/29, Giordano) reports, “Women who suffered multiple traumatic events as they were growing up are at significant risk of serious depression beginning in the years leading into menopause,” researchers found.
HealthDay (3/29, Preidt) reports investigators arrived at these conclusions after following some 250 women for “16 years.” The findings were published online March 29 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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— “Study: Girlhood trauma linked to depression in menopause,” Rita Giordano, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 29, 2017.

Heroin Use Increased Five-Fold Over Past Decade, Researchers Say.

Reuters (3/29, Reaney) reports that “heroin use in the United States has risen five-fold” over the past 10 years, while heroin addiction “has more than tripled, with the biggest jumps among whites and men with low incomes and little education,” researchers say. They found “no differences in heroin use or addiction among the major regions of the country.” Their findings were published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

CNN (3/29, Kounang) reports that “more people die from drug overdoses than from guns or car accidents.” Now, more people die of drug overdoses than died from AIDS during the “peak” of the epidemic in 1995.

TIME (3/29, Sifferlin) reports that heroin use increased among white Americans “increased from 0.34% in the earlier years to 1.90% in the later years,” compared to “0.32% in 2001-2002 and 1.05% in 2012-2013” among non-whites.

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— “Heroin use, addiction up sharply among U.S. whites: study,” Patricia Reaney, Reuters, March 29, 2017.

Increase In Premature Deaths Among 25- to 44-Year-Olds Driven By Drug Overdoses

USA Today (3/29, O’Donnell) reports “premature deaths among those aged 25-44 were way up in 2015,” driven primarily by “a surge of drug overdoses in suburban areas,” a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed Wednesday. The report also found “a rural and urban divide, along with racial differences.”

Related Links:

— “Ranking of healthiest counties revealed as suburban overdoses soar,” Jayne O’Donnell, Frank Gluck and Darla Carter, USA Today, March 29, 2017.