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Latest News Around the Web

Pentagon Removes Quetiapine From Approved Formulary List.

The Air Force Times (6/15, Kime) reports on the Pentagon’s removal of Seroquel (quetiapine) from its approved formulary list. The article cites Stan White, whose son, Marine Cpl. Andrew White, “died Feb. 12, 2008, at age 23 from a lethal combination of medications prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mainly clonazepam, quetiapine and paroxetine — the latter two known to sometimes affect the heart’s regular rhythm.” The article reports that “questions have been raised over” quetiapine’s rise in popularity, noting that “in April 2010, manufacturer Astra-Zeneca agreed to pay $520 million to the federal government to settle a civil suit alleging that it illegally marketed Seroquel for a host of off-label uses such as Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, PTSD and sleeplessness.” Citing the AP, the article notes that “the Pentagon spent $8.6 million on the drug, while the Veterans Affairs Department spent $125.4 million.”

Related Links:

— “DoD cracks down on off-label drug use,”Patricia Kime, AirForce Times, June 14, 2012.

Survey: 70% Of New York Students Are Familiar With Cyberbullying.

The New York Daily News (6/14, Lovett) reports a survey by New York’s Senate’s Independent Democratic Caucus found that “nearly 70% of New York students say they’ve been victimized by cyberbullies or know someone who has,” with girls “twice as likely to admit to experiencing some type of cyberbullying.” However, only “one in five New York students actually reported an incident to a parent or school official.”

Related Links:

— “70% of New York State students say they have been cyberbullied or know someone who has, according to survey,”Kenneth Lovett , New York Daily News, June 14, 2012.

Panetta Orders Review Of Mental Health Diagnoses.

The AP (6/14, Cassata) reports, “Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday he has ordered all branches of the military to conduct an extensive review of mental health diagnoses amid criticism of how the services treat the men and women suffering the invisible wounds of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under questioning from a Senate panel on Wednesday, Panetta disclosed that he had asked the Air Force and Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, to follow the lead of the Army in launching an independent study of how it evaluates soldiers with possible post-traumatic stress disorder.” The Army review, according to the AP, will “serve as a model for the other services.”

McClatchy (6/14, Mohamed) notes that while testifying before a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Panetta “suggested he meet with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to discuss improvements” in the military’s disability system. The chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, US Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) replied, “I totally appreciate your saying that to me today, but sitting down and talking with Secretary Shinseki is something we’ve been hearing for a long time. We need some recommendations and we need to move forward and we need it to be a top priority out of the Pentagon as we transition now out of Afghanistan.”

The Military Times (6/14, Kime) reports, “The Defense Department plans to review all military mental health cases dating to 2001 to ensure troops were not denied appropriate diagnoses or service-related benefits…said” Panetta at Wednesday’s hearing. The “review is necessary to ‘try to build a better system between the Pentagon, the Department of Defense and [Veterans Affairs],’ according to Panetta. ‘I am not satisfied… there are still huge gaps in terms of the differences of how [DoD and VA] approach these cases and how they diagnose the cases and how they deal with them, and frankly, that’s a whole area we have to do much better on,’ Panetta said.”

The Hill (6/14, Herb) “Defcon Hill” blog notes that Murray “told Panetta Wednesday that ‘the Pentagon and the VA are losing the battle on mental and behavioral health conditions.'”

On its website, MSNBC (6/14, Sala) points out, however, that Murray has praised the Army for “opening an investigation into accusations” that some post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses made by the Army “were unfairly overturned”

Analysis: Suicide Is Second Leading Cause Of Death In Military. USA Today (6/14, Zoroya) reports, “The most common way that US servicemembers die outside of combat is by their own hand, according to an analysis released by the Pentagon on Wednesday. Since 2010, suicide has outpaced traffic accidents, heart disease, cancer, homicide and all other forms of death in the military besides combat…says” the report, which points out that one in “four non-combat deaths last year were servicemembers killing themselves.” USA Today adds, “On a related issue, Panetta revealed Wednesday that he will have all service branches follow the Army’s lead in reviewing mental health cases dating to 2001,” in order “to see whether any current or former servicemember was denied appropriate medical retirement benefits.”

VA Examining Why Black Women Have Lowest Suicide Rate In US Population. The National Journal Daily (6/13, Czekalinski, Subscription Publication) noted, “Mental-health experts, the US military, the groups that aid returning service members, their families are trying to provide a sense of support for veterans and active-duty troops in an attempt to prevent the growing number of suicides.” Members of the US military “have been taking their own lives in alarmingly increasing numbers over this past decade at war in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Veterans Affairs “is looking to black women, the group in the US population with the lowest suicide rate, to learn the factors behind that statistic and, hopefully, then determine how best to use that knowledge to help service members.”

Related Links:

— “Pentagon chief orders review of mental diagnoses,”Donna Cassata, Associated Press, June 14, 2012.

VA Promises Aggressive Timetable For Hiring Mental-Health Professionals.

The Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram (6/12, Vaughn) reports, “The Department of Veterans Affairs, sharply criticized in recent weeks for delays in getting help for veterans with mental-health problems, promised an aggressive timetable Monday to hire hundreds of psychologists, counselors and social workers this year.” The department “said it has put together a team of experts and established a recruiting and retention program to meet VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s goal of hiring 1,600 more mental-health clinicians.” Mary Schohn, a “clinical psychologist and director of Mental Health Operations for the VA, said she hopes that as more personnel are added ‘follow-up times will be sooner, veterans will be satisfied with the care they’re receiving and there will be more consistent staffing across the country.'”

Related Links:

— “VA to hire more mental-health personnel,”Christ Vaughn, Star-Telegram, June 11, 2012.

Expert: Less Than Half Of Young People With Mental Health Problems Receive Appropriate Care.

In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times (6/12), Neal Halfon, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, health services and public policy at the University of California-Los Angeles, writes, “Researchers at the National Institutes of Mental Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have documented that less than 50% of children and youths with mental and behavioral problems receive appropriate care, especially in underprivileged communities.” He points out, “The best way parents and friends can respond to signs of mental health problems is by recognizing warning signs and intervening early.” He goes on to list a number of signs that may indicate possible mental-health issues in youngsters and teens.

They are:

“The best way parents and friends can respond to signs of mental health problems is by recognizing warning signs and intervening early. Every child has bumps along the road to adulthood, but some things to watch for include:

• Problems “getting along” across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home or with peers.
• Changes in appetite, sleep or concentration.
• Social withdrawal, or fearful behavior toward things your child normally is not afraid of.
• Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting.
• Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness.
• Signs of self-destructive or risky behavior, such as head-banging, cutting or a tendency to get hurt often.
• Excessive or unusually early experimentation with alcohol or drugs.
• Repeated thoughts of or conversations about death.”

Related Links:

— “Mental illness and lessons from Kelly Thomas’ last cry for help,”Neal Halfon, Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2012.

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