Nobel Laureate Streamlines Method of Researching Brain Disorders

Thomas Sudhof, M.D., of Stanford University, led a NIMH study to find a shortcut to rapidly convert induced human stem cells into healthy neurons for “disease-in-a-dish” discovery. The breakthrough method opens the way to large-scale production of viable, induced human neurons for studying causes of brain disorders.

–National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

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Must-See Video on Early Treatment Program for Psychosis

Two women discuss the approaches offered at UCLA’s psychosis prevention/early intervention clinic. The director describes some of the core and emerging treatments offered to its young clients. Next, a mother provides her impressions of the program and of how it has benefited her daughter.

–International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO)

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Despite the Stress, Suicides Don’t Spike Over The Holidays

In the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life, a despondent George Bailey considers suicide on Christmas Eve, thinking that he will be worth more dead than alive to his family because of his life insurance. Suicide is widely thought to be an increased risk around the holidays. But there’s plenty of data to show that’s just not true.

“We’ve tried to dispel this myth, but it just hangs in there,” says Dan Romer, associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

For more than a decade, Romer’s team at Penn has scanned newspaper articles and advice columns that address suicide. Typically about 50 percent of the stories incorrectly suggest that suicide goes up at the end of the year.

But according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the opposite is true. “November, December, January nationally typically have the lowest rate of the year,” Romer said. “They tend to go up in the spring.”

by Taunya English, NPR

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Works Better Than Antipsychotic for OCD Augmentation

Previous guidelines suggested that an antidepressant should be augmented with an antipsychotic in treatment-resistant Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). New research shows that CBT is better.

–National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

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Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System

Another series has emerged that focuses on severe mental illness.  Reporter John S. Hausman explores the intersection of mental illness and criminal justice in a series of articles published this week on in Michigan.

“Not every mentally ill criminal defendant belongs in jail,” Hausman writes about the criminalization of mental illness. “Some may need to be hospitalized. Some might belong in an in-patient substance abuse program. Others may more appropriately be required to comply with out-patient mental-health treatment they’d been avoiding….”

Zeroing in the tragic human impact of mental illness treatment policies, Hausman tells the story of Lorenzo Martinez. A young man who upon being discharged from a psychiatric hospital, “suddenly grabbed the steering wheel of the Durango his mother was driving…and jerked it, sending the vehicle straight into the path of an oncoming trailer.” Martinez currently awaits his trial for vehicular manslaughter.

Then, on mental health courts he writes, “[t]he goal is to protect the public by reducing repeat crimes by mentally ill criminal defendants, at the same time improving the participants’ lives.”

Hausman also acknowledges the strain that deinstitutionalization has placed on local police departments: “[P]olice regularly have to cope with crimes committed by mentally ill people…. Some also present an ‘easy target for street crime.’”

This series is a must-read.

–The Treatment Advocacy Center

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Questions Linger After Death of Yale Teacher in Police Custody

When Samuel See was found dead in a New Haven jail cell last month, nine hours after being put there after a domestic dispute with his husband, the question was how did he die, a disquieting mystery that remains unsolved.

Faculty members and students at Yale University, where he was an admired assistant professor of English, were shaken and openly mourned the abrupt, inexplicable conclusion to his life. Investigations are now examining the circumstances of his death, to see if he had been ill or injured and determine whether the authorities bore any blame. He was 34.

….Over at least the last year, according to people who knew him, the once outgoing Mr. See had become withdrawn. He told one professor that he was H.I.V. positive; a friend said Mr. See believed he had bipolar disorder; and several people said he seemed depressed. In the last year and a half, according to Frank Anastasio, a neighbor, ambulances took Mr. See from his apartment at least half a dozen times. Another neighbor said an ambulance came for him the day before his arrest. At the time, Mr. See was on an unpaid leave.

….“He said he was having terrible hallucinations and he feared that he might harm his husband inadvertently, because he wouldn’t be able to tell fantasy from reality.”

by N. R. Kleinfield and Ariel Kaminer, The New York Times

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Making Recovery from Mental Illness and Addiction the Expectation, not the Exception

This week a new study reported that nearly one in five American adults experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2012. Of these tens of millions of Americans, less than half (41 percent) received any mental health services in that time.

Among the reasons for not receiving help were not being able to afford the costs and fears of what their friends and family would think. Given that half of all Americans experience mental illness at some point in time in their lives, it is very likely that we are their family or friends.

Yet, stereotypes and discrimination against people with mental illnesses persist, sometimes resulting in devastating consequences.

This year, the Administration has made clear that mental illness should no longer be treated by our communities – or covered by insurance companies – differently from other illnesses.

Recovery from mental illness and addiction – through access to medical and other treatments and supports – should be the expectation in America, not the exception.  The goal of recovery includes improved health and a productive life without addiction or the disabling impacts of mental illness. It is made possible by medications, counseling, rehabilitative services, stress and relapse management, self-care and mutual aid, and other services and supports.  The concept of recovery does not negate the fact that an addiction, or for some a mental illness, can be a lifelong condition to be treated and managed over time.

The Affordable Care Act and new parity protections are expanding mental and substance use disorder benefits for about 60 million Americans—making treatment more affordable and accessible.

By Pamela Hyde, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

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