General

Massachusetts: Third-World Mental Health Care?

There are few states that have a more broken mental health care system than Massachusetts. You'd probably think of poorer, more rural states when you think of low-quality healthcare. After all, Massachusetts is home to some of the nation's best universities (Harvard, MIT) and renowned hospital systems (Mass. General [Partners], Brigham & Women's, Beth Israel).

Yet none of these local institutions, nor the state itself, appear to have given much thought to the mental health care of their most vulnerable citizens. Instead, I live in a state that appears to offer the equivalent of third-world care for those with chronic mental illness.

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Bullying

Community Building After Tragedy

My satirical policy recommendation: Bowling in every street.

You chuckle. But, in the States, we are striking out at the type of grassroots events that bind neighborhoods into communities and transform wary strangers into community leaders.

Robert Putnam’s book is more apropos than ever. In his bestselling Bowling Alone, he tackles the decline of social institutions. We don’t bowl together or host neighborhood parties. Our social connectivity is now through virtual platforms.
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Brain and Behavior

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Before becoming a psychotherapist, I had a career in animal welfare. I’ve worn both the boots and the sandals -- that’s jargon for working on the law enforcement side and the shelter side -- and I’ve seen my fair share of trauma.

Whether you’re a humane officer or a shelter volunteer, a vet tech or an animal rights activist, you have likely seen, heard about, or experienced things that most people can’t even begin to understand. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and grief-stricken clients not only can affect your work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also wear on you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you feel like you care so much that it hurts, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue.
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Brain and Behavior

Psychology Around the Net: June 11, 2016


Earlier this week, I experienced an episode of sleep paralysis. It wasn't my first time (though I've experienced it only a handful of times at most), but it was definitely the most terrifying time. I was exhausted and decided to take a quick midday nap...only, when I tried to wake up, not only could I not move, but I couldn't keep my eyes open for longer than a second.

During that second I could keep them open? I hallucinated a creepy, hunchbacked old man pilfering around my living room and sheer panic took over.

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General

VA Medication Treatment Outperforms Private Sector

For all of the bad things we hear about the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) system, it seems like it would be easy for good science to get lost in the noise.

We've previously written how bad VA mental health care is and how it's lied about the wait times for patients waiting to receive care. In response, the VA upped clinician numbers.

A new study just published (but based upon data from 2007-2008) suggests that at least in one area, the VA may be doing better than private health insurance plans.

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Bipolar

Bipolar Disorder & Violence: Is There a Relationship?

As long-time World of Psychology readers already know, a researcher has a lot of latitude in how they design a study to "encourage" a predetermined outcome. Researchers generally don't recognize this as an inherent bias problem, because virtually all researchers do it to one degree or another (or have done it at one time or another in their career).

The relationship between mental illness and violence is one area of contention among researchers, with most research showing only the smallest of correlations between the two. The real risk factor for violence remains -- and has always been -- substance abuse, not mental illness.

Recently it was suggested that those with bipolar disorder are at greater risk for committing violence. So we took a look at some of the research to see how good the studies are that suggest such a connection.

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General

Senate Summit on Mental Health #MentalHealthReform & A Patchwork of Care

It's time for mental health reform in the United States. And at the Senate Summit on Mental Health, a bipartisan meeting organized by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), we learned exactly what is propelling the need for action.

This is important stuff in the U.S. -- really important -- on par with the parity efforts that made headlines years ago. (Parity was the legislation needed to ensure that insurance companies stopped discriminating against mental illness, which they had regularly done since the 1990s.)

"It's not the end... [but] it's a great next step," said Sen. Cassidy, speaking at the Summit on the latest revision of the bill.

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Bipolar

Is Physician-Assisted Suicide Right for Severe Psychiatric Disorders?

Two summers ago, our family grabbed a bite to eat in downtown Annapolis and headed over to the Naval Academy for a parade -- celebrating the end of Plebe Summer, six weeks of rigorous physical and mental training for new midshipmen.

It was late August, and I was horribly depressed, trying out medication combination No. 45 or something like that (in the last 10 years). My inner dialogue sounded like this:

Does everyone want to be dead?
Where do these people get the energy to function?
I wonder if the young plebes would be excited if they had a way of dying.
Don’t all of us just want to die as soon as possible?
Why do we have to wait so long?
I wish I could die today.

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General

Busting the Lies About the ‘Myths’ About Mental Illness

I'm constantly dumbfounded by the lies and half-truths told by some who advocate on behalf of some people with mental illness. In an effort to lobby for their specific sub-group of people with mental illness, they spread ignorance and misconceptions about mental illness in general.

In a recent article one mental illness advocate wrote, he describes "myths" about mental illness that don't actually appear to be myths, but simple truths. That is, until they are twisted by arbitrary definitions, filters, cherry-picking of data, and exclusions to fit into this person's viewpoint.

Let's examine these supposed myths, and see whether the data support their view.

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Children and Teens

Running in Place: Improving Public Education

Reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. In popular culture, we have a cheerful image of little Jim and Jane skipping to their suburban elementary school. Cute? Yes. Accurate? Only if Jim and Jane hail from upper-class backgrounds.

Compare Jim and Jane, two adorable first-graders from Coldwater Canyon, to Marcus and Mariel, two adorable first-graders from Los Angeles. For Marcus and Mariel, domestic violence, physical violence, and food insecurity pervade their daily lives. On Mariel’s walk to her gang-infested school, she dodges used needles and condoms. In their bleak environment, elementary school represents a critical, stabilizing influence.

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