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Week of August 4, 2014

Mental Health in the Headlines is a weekly newsletter providing the latest developments at Mental Health America and summaries of news, views and research in the mental health field. Coverage of news items in this publication does not represent Mental Health America’s support for or opposition to the stories summarized or the views they express.


Mental Health America 2014 Annual Conference, September 10-12, Atlanta, Georgia—Parity and the Affordable Care Act: Bridging Gaps to Advance Mental Health. Don't miss this unique opportunity to discuss what we have learned in the process of implementing the Affordable Care and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Acts, and to collaborate to identify next steps and opportunities for action.

Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America, appeared on BioCentury This Week on USA-TV to discuss mental health care.

Patrick Hendry of Mental Health America to be Honored by SAMHSA with 2014 Voice Award for Consumer/Peer Leadership.

Mind Your Health” Screening Campaign: View the Videos and encourage people to take a free, anonymous screening.

The MHA Career Center matches the best employers with the best talent in the mental health field.  Find your employment match at


20th Annual Zarrow Mental Health Symposium—“All Things Prevention” on September 18 – 19, 2014, Tulsa, OK: Discussion will highlight emerging knowledge, best practice and innovative approaches to preventing and treating mental disorders, addictions, and co-occurring disorders across the lifespan, with respect to cultural diversity, and inclusive of special populations. For more information, go to


Blood Test Could Detect Suicide Risk: A new study suggests that suicidal thoughts might be determined by a blood test. The study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, found that the gene SKA2, which is involved in stress reaction, could predict suicide risk. The researchers determined that in some groups, lower levels of SKA2 were associated with people who had taken their own life. In others, a mutation that changed the way the SKA2 gene worked was also associated with that group. Both findings are significant, because if the SKA2 gene isn't functioning properly, the body isn't able to suppress the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, throughout the brain. The researchers confirmed the results with blood samples from three different, ongoing studies. They then designed a test to see if they could predict which of the participants had had either suicidal thoughts or attempts in the past. The test was able to predict participants' history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts with at least 90 percent accuracy. The next step of the research involves a testing hundreds more samples from soldiers pre- and post-deployment as part of a collaboration with the U.S. Army STARRS project. (Huffington Post, 7/31/14)

HHS Awards $54.6 Million Under ACA to Expand Behavioral Health Services: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week it has awarded $54.6 million in Affordable Care Act funding to support 221 health centers in 47 states and Puerto Rico to establish or expand behavioral health services for over 450,000 people nationwide. Health centers will use these new funds for efforts such as hiring new mental health professionals, adding mental health and substance use disorder health services, and employing integrated models of primary care. For a list of awardees, go to (HHS, 7/31/14)

Many Children with Depression as Preschoolers Have Condition in Later Years: Children who had depression as preschoolers were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from the condition in elementary and middle school than kids who were not depressed at very young ages, a new study finds. Researchers, whose findings are published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, followed 246 children, now ages 9 to 12, who were enrolled in the study as preschoolers when they were 3 to 5 years old. The children and their primary caregivers participated in up to six annual and four semiannual assessments. At the start of the study, 74 of the children were diagnosed with depression. When the researchers evaluated the same group six years later, they found that 79 children met the full criteria for clinical depression. More than 51 percent of the 74 children who originally were diagnosed as preschoolers also were depressed as school-age kids. Only 24 percent of the 172 children who were not depressed as preschoolers went on to develop depression during their elementary and middle school years. The researchers also found that school-age children had a high risk of depression if their mothers were depressed. And they noted that children diagnosed with a conduct disorder as preschoolers had an elevated risk of depression by school age and early adolescence, but this risk declined if the children were found to have significant maternal support. But neither a mother with depression nor a conduct disorder in preschool increased the risk for later depression as much as a diagnosis of depression during preschool years. (, 7/31/14)

Clinic in Philadelphia Supermarket Offers First In-Store Mental Health Screening: A crowdfunding design challenge has produced a collaboration to deliver mental health services in a supermarket clinic in Philadelphia. Family Practice and Counseling Network is adding behavioral health screenings to its treatment areas next month at its QCare clinic in a ShopRite. QCare customers will be screened in English and in Spanish through mounted tablets in the clinic waiting area. The screening gives feedback on the responses and a list of resources for mental health care based on needs. The clinic will provide treatment options including care from QCare staff. Although it is currently for people 18 and older, there are plans to add evaluations for children with a partner organization. The entry was submitted by Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disability Services and Screening for Mental Health. It was one of nine concepts selected from the design challenge, which was backed by the Scattergood Foundation and Drexel University School of Public Health. (, 7/31/14)

Older Adults Cite Many Factors other than Depression for Contemplating Suicide: Older adults contemplating suicide blame their struggles with illness, disability, financial concerns, family difficulties and bereavement for their suicidal thoughts rather than depression, according to new research. Investigators with the New York City Neighborhood and Mental Health Study focused on seniors who acknowledged thinking of suicide but chose not to follow through. It asked seniors directly what they were feeling, rather than relying on retrospective efforts to understand their mental state. Previous research suggests that up to 87 percent of seniors who end up taking their lives suffer from major depression. But those statistics were drawn from research on older people after they had actually taken their own life. In the new study, researchers screened nearly 3,500 New Yorkers between age 65 and 75 for symptoms of depression such as apathy, hopelessness, negativity and reduced appetite. Follow-up interviews were conducted among those willing to talk. The results showed that about three-quarters blamed illness, financial concerns, pain, family difficulties, bereavement or other problems, such as landlords who harassed them. Depression was named by 25 percent of them. (The New York Times, 8/1/14)


The New York Times Magazine reports on the kids who beat autism.

The Boston Globe looks at how virtual therapy makes mental health care more widely available and NBC News examines how it can help treat PTSD.

The New York Times looks at “Syria’s Mental Health Crisis.”


Depression Identified as Independent Risk Factor for Dementia: Among older adults with dementia, those who are also depressed tend to have more rapid cognitive decline, according to a new study. Researchers, whose findings are reported in the journal Neurology, looked at 1,764 people with no memory problems around age 77 and followed them for about eight years. They discovered that people with mild cognitive decline as well as people with dementia were likely to have higher levels of depression symptoms before they were diagnosed, and that having these symptoms was associated with a greater decline in memory. Depression symptoms, the researchers estimated, accounted for 4.4 percent of the difference in memory decline that could not be caused by brain damage. The reasons for the link between the two diseases are more unclear. Some research suggests that people with depression may have high levels of hormones that interfere with the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory aptitude. (Time, 7/30/14)


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Mental Health in the Headlines is produced weekly by Mental Health America. Staff: Steve Vetzner, senior director, Media Relations.

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