Leading Stories

December 1st, 2010

Unit uses softness to connect with kids

By Jennifer E Chase

A Massachusetts-based child inpatient psychiatric unit is breaking from the traditional use of restrictions and seclusion for managing troubled patients with a much softer approach: colorful rooms, soft places to sit, listening ears and lots of hugs. To be exact, the “Hugs not Holds” initiative is just one of several programs used to calm, quell and treat kids admitted to the Child Assessment Unit (CAU), an award-winning unit under the auspices of Cambridge Health Alliance that thinks outside the box when it comes to treating difficult patients. The CAU opened in 1989 but underwent a major change in 2001 when [More]

December 1st, 2010

Q&A: Strengthening emotional well-being is primary goal

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. Mental health is about being resilient, having strong relationships with others and yourself and carrying a sense of well-being throughout all of life’s struggles. When we are emotionally and physically sound, everything else falls into place. We can better cope with stress, tragedy and the demands of normal life. Helping clients to strengthen their emotional well-being should be a primary goal of the therapist, according to Dana Gionta, Ph.D., of Branford, Conn. Gionta, an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, is a contributing author to Health Forum Online and wrote the [More]

December 1st, 2010

Study examines potential of psychedelic drugs to relieve distress

By Ami Albernaz

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin, which largely fell out of favor among researchers in the early 1970s, have re-emerged in studies of severe depression and anxiety. Scientists at UCLA, New York University, Johns Hopkins and other institutions have been quietly studying the drugs’ potential to help relieve mental distress in terminally ill patients, with so far promising results. The research has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, though funding has come from private entities. In a current double-blind study, Stephen Ross, M.D., an addiction expert at New York University, is testing psilocybin (the active ingredient in [More]

November 1st, 2010

Giving thanks enhances quality of life, strengthens connections

By Phyllis Hanlon

Bing Crosby was on to something when he sang “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” to Rosemary Clooney in the movie “White Christmas.” Clinical studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, indicate that feelings of gratitude can result in more than a good night’s sleep. Douglas C. Kimmel, Ph.D., who has a private practice in Hancock, Maine, says, “From a general aspect, awareness of the good things in life can help you focus on gratitude,” he says. “We’ve been taught all our lives to focus on what went wrong, to work harder, get better grades. It’s common to go through life [More]

November 1st, 2010

Escalating prescription drug abuse of concern

By Ami Albernaz

For the past decade or so, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement and families have been faced with a particularly pernicious problem: the skyrocketing abuse of prescription drugs. Instead of the elaborate schemes involved in getting, illegal drugs such as heroin or cocaine, painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin are often easily procured from a medicine cabinet. In spite of educational campaigns, bottle collection programs and improved prescription-drug monitoring in some states, the problem continues, seemingly unabated – requiring a coordinated effort from physicians, pharmacists and families. In all of the New England states except Vermont, drugs, both prescription and illicit, now [More]

November 1st, 2010

Practices started to better control abuses

By Ami Albernaz

Between 2002 and 2007, more Americans died of opiate-related overdoses than were killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In Massachusetts alone during those years, 78 soldiers died in the wars, while 3,265 residents overdosed on opiates and died. These stark findings prompted a group of Massachusetts legislators and substance abuse and corrections officials to investigate the impacts of OxyContin and heroin abuse and issue recommendations on how the problem should be tackled. The commission’s recommendations, released last November, drew from public hearings that included medical experts, police, addicts and their families and touched on a number of fronts including [More]

November 1st, 2010

Fewer dollars challenge Maine’s mental health services

By Phyllis Hanlon

The news is not good, but not as bad as it could be, according to Brenda M. Harvey, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Over the last three fiscal years, the legislature has cut approximately $3.2 million in grant funds from the DHHS budget. “That’s about 13 percent,” Harvey says. According to Harvey, Maine uses two funding sources for its mental health services: grant/general fund and Medicaid. She notes that when she served as deputy commissioner in 2002 the legislature began to reduce the general fund. “We were able to use the dollars in Medicaid to [More]

November 1st, 2010

Work ‘addiction’ on the rise?

By Ami Albernaz

We all know someone we could classify as a workaholic – maybe that person works 70-hour weeks or never seems to take a vacation. Now, the topic of work addiction – working excessively and working compulsively – is receiving more attention, partly because of stresses it can place on family life and on physical and mental health. Although people might be skeptical about whether work addiction really exists – after all, some people have to work long hours or simply enjoy working – the defining characteristic is working to relieve feelings of anxiety or guilt that come from not working. [More]

November 1st, 2010

Study: Are insomnia medications effective for children?

By Ami Albernaz

Despite uncertainty about the safety and efficacy of insomnia medication for children, a new survey finds that child psychiatrists endorse using medication in at least one-quarter of their patients. The study’s authors are recommending the clinical trials be used to learn how effective sleep medications are for children, what the optimal doses are and how the drugs affect mood and daytime functioning. The findings, reported in the August issue of Sleep Medicine, are based on responses from nearly 1,300 members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Insomnia is a significant clinical issue among many school-aged child and [More]

November 1st, 2010

Talk therapy on the decline, study says

By Pamela Berard

Talk therapy is on the decline, while more Americans with mental health conditions are being treated with drugs alone, according to a new study. The results, reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, are based on data from government health surveys conducted in 1998 and 2007. The percentage of Americans who said they’d had at least one psychotherapy session in the past year remained just over three percent in 1998 (3.37) and 2007 (3.18). However, those being treated with drugs alone rose from 44.1 to 57.4 percent in that span; combined treatments (drugs and psychotherapy) declined from 40 to 32.1 [More]