Leading Stories, Articles

July 10th, 2021

VT legislature calls for action to address ED boarding

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In 2020, the state of Vermont was ranked first in the nation for access to mental health care in Mental Health America’s annual state-by-state rankings. Yet, this spring, the state’s legislature was shocked to hear stories of children in mental health crisis languishing for hours, days, and even weeks in emergency departments while awaiting transfer to psychiatric care.

Similar to the situation that has been happening in New Hampshire, albeit at a lesser rate, Vermont has seen an increase in the number of people held in emergency departments over the past decade, hitting a peak in 2017.…

July 9th, 2021

Community Impact Survey reveals high levels of poor mental health

By Phyllis Hanlon

In 2019, the Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey found that 11 percent of respondents reported poor mental health. More recently, the Department of Public Health (DPH) conducted the COVID-19 Community Impact Survey (CCIS); the findings of this survey revealed poor mental health rates three times higher than the 2019 survey.

The survey was conducted between September and November 2020 and had more than 35,000 responses. Any Massachusetts resident 14 years old and older was eligible to respond.

Initial results were released February 17, 2021; updated findings were reported May 12, 2021.…

July 9th, 2021

Massachusetts legislators address law enforcement mental health issues

By Phyllis Hanlon

Almost every occupation carries some degree of risk to physical and mental health. But for those in law enforcement, the chances of suffering from both are significantly higher.

A 2020 survey of 1,355 active-duty law enforcement officers revealed that between seven and 35 percent suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is nine to 10 times greater than seen in the general population.

Additionally, 29 percent of the sample reported moderate to severe anxiety, which is two times greater than in the general population; and 37 percent of the sample had moderate to severe depression, five times more than in the general population.…

July 9th, 2021

Mass. proposes legislation for prison system suicidal prevention plan

By Eileen Weber

In March, a bill was presented to the Massachusetts legislation that effectively upgrades suicide prevention plans in the state’s prison system. Based on a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) after an investigation of the suicide response practices of the Department of Corrections (DOC), serious concerns were identified and the bill, S. 1283, seeks to rectify those issues.

For example, some correctional officers who supervised prisoners on suicide watch were found asleep. Some reportedly encouraged self-harm or failed to stop instances of self-harm. And, in some cases, that “willful disregard,” as noted in the report, led to prisoner injury or even death.…

June 26th, 2021

Advocates, legislators address children’s mental health crisis

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The true toll of this pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents may take decades to fully understand. Young people can be resilient but the academic and social milestones missed may have repercussions across their lifespans that are not yet visible.

With more acute issues of mental health, the effects are being felt in the here and now. Across the United States, mental health-related visits to emergency rooms rose 24 percent for children ages 5-11 and 31 percent for adolescents 12-17 in 2020, as compared with 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control.…

April 14th, 2021

Online continuing education gets mixed reviews

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Just over one year ago, the whole world shut down. People stopped going to work, to school, to restaurants and movie theatres. There are some Americans who have still not gone back to doctors, dentists, or therapy sessions, at least not in person.

For those in the working world who are lucky to still have jobs, things did not shut down so much as move online. A new verb, “to Zoom,” became common. Individuals slowly figured out where the mute button was and to remember to shut the door and to hide the dog’s squeaky toy before logging on.…

April 13th, 2021

Massachusetts launches schools’ initiative to address mental health

By Phyllis Hanlon

Throughout the last year, schooling has looked significantly different than in any other year. The spread of COVID-19 prompted the state to temporarily suspend in-classroom learning. In some cases, schools opened and then shuttered their doors shortly after as cases of the virus increased.

Although some in-person learning has resumed, students have the option of remaining remote or attending school in a hybrid model.

This February in Massachusetts, a new initiative was launched to address the mental health issues that might arise for students during the current pandemic. School principals and administrators, teachers, guidance, and adjustment counselors will attend virtual training sessions.…

April 13th, 2021

COVID-19 is impacting pediatric mental health

By Phyllis Hanlon

Research clearly demonstrates that the pandemic is having a significant negative effect on the younger generation.

A November 2020 article, “Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations,” found both short-term and long-term “psychosocial and mental health implications” in this population. The article was published in Psychiatry Research.

The authors noted that severity of the impact is subject to certain vulnerability factors including developmental age, educational status, pre-existing mental health conditions, low economic status, and quarantine because of or fear of infection.…

April 13th, 2021

Providers object to bill removing audio-only option

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In July of 2020, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill into law that required insurance companies to cover telemedicine at equal rates to in-person treatment.

The move was lauded by both health care and mental health care professionals as a positive step toward expanding services, especially in remote areas where access may be more limited.

This year, one of that bill’s original sponsors, Jess Edwards (R-Rockingham 4), joined forces with two other Republican representatives to sponsor a bill that will remove the parity and audio-only pieces of the 2020 law.…

April 13th, 2021

College students feel the mental health toll of pandemic

By Eileen Weber

In the past year, the pandemic has taken a significant mental and emotional toll. Mask wearing, social distancing, isolation, and quarantining are practically second nature. And, none of this is lost on college students who have had a very different school experience since last March.

Jacqueline Alvarez, Ph.D, associate dean and director of the counseling center at Amherst College in Amherst, Mass., acknowledged increased depression and anxiety in college students has been a top concern for the past several years and it’s no different this year. But as she put it, “it’s complicated.”…