Mental Health

Play Golf, Take the Pledge, and Help Stamp Out Stigma

If you want to know what Beacon Health Options’ (Beacon) values look like in “the real world,” look no further than our fourth annual Stamp Out Stigma golf outing today in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Each year, Beacon employees tee up with a variety of community partners to support Stamp Out Stigma, an initiative to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders.

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Asking the Right Questions About Gun Violence

In the wake of the recent nightclub shooting in Orlando, there are voices that are again loudly touting mental illness as a key target for preventing the repetition of such horrors.

Yet, as we wrote last year, researchers have already debunked the link between mental illness and gun violence. Instead, we found access to guns increases rates of suicide, but not of homicide. However, what most people don’t know is that, underlying all of this, there is policy prohibiting research from delving further into the issue and discovering where the evidence leads us.

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Zero Suicide: Aspirational or Reality?

It turns out that almost everything I was taught about suicide during my clinical training is not true.

Contrary to what most clinicians are taught, there is clinical protocol we can follow to prevent suicide attempts – apart from locking people up. Very little of this new knowledge about detecting and treating suicidality has translated into practice.

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PTSD: Not Just a “Veteran” Problem

It is frustrating as a retired Army infantry officer to see people assume that veterans, particularly combat vets, live with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Most do not.

This perception is unfair to veterans, perpetuates a larger misunderstanding of PTSD, and diverts attention away from a larger population in need. Illustrating this problem, a combat vet recently told me about an ill-informed supervisor who replied, “I don’t need you going all PTSD on them…”

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Solving the Riddle of Schizophrenia, Several Pieces at a Time

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” was how Winston Churchill described Russia’s position at the outset of World War II.

A statement that still rings true about our understanding of schizophrenia after more than 100 hundred years of research. While hints have appeared from time to time – autoimmunity, brain connectivity, genetics, age of onset – they seem to elude a synthesis that could help us make sense of this devastating psychiatric disorder.

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Integration

Integration is a buzzword in mental health care, but what does it really mean?

Such a plethora of definitions leads to a lack of clarity about what activities need to take place, where, and by whom to really make a difference in improved health for people with mental illness.

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New Year, New You

Jan. 1, 2016 — This is the day I am going to: eat better, get fit, save money, drink less, quit smoking, stop looking at Facebook while at work, be nicer, stop cursing.

Pick your resolution, but if you’re like me, at least one of those resolutions is on your list. What is it about the new year that makes us believe that January 1 will be the day we turn over a new leaf and suddenly become the person we believe we should be?

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Addressing the Shortage of Child Psychiatrists—It Doesn’t Take Rocket Science, Phone Call Support Will Do It!

The numbers aren’t good. Approximately, 16-20 percent of the nation’s children and adolescents have some kind of behavioral disturbance, with 4-7 percent suffering from significant functional impairment, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. That translates to about 15 million youths who need specialty psychiatry. However, there are only 8,300 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists. If every youth needing treatment was seen by one, that would be more than 1,800 patients per practitioner – an undoable ratio! However, this problem is not new, and with some creativity and practicality, phone consultation projects have been developed to address it. To get an understanding of just how they work, consider the story of Johnny Marks (a fictional case based…

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First-episode Psychosis: Why Timing Is Everything and It’s Not Just Taking the Meds That Matters

One of my all-time favorite films is A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe as the great John Nash, the genius mathematician who died earlier this year in a car crash. John Nash won a Nobel Prize in 1994 for his revolutionary work on game theory. He also struggled throughout his life with delusions secondary to paranoid schizophrenia. However, with the support of his wife and colleagues, he was able to learn to live and function despite the vicious persistence of his underlying psychopathology. On average today, people have psychosis for one year and five months before being treated. This timeframe is six times longer than the World Health Organization guidelines for effective early onset intervention (less than three months). The…

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Looking to the Past for the Future of Psychiatry

What it means to be a psychiatrist invites many questions. Can psychiatrists go beyond controlling symptoms and managing maladaptive behavior, helping patients become happier rather than just less depressed? Today, can we do better than Freud who promised patients “much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into everyday unhappiness”? The answer is more nuanced than expected, but exploring the teachings of ancient philosophers can help us understand its ancient roots. Positive Psychology is proactive in that it helps people to have happy and meaningful lives as opposed to treating just dysfunction or mental illness. As a medical specialty, psychiatry has excelled in disease identification (diagnosis); treatment and management of symptoms (therapeutics); and definition of long-term…

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