Category Archives: Mental health

For N.C. reporter, news brief led to series on solitary confinement, mental illness

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

In most states, care for those with behavioral health problems is so poor that the nation’s prisons have become the default treatment centers for many of the most vulnerable mental health patients. As Congress wrestles with plans to cut funding for Medicaid, many observers are calling for more coverage.

For an example of a mental health system that relies on state prisons, see the work of Taylor Knopf, a reporter for North Carolina Health News. In the spring of 2015, Knopf was working for the Raleigh News & Observer when an editor asked her to write a news brief about an effort to improve the state’s use of solitary confinement. Seeing an opportunity, Knopf made a few calls and did more than write a brief: Over the next year, she turned that assignment into a two-part series on how the prison system used solitary confinement to discipline inmates for even minor infractions.

In a new “How I Did It” article, Knopf writes about the series and how her reporting focused on one inmate’s struggle to adjust to life outside of prison after being held in solitary confinement for almost three years. Continue reading

How the language we use to communicate about disease matters

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: Gerald Streiter via Flickr

Photo: Gerald Streiter via Flickr

Does language make a difference when we address serious health issues such as Alzheimer’s and other diseases? Absolutely, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Avoid the “war” metaphors, advises Daniel R. George, an assistant professor of medical humanities at the college. While such terminology is common in the medical community and the media, such language can backfire by creating fear and stigma, turning patients into victims and even diverting resources from preventive care. Continue reading

Clinton’s ambitious mental health reform plan faces severe shortage of specialists

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Matt A.J. via Flickr

Photo: Matt A.J. via Flickr

Hillary Clinton this week unveiled a comprehensive plan to reform how mental health care is delivered in this country. While it calls for addressing many of the most serious problems in the behavioral health care system, it could be hampered – at least initially – by a severe shortage of mental health professionals at all levels (map as of 2014).

To address that problem, the plan calls for increasing reimbursement for collaborative care (where mental health professionals work with medical providers) in Medicare and Medicaid Continue reading