Author Archives: Katti Gray

Katti Gray

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

A hallucinogen combined with psychotherapy may curb alcohol use disorder

Photo by cottonbro via pexels.

Journalists covering alcoholism may already know that it is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind tobacco smoking, which ranks No. 1, and the combination of poor diet and too little exercise, which rank No. 2. But a new study has revealed that psilocybin, a hallucinogen, in combination with psychotherapy, may someday be a viable treatment for alcohol use disorder. (Check out these dos and don’ts when reporting on alcohol.)

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Journalist explains the right and wrong way to cover suicide

Aneri Pattani

When covering suicide, words, and framing matter, a lesson Raleigh, N.C.-based Kaiser Health News reporter Aneri Pattani learned firsthand when suicide researchers blasted her about how she had written a suicide story. 


“I got called out on the wording: ‘committed suicide’ versus ‘died by suicide,’” said Pattani, a Northeastern University journalism graduate whose Hopkins’ Master of Public Health Studies focuses on children and adolescents.

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Rural health stories everywhere, workshop participants say

Attendees listen attentively during the “Hiding in plain sight: Finding data and research about rural health” panel. (Photo courtesy of Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum)

Finding and parsing rural health data, tracking COVID-19’s curve in rural regions, the promise and limitations of telemedicine for rural health consumers, and reopening rural hospitals were among the topics tackled at AHCJ’s Rural Health Workshop 2022. (Check out full panel recordings on the Rural Health Workshop 2022 landing page.)

During the first in-person Rural Health Workshop since 2019 in Denver, expert panelists also cited ongoing gaps in care for rural patients and shared innovations for filling some of those voids.

The one-day workshop was hosted by the University of Tennessee School of Medicine Chattanooga; the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing; Cempa Community Care and Erlanger Health System. Sponsors were The Commonwealth Fund; the Helmsley Charitable Trust; and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Stories about health in far-flung, medically underserved places are fodder for journalists and essential to improving rural health care, said Rob Headrick, M.D., CHI Memorial Rees Skillern Cancer Institute’s chief of thoracic surgery.

“The challenge for us is how to combine your skills and mine … ” Headrick said during the panel “Bringing health care to the people: mobile screening and other routes to prevention.”

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As racism rises, mental health of youth of color worsens

Photo by cottonbro via pexels.

Racism is a stressor for its victims, no matter their age, researchers began concluding several decades ago. Adding to that body of analysis are some new studies on specific impacts of racial discrimination and race-based hatred on Black and Asian young people. This research and related data can help journalists expand their coverage of how schools, clinicians and communities are tackling the fallout from racism.

Black youth living in areas deemed to have more anti-Black racism were less likely to benefit from cognitive-behavioral and other psychotherapies than their counterparts residing in communities where anti-Black racism is comparatively lower, according to a study analyzing five decades of psychotherapy research.

The study, published in June in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, involved people across 34 states and used “publicly available data on anti-Black racist attitudes to create a measure of state-level structural racism and analyzed randomized controlled trial data from youth psychotherapy studies of 2,182 mostly Black youth.” 

 “The extent to which racism or other prejudicial attitudes are endorsed in a given community — such as a neighborhood or a state — varies across the country,” lead researcher Maggi Price, a Boston University social work professor and director of its Affirm Lab, said in a press release. “Our study found that the level of racism in one’s community affects how well one does in mental health treatment.”  

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‘A national calling’ to address child and adolescent mental health

Catherine Mok, M.A., L.M.S.W. (Photo courtesy of Alander Rocha)

The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed, but didn’t spark a relative tidal wave of demand for counseling services for children and teens.

“It had been brewing long before the pandemic,” said Catherine Mok, M.A., L.M.S.W., a clinical social worker for Austin Family Counseling, during the “Mental health for kids is falling short. What can fix it?” panel at Health Journalism 2022.

“What I’m seeing on the ground is anxiety, depression [and] suicidal ideation. Our practice has [never] seen so many parents calling in and looking for help for their children,” Mok said.

That’s because the field of pediatric and adolescent counseling, like that of adult counseling, has endured a years-long shortage of clinicians. Depending on the state, there is an average of four to 65 pediatric and family psychiatrists per 100,000 youth.

The national average is 14 psychiatrists per 100,000 young people, according to the American Association of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACAP) most recent workforce map. The association has estimated there should be 47 psychiatrists per 100,000 youth. Also, roughly half of children and teens with diagnosable mental health disorders are getting necessary treatment, according to the AACAP.

“This is a national calling,” Mok said of the urgency to reverse a crisis that finds 70% of U.S. counties without psychiatrists who specialize in treating teens and children, according to the AACAP. The ranks of pediatric clinical social workers and psychologists are also lacking.

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