Category Archives: Mental health

Some communities may be unprepared for July launch of 988 hotline

Photo courtesy of SAMHSA.

A new report from RAND Corp. suggests many communities may not be prepared to fully implement the vision of the 988 hotline. RAND recently released the results of its survey of 180 behavioral health professionals. The survey, conducted from Feb. 8 to March 17, was intended to assess how well communities have prepared for the 988 implementation. 

Only 16% of survey participants reported that their agency had established a budget for the transition and long-term support of the 988 hotline. More than half —51% — of survey participants said they had not been involved in the development of a strategic plan related to the launch.

“Our findings have confirmed what many advocates and experts feared: communities throughout the U.S. have not had the time or resources to adequately prepare for the debut of the 988 hotline number,” said Ryan McBain, co-lead of the research project and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, in a statement.

Journalists can find interesting stories by investigating how well their states and local agencies have prepared for the official July 16 launch date for the new three-digit mental health emergency hotline (988).

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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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Wednesday webinar to explore film shedding light on the youth mental health crisis

During the making of “Hiding in Plain Sight: Documenting the crisis in kids’ mental health,” a then-executive at the National Institute of Mental Health advised the filmmakers to insert the term “lived experience” in every place that “mental illness” otherwise might have been. A Johns Hopkins University psychologist suggested “mental health condition” as the optimal reference.

“Addict” is what Makalynn Powell, one of the 20 children, teens and young adults spotlighted in “Hiding in Plain Sight,” called her father. His disorder, incarceration and absences from her life drive the mental trauma the 24-year-old details in “Hiding,” a PBS documentary.

On Wednesday, May 25, at 3 p.m. CST, AHCJ is hosting a webinar about this film that will feature Powell; Collin Cord, a high schooler also spotlighted in this documentary by brothers Erik Ewers and Christopher Ewers; the filmmakers; and several sneak-peek clips from the documentary. The film will air on June 27 and 28 and will be presented by celebrity documentary-maker Ken Burns, with whom the award-winning Ewers brothers have worked.

Letting the people they spotlighted — the youngest of them was 11— use their own preferred words to detail how they and their peers grapple with mental health seemed like the best approach, the Ewers told AHCJ.

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Following Africa, Asia into community mental health care

Photo by Chloe Capture via Flickr.

While organizing the “Building a mental health workforce from the grassroots up” panel for Health Journalism 2022 in Austin, I searched for weeks for a community health worker certified in mental health to join the discussion. That type of frontline worker seems critical to any parsing of how to fill critical gaps in a U.S. mental health matrix that the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association describe as persistently short of clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists.

I’ve recently observed more advertisements or announcements regarding community mental health workers. City of College of San Francisco, for example, is offering a certification in mental health for community health workers, which, as a general group, has a more than 60-year-history in the United States. And the National Council for Mental Wellbeing trains community mental health workers largely through organizations requesting that training of their own laity.

During AHCJ’s Mental Health Summit last fall, India-born Vikram Patel, Ph.D. M.B.B.S, a professor in Harvard Medical School’s department of social medicine and global health, noted that in parts of Africa, South Asia and other exceedingly less-resourced nations, grandmothers, for example, are trained to help neighbors suffering from, say, post-partum depression navigate that terrain.

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One journalist explores concerns surrounding teletherapy for psychedelic mental health treatment

Shayla Love

Shayla Love, a senior staff writer at Motherboard (the tech arm of Vice.com), has written several articles about psychedelic drugs used as mental health therapy. One recent story, Psychedelic Telemedicine Has Arrived. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? took a public health turn. In this investigative story, Love explored problems arising from a company offering ketamine — an anesthetic drug that produces hallucinogenic effects — as a teletherapy, sending the medications to people’s homes and offering some guided therapy online. Traditionally, drugs like this and related guided therapy are administered in a medical clinic under the direct supervision of an expert.

In a new “How I Did It,” Love talks about her reporting process and offers words of caution on behalf of vulnerable patients who might pursue this avenue of therapy. (Responses have been lightly edited and condensed.)

How did you find out about this story or get the idea to pursue this?

I have been covering psychedelics in the context of mental health treatment for the past several years, so that topic was already on my radar. I got ads in my Instagram feed for Mindbloom, a company advertising a telemedicine ketamine therapy approach where people can get ketamine sent to their house. I thought that was pretty interesting because many ketamine clinics are opening now. Most of them are in person, so you have to go in to receive either ketamine infusions or pills.  

I was busy then, but it was in the back of my mind that I wanted to look into what experiences people were having with this. A few months later, I saw some clinicians discussing it on Twitter. They were pretty alarmed that people could get ketamine mailed to them, out of concern about people being medically and psychologically supported during the experiences. I went to Mindbloom’s Instagram page and started reading the comments and immediately noticed a lot of negative feedback. I saw people saying things like, “I paid the down payment, and I never got an appointment, and I’ve been trying to reach people for weeks.” A lot of them were logistics-related: “I can’t get ahold of anybody,” “I can’t make my appointment.” At that point, I really wanted to look into it. I started by reaching out to basically everybody who left a negative comment.

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