mental health | KUOW News and Information

mental health

The jet sitting at Air Hollywood's studio near the Burbank airport in Southern California was once the charter plane of the Los Angeles Lakers. These days, it serves a much different role — mostly as the set for movies and TV commercials.

But the group walking on board the day I recently visited wasn't there to film a scene. They were part of a two-day class for fearful fliers.

For participant Ronnie Michel, it was the first time in six years that he'd seen the inside of a plane.

Not long after publishing his first book, London designer Thomas Thwaites found himself with no real job and in relationship trouble. His book, The Toaster Project — about his attempt to build a toaster from scratch — was a huge success, but he found the whole business of being a celebrity thinker a hard act to follow.

To be human is to worry about getting by, doing better, finding love and accepting the march of mortality. Thwaites decided to try to escape the burden of being human — and he would do it by becoming a goat.

Working through a self-help program online can prevent or delay major depression disorder in people who are vulnerable, a study finds. Similar programs have been used to treat depression, but this may be the first one tested to prevent it, the researchers say.

Online programs for mental health problems can be as effective as face-to-face treatment and offer some advantages: Low cost, available at any time and customizable. But they're not panaceas.

The state of Washington has struck a deal with the feds to keep Western State Hospital open and funded. The Department of Social and Health Services announced late Thursday that it will negotiate a Systems Improvement Agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

How's this for a catchy book title: "If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?”  

Author and UT McCombs School of Business Professor Raj Raghunathan admits it’s a provocative title, and maybe a little tongue-in-cheek. But, he says the book is really trying to answer that question. Why are people who are smart—successful, high achievers—not as happy as you might expect? Listen below to an interview with Raghunathan about the links between happiness and intelligence.


It was December 2012 when the country learned about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that left 20 children dead at the hands of 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza.

After the shock and the initial grief came questions about how it could have happened and why. Reports that Adam Lanza may have had some form of undiagnosed mental illness surfaced.

In the '80s and '90s, America's suicide trend was headed in the right direction: down.

"It had been decreasing almost steadily since 1986, and then what happened is there was a turnaround," says Sally Curtin, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How do you help someone who is at risk of suicide?

That's a question that haunts the people of Greenland, the country with the highest known rate of suicide in the world and the subject of a special NPR report this week. The rate is about 80 per 100,000, and the group at highest risk is young Inuit men.

But it's a question that anyone, anywhere, might ask. Every year, about 1 million people kill themselves worldwide; preventing suicides is an issue every culture deals with.

The first death was on the night of Jan. 9.

It was a Saturday. Pele Kristiansen spent the morning at home, drinking beers and hanging out with his older brother, which wasn't so unusual. There wasn't a lot of work in town. A lot of people drank. In the afternoon, they heard someone banging on their door, yelling.

"Polar bear! It's a polar bear!"

On the frozen fjord a couple of miles away, they could see the bear. Hunting in the Arctic — bears and reindeer and seals and birds — is at the core of Inuit life, even today.

Kim Malcolm speaks with AP reporter Martha Belisle about the problems at Washington state's largest psychiatric hospital and why Governor Jay Inslee fired the chief of Western State Hospital.

Governor Jay Inslee.
Flickr Photo/GovInslee (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The head of Washington's largest psychiatric hospital was fired Tuesday. Governor Jay Inslee has announced that CEO Ron Adler will no longer lead Western State Hospital.

Inslee has already named a new CEO: Cheryl Strange, who previously managed the state public mental health system.

The main entrance of Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Wash.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Kim Malcolm talks with state Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) about the problems facing Western State Hospital and why she believes adding staff and raising pay is a big part of the solution.

When it comes to insurance coverage for mental health counseling and infertility, how much can people expect? And what would happen to someone who gets a tax credit for buying a marketplace plan if a state expands its Medicaid program during the year? Here are the answers.

Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington, pictured Oct. 2015.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Bill Radke talks to Associated Press reporter Martha Bellisle about the recent escapes from Western State Hospital and the facility's ongoing struggle with safety concerns.

Skyler Kelly and his younger brother Luke
Courtesy of Tiffany Kelly

"I just always felt like a boy."

Nine-year-old Skyler Kelly was born a girl. But he didn't feel like a girl. From a very young age he knew he was supposed to be a boy. He can't explain how he knew. He just felt like a boy. 

Ken Yeh is the director of technology at Ontario Christian Schools, a private K-12 school near Los Angeles with about 100 children per grade. Three years ago, the school began buying Google Chromebook laptops for every student in middle and high school.

The students would be allowed to take them home. Yeh says parents "were concerned" about what they might be used for, especially outside of school.

John Elder Robison wrote about his inability to read others’ emotions in his 2007 memoir “Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s.”

In his late 40s, he was invited to test a new treatment that might increase his emotional receptivity. The experiment had some impact on his ability to read emotions, but the effects weren’t all beneficial.

Emily Holt (left) and Kathleen Cromp staff the Welcome Desk at Meridian Center for Health. The clinic provides medical, dental, mental health and maternal support services under one roof.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

When it comes to providing care for people with mental illness, Washington ranks in the bottom five in the country.

The state has one of the highest percentages of adults with mental illness and one of the worst records for not getting them the treatment they need. One Seattle clinic wants to change that.

Seattle Police Department patch.
Facebook Photo/Seattle Police Officers Guild

Seattle police come into contact with about 27 people every day who are experiencing a mental health crisis, including mental illness, dementia or drug-related issues.

Sgt. Dan Nelson is in charge of coordinating the Seattle Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Program, which acts as a bridge between the criminal justice system and social services.

0.4 percent.

That's the proportion of global development assistance that goes to mental illness prevention, care and treatment, according to Daniel Vigo. It's $1.5 billion of the $372 billion total health assistance spending around the world over the last 15 years.

Vigo, a psychologist and psychiatrist at Harvard, believes that more money is needed. And he also believes that one reason the percentage is so low is that the world doesn't do a good job of assessing the number of people who suffer from mental illness and the disability and the premature death that result.

Fallon was diagnosed with psychosis at age 16. No one knows if psychosis is something Fallon will have to live with forever, or if it was a one-time episode.
KUOW Photo

Bill Radke talks with Dr. Jack McClellan about the challenges of diagnosing and treating psychotic disorders in children. McClellan is medical director of the Child Study and Treatment Center, Washington state's psychiatric hospital for children. He's also professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington.

More from KUOW: I Always Wondered What A Psychiatric Hospital Was Like, And There I Was

Colleen McDevitt / KUOW

Editor’s note: KUOW has omitted Fallon’s last name to protect the teen’s privacy.

When I was in middle school, I was like any other nerdy teen. I was in honors classes. I was getting straight As. I remember seeing my friends at the library every day. We would talk about Japanese anime and videogames and other stuff we liked.

Schizophrenia might be linked to a gene that tells the immune system to destroy too many connections in the brain, according to the results from a massive gene-focused research effort.

Bill Radke speaks with Dr. Jennifer Stuber, professor in the UW's School of Social Work and founder of the suicide prevention organization Forefront, about Washington state's new Suicide Prevention Plan.

Flickr Photo/Chuck Coker (CC BY-ND 2.0) HTTP://BIT.LY/1ZPVQSL

Washington is going to take a different tack on reducing gun violence, Gov. Jay Inslee says: Treat it as a public health problem.

At a warehouse near Dallas, a black Lab named Papi tugs on a rope to open a fridge and passes his trainer a plastic water bottle with his mouth.

Service dogs are often trained to help veterans with physical disabilities. Now, a growing number are being trained to meet the demand from vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Those dogs learn extra tricks — how to sweep a house for intruders, for example, so a veteran feels safe.

Diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are up around 30 percent compared with 20 years ago. These days, if a 2-year-old won't sit still for circle time in preschool, she's liable to be referred for evaluation, which can put her on track for early intervention and potentially a lifetime of medication.

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, who died Dec. 25 at the age of 83, was considered one of the most influential psychiatrists of his generation. He headed the effort to more rigorously categorize mental disorders for the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), the handbook used by health care professionals.

Mental health courts have been embraced in many communities, and it's easy to understand why.

Rather than sending someone who's mentally ill to an overcrowded jail that is poorly equipped to manage his condition, mental health courts offer treatment and help with housing and other social services.

The community saves on the cost of locking someone up and offenders get support to stay healthy and may have their charges expunged.

Everybody wins, right?

Bernie Sadowski at the Ballard Senior Center. He credits the senior center for giving him direction after the death of his wife of 50 years.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

When Bernie Sadowski first came to the Ballard Senior Center in 2009, he didn’t care about life. His wife of 50 years had died.

Pages