mental health | KUOW News and Information

mental health

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.

Washington is unlikely to meet a January deadline to provide jail inmates with court-ordered mental health services within seven days.

A staffing shortage at Western State Hospital has created a crisis situation. Federal inspectors this week determined that patients and staff face immediate risk for harm.

Each year, nearly three times as many Americans die from suicide as from homicide. More Americans kill themselves than die from breast cancer.

As Dr.Thomas Insel, longtime head of the National Institute of Mental Health, prepared to step down from his job in October, he cited the lack of progress in reducing the number of suicides as his biggest disappointment. While the homicide rate in the U.S. has dropped 50 percent since the early 1990s, the suicide rate is higher than it was a decade ago.

The definition of postpartum depression is broad. The symptoms can range anywhere from feeling exhausted and disconnected from your baby to paranoia that someone else might hurt your child or, even worse, that you yourself might do your baby harm.

While this wide-ranging spectrum makes it hard to diagnose, the CDC says between 8 percent and 19 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression.

Note: This story is an update to a story first reported in 2012 in collaboration with the Seattle Times.

Between 2008 and 2011, more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines were given “other than honorable” discharges from the military. Now, one soldier from Salem, Oregon, has learned his discharge will be upgraded.

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

David Hyde talks with Associated Press reporter Martha Bellisle about her investigation into safety conditions at Western State Hospital. This year, the federal government has threatened funding cuts on three separate occasions.

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