mental health | KUOW News and Information

mental health

On a sunny spring day at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., students line up at a table grabbing ice cream sundaes, milk and cookies, and, if they're interested, a hug from MIT parents including Sonal Patel.

"Yes!" Patel says, "giving away ice cream and now hugs."

"Oh, I want a hug," a student says, "that will be good."

The event — billed as "Stress Less Day" — is sponsored by the student mental health awareness group Active Minds. Volunteers are handing out fliers listing mental health facts and campus resources.

Sophomore Matt Ossa gets his ice cream and rushes on.

Are you a pen-clicker? A hair-twirler? A knee-bouncer? Did you ever get in trouble for fidgeting in class? Don't hang your head in shame. All that movement may be helping you think.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

We might think we have a basic understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD: Soldiers in battle see things they'd like to forget, but years later combat memories come back to haunt them. That's the received wisdom.

But perhaps we have it all wrong. Maybe it's not the reminders of the fighting that cause post-traumatic stress so much as the void ex-combatants face when they leave the community of soldiers behind.

In the past academic year, four students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken their own lives.

And in the days that followed two of her freshmen classmates' deaths by suicide, 18-year-old Isabel "Izzy" Lloyd noticed something.

"Things just sort of stopped for a week or two and there were people posting on Facebook and sending out emails and Twitter and Instagram and people were saying, 'I care, you can come see me,' " she says.

Katherine Switz, founder of the Stability Network.
Courtesy of Katherine Switz

When a GermanWings passenger jet slammed into the French Alps last month, killing all aboard, attention focused on the co-pilot’s treatment for severe depression – and how he hid his illness.

An estimated 58 percent of Americans don’t want people with mental health issues in their workplace, even though a vast majority of people with such illnesses can work just fine.

The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps earlier this week appears to have been a deliberate act carried out by a co-pilot.

It is too soon to put the label "suicide" on the co-pilot's actions. Not enough is known yet about his state of mind or what his motivation might have been. But as investigations continue, the incident raises questions about whether better mental health screening can prevent a person with suicidal tendencies from taking charge in the cockpit in the first place.

Mentally ill inmates in Washington state often must wait weeks, or even months in jail for evaluations to see if they’re competent to stand trial.

Participants at the 5th annual Compassion Research Day at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Facebook unveiled new tools on Feb. 25 to help prevent suicide.
Courtesy of Forefront/Katie Simmons

Marcie Sillman talks with Jennifer Stuber, director of Forefront, a suicide prevention organization at the University of Washington, about their partnership with Facebook.

Also, we hear from Stephen Miller, Forefront's operation's manager, about his own experience with Facebook and suicide. 

Our guest on this episode of Speakers Forum is David J. Morris, a war correspondent, former Marine and PTSD sufferer.

Morris served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps in the 1990s, but did not see combat then. He went on to work as an embedded journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was nearly killed when a Humvee he was riding in hit an IED.

Mental health is one of the top issues in the Washington legislature this year. Several measures cleared the Washington House Monday in advance of a Wednesday cut-off deadline.

Marcie Sillman talks with KUOW Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins about Joel's Law, the legislative proposal that would allow families to petition a court to have a loved one involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

Sillman also talks with David Johnson, CEO of Navos, a Seattle-based mental health service provider.

When we think of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, we think of the loss of memory or the inability to recognize familiar faces, places, and things. But for caregivers, the bigger challenge often is coping with the other behaviors common in dementia: wandering, sleeplessness and anxiety or aggression.

For the first time, the Washington state Senate has passed a version of “Joel’s Law.”

This past weekend, when I visited my mother in her assisted living home as I do once or twice a week, I brought along a present. That's not unusual: She and I share a craving for chocolate, and I often bring her new varieties of dark chocolate, her favorite, and other little gifts from my travels.

Mental health advocates in Washington are assailing a proposal to allow psychiatric boarding in limited cases.

A listener emailed us this picture of a recovering Blitz on Monday after the Seahawks lost in Super Bowl XLIX.
Courtesy of Michael James Hawk

Ross Reynolds talks to Dr. Kirk Honda, family therapist and faculty member at Antioch University, about how to manage the feeling of loss and grief after the Seattle Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.

A poster at Rainier Beach High School's teen clinic lets students know they have a safe place to talk.
KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

It used to be that students went to their school clinic to have their sore throat checked or get a vaccine. But many kids today have needs that go beyond physical health, whether it’s dealing with exposure to violence or having suicidal thoughts.

In response, a growing number of schools have started offering mental health services.

Washington State Capitol
Flickr Photo/Alan Cordova (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with KUOW's Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins about one of the legislature's priorities this session: mental health. 

The father of a Spokane woman shot to death by her husband in a murder-suicide is pushing for expanded mental health laws in Washington.

Courtesy of Deepali

Living with mental illness is never easy, no matter where in the world you live. But it can be particularly hard in India, and even more so if you’re a woman.

For Deepali, a 46-year-old yoga teacher in New Delhi, the problems began about 10 or 12 years ago. “There were financial troubles, there were definite marital troubles,” she says.

Mural near the Fisherman's Cove Marina and Lummi Island Ferry on Lummi Nation.
KUOW Photo/Jeff Emtman

After a visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation in North Dakota, President Barack Obama announced an initiative to help Native American youth.

Obama's proposal aims to provide culturally appropriate education at tribal schools, access to mental health providers and peer counseling and better preparation for college and careers. KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel spoke with Gyasi Ross, a writer, attorney and member of the Blackfeet tribe. He lives on the Suquamish reservation north of Seattle.

“You can see it in Obama's face, you can hear it in the words that he speaks -- he actually has a passion for trying to do something proactively for Native people," Ross said. "I knew that it was coming from a good place.”

The day after Christmas is the deadline for the state of Washington to end a practice known as psychiatric “boarding.”

My Dad's Descent Into Terrifying Madness

Dec 19, 2014
Lisa Southworth and her dad
Courtesy of Lisa Southworth

Nando Ferahaha was a real man.

Nando was 48 and newly slim, with a shaved head and a septum pierced with a ring, like a bull. He said he was an amateur body builder.

Nando said he was an active member in our metropolitan area’s search and rescue team. He had $10,000 of new REI gear to prove it.

Frank Chopp, Washington Speaker of the House, in 2006.
Flickr Photo/The Children's Alliance (CC-BY-NC-ND)

State Speaker of the House Frank Chopp’s path to politics began in Bremerton, Washington, in a surplus housing unit from the Navy Yard. He started as an activist and hasn’t abandoned that point of view.

“I consider myself still to be a community organizer, I just happen to be speaker of the House,” he said.

Meager beginnings made him passionate about affordable housing, and helping his sister cope with bipolar disorder turned his attention to mental health care.

Jeannie Yandel talks with Natalie Snyder, who was wounded in the 1996 shooting at Frontier Middle School in Moses Lake, Wash., about the long process of healing after a trauma.

Reality, if you think about it, is a kind of social contract. You and I might be strangers, but we agree, at least at a really basic level, on what is real.

So when you talk to someone who isn't signed onto that same contract, it's kind of unsettling.

"What do the gloves do?"

I'm asking a guy named George about the thin plastic hospital gloves he was wearing when we met. "It's so the cosmic dust doesn't get on my hands," is his reply.

Litesprite

If you’re feeling depressed or stressed out, and therapy seems overwhelming, consider spending time with a fox.

Courtesy Joe Guppy/Photo by Ernie Sapiro

  Many Seattle-area residents remember Joe Guppy from his days as a performer. For years he was an improvisational artist and actor, and one of the minds behind the long-running television program "Almost Live." 

Depression is common in teenagers, with 11 percent being diagnosed by age 18, and many more having depressive symptoms. Social and academic stress can trigger depression, and rates of depression tend to peak in adolescence around the age of 16.

It doesn't help that stressed-out teens often fall into hopelessness, says David Yeager, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. "When kids have hard things happen to them, they think it'll be like that way into the future."

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