mental health | KUOW News and Information

mental health

Expanded coverage for young adults under the Affordable Care Act substantially raised inpatient hospital visits related to mental health, finds a study conducted by researchers at Indiana and Purdue universities.

That looks like good news: Better access to care for a population with higher-than-average levels of mental illness that too often endangers them and people nearby.

Marcie Sillman talks with Sandi Ando about reforming Washington state's mental health system. Ando is public policy chair for Washington's chapter of the National Alliance On Mental Illness.

As a child, Diany Levy was called lazy and unfocused. She remembers that teachers called home on a daily basis to tell her parents she was not paying attention in class. Now, at the age of 23, Diany has finally been diagnosed with the cause of her problems – ADHD.

When patients receive treatment for PTSD they normally don’t get asked what kind of therapy they’d like to receive. Often the provider will use the therapy that is most familiar to them.

That can include antidepressants or psychotherapy, maybe both.

Advocates for the mentally ill filed a friend of the court brief with the Washington State Supreme Court urging the justices to uphold a Pierce County judge's ruling. The state's high court will hear arguments in the case next month. Last year, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Nelsons ruled that boarding the mentally ill was illegal. 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $70 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain.

The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Flickr Photo/Ruth Flickr

Steve Scher talks with journalist Brian Rosenthal about why King County mental health professionals are routinely missing deadlines to provide psychiatric evaluations — causing potentially dangerous patients to be released. Rosenthal reported the story for the Seattle Times. He now reports for The Houston Chronicle.

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

State auditors say Western State Hospital has been losing about $800,000 a year paying for work that's not being done. For decades, the hospital has been letting hundreds of employees start late and leave early -- and still paying for their time.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/camknows (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Re-experiencing, avoidance, hyperarousal: these are the three categories of post-traumatic stress disorder as laid out by the National Institute of Mental Health. They commonly go by more common names: nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, social isolation, poor concentration, insomnia and startling.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Ellen Forney. Reprinted by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

When Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 16 years ago, her first concern was for her creative future. The award-winning cartoonist prided herself on the artwork and stories she'd come up with during periods she described as manic. Right after her diagnosis, Forney was reluctant to try the drug treatments her psychiatrist prescribed for her. Would she lose her creative edge on lithium? But after a serious period of depression, Forney set out on the ongoing journey to achieve and maintain a state of mental balance.

Flickr Photo/Crash Zone Photography

A new policy for the Seattle Police Department aims to change how officers handle crisis situations with people who are mentally ill or under the influence. The crisis intervention policy, which takes effect Monday, is part of the city’s federally-mandated police reforms.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

On a recent afternoon, about a dozen Somali women talk in spurts as they weave 4-inch metal needles through a basket.

It doesn't look like therapy, but in a way, it is.

Flickr Photo/Micheal J (CC BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Mike DeFelice, supervising attorney for civil commitments at the King County Public Defender's office, about a proposed bill that would give people more say over the involuntary commitment of a mentally ill family member.

Seattle police patrol cars.
Flickr Photo/Brittney Bollay

Marcie Sillman talks with Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center, about the Seattle Police Department's new policy for dealing with people who have mental illnesses or drug and alcohol issues. Hobson is also a member of Seattle's Community Police Commission.

More than 10,000 mental health patients were involuntarily hospitalized last year in Washington. But not every patient qualifies for forced hospitalization under the law.

Flickr Photo/Micheal J (CC BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks with mental health advocate Sandi Ando about a proposed law that would allow people to petition a court to have a family member committed against his or her will.

Ando is public policy chair for Washington's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Hypervigilance And Crowds Complicate Holidays And Life Back Home For Veterans

Dec 31, 2013
Flickr Photo/United States Air Forces - Iraq

Steve Scher gets tips from licensed mental health counselor and suicidologist Randi Jensen on how to help combat war veterans get through the holiday season and beyond.

KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

Medication has helped Jon Buckland’s symptoms, but the voices in his head never go away.

By his description, it’s like being in a loud, busy bar. “It’s like throwing that whole bar, and what you can’t control, into one moment inside your brain during that time that you’re still trying to hold on to conversation normally outside your head,” Buckland said.

Portland and Spokane have been trying to prevent people from jumping off the cities' iconic bridges. In the last few weeks, police in both cities have responded to suicides or attempted suicides.

Coming Out Of The Depression Closet

Dec 19, 2013
Flickr Photo/Piermario (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher sits down with psychiatrist Thomas Patamia with suggestions on how to talk about depression with your family.

The Difference Between Being Sad And Having SAD

Nov 18, 2013
Flickr Photo/Josh Semans

Steve Scher talks with psychiatrist Dr. Tobias Dang from Group Health about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Ross Reynolds talk with Amnon Shoenfeld, the director of King County’s Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependency Services Division, about the new health care regulations for insurance companies.

Mental Health In China With Michael Phillips

Nov 7, 2013

China is listed as a country with one of the highest rates of suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health services often carry a stigma, though that’s starting to change. The government recently passed the country’s first national mental health law.

Michael Phillips has lived and worked in China since 1985 at the end of the Cultural Revolution. He discussed China’s mental health landscape at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall as part of the graduate school lecture series on October 15.

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

Violence is a “constant disruption” at the state’s two main psychiatric hospitals, according to a new report jointly commissioned by The Department of Social and Health Services and the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW union that represents much of the front-line staff at the hospitals. 

Flickr Photo/Michael J (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Washington state is facing a crisis when it comes to providing beds for psychiatric care. On a per capita basis, according to a 2009 national report, Washington ranks at the very bottom.

When beds are unavailable at psychiatric hospitals and regional mental health providers, hospital emergency rooms are often a last resort. Mental health advocates say this is a huge problem, because in some cases, mentally ill people are housed in emergency rooms for months, without access to sufficient treatment.

Flickr Photo/Michael B

Nationally, Washington state ranks dead last in providing beds for mental health treatment. As a result, people with severe mental illnesses often end up in emergency rooms where they don’t receive proper care. On average, they’re housed in emergency rooms for three days. In some cases, they wait months.

It’s a practice called “psychiatric boarding.” Mental health advocates say it’s dangerous for patients and  hospital staff. Brian Rosenthal is a staff reporter for The Seattle Times. He talked with Ross Reynolds about why psychiatric boarding has become an epidemic in our state.

The (Head) Doctor Is In: Physicals Would Include Mental Health

Oct 3, 2013

The US faces a shrink shortage: An estimated 62 million Americans will become eligible for mental health benefits under the Affordable Care Act, but there aren’t enough psychiatrists to treat them.

What to do?

From The Depressed Cake Shop's Facebook page.

Back in August, a baker named Emma Thomas, opened up a series of pop-up bakeries across London. Unlike most colorful cakes and cookies, all of the baked goods in Emma’s shop were in shades of grey.She called it the “Depressed Cake Shop.” Local bakers and businesses donated delicacies and proceeds from the sales went to charities that supported people struggling with mental illness.

It wasn't long before Emma’s pop-up idea spread across the globe. Bakeries began appearing in Malaysia, Australia, India, San Francisco and now Seattle. On Saturday visitors to Sole Repair Shop will have the chance to buy a variety of dark baked goods. Fifteen local bakers and pastry shops will be donating everything from cake pops to champagne-flavored marshmallows flown in from San Francisco.

Megan Seling, writer for The Stranger and author of the cookbook "Bake It In A Cake," is one of the bakers donating sweets to the shop. She used baking as a distraction and coping mechanism to help her through depression.  Seling said that baking gave her a chance to take the cookies to people and interact with co-workers in a way that was positive and the formulaic process provided a much needed distraction in the dark days of fall and winter.

If you want to indulge in some dark sweets, The Depressed Cake Shop in Seattle will be open Saturday October 5 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. For more information on the event visit their Facebook page. All proceeds from the event will be going to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the Greater Seattle area.

Flickr Photo/Semilla Luz

It’s Friday — time to talk over the week’s news with Joni Balter of the Seattle Times, Crosscut's Knute Berger and Eli Sanders of The Stranger. 

A shooting at the Navy Yard in DC and a fatal stabbing in Seattle's Pioneer Square again raise questions about public safety and mental health care. Seattle's race for mayor sees a new round of polling and endorsements. Plus, Pope Francis says Catholics need to find "a new balance" on issues like abortion and homosexuality.  What stories were you following this week?

The Navy Yard massacre may renew concerns over the potential dangers of mentally ill people who don't get treatment. That issue is especially hot right now in Seattle, where the mayor has called untreated mental illness an "emergency."

Unstable In Seattle

Seattle's Pioneer Square is an uneasy mix of art galleries and skid road; it's gelato over here, and heroin over there. And then there's mental illness.

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