San Francisco proposes nation’s first universal mental health care system

San Francisco residents could soon receive free mental health care and substance use disorder treatment under a proposed universal mental health care system aiming to be the first of its kind in the country.

Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney, elected officials on the city’s Board of Supervisors, will officially introduce their plan during Tuesday’s board meeting. The plan, which is called “Mental Health SF,” would include a 24/7 treatment center for any city resident in need of help, whether that’s counseling for anxiety or emergency care to treat a psychotic episode.

“(Mental Health SF) serves everyone from people who are insured but can’t get an appointment for a month or two … all the way to people that are living on the streets in crisis,” Ronen said.

Full story at USA Today

Are allergies linked to anxiety and depression?

Researchers from Germany and Switzerland have recently investigated the possible associations between conditions relating to mental health, such as depression and anxiety, and the presence of different types of allergy. Their findings, they say, should prompt scientists to pay more attention to these links.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the [United States],” leading to healthcare costs in excess of $18 billion each year.

Moreover, the CDC note that more than 50 million people in the U.S. have an allergy. Across Europe, about 150 million people have an allergy, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Full story at Medical News Today

Exercise: Psych patients’ new primary prescription

When it comes to inpatient treatment of a range of mental health and mood disorders — from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia, suicidality and acute psychotic episodes — a new study advocates for exercise, rather than psychotropic medications, as the primary prescription and method of intervention. Findings from the study reveal that physical exercise is so effective at alleviating patient symptoms that it could reduce patients’ time admitted to acute facilities and reliance on psychotropic medications.

“The general attitude of medicine is that you treat the primary problem first, and exercise was never considered to be a life or death treatment option. Now that we know it’s so effective, it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention,” explains David Tomasi, a lecturer at the University of Vermont, psychotherapist and inpatient psychiatry group therapist at the University of Vermont Medical Center and lead researcher of the study.

Practitioners at inpatient psychiatric facilities — often crowded, acute settings in which patients experience severe distress and discomfort — typically prescribe psychotropic medications first, rather than natural remedies like physical exercise, to alleviate patients’ symptoms such as anger, anxiety and depression. In fact, Tomasi estimates that only a handful of inpatient psychiatric hospitals in the U.S. provide psychotherapist-supported gym facilities exclusively for these patients. Instead, practitioners rely on classical psychotherapeutic and pharmacological frameworks to treat psychiatric symptoms, which they monitor to determine when a patient is ready to be discharged from the facility.

Full story at Science Daily

For Kids With Anxiety, Parents Learn To Let Them Face Their Fears

The first time Jessica Calise can remember her 9-year-old son Joseph’s anxiety spiking was about a year ago, when he had to perform at a school concert. He said his stomach hurt and he might throw up. “We spent the whole performance in the bathroom,” she recalls.

After that, Joseph struggled whenever he had to do something alone, like showering or sleeping in his bedroom. He would beg his parents to sit outside the bathroom door or let him sleep in their bed. “It’s heartbreaking to see your child so upset and feel like he’s going to throw up because he’s nervous about something that, in my mind, is no big deal,” Jessica says.

Jessica decided to enroll in an experimental program, one that was very different from other therapy for childhood anxiety that she knew about. It wasn’t Joseph who would be seeing a therapist every week — it would be her.

Full story at npr.org

Psychedelic microdosing in rats shows beneficial effects

The growing popularity of microdosing — taking tiny amounts of psychedelic drugs to boost mood and mental acuity — is based on anecdotal reports of its benefits. Now, a study in rats by researchers at the University of California, Davis suggests microdosing can provide relief for symptoms of depression and anxiety, but also found potential negative effects. The work is published March 4 in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

“Prior to our study, essentially nothing was known about the effects of psychedelic microdosing on animal behaviors,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the UC Davis departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team. “This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety. It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies.”

Full story at Science Daily

Through my eyes: Addiction and recovery

Growing up, I had the picture-perfect family. I lived in a beautiful home in the suburbs of Detroit with my parents and younger brother. I had every opportunity in the world, attended private schools, and even made it onto the honor roll. I was involved in dance, theater, and many of the school sports teams.

Beneath the surface, however, I always felt a lot of pressure to be perfect.

I was the first of 12 grandchildren, and this led to me feeling that I had to be the best at everything I did, which gave me terrible anxiety from the early age of 5.

Full story at Medical News Today

Mental health conditions on the rise among US students

As more and more people discuss mental health issues in public forums, it seems to be lifting some of the stigma surrounding the topic. New research reveals that the number of students seeking help for mental health problems has risen considerably between 2009 and 2015.

Sara Oswalt, from the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the lead author of the new study, which was published in the Journal of American College Health.

According to estimates that the scientists cite, around 26 percent of people aged 18 and above in the United States live with a mental health condition in any given year.

Full story at Medical News Today

Understanding the Brain Mechanisms of Irritability in Youth

In an NIMH-funded study, researchers have identified differences in how the brains of irritable youth react to frustration. The findings, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, could provide new paths for developing treatments for children and adolescents with severe irritability.

Whether it’s having to wake up earlier than usual or being asked to turn off a favorite TV show, all children can become irritable sometimes. However, some children are more irritable than others, with an increased tendency to experience anger and frustration in comparison with their peers. Children who have severe, chronic irritability can experience significant problems including at home, at school, and with peers. They also tend to have high rates of health care service use, hospitalization, and school suspension and are more likely to develop anxiety and depressive disorders.

Full story at NIMH

Teens hope their videos will prompt dialogue about mental health

Woodside High School senior Valentina Lovazzano joined the student advisory board at Menlo Park’s youth mental health advocacy organization SafeSpace midway through her junior year, after she finally found help for debilitating anxiety problems that had at times made it hard for her to leave the house.

Once Lovazzano got the help she needed, “the first thing I wanted to do was reach out to other people,” she says. “I wanted everyone to feel it’s a normal thing, you’re not alone. We’re all teenagers, we’re going to go through stuff. It’s going to be OK,” she says.

Now Lovazzano and a group of other students who serve on SafeSpace’s student advisory board are sharing those messages in five short videos SafeSpace is releasing this week to coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week.

Full story at Palo Alto Online

How our brain and personality provide protection against emotional distress

If you feel anxious prior to exams, take note: studies suggest that you can learn how to be resilient and manage your stress and anxiety.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois recently examined a sample of 85 healthy college students to see how a number of personality traits can protect an individual’s brain against symptoms of emotional distress, namely depression and anxiety.

“In this study, we wanted to look at commonalities across brain regions and across personality traits that contribute to protective factors,” said Matt Moore, a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow and co-author of the study. “We targeted a number of regions in the prefrontal cortex, looking specifically at the volume of those regions using structural magnetic resonance imaging. We did a confirmatory factor analysis, which is basically a statistical approach for testing whether there is a common factor underlying the observed measurements.”

Full story at Science Daily