Grand Roundups: Depression, July 2018

Keep up to date with our monthly collection of stories and studies on major depressive disorder and depression.
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Grand Roundups is a monthly highlight of stories and studies from the heart of the depression community. By sharing these stories — from patient advocate perspectives to the latest clinical research — we hope to help create a larger framework for dialogue.

Houston’s biggest jail wants to shed its reputation as a mental health treatment center
My first thought after reading this headline was, “Oh no, is this going to be another disaster like the defunding of mental hospitals in California?” But no, it appears that Texas’ Harris County is taking a more responsible route. Harris County Jail has created a separate bureau responsible for mental health and jail diversion. This has involved equipping deputies with tablets that connect to a psychiatrist for on-the-spot treatment or triage and will set up a central booking desk this fall to better sort those arrested into treatment before they get charged with a crime. Until more treatment options are made available to Harris County, the jail will keep doubling as a mental health hospital. It is estimated that one in four of its 10,000 inmates have a diagnosed mental illness and receive some form of psychiatric medication every day. Harris County Jail wants to “shed its reputation as a mental health treatment center” by keeping mentally ill patients out of jail, prevent them from becoming repeat offenders, and get them help in the community. The Harris County jail already treats more mentally ill patients than the rest of Texas’ mental hospitals combined, and in 2017 it spent $22 million on providing mental health care in it’s jail. Let’s hope there is an influx of resources for mental health treatment soon.

Language Is Key to Easing the Stigma of Mental Illness
The words we choose to use are powerful, whether we are aware of their power or not. So when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was speaking at a political rally and used the term “wackadoodles” to describe a certain group of people he did not like — with exaggerated, wide eyes, and hands waving around his head — he may have been trying to say one thing, but he said many other things as well. He implied that people with mental illnesses are less than, weak, incapable of making judgment calls, even unpatriotic. My takeaway from this article is a list of reminders:

  • Aspire to do better.
  • Choose words with care.
  • Believe those who tell us they have been hurt by inappropriate language.
  • Encourage others to commit to these goals.

We can all do better. So let’s do it.

College students are forming mental health clubs — and they’re making a difference
Turns out, millennials aren’t just entitled, troublemaking, image-obsessed robots sent to Earth to destroy culture and everything good in this world. (Hi, I’m a millennial, nice to meet you.) Students are making a difference on college campuses, and no, it doesn’t have to do with beer pong. Mental health problems among college students have been climbing since the 1900s, but counseling services have not increased at the same rate, so there’s been resourcing problems (Exhibits A, B, and C). As a result, students have taken it upon themselves to start peer-run mental health clubs and organizations. Turns out, it’s working. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that across 12 California colleges, these student-run clubs have increased awareness of mental health issues, reduced stigma, and given rise to “helping behaviors.”

Mental health to become part of high school Virginia curriculum
Yes, you read that headline correctly. The state of Virginia is making mental health part of high school curriculum. Virginia will be one of two states (New York is the other) to have made the decision to take a step towards a more holistic educational approach. The new curriculum is set to be integrated at the start of this coming school year. This policy was sponsored on the senate side by Sen. Creigh Deeds, who lost his son to suicide in 2013. The added instruction will hopefully give students the tools they need to recognize warning signs of mental illness for themselves and for peers. Let’s see if the other states follow Virginia and New York’s example.   

Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation
Need another reason to grab the dog and the kids and head outside this weekend? Here it is: Researchers at Stanford have found that people who spend more time outdoors have a lower risk of depression. The published study also states that people who live in urban areas have a 20% higher risk of anxiety and 40% higher risk of mood disorders. Already, more than half the U.S. population  lives in urban areas and that number is estimated to rise to 70% by 2050. But fear not! As urbanization continues to spread across the country, so does the preservation of parks, nature sanctuaries, etc. In this particular study, researchers conducted an experiment with healthy participants who took 90-minute walks in urban and nature settings. When researchers analyzed analyzed the neural functions of the brain during both walks and participants reported their own thoughts and emotions, they found that participants had more positive neural functions and thoughts after walking in nature. Bottom line, outdoor recreation improves mental health, so get outside this weekend. Promise you won’t regret it.  


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