Tag Archives: veterans

Obama hosts event to reduce mental health stigma

Actors Bradley Cooper and Glenn Close are among those gathering Monday at the White House for a conference on mental health, organized as part of President Barack Obama's response to last year's shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Although the one-day conference was a response to gun violence, its agenda is much broader and includes discussion of insurance coverage for mental health care and substance abuse, recognizing the signs of mental illness in young people and improved access to services for veterans. The overall goal is reducing the stigma of mental health problems and encouraging those who are struggling to get help. Obama plans to deliver opening remarks in the East Room and Vice President Joe Biden, the president's point man on gun violence, is scheduled to close it from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Around 150 invited attendees include mental health advocates and patients, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, lawmakers and local government officials from across the country. Cooper and Close bring their advocacy and a celebrity buzz to the event. Cooper has been promoting mental health awareness since his Oscar-nominated leading role as a man with bipolar disorder in last year's “Silver Linings Playbook,” and plans to help Biden and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki close the conference. Close's experience has been more personal. Her sister, Jessie, has bipolar disorder and Jessie's son, Calen, has schizoaffective disorder. In 2009, Close's family battles led her to help start a non-profit called Bring Change 2 Mind, which produces public service announcements to fight the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. She is listed on a panel discussion on how to address negative attitudes about mental illness. The conference comes after Obama's defeat on gun control legislation. Unable to get Congress to approve background checks, an assault weapons ban and other limits on firearms, the president has vowed to do what he can through executive action. Among 23 executive orders Obama signed in response to the shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 was a directive that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan launch a national dialogue on mental health. The conference is part of that, with Sebelius hosting the panel on addressing negative attitudes and Duncan moderating a session on successful mental health outreach efforts. There's been little publicly revealed about the mental health of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, although it's been documented that other gunmen involved in mass shootings suffered from mental illness. Federal law bans certain mentally ill people from purchasing firearms, but the background check system is woefully incomplete and Obama is trying to get more mental health records included. In announcing the conference, the White House stressed that the vast majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent and are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crimes. But the need to improve the country's mental health care system is something all sides of the gun debate have advocated, including the National Rifle Association. “That is something substantive that Congress and the president could do right now that would actually help prevent future tragedies, unlike the gun control proposals that the president unsuccessfully tried to push through Congress,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam The White House said Obama plans to announce that the Department of Veterans Affairs will conduct mental health summits nationwide to increase awareness of VA programs and link veterans and their families with community resources to support their needs. The conference also plans to tout improvements in mental health coverage under Obama's health care law, including a ban beginning next year against denying coverage to those who are mentally ill. The White House also plans to focus on commitments being made in the private sector to increase understanding and awareness, including a campaign by the National Association of Broadcasters through television and radio ads and social media. Several organizations that work with young people also are planning to make new commitments, including high school principals holding mental health assemblies, to YMCA instructing staff and camp counselors to recognize the signs of mental health issues in kids, to religious leaders launching conversations on the issue.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/03/obama-hosts-event-to-reduce-mental-health-stigma/

For veterans, mental health care often fragmented

For veterans with mental health conditions, prompt and continuous access to mental health care can be lifesaving. However, research shows that after deployment, veterans often go years without obtaining mental health care, and when they do, their care is often fragmented. A recent study found that, among veterans with mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, the average time between return from deployment and initiation of mental health care was two years. The study, which looked at veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who visited Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers between 2001 and 2011, also found that an average of seven and a half years lapsed between the first mental health visit, and the start of treatment that would be considered “minimally adequate” for these conditions which would be eight treatment sessions within a year. By the end of the study, 75 percent of veterans had not received minimally adequate care. The findings were published in the December 2012 issue of the journal Psychiatric Services. Prompt care is important because mental illness can impair people's lives and interfere with their relationships and jobs, said study researcher Shira Maguen, a psychologist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center who treats patients with PTSD. “If we can get them into care sooner, thats less time that they have to live with some of those challenges after they return from deployment,” Maguen said. Many factors can interfere with veterans getting mental health care, including the stigma associated with mental illnesses (such as the belief that seeking care is a sign of weakness), concern that seeking care may jeopardize their careers, trouble finding transport to VA centers, and trouble getting appointments. (Last year, a report from the VA inspector general found that about half of veterans seeking a mental health evaluation waited an average of 50 days for an evaluation.) To broaden access to mental health care, the VA says it has taken steps to increase staffing and to partner with community health care centers. In a report released last week, the VA said it has made agreements with 15 local clinics in seven states to allow veterans to be treated at those clinics. Maguen said it is also important to identify the factors that keep veterans coming back for care. Her study found that most veterans who receive minimally adequate care do so within one year of their first visit. Follow-up appointments are critical for patients at risk for suicide studies show that one of the highest risk periods for suicide is the month following discharge from a hospital or emergency room for a suicidal episode. But a report from the VA inspector general released last month found that about one-third of veterans at high risk for suicide did not receive the required four mental health follow-up visits within a month after their discharge. What's more, for about a third of these at-risk veterans, there was no documented attempt to contact them to remind them of their appointments. “That kind of a clinical response is not acceptable,” said M. David Rudd, provost of the University of Memphis who has studied suicide risk among veterans. “You dont have control over whether or not somebody will keep and appointment. You do have control of whether you attempt to track them.” The inspector general report said the VA needs to improve its effort to reach out to patients who do not show up for mental health appointments. Rudd said the VA may want to consider conducting home visits for psychiatric patients who have trouble getting to VA centers. The inspector general report said the VA should consider expanding the use of telemental health services, such as videoconferencing. The VA also said this week it has increased capacity of its Veterans Crisis Line to connect veterans in crisis with trained mental health providers. Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/31/for-veterans-mental-health-care-often-fragmented/

Agent orange exposure linked to life-threatening prostate cancer

The herbicide Agent Orange was heavily used during the Vietnam War era and was often contaminated with dioxin, a dangerous toxin and potential carcinogen. Prior research suggests that exposure to Agent Orange may increase men’s risk of developing prostate cancer, but it is unclear whether it specifically increases their risk of developing lethal forms of the disease…