NAMI California Conference Topic Deadline Extended

For those interested in proposing a workshop for the 2014 NAMI California Conference, the deadline has been extended to February 6, 2014. Requirements and conditions are explained at the NAMI California website. The Conference will be held August 1st and 2nd at the Newport Beach Mariott Hotel & Spa, 900 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, California 92660. The theme for this year’s conference is “Growing Minds in Changing Times.” For questions, please contact the NAMI California office at 916-567-0163Download Workshop Form Here.

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Homeless in the Valley get Needed Help

A view of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angel...

A view of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, California, from Brand Park in Glendale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About 54,000 people were counted as homeless in Los Angeles County this year, an 18% increase compared with the last survey 2011, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. About 15% of the county’s homeless are from the San Fernando Valley, which also has an increase, especially among families.

To help the homeless, Zev Yaroslavsky (LA County Supervisor) championed Project 50 in 2010, an initiative to identify Skid Row’s 50 most vulnerable and chronically homeless families, and get them housing, medical care, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment so they can live off the streets. Didi Hirsh is an extension of Project 50, the President and Chief Executive Officer, Kita S. Curry, said the new wing at Project 50 will help 60 women with children for six months at a time. Curry said that “People who are homeless will likely succeed if they have a home first.”

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Psychiatric Diagnoses Appear to be Underreported

On the Threshold of Eternity

On the Threshold of Eternity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study in JAMA Psychiatry concludes that mental disorders are still being underreported by patients, including those who are in midlife to late life.

Researchers in the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the answers of 1,071 adults asked to report previous psychiatric diagnoses (major depression, substance use disorder, serious mental illnesses), as well as other general medical disorders (e.g., diabetes and cancer). Self-reports were compared to actual records, showing that 81% of those with a psychiatric diagnosis underreported their condition, compared with 13% underreporting general medical conditions.

The researchers posit that stigma may be a cause. “Stigma associated with mental disorders, as well as the fluctuating course of mental illnesses, might partly explain the discrepancies as well as differences in ages of onset of mental and physical disorders,” said Ramin Mojtabai, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor and senior author of the study. Moreover, Mojtabai concluded that because symptoms associated with general medical illnesses may be more prevalent in late life, patients may feel the need to report current ones over past mental illnesses.

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Reminder: Meeting and Speaker Tonight

Please join us tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the First Lutheran Church at 2900 Carson St. in Torrance. Also, beginning at 6:00 p.m., before the meeting, will be the Caring & Sharing support group.

This month’s speaker is Maria Salas, Mental Health Coordinator at San Pedro Mental Health Center. Maria will speak about the programs and services available at the San Pedro Mental Health Center (150 W 7th St., San Pedro), and the other centers in the South Bay.

When looking for a mental health center consider what treatment and patient types they focus on and choose one that best fits your needs.

First Lutheran Church, 2900 Carson St., Torrance CA

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Media Alert: 60 Minutes

Sunday, January 26, 2014–7 p.m. EST/PST

CBS News’ 60 Minutes will air a story on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. EST/PST about families and the mental health care system for youth.

The segment is the first television interview with Virginia state senator and former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, whose 24-year-old son, Gus, died by suicide this past November after attacking him. Gus had been discharged from a hospital emergency room because no psychiatric beds were available in the local or nearby communities.

An advance excerpt from the interview:

“I really don’t want Gus to be defined by his illness. I don’t want Gus to be defined by what happened . . . Gus was a great kid. He was a perfect son. It’s clear the system failed,” Deeds says in the interview.

CBS News notified NAMI of the broadcast on Friday afternoon, January 24. Except for the excerpt on the 60 Minutes website, we have not had an opportunity to view the story in advance.

After the broadcast, viewers are invited to post comments on the 60 Minutes website or through its contact us feature.

Bob Carolla, J.D.
Director of Media Relations
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
3803 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22205
(703) 516-7963

Study Suggests Religion, Spirituality Might Build Resilience against Depression

English: A woman walking a prayer labyrinth

English: A woman walking a prayer labyrinth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FROM Psychiatric News Alert: The reason that religion or spirituality appears to protect people with a familial risk of depression from developing the illness may be because religion or spirituality thickens the cortices of the brain, Columbia University researchers Lisa Miller, Ph.D., Myrna Weissman, Ph.D., and colleagues report in JAMA Psychiatry. Their study included 103 adults who were either at high familial risk or low familial risk for depression. The importance they placed on religion or spirituality was evaluated at two time points during a five-year period. The thickness of their brain cortices was measured with MRI at the second time point. The researchers found that the brain cortices of subjects who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality were thicker than the brain cortices of those who did not, but that, in addition, the cortices were especially strong in those individuals who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality and who had a high risk of depression.

“Our findings therefore may identify a neural pathway through which the personal importance of spirituality or religion protects against major depressive disorder in people who are otherwise predisposed to developing it,” the researchers concluded.

English: Tibetan endless knot Nederlands: Tibe...

English: Tibetan endless knot Nederlands: Tibetaanse Oneindige knoop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“This study points to measurable, beneficial effects of presumably healthy spirituality, especially for individuals with biological predispositions to depression,” Mary Lynn Dell, M.D., told Psychiatric News. She is a professor of clinical psychiatry and pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State University and has studied spirituality and religion. The study, she continued, “adds to substantial and growing evidence that psychiatrists should support healthy development in that sphere of patients’ lives. Studies such as these may also inform the particular ways and methodologies religious professionals…employ to care for and work with depressed individuals, while at the same time staying true to their particular religious beliefs and traditions.”

To read about a previous study of this topic by Weissman and colleagues, see thePsychiatric News article “Depression Recurrence Less Likely When Religion Is Important.”

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Abnormal Retinal Blood Vessels with Schizophrenia

s_1451f1From Psychiatric News Alert: The blood vessels in the retina of the eye are abnormal in individuals with schizophrenia, according to the study “Microvascular Abnormality in Schizophrenia as Shown by Retinal Imaging” in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The senior researcher was Richie Poulton, Ph.D., codirector of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. The cohort included more than 1,000 individuals who were followed from birth to adulthood. At age 38, the subjects underwent retinal imaging. The researchers compared the retinal imaging results of 27 individuals who had developed schizophrenia with those of individuals who had not and found that the former had microvascular abnormalities reflective of insufficient brain oxygen supply.

s_1451f2These findings have both research and clinical implications, the researchers said. For example, “Longitudinal and high-risk studies can determine whether retinal vessel caliber in juveniles predicts risk of developing psychosis or accompanies the progression of schizophrenia….” And if that is indeed the case, then retinal imaging might eventually be used to track youth at high risk of developing psychosis, since it is noninvasive and available in many primary care, optometry, and ophthalmology centers, and could foster intervention earlier than is now the case.

For an in-depth review of the latest knowledge on the causes of and treatments for schizophrenia, see Essentials of Schizophrenia from American Psychiatric Publishing.