We can all play a role in identifying at-risk kids.
With increasing rates of suicide and mental health issues among U.S. youth, and with suicide as the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34, the state of youth mental health has reached crisis proportions. For this reason, I’m gravely concerned about the impact of the recent draft recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that found insufficient evidence for implementing screening for suicide risk among youth.
The USPSTF’s methodology may be mismatched with the real-world implementation science and the scope of the problem concerning youth suicide. Clinicians and mental health professionals must have a clear understanding of the USPSTF’s guidelines for reviewing evidence and arriving at a recommendation, as their approach is out of touch with recent expert recommendations on screening for youth suicide risk. The USPSTF findings may cast doubt among healthcare providers on the importance of suicide screening and preventive care.
In collaboration with our partner organization on the Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and experts from the National Institute of Mental Health, we have identified three key weaknesses of the USPSTF draft report.
Suicide Screening Can Be Done Safely
The USPSTF calls for screening asymptomatic adolescents ages 12 to 18 years for major depressive disorder, and youth between the ages of 8 and 18 for anxiety, saying there would be a moderate benefit to each. We support this recommendation and believe the benefits would be more than moderate. On suicide risk, the USPSTF concluded there is insufficient evidence to weigh the benefits and harms of screening asymptomatic children and adolescents. However, in regards to the suicide risk, the report excluded or overlooked a number of key research studies that find universal suicide screening in pediatric medical settings validated with high sensitivity (97%) and specificity (91%), and demonstrate feasibility, accessibility by youth, parents, and clinicians, and importantly, demonstrate no evidence of harm.
The Biden Administration has proposed new rules that would fix the “family glitch,” which has left millions of families—including the families of many people with disabilities—ineligible for financial help through the health care marketplace.
Right now, people who do not have access to affordable health insurance through their jobs can get financial help to buy coverage in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. But current rules only consider the cost of the insurance for the employee and don’t take into account the cost of insurance for spouses, partners, dependents, or other family members.
This means that families who need insurance but can’t afford the cost for the entire family on the employee’s plan aren’t guaranteed an affordable option.
Because of the “family glitch,” five million people, including adults and children with disabilities, don’t have access to affordable health coverage.
Cedars-Sinai Investigators Found Alcohol Use Disorder Mortality Rates Were 25% Higher Than Projected in 2020, 22% Higher in 2021.
Deaths involving alcohol use disorder increased dramatically during the pandemic, according to a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators. The study also found that young adults 25 to 44 years old experienced the steepest upward trend in alcohol use disorder mortality.
In the study, published this month in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network Open, investigators used predictive modeling to compare expected—also called projected—alcohol use disorder mortality rates to actual rates. They found that alcohol use disorder-related mortality rates increased among all ages and sexes during the pandemic.
Overdose deaths increased 15 percent in 2021, up from an estimated 93,655 fatalities the year prior, according to a report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which collects data on a range of health topics, including drug use.
While the total number of deaths reached record highs, the increase appeared to slow compared to the change seen from 2019 to 2020, when overdose deaths rose 30 percent, according to the report.
It’s still too early to say whether that slowdown will hold, said Farida Ahmad, a scientist at the health statistics center. The agency’s latest report is considered provisional, meaning the data is incomplete and subject to change.
Young people are speaking out about their experiences with mental illness and substance misuse, and many are eager to shape solutions to a growing crisis. Youth with lived experiences of mental illness and substance use challenges, including addiction, understand first-hand the limitations, inequities, and failures of the current system. This Mental Health Awareness Month, policymakers are actively working to address this issue, and it’s critical that youth with lived experience are meaningfully engaged.
By working with young people with lived experience through a youth advisory board, Community Catalyst has learned important lessons about root causes, barriers to care, and what matters most to youth when accessing services – including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. These lessons are informing our federal advocacy as we engage policymakers who are actively drafting legislation related to youth mental health.
Additionally, Community Catalyst’s state partners in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, and California have been using youth engagement strategies to inform their advocacy and to elevate youth voice to state policymakers. Here are examples of those strategies:
Supporting Youth-Led Advocacy Campaigns: In addition to their Youth Advisory Board, the California School Based Health Alliance (CSHA) launched a project to build the power of high school students – particularly low-income students of color – to improve their schools’ response to youth substance use. The project trains youth on substance use prevention and advocacy using CSHA’s Youth Health Worker Curriculum and supports the development of youth-led campaigns to change school policy, as determined by the young people involved
Focus Groups to Build on Previous Wins: After winning a state mandate to implement youth SBIRT in all public middle and high schools, the Massachusetts Children’s Mental Health Campaign is engaging young people in conversations about how they experience the program. These focus groups will aim to better understand how school-based SBIRT can be improved, especially for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students who often experience unique barriers to affirming care in schools and the broader health care system.
Story Sharing and Zine Creation: The Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) in Georgia developed an eight-week program to support students – primarily Asian and Latino students – in sharing their stories about mental illness and substance misuse. This work culminated in a zine where students paired written pieces with pictures and art to illuminate the impact of mental illness and addiction on themselves and their communities. This work is being shared with policymakers and health advocates in Georgia to build support for the expansion of youth services and broader improvements to the behavioral health system.
There are numerous ways to include youth in health advocacy campaigns, and many opportunities to invest in youth leadership. As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness month, let’s amplify solutions that reflect the voices of those with lived experience. Doing so could help policymakers in states and the federal government improve the current system and build a better future for everyone.
There may be unique neural signatures that make people with PTSD more prone to chronic pain.
Nearly 50 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, according to a 2018 report released by the CDC. For some, there’s a clear reason for their pain, whether it be ongoing diseases like arthritis or disorders like fibromyalgia. But for others, there are no physical roots—their chronic pain is caused by trauma.
For years, scientists and clinicians have noticed that chronic pain and psychological trauma tend to go hand-in-hand. It’s never been clear why—pain is a subjective experience that differs from one person to another, making it hard to identify exact mechanisms in the brain. But now, scientists may have an answer.
In a new study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Pain Research, researchers in California have discovered three different types of brain patterns that may explain why some people are more prone or less prone to chronic pain that’s associated with trauma. These findings, based on new MRI studies of military veterans, push back against one-size-fits-all approaches to treatment, and instead pave the way for more tailored treatments specific to individual patients.
Throughout the country, there is an acute shortage of baby formula that millions of families rely on to feed their children. According to research from Datasembly, “the national out-of-stock rate for baby formula reached 43 percent” last week. That’s up from 31% last month, 11% in November, and the low single digits in the first seven months of 2021.
The result is that many parents are struggling to keep their children fed. Some are driving hours to find a place with formula in stock. Others are paying exorbitant prices from resellers seeking to exploit the crisis. Many have been forced to ration their supply, watering down the formula and potentially leaving their children undernourished.
There are a variety of reasons why baby formula is in short supply. For months, the industry has struggled with supply chain challenges related to the pandemic. Then in February, Abbott Nutrition — one of a handful of major manufacturers — recalled three popular varieties of formula. Four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections after drinking the formula and two died. The Michigan plant where the formula was manufactured remains closed.
Question Do female youths who attempt suicide have an increased risk of substance use disorders later in life?
Findings In this cohort study of 122 234 females aged 8 to 19 years followed up for 31 years, suicide attempts before 20 years of age were associated with greater risk of developing a substance use disorder later in life compared with no suicide attempt. Female youths with repeated suicide attempts or who attempted suicide by hanging or suffocation were at greatest risk of subsequent substance use disorders.
Meaning The findings suggest that female youths who attempt suicide may require better monitoring for substance use disorders after the initial suicide attempt.
For years now, pain has been the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 50 million Americans annually. This isn’t the kind of pain you endure when you trip onto the pavement, scab, bruise and heal. It’s the persistent gnawing, aching, throbbing that happens over a long period of time. This is chronic pain.
One of the most powerful and effective forms of treatment for pain is the safe use of opioids. Opioids in combination with other therapies have allowed those hindered by pain to live full and vibrant lives, but the stigma around opioid use was exacerbated in 2016 due to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, that both seriously discouraged doctors from prescribing these drugs and also over attributed the prescription of them as the cause of addiction and overdose.
While opioids are not a one-size fits all pain reliever, the rollback on prescriptions has disproportionately impacted people with disabilities, people of color, women, and incarcerated folks. Kate Nicholson, founder of the National Pain Advocacy Center, believes now is the time to course-correct. Pain relief, in her view, is a civil right.
“If this bill passes, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”
– Marilyn Golden, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
The purpose of this Toolkit is to give disability rights advocates an organized set of resources to assist in defeating proposals to legalize assisted suicide in state legislatures. The Toolkit is divided into seven brief sections, each consisting of basic information and links to related resources with more information. The seven sections are:
Why disability advocacy groups oppose legalizing assisted suicide
Educating and organizing disability opposition
Meeting with legislators and policy leaders
Testifying at hearings
Working with the media
Conducting direct actions – leafleting, rallying
Working in coalition
All of the major national disability groups that have taken a position on assisted suicide oppose bills to legalize the practice as a matter of public policy. The disability role in defeating these bills has increased in visibility and importance in the last few years as both media and various stakeholders have acknowledged our effectiveness. It is critical that our voice be heard wherever assisted suicide bills are introduced and considered.