Mental Health

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In The Entrepreneurial World, Mental Health Problems Can Have Positive Effect, Says Researcher

Dr. Michael Freeman, clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, whose study suggests a link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurs.  (Beth Willon/KQED)

Dr. Michael Freeman, clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, whose study suggests a link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurs. (Beth Willon/KQED)

By Beth Willon

The suicides of some techies and hackers inspired two Bay area researchers to try and find out if there’s a link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurs.

Surprisingly, their first-of-a-kind study showed that the positive traits associated with certain mental health conditions may contribute to entrepreneurial success. Still, they acknowledge there are many unanswered questions.

“Those people in the bipolar spectrum can be visionary, innovative, charismatic people that have unlimited energy and inspire the confidence of investors and customers and staff,” said Michael Freeman, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco. Continue reading

When Depression And Cultural Expectations Collide: One Teenager’s Story

Wynne Lee and her mother, Maggie Huang. plan their day over tea on Feb. 6, 2015. The mother and daughter rekindled their relationship after Lee started therapy to deal with her depression. (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Wynne Lee and her mother, Maggie Huang. plan their day over tea on Feb. 6, 2015. The mother and daughter rekindled their relationship after Lee started therapy to deal with her depression. (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

by Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

“My time is coming. It’s already time for me to die. I can’t wait. … So yeah I plan to kill myself during spring break, which by the way, starts in two days.”

Wynne Lee wrote that in a March 29, 2012 journal post.Her mind was at war with itself – one voice telling her to kill herself and another telling her to live. She had just turned 14.

She tried to push the thoughts away by playing video games and listening to music. Nothing worked. Then she started cutting herself. She’d pull out a razor, make a small incision on her ankle or forearm and watch the blood seep out. “Cutting was a sharp, instant relief,” she said.

Some days, that wasn’t enough. That’s when she’d think about suicide. She wrote her feelings in a journal in big loopy letters.

At first, Wynne thought she felt sad because she was having a hard 8th grade year. She and her boyfriend broke up. Girls were spreading rumors about her. A few childhood friends abandoned her. But months passed and the feelings of helplessness and loneliness wouldn’t go away.

“I was really happy as a kid and now I was feeling like this,” she said. “It was really unfamiliar and scary.”

Continue reading

Californians With Mental Health Issues Report Discrimination, Stigma

A new study by the RAND Corporation finds that nearly 9 in 10 Californians who reported having a mental health problem in the past 12 months said they had experienced discrimination because of it.

mental health in letterpress typeMost often, respondents reported discrimination in intimate social relationships. But more than 40 percent also reported “high levels of discrimination at school, in the workplace, and from health care providers and law enforcement officials,” the study said,

The study is based on responses to the 2014 California Well-Being Survey. Researchers surveyed 1,066 people who had previously reported mild to serious psychological distress.

Other findings:

  • 81 percent of respondents who had previously suffered a mild to moderate or serious level of psychological distress said the public discriminates against mental illness.
  • Just 41 percent said that people are “caring and sympathetic” to people with mental illness.
  • More than two in three said they would definitely or probably hide a mental health problem from coworkers or classmates.
  • More than one in three said they would hide a problem from family or friends

Continue reading

Depression Takes Growing Toll on American Workplace

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Lisa Gillespie, Kaiser Health News

For every dollar spent on treating depression, nearly five dollars more is spent on related medical conditions like back and chest pain, sleep disorders and migraines. Depression can also lead to lost productivity, placing a greater financial burden on businesses and the health care system, according to new research measuring the economic impact of depression.

Average worker with major depression loses the productivity of 32 days a year.

“The fact that they’re finding such greater costs with all these different [related conditions] underscores how the fragmented system is not helpful for our economy because people with mental illness are not getting the rounded health care they need,” said Lynn Bufka, with the American Psychological Association, who was not affiliated with the study.

The total cost to the U.S. economy of major depressive disorder rose to $210 billion in 2010, up more than 20 percent from $173 billion in 2008. Continue reading

Is Bay Area Boom Driving Up Cost of Therapy?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Going out to dinner is really stressful for Carolyn Desimone. She has a lot of friends who work in the tech sector, and they always want to go to trendy places.

“I went out for ramen with some startup kids and it was 30 bucks a person. It was stupid,” she says. “Everyone at the table is making twice as much as I do.”

And they’re willing to spend twice as much on food. It’s an economic dynamic she notices in the cost of therapy, too. Desimone pays $65 an hour at a community clinic to get help with her anxiety.

‘Geek whisperers’ needed now more than ever as the price of mental health services rises.

“The pool of my friends, they’re all $100, $120 per appointment,” she says. “I’d never be able to do that. I couldn’t do that and pay my rent.”

The influx of tech workers to the Bay Area has had a profound effect on the local economy: Affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. Dining out has become a competitive sport. And now, it seems the tech sector is applying upward pressure on the cost of some mental health services, too.

“One big variable is money,” says Michael Klein, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco. “The other is stress.” Continue reading

People with Low Incomes Say They Suffer Poorer Health

Uzuri Pease-Greene talks with two police officers in the public housing complex in San Francisco where she lives. (Talia Herman/NPR)

Uzuri Pease-Greene talks with two police officers in the public housing complex in San Francisco where she lives. (Talia Herman/NPR)

By Patti Neighmond, NPR

When you ask people what impacts health you’ll get a lot of different answers: Access to good health care and preventative services, personal behavior, exposure to germs or pollution and stress.

But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find a clear dividing line, and it boils down to one word: money.

“My health is deteriorating, and I know what the cause of it is, but I can’t fix it.”    

People whose household income is more than $75,000 a year have very different perceptions of what affects health than those whose household income is less than $25,000. This is one key finding in a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. One third of respondents who are low income say lack of money has a harmful effect on health.

This is the case for 29-year-old Anna Beer of Spokane, Wash. She lives with her husband in the basement of her father’s house. Beer got laid off from her job as a nanny last summer. Now she is attending college in the hope that she will get a better than minimum-wage job when she graduates. Beer’s husband earns $10 an hour working at a retail store. “This is probably the most poor we’ve been,” Beer says. Continue reading

When Health Care Is Far From Home

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour long bus ride to Mad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Richard Sandor, 65, of Hayfork, took the hour-long bus ride to illad River Clinic to pick up his medication for chronic pain. (Heidi de Marco/KHN).

The biggest barrier to treatment for residents of a tiny town in the mountains of Northern California isn’t insurance coverage — it’s distance.

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

HAYFORK, Calif. — It’s Tuesday morning, half past eight and already hot, when the small bus pulls up to the community clinic. Most of the passengers are waiting in front — an old man with a cane, two mothers with four kids between them, packed lunches in hand.

Two more arrive. A gray-bearded man with a pirate bandana steps from the shelter of his Subaru. A sunken-cheeked woman rushes up on her bike.

“Woohoo! We have a full car!” the driver says brightly after they’ve all climbed aboard. The riders smile back, some with a hint of resignation. It’s time for the weekly trip to the clinic in Mad River, about 30 miles down a winding mountain road. The tight twists and turns are hard on the stomach, but even harder on the joints — especially if you have chronic Lyme disease, as more than a few of these riders do.

Jeff Clarke is one of them. He acquired Lyme long ago from deer ticks that dwell in the region’s sprawling forests. But today he’s going to ask about a lump that’s been growing in his left breast. It’s starting to hurt, and he’s worried. His fellow riders list their own ailments matter-of-factly: asthma, dental decay, diabetes, drug addiction, heart disease and much more. Continue reading

4-Year Contract Dispute Between Kaiser, NUHW Thaws; Union ‘Hopeful’

(Ted Eytan/Flickr)

(Ted Eytan/Flickr)

For more than four years, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, representing 2,600 Kaiser mental health clinicians in California, has been in a small war with the health care giant.

NUHW members have gone on strikes of varying lengths three times over what it says are lengthy delays in providing care to mental health patients.

In 2011, the union filed a 34-page complaint with the California Department of Managed Health Care alleging Kaiser’s mental health services were “sorely understaffed and frequently fail to provide timely and appropriate care.” Continue reading

Calif. Calls Kaiser Mental Health Services ‘Inadequate’ as Treatment Delays Persist

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Oakland. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

A teenager with major depression and thoughts of suicide is forced to wait 24 days for an initial appointment.

A sexual assault victim, diagnosed with PTSD and major depression, sends numerous emails requesting individual psychotherapy, only to have her psychiatrist suggest she should get outside help at her own expense because no weekly appointments are available. Total time between appointments: Five months.

Following up on a survey that resulted in a $4 million fine against the HMO in 2013.  

A patient deemed high-risk for domestic abuse doesn’t show up for appointments, but mental health staff do not attempt contact. The couples therapy called for in his treatment plan does not occur. Domestic violence resulting in severe injury ensues. The man then tries to make an appointment but can’t get one.

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Mental Health ‘Warm Line’ Helps Prevent Crises With Good Listening

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Editor’s note: a warm line is a place where people struggling with mental illness, but not in an acute state of crisis, can call and talk to a trained counselor as long as they need to. As part our community health series Vital Signs, we caught up with Daisy Matthias, a counselor at San Francisco’s new warm line, in between phone calls.

By Daisy Matthias

The majority of the people call about anxiety, depression, loneliness, or even stress.

We’ll be there for as long as you need us. We don’t have a time limit. And other warm lines sometimes will have a time limit of 20 minutes, 30 minutes.

Every counselor has a history of dealing with mental health. Continue reading