WBUR: Help for stressed out college students

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Nice post from WBUR’s Commonhealth on how  college students help keep each other  straight.

As a college student, I often feel surrounded by people who are stressed and struggling with their mental health. I’ve seen and helped with multiple breakdowns and crises when on-campus counseling services were not available, not sure how much I can really help but still glad that my friends reached out for support.


The Boston Globe series that Steward Health took to court — before the stories ran

The Globe’s narrative story about one man’s struggles with his mental health care is running this week. And the company that runs one of the hospitals where he was treated was not allowed to read it first.ssLast week:  

A Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Steward Health Care System has no right to review the reporting or records collected by The Boston Globe for a yet-to-be-published article about a man’s journey through the mental health care system.

Judge Jeffrey Locke said the for-profit health care company may comment broadly to the newspaper and answer limited questions on the patient’s care without violating medical privacy laws.

Steward, in a suit filed against the Globe Wednesday, asked the court to permit release of the patient’s private medical records, which the company said it needed to rebut a Globe story that is scheduled to be published this weekend.

The hospital chain also served papers to the man profiled in the story. Read the full story above a full run-down of the legal contortions hospital lawyers performed to argue that they were not going after the patient or trying to repress the story.

This is more about more than a thin-skinned story subject.  Health care reporters seeking comment or information for stories can come up against overly broad interpretations of patient privacy laws.  Worth watching.

Finally, a question: What would The Cheescake Factory do? 


Globe series: Kids, meds and welfare

I found this story almost too depressing to read. Families who seek help for kids with mental health problems can’t get it unless the kids are on meds. And, when the kids get better, the payments are cut off. So the kids don’t get “better” because the families need the help.

Check out the Globe’s series: “The Other Welfare.”  

A Globe investigation has found that this Supplemental Security Income program — created by Congress primarily to aid indigent children with severe physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and blindness — now largely serves children with relatively common mental, learning, and behavioral disorders such as ADHD. It has also created, for many needy parents, a financial motive to seek prescriptions for powerful drugs for their children.

And once a family gets on SSI, it can be very hard to let go…

“This has become the new welfare,’’ said MIT economics professor David Autor. “This is a very valuable resource to families, but you’re providing incentives for them to produce a diagnosis for their children to be part of this program, and there’s also incentives to medicate them. This is a substantial public policy problem.’’

Haitian mental health team wins caregiver award

 The Mass-based Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care was set up in 1994 by a lung cancer patient who learned that “the smallest acts of kindness made the unbearable bearable.” Each year, the center gives out an award. This year’s winner is the Cambridge Health Alliance’s Haitian Mental Health Team, “a multidisciplinary team of caregivers who treat Haitian and Haitian-American patients in more than a half dozen communities in eastern Massachusetts”

 The $5,000 award “recognizes those who embody compassionate care…

 ·      communicates sensitively with patients and loved ones

·      listens carefully, showing empathy and instilling hope

·      respects patients’ values, culture, choices and decisions

·      understands the significance of patients’ families and communities.”

Globe columnist Adrian Walker had this to say about the group in a recent column:

That title may be long and bureaucratic-sounding, but behind it is a dedicated group of mental health providers  who have just been through 10 months many of their peers could not imagine.

They have served a community battered by the emotional ripple effects of the earthquake that shattered the country in January, and then by the cholera epidemic that followed. And they have done so with passion and commitment.


MGH and the rise of psych meds

Tuft psychiatrist and blogger Daniel Carlat details how his education at Mass General focused on medication over therapy. In tomorrow’s NYTimes Magazine features his story  “Mind over Meds: How I decided my psychiatry patients needed more from me than prescriptions.”

He takes us back to MGH to explain.

 …(On)a steamy July day in 1992, I stood on a Boston street, far from home, gazing at Massachusetts General Hospital (known as M.G.H.), where I was about to start my training.

This was a momentous time at M.G.H. Prozac was introduced four years earlier and became the best-selling psychiatric medication of all time. Zoloft and Paxil, two similar medications, were in the pipeline, and many of the key clinical trials for these antidepressants were conducted by psychiatrists at M.G.H. who were to become my mentors. M.G.H. and other top programs were enthralled with neurobiology, the new medications and the millions of dollars in industry grants that accompanied them. It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the drug approach to treatment. Psychopharmacology was infinitely easier to master than therapy, because it involved a teachable, systematic method. First, we memorized the DSM criteria for the major disorders, then we learned how to ask the patient the right questions, then we pieced together a diagnosis and finally we matched a medication with the symptoms.

 BHN links to his blog — to your right —  at  “Pharma and med ed

For more on MGH psychiatrists’ excitement over those industry grants, see The Boston Globe’s reporting on pharma funding and conflicts of interest at MGH.