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24 Dec

Do you have children who love to play video games? Have you noticed that they haven’t put down the game controller since receiving the latest gaming system for Christmas? If the answer is yes, now may be the time for an intervention – the World Health Organization just named excessive video game playing the latest addictive mental disorder.

According to the beta draft of the WHO’s most recent update of the International Classification of Diseases, this gaming disorder is described as follows:

“WHO just named excessive video game playing the latest addictive mental disorder.”

“Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

When your child prioritizes video gaming over personal and social health, as well as education, that’s a clear sign that there’s a problem. These behavior patterns can be continuous or episodic and recurrent, according to the WHO, so it’s important to pay attention to your child’s habits to determine if he or she has a problem. If the obsessive behavior becomes normal over a period of at least 12 months, your child can officially be diagnosed with gaming disorder by a doctor, health care worker or insurance company, according to Forbes magazine.

Obsessive gaming can take over your child's life.Obsessive gaming can take over your child's life.Obsessive gaming can take over your child’s life.

The Benefits of Playing Video Games in Moderation
While obsessive gaming comes with a bad connotation, that doesn’t mean all video game playing is bad for your children. Everything is good in moderation, and the same goes for gaming. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of teens in the U.S. reportedly play video games regularly. With that many children engaging in the digital gaming world, it’s important to look at all aspects of gaming and understand how it can impact your child positively:

  • Cognitively – According to the American Psychological Association, gaming promotes a variety of cognitive skills, such as enhanced mental rotation ability, improved coordination, increased attention to detail and more.
  • Motivationally – Children are motivated by video games, showing persistence and continuous effort to complete missions.
  • Emotionally – Gaming has proven to help children as a stress and failure coping mechanism.
  • Socially – According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of teens have made new friends online through gaming, and 23 percent of teens reported that they share their gaming handle as contact information.

Simply monitoring the amount of time your child plays video games can ensure he or she doesn’t become obsessed, all while promoting the beneficial aspects listed earlier.

Encourage Your Kids to Expand Their Hobbies
If you feel as though your child is on the verge of becoming overly obsessed with video games, now’s the time to encourage him or her to find another hobby. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Learn how to play an instrument – Enroll your child in music lessons based on an instrument that intrigues him or her.
  • Read comic books – Based on the similarities in visually tactical design between video games and the comic world, your child may lean towards comic book reading.
  • Get creative in the kitchen – Teach your child how to bake or cook one of his or her all-time favorite plant-based meals.
  • Go outside – Whether it’s sunny or snowing, there are so many ways to play outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
  • Get crafty – Teach your child how to knit, crochet, paint or assemble a cute home accessory for a loved one.

A few simple changes in your child’s everyday habits can result in a beautifully blossoming new hobby that they learn to enjoy for life. Continue supporting your children in the decisions they make, but don’t be afraid to step in when something seems out of hand, such as too much time spent playing video games. Besides trying and maintaining a new hobby, you can help your kids avoid becoming obsessed with gaming by encouraging more family time. Prioritize sit-down family dinners every evening, schedule an old-fashioned board game night or go to church together every Sunday to ensure you’re getting enough face time with each other. Not only will this give your children a break from gaming, but it’ll help strengthen the bond between your family and enrich your relationships in the future.

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24 Sep

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Federal prosecutors have reportedly begun a criminal investigation into e-cigarette leader Juul Labs. (Wall Street Journal)

The measles-free streak only lasted one week; two new cases reported yesterday.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) complained that the World Health Organization has been too tight-fisted with Ebola vaccines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and called for an independent committee to run vaccination programs there.

Exact Sciences announced an expanded indication for the at-home stool DNA test Cologuard, to include adults age 45-49 as well those 50 or older.

More losartan recalls for nitrosamine contamination.

You knew it was coming: fans of candy-flavored e-cigarette liquids are frantically buying them up, in anticipation of an imminent ban. (CNN)

A test of Newark filters showed they were 97% effective in reducing lead in the water, but only to the manufacturer’s standard of 10 parts per billion. Officials caution that no amount of lead is safe to drink. (Reuters)

An appeals court weighs blocking the Trump administration rule banning taxpayer-funded clinics, like Planned Parenthood, from making abortion referrals. (AP)

Drugmaker Servier faces trial in France over accusations that its drug benfluorex (Mediator) — a fenfluramine analogue never sold in the U.S. — killed up to 2,000 people. (AP)

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said the United Nations should avoid using “ambiguous terms” like sexual and reproductive health on policy documents because it could “promote practices like abortion.” (CNN)

Naltrexone is approved as an addiction therapy, but some patients are using it in very low doses for chronic pain. (NPR)

A runway model silently protested Gucci’s straitjacket-like clothing at Milan Fashion Week, then went on Instagram to explain that “mental health is not fashion.” (The Guardian)

Morning Break is a daily guide to what’s new and interesting on the Web for healthcare professionals, powered by the MedPage Today community. Got a tip? Send it to us:


last updated 09.24.2019

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24 Sep

Veterans with specific mental health disorders—depression , psychosis and bipolar disorder—had an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease, according to new research published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.

The link between mental illness and cardiovascular disease is well established. However, there has been little research and data on which mental health conditions pose the highest risk for cardiovascular disease.

In this study, researchers assessed veterans at risk for major heart disease and stroke events and death associated with depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychosis and bipolar disorder. The analysis included data from more than 1.6 million veterans ages 45 to 80 who received care in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system from 2010-2014. About 45% of the men and 63% of the women had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

When controlling for age, cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol, other mental health conditions and psychiatric medications, both men and women with various mental health diagnoses except post-traumatic stress disorder had a higher risk of cardiovascular events and death over five years. Additional findings from this study:

In particular, among men, depression, anxiety, psychosis and bipolar disorder were associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. And, depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder were also linked to cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

Among women, depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder posed a higher cardiovascular disease risk. Psychosis and bipolar disorder also increased the risk of death.

A diagnosis of psychosis, such as schizophrenia, among both men and women posed the strongest risk for heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.

A PTSD diagnosis among men in the study was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to the study population as a whole. This finding differed from some previous studies.

According to the study authors, this is the largest-scale assessment of the associations among different psychiatric conditions and major cardiovascular outcomes. Researchers state that these findings have implications for estimating cardiovascular risk among patients and determining who might benefit from interventions such as cholesterol-lowering medications and blood pressure treatment.

This study was not designed to assess why veterans with mental health conditions have heightened cardiovascular risk, although the authors raise the possibility that chronic stress due to mental health problems could play a role.

“The bottom line is that when considering a veteran’s health care needs, mental health status, especially for more severe mental illnesses, should be taken into consideration when calculating cardiovascular disease risk and considering the appropriate treatment options,” said Mary C. Vance, M.D., M.Sc., an employee of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation working as assistant professor of psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

The researchers say that although their study population was large, results could differ in a population outside of the Veterans Affairs health system.

For people with severe mental illness, cardiovascular disease risk may be underestimated

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24 Sep

University officials work to evaluate Telehealth program for students


Matthew Sutherland, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, advocates for the additon of $3000 to the GPSA budget for housing costs while lobbying in Olympia for 60 days on Monday evening in the CUB.

KAITLYN TEJERO, Evergreen reporter

GPSA featured a speaker who discussed the university’s plan to implement new mental health and counseling services for WSU students.

Ellen Taylor, associate vice president of student engagement, said she has previously worked at the University of Washington, Oregon State University, and has now been at WSU for 14 months.

Steven Hobaica, a GPSA senator and member of the College of Arts and Sciences, asked Taylor what the university will do about the mental health services at WSU and if they will implement Telehealth, which provides online counseling and mental health services.

“Some diverse students may feel uncomfortable speaking with someone who is white. I worked at CAPS [Counseling and Psychological Services] and I know that there is a lot of great people there,” he said. “But I was wondering if Telehealth is something you would be considering.”

Taylor said that this is definitely something they are thinking about implementing at WSU.

“We are actually working with the assistant attorney general to make sure that we explore that from an appropriate lens,” she said. “There are so many possible solutions to the issue of having adequate mental health services for our students, and we are looking at all different elements of it.”

Taylor said recruiting people to work in Telehealth services while also retaining them is an issue.

“It turns out there are not that many folks that want to work for Telehealth yet, but I think the industry is changing,” she said. “One of the barriers we face is that a practitioner has to be licensed in the state where the client is, so we would be limited to [only] help students who are in the state of Washington.”

Matthew Sutherland, GPSA’s vice president of legislative affairs, asked the senate for $3,000 for housing and travel in order for him to advocate in Olympia over a 60-day period.

He said that he needs approval for this trip from fellow members of GPSA to have a voice in a way they haven’t before.

“What I want to do now is becoming common practice between other graduate associations,” he said. “Washington State Legislature works part-time; I would like to take the legislative agenda that you voted on and get results from it.”

GPSA Executive Vice President Veneice Guillory-Lacy ended the meeting by encouraging anyone interested advocating on behalf of GPSA to apply to the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. NAGPS is a national conference through the University of Kentucky, which will be held Nov. 7-10.

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24 Sep

Countless open tabs with soon-to-be-finished papers litter laptop screens all around campus. Students frantically reading textbooks on train rides to their jobs and internships has become a common sight. It’s the fifth week of classes, and the work and stress is piling up.

With the pressures of classes, work and internships increasing, students barely have time to breathe, let alone take care of their mental health, setting up a dangerous precedent for the future.

Mental health disorders affect one in three college freshman, with the most common illnesses being depression and anxiety, the American Psychological Association reported in 2018.

There are plenty of on-campus resources for students dealing with mental health issues, like Tuttleman Counseling Services and the Psychological Services Center at Temple University Hospital. These resources are all available to students, but only if students seek help.

“Students feel there is a stigma around [discussing mental health]. Every time they act that way they perpetuate the stigma,” said Richard Heimberg, clinic director of the Adult Anxiety Clinic located in Weiss Hall and a psychology professor.

“I’ve seen lots of students fail courses because they didn’t want to admit they needed help,” Heimberg added.

Mental health issues can affect academic achievement, with approximately 83 percent of college students with emotional and behavioral disorders scoring worse than students without them in reading, math and writing, according to the National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University.

These difficulties only get worse after graduation, with the added responsibilities and stress of the workplace. Still, a 2018 study by the JED Foundation, a suicide prevention nonprofit, found that only two in 10 college seniors with diagnosed mental health conditions had plans for how to take care of their mental well-being after graduation.

“Ignoring mental health in this job can lead to terrible irritability, in all terms, a complete shutdown and lack of awareness of things around you, whether it be your team or your students,” said Aly Seechock, a teacher in North Philadelphia public schools since 2018. 

In her first year as an educator, she experienced burnout, which Mayo Clinic defines as a physical and emotional exhaustion due to chronic stress, from her new position, which negatively impacted her mental health, Seechock said.

There’s one thing that students can do to safeguard their mental health now and in the future: ask for help, whether it is your employer or professor.

“I would definitely be open to an employee coming up to me at any time and talking to me about what’s going on with them,” said Anita Dumas, an impact manager for a nonprofit education organization in Philadelphia. Dumas said she encourages her employees to schedule weekly and monthly check-ins with her to discuss their mental health.

The 2018 study by the JED Foundation also found that eight in 10 employers would welcome an employee approaching them about their mental health struggles.

There are a number of reasons why it would be difficult for students to seek out help with their mental health, like a lack of time and busy schedules. But if students can try their best to seek help to the best of their ability, it will benefit their lives now and in the future.

“If you don’t ask for help, you’re closing off a major lifeline,” Heimberg added.

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24 Sep

In order to support nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in their response to emergencies around the world, WHO in partnership with the International Medical Corps organized a capacity building initiative in Kyiv, Ukraine on 16–23 July 2019. The event, aimed at humanitarian professionals from across the world, focused on ensuring mental health services at the primary health care level in humanitarian settings.

“WHO estimates that every 5th person living in a conflict-affected area acquires at least one mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or psychosis,” says Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine. “Therefore, investing in mental health and psychosocial support during emergencies should sustain and increase in order to address people’s needs and bring important changes in health systems. Mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings is not only about helping people in need – it is also about thinking of future generations.”

International guidelines for integrating mental health and psychosocial support

“A key priority in any emergency response is an integration of mental health and psychosocial support in line with international guidelines,” says Ashley Leichner, Senior Global Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Officer for the International Medical Corps. “Integrated mental health and psychosocial support in emergency activities will reach more people, are more sustainable, and tend to carry less stigma,” she adds.

The week-long training in Kyiv equipped participants with practical and applied knowledge of available international guidelines, to enable them to train general humanitarian health workers. It included the:

  • Mental Health Gap Action Programme Humanitarian Intervention Guide (mhGAP HIG), a simple, practical tool that aims to support general health facilities, in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies, in assessing and managing acute stress, grief, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, epilepsy, intellectual disability, harmful substance use and risk of suicide.
  • Mental Health Gap Action Programme Humanitarian Intervention Guide (mhGAP HIG) operational manual, designed to provide practical, step-by-step guidance to district health managers and others responsible for integrating mental and physical health services.
  • International Medical Corps toolkit for the Integration of Mental Health into General Healthcare in Humanitarian Settings, an interactive guide to plan, design and implement more effective and sustainable mental health programs.

Simulation exercise to apply acquired knowledge

Through simulation exercises, participants practiced jointly assembling an operations team, following the aftermath of a major earthquake, where they worked together to conduct a situation analysis of general mental health and psychosocial support services available in the region. Afterwards, a work plan was developed for training and supervision, as well as for monitoring and evaluation. During the exercises, participants also practiced advocating for mental health issues and communicating the benefits of implementing the mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide to actors representing donors, community leaders and health authorities.

During the implementation phase which will follow the training, WHO and the International Medical Corps will provide the NGOs with technical support through field visits and remote supervision.

Implementing the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) in Ukraine

“Experiencing an emergency crisis can significantly impact a person’s social and emotional well-being. The need for mental health services in Ukraine is reported as high in all sectors, and for all age groups,” says Osnat Lubrani, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine. “Mental health and psychosocial support are therefore relevant across the humanitarian development nexus, given the need to respond to urgent immediate needs while concurrently building back sustainable, community-based, and human rights-oriented mental health and psychosocial support services,” he stresses.

As a part of the Humanitarian Response in Ukraine, WHO supports the Government in implementing the mhGAP with a focus on eastern Ukraine. In 2017, at the request of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, WHO supported the launch of capacity-building activities for the mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide in eastern Ukraine. In 2019, it expanded the programme and trained primary health care workers on Version 2.0 of the mhGAP Intervention Guide in the Donetsk region. “We see the potential of the mhGAP programme scaling up at the national level,” concludes WHO Representative in Ukraine Dr Jarno Habicht.

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23 Sep

Sen. Keith Perry and Reps. Chuck Clemons, Chuck Brannan and Clovis Watson Jr. listened to the public at the annual Alachua County Legislative Delegation meeting Monday.

Alachua County officials, leaders and citizens urged local legislators to fund initiatives concerning mental health, gun safety, development and other issues Monday at a public meeting with their representatives.

Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, and Reps. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, Chuck Brannon, R-Macclenny, and Clovis Watson Jr., D-Alachua, listened to the public at the annual Alachua County Legislative Delegation in the Fine Arts Hall on the Santa Fe College campus. The next legislative session is set to start in January but committee work already has begun.

The City of Gainesville’s new Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator, Thomas Harrison, shared the city’s plan to expand its mental health facilities.

“Mental health has been quite an issue in the media,” he said. “And we would like to support an expansion of 10 beds for Baker Act screening for the area’s mental health central facility here.”

The Baker Act is a Florida law, passed in 1971, that allows a person to be involuntarily institutionalized for up to 72 hours if they are believed to be in danger of self harm or harming another.

The City of Gainesville is requesting $750,000 for the mental health bed expansion.

Stacy Scott, the public defender for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, said mental health issues are so important to the cases she and others cover, that an additional lawyer should be hired to better address mental health hearings in the circuit.

“Circuit-wide, we’ve experienced a dramatic increase in the number of Baker Acts,” she said. “Currently I have one full-time attorney that is dedicated to just the Baker Acts in Alachua County, but I also have five other counties and a number of state hospitals within my circuit.”

Community mental health services should be expanded for people before they even enter the criminal justice system, she said.

“If we can intervene in people’s lives and start treating mental illness much earlier in the process, we can keep folks from coming through my doors as a defendant,” Scott said.

Pamela Korithoski, president of the Alachua County Council of PTAs, said student mental health, as well as the reduction of gun violence and targeting of electronic cigarettes, are major concerns for families.

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell spoke briefly about gun safety, and the need for greater discussion on the topic is significant progress is to be made.

“We can’t do it if we are going to duck and run,” she said.

Darnell said the Florida Sheriffs Association suggests that legislation be passed to make it a third-degree felony for a minor to pose in a photo online with a weapon, as it could be considered a threat.

Scott, the public defender, voiced hesitation at this suggestion.

“It’s concerning to me,” she said. “Of course we don’t want any kinds of guns or threats going around about our schools, but you have to really think twice before you create new felonies where a young child could make a terrible mistake and then end up becoming a convicted felon for the rest of their life.”

Perry said it’s important for state legislators to look into what leads to mental health issues.

“We don’t know what the causes of these [mental health problems] are,” he said. My guess is it’s environmental factors. It’s not just genetics.”

Some community members also addressed the development of east Gainesville as a priority.

Outgoing SF College President Jackson Sasser, who will leave the school on Jan. 31, 2020, requested that legislators commit $17 million to complete the Blount Center, 401 NW 6th St., SF College’s east Gainesville location.

Sasser said “immoral” racial inequity in Gainesville is a motivating factor toward building up the school’s presence on the east side of town.

Gainesville City Commissioner Gigi Simmons echoed Sasser’s remarks on the potential benefits of the Blount Center.

“We heard Mr. Sasser speak before about how critical it is for east Gainesville and the residents of east Gainesville,” she said. “I also think this partnership between the University of Florida and Santa Fe College is critical for the development of east Gainesville.”

Alachua County School Board Chairman Rob Hyatt spoke about reinstating greater “local control” over public school system decisions.

The school board, Hyatt said, favors raising school property taxes to correspond with increased property values.

“Homeowners will pay $52 less in school property taxes this year than they did 10 years ago,” he said. “Despite the fact that the value of that home has increased by nearly $25,000.”

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23 Sep

Following outrage from elected officials, community members and employees, Amita Health no longer intends to close the inpatient behavioral health unit at its Elgin hospital, according to a memo obtained by Crain’s.

The decision not to discontinue inpatient mental health services at 184-bed Amita Health St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin comes “after considerable thought and reflection,” the memo to community stakeholders says.

The unit currently has 30 beds, six of which are for adolescent patients between 13 and 17 years old. The memo did not say whether there will be changes to the unit. Amita representatives did not return requests for comment.

The Lisle-based, 19-hospital network last month announced plans to close the Elgin unit, as well as the inpatient acute mental illness program at 401-bed Amita Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village.

On Sept. 13, Amita filed an application with the state to close the 25-bed unit in Elk Grove Village due to difficulty attracting qualified psychiatrists and the rise of outpatient programs reducing the need for inpatient services.

Clay Ciha, senior vice president and CEO of behavioral health at Amita, said in a statement last month that the hospital chain aims to establish centers of excellence for behavioral health care in its Fox River Valley and Northwest service areas.

As a result, Ciha said it plans to move the Elk Grove Village inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit to Amita Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Hoffman Estates.

In addition to service line changes, Amita is facing a wave of executive departures, capped by the exit of CEO Mark Frey on Aug. 30.

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