Growing up, Mary Louise Montini, 13, has often been angry, upset and on edge, just like her father, a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her experience isn’t unique. Children can develop their own mental illnesses as a result of their parents’ struggles with PTSD and other mental health disorders associated with their military service, professionals say. And there are few resources and programs targeted to veterans’ children, compared to children of active military. Experts say the treatment needs of veterans’ children will continue as their parents continue to rotate through deployments to conflicts around the world, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
As anxiety and depression among college students soars, universities in Connecticut and nationally are expanding their mental health counseling, even offering courses that address mental well-being. A new national report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found that anxiety and depression were the top concerns of students seeking counseling services, and that self-harm behaviors have risen for the seventh year in a row. In another survey, 57 percent of directors of college counseling services said the severity of student mental health concerns increased between 2015 and 2016. And according to a National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey, 9.1 percent of college students reported being diagnosed in the last year with a psychiatric condition. “We have seen an increase this fall compared to last fall of almost 30 percent in students requesting to be seen by our counseling service,” said Kerry Patton, director of health and wellness at Quinnipiac University. Over the last few years, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common reason students at Quinnipiac are seeking counseling services.
The state’s efforts to direct children in mental health crisis away from emergency rooms, to other services, have fallen short, with major hospitals reporting staggering increases in patient visits since 2013: Up 32 percent at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and 81 percent at Yale New Haven Hospital. The children’s hospital (CCMC) reported nearly 3,300 visits last year – 275 a month, on average — with the average length of stay increasing to 15 hours from less than 12 in 2013. “I wish I could say we had made a lot of progress, but we haven’t,” said Dr. Steve Rogers, medical director of the emergency department’s (ED’s) behavioral health unit. “Unfortunately, I think it’s only going to keep trending this way.”
Similarly, Yale saw ED visits by children ages 15 and younger rise from fewer than 750 in 2013 to more than 1,350 in 2016 — and the numbers are running even higher this year, said Dr. Claudia Moreno, medical director for psychiatric emergencies in Yale’s children’s emergency department. At times, she said, all ED beds are full, and children wait on hallway gurneys.
State officials and parent advocates gave different versions Tuesday of how often, and why, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) takes custody of children with severe behavioral health problems – and whether the practice should continue. Advocates, including a group of adoptive parents, told the legislature’s Committee on Children that a proposed bill that would prohibit DCF from “requesting, recommending or requiring” that parents relinquish their custodial rights when seeking mental health treatment for their children is needed to stop a practice known as ‘trading custody for care.’ The bill, drafted by state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, was prompted by an October C-HIT story that described DCF’s use of “uncared for” custody petitions against parents who could not manage their children at home and insisted on specialized residential care. In testimony Tuesday, DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the agency resorts to taking over custody only in rare cases in which parents refuse to take their children home from inpatient settings or “will not cooperate” with clinician-recommended in-home or community-based treatment services. “We disagree with the notion that DCF requires parents to completely relinquish custody of their children” to receive suitable behavioral health care, Katz said. She acknowledged that the agency has sharply reduced the number of children it places in residential treatment.
Nationally, at least one in five military veterans who experience trauma are at a heightened risk for depression, suicide or substance abuse but are often overlooked in clinical settings because they don’t fit the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a Yale University-led study. The research, published June 1 in the World Psychiatry journal, examined sub-threshold PTSD, which occurs when someone experiences trauma-related symptoms that aren’t severe or long-lasting enough to warrant a PTSD diagnosis. The study, which included 1,484 veterans nationwide, found 8 percent were diagnosed with PTSD but more than 22 percent met criteria for sub-threshold PTSD. Also, in addition to 4.5 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD within the last month, 13 percent had sub-threshold symptoms, the study reported. Veterans with sub-threshold PTSD had a 20 percent chance of suffering from major depression in their lifetimes, compared with about 4 percent of veterans without sub-threshold symptoms, the study found.
What are the warning signs of teen depression? How do you talk to your child about his or her mood swings? How do you know when it’s the right time to consult a social worker? Kimberly Nelson, a licensed clinical social worker at the Wheeler Clinic, has provided answers to various questions regarding how to both spot and treat teen depression. In May, C-HIT hosted a forum on teen depression: Uncovering Our Kids: Towards A Better Understanding Of Teen Mental Health.
Dozens of Connecticut’s most at-risk mental health patients have added a new tool to their treatment plans – songwriting – thanks to an unusual partnership between a New York-based singer and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Over the past two years, singer-songwriter Mary McBride and her bandmates have worked with 36 young adults who receive DMHAS services, according to DMHAS Communications Director Mary Kate Mason. McBride hosts songwriting workshops with participants in DMHAS’ Young Adult Services. The songwriting process gives participants a creative outlet and a chance to be heard, she said. “It allows them to do what they do really well,” she said.
Mental disorders surpassed respiratory problems and all other ailments as the leading cause of hospitalization in Connecticut in 2012 for children ages 5 to 14, teenagers and younger adults, according to a new state health department report. The report shows that the number of days that patients with behavioral health problems were hospitalized surged 5.3 percent between 2011 and 2013, to nearly 260,000 patient days. Other categories of hospitalizations, including cardiac and cancer care, declined during that time. The data show five hospitals had increases of more than 12 percent in the number of days that patients with behavioral health problems were hospitalized. The biggest increases were at Yale-New Haven Hospital, which saw the number of patients rise 61 percent, and inpatient days jump 51 percent; and Waterbury Hospital, with 26 percent more patients and a 37 percent increase in inpatient days.
As a “classroom interventionist,” Stephanie Galluzo’s job is to help students who act out in class to settle down and refocus. Teachers find this new classroom management tool a huge benefit for them, as they concentrate on the whole class and aren’t distracted by one child. Experts say the in-class integration of behavioral health specialists – rare in Connecticut schools — is helpful in identifying and averting potentially more serious anti-social behaviors. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, there has been much talk about the need for improved mental health services to identify and treat vulnerable children before it’s too late. The classroom interventionist program at the Church Street School in Hamden is part of a larger pilot initiative called the Educational Care Collaborative, which aims to improve behavioral health services. Much as children with learning disabilities are given in-class aides, the program assigns interventionists to classrooms where children have mental health challenges.
A Waterbury group home for people with severe psychiatric disabilities has been cited by the state for failing to provide proper care for two residents with past suicide attempts who injured themselves while in the facility.