Betty Williams says giving up crack cocaine was easier than her ongoing struggle to quit cigarettes. “A cigarette is a friend,” said Williams, who lives with schizophrenia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with mental illness account for 44% of the cigarette purchases in the United States, and they are less likely to quit than other smokers. High smoking rates among people with mental illness contribute to poorer physical health and shorter lifespans, generally 13 to 30 years shorter than the population as a whole. About 37% of men and 30% of women with mental illness smoke.
Combining medication with other forms of therapy can help people with opioid addition avoid relapse by calming cravings and managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Less than half of the privately drug addiction programs nationally offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT); and even in those programs, only one-third of patients receive MAT, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. In Connecticut, there are about 40 Medicaid providers that prescribe medication for treatment. In our podcast, sponsored by Wheeler Clinic, Dr. Robert Grillo discusses medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Increasing access to MAT is important given the extreme danger associated with relapse, says Dr. Robert Grillo, medical director for psychiatry at Wheeler Clinic.
Stephanie Almada’s journey to opioid addiction began with a prescription to relieve her premenstrual symptoms and accelerated after she had a cesarean section. “The pain pills came, you know, very quickly and I had bottles at home anyway,” she said. “And then it became energy for me. It became the way I coped with life.” Today Almada, 44, is a peer recovery specialist at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, where she helps women get off opioids. Americans are using opioids at record rates.
Connecticut has seen a continued rise in opioid-related addiction among women, with more than 420 women dying of drug overdoses in 2015 and 2016. To address the crisis and stir community discussion about prevention, intervention and treatment, the Conn. Health I-Team, in collaboration with Wheeler Clinic, will host a free community forum, “Working Women: The New Face of Addiction,” from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on April 6 at the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St., New Britain. The event is open to the public. Register here.
The incidence of suicide in nearly all age groups has increased by 24 percent since 1999—and by 200 percent among girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Theories behind such astounding unprecedented increases, reported recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vary. Some research says that among older Americans, the recent recession may have played a part, though the correlation is not a simple one. As for why so many more young girls are killing themselves, the answers there, too, are complicated. Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 showed the greatest rise in suicide of any age group since 1999, from 0.5 per 100,000 to 1.5 per 100,000 in 2014, according to last month’s CDC report.
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.
This much we know: Boys and girls are different. We also know this: Adolescence is the most challenging time of life, and teen girls are particularly challenged to get through those years unscathed. Suicide attempts spike during the teen years, yet even with all that, it’s tough to know what’s “normal,” and what is cause for alarm. And that’s even truer for girls. By the time girls and boys hit their teen years, girls are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder than are teen boys.
The growing number of children and teens exposed to traumatic events in everyday life has forced the state’s crisis intervention teams to respond to a broader range of behavioral and mental health issues, and those teams often serve as a bridge until at-risk youth find appropriate outpatient or inpatient services. Sixty-four percent of Connecticut’s youth who use Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (EMPS), the state’s mobile crisis intervention team, have experienced one or more traumatic incidents, such as domestic violence, cyber-bullying, physical assaults, or gang warfare, experts report. Research shows childhood exposure to violence, physical or sexual abuse, and other traumatic events can cause chronic health and behavioral health problems, and such exposure is associated with increased involvement with the child welfare and criminal justice systems.
“The number of children who have been exposed to trauma is a significant concern. It’s a common occurrence among young people,” said Jeffrey Vanderploeg, vice president for mental health initiatives for the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI). He is director of the EMPS Performance Improvement Center, which is housed at CHDI.
As state policymakers debate ways to improve mental health services for youths, the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org) is hosting a forum May 7 that will bring together parents, clinicians, educators and others to discuss ways to identify, treat and prevent teen depression. “Uncovering Our Kids: Towards a Better Understanding of Teen Mental Health,” will feature a panel of experts in adolescent behavioral health who will lead a discussion about teen mental health screening, intervention and treatment. The Conn. Health I-Team, in collaboration with ConnectiCare and Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, invites the public to come “talk openly about teen mental health, learn from experts, and help Connecticut reduce the stigma of depression and mental illness,” said C-HIT co-founder and editor Lynne DeLucia. The event will run from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lyceum Conference Center in Hartford.
Tens of thousands of Connecticut infants and toddlers are at risk for social and emotional problems, and the professionals who interact with them most need mental health training in order to help them, according to a report released this week. Children who live in poverty, are homeless or have suffered abuse or neglect are among those most likely to experience trauma at a young age, according to the report by the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI) of Connecticut, and the key to helping them is providing the right support. “There is a tremendous opportunity to improve children’s lives by promoting a child’s secure attachment with a caregiver from the beginning,” said Judith Meyers, a psychologist and president and CEO of CHDI. “Professionals who care for young children are in the unique position to help families develop nurturing relationships.”
The nonprofit institute suggests that all doctors, teachers, early care providers and others who work with infants and toddlers in Connecticut be trained in infant mental health. Helping children process and cope with trauma early is essential to their future success, said Melissa Mendez, co-lead author of the report and associate director of early childhood at the Wheeler Clinic in Plainville.