DoD and VA kick off new Interagency Coordination of Complex Care Effort

The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced its ongoing effort to ease the transition for service members who require complex care management as they transition from the DoD system of health care to VA or within each system. The effort is designed to ease the burden for service members and Veterans, who have suffered illnesses or injuries so severe as to require the expertise provided by multiple care specialties throughout both Departments.

“More than a decade of combat has placed enormous demands on a generation of service members and Veterans – particularly those who have suffered wounds, injuries, or illnesses which require a complex plan of care,” said Dr. Karen Guice, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, and Cochair of the DoD-VA Interagency Care Coordination Committee (IC3). “These individuals require the complex coordination of medical and rehabilitative care, benefits, and other services to successfully transition from active duty to Veteran status, and to optimally recover from their illnesses or injuries.”

To read/ download the complete article, please click here

1 Photo, 6 Words. #VetoViolence: Suicide Prevention

In August 2015, CDC and SAMSHA asked you to create unique photos/images with 6 words on how you prevent suicide. Here is your response.

Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults

Research shows that short sleep duration (<7 hours per night) is associated with greater likelihoods of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and death.

The first state-specific estimates of the prevalence of a ≥7 hour sleep duration in a 24-hour period show geographic clustering of lower prevalence estimates for this duration of sleep in the southeastern United States and in states along the Appalachian Mountains, which are regions with the highest burdens of obesity and other chronic conditions. Non-Hispanic black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and multiracial populations report a lower prevalence of ≥7 hours sleep compared with the rest of the U.S. adult population.

Implication of the report: The determination that more than a third of U.S. adults report sleeping <7 hours and findings of geographic and sociodemographic variations in low prevalence of healthy sleep duration suggest opportunities for promoting sleep health. These opportunities include sleep health education, reducing racial/ethnic and economic disparities, changes in work shift policies, and routine medical assessment of patients’ sleep concerns in health care systems.

Please  click here to read/download the Research Report.

A BRIGHT Technological Future for Mental Health Trials

Playing games, watching movies, and paying bills through smartphones and tablets has become commonplace. Americans are used to doing almost everything through the technology in their pockets. Is mobile mental health research the next frontier in this smartphone revolution? Based on Dr. Patricia Areán’s  pioneering BRIGHTEN study, research via smartphone app is already a reality.

The BRIGHTEN study was remarkable because it used technology to both deliver treatment interventions and also to actually conduct the trial. In other words, the research team used technology to recruit, screen, enroll, treat, and assess participants.  BRIGHTEN was especially remarkable because the study showed that technology is an efficient way to pilot test promising new treatments.

Areán’s goal was to see if it was possible to do a randomized controlled trial (RCT) using nothing but mobile devices. An RCT is a study in which participants are randomly assigned to different therapies so that researchers can compare their effectiveness. Areán wanted to know if people would agree to participate in a mobile depression study, if a mobile study would be affordable, and if people would continue to use the mobile therapies.  Areán’s findings suggest that it is possible to recruit a large number of participants in a short amount of time. She also found that it was possible to conduct a study for minimal cost.  However, keeping participants interested in the study was more challenging.

To read more, please click here to visit the NIMH website.

Symptoms Outdo Diagnoses in Predicting Bipolar Disorder in At-Risk Youth

Three types of symptoms emerged as powerful predictors of whether a youth with one parent with bipolar disorder will go on to develop the disorder, according to a study of 391 at-risk youth. The findings offer a much more specific roadmap than previously available for assessing risk of bipolar disorder early in at-risk youth, and one that is based on symptoms, not traditional psychiatric diagnoses. The symptoms identified—related to anxiety/depression, affective lability (unstable mood, including irritability), and low-level manic symptoms—also provide insight into what may be a high-risk syndrome or “prodrome” preceding the onset of bipolar spectrum disorder.

People with bipolar disorder experience marked, often extreme shifts in mood and energy. The disorder affects an estimated 2.6 percent of Americans. Someone with bipolar disorder experiences periods of depression alternating with periods of mania, a state marked by high energy, overconfidence, and frantic activity. The mood swings can severely disrupt a person’s ability to function normally; as many as 15 percent of those affected die by suicide. Despite this, there are often years-long delays before an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Research has suggested that a bipolar prodrome might precede the emergence of bipolar disorder by several years; the hope is that identifying the features of the prodrome could help guide an understanding of how the disorder emerges, and enable earlier detection and more timely and effective treatment.

To read more, please click here to visit the NIMH website.

Psychophysiology: Special Issue Features RDoC Initiative

The March 2016 issue of the journal Psychophysiology will be a special one focused on NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC)initiative. As special editors of the issue, Drs. Christopher Patrick and Greg Hajcak offer a fresh perspective on the initiative and a platform for discussion among researchers involved in RDoC-related research.

RDoC is a research framework that supports new ways of studying mental disorders. It is designed to integrate many levels of information (including self-report, behavior, genetics, brain imaging, and other types of psychophysiology) in order to better understand the relationship between biology and behavior in mental illness. Its ultimate goal is to provide data that could eventually transform the way mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated.

To read more, please click here to visit the NIMH website.

Mental Health Caregivers under “High Emotional Stress”

It may not come as news to anyone who cares for a mentally ill loved one that the stress is enormous, but a new survey of 1,600 unpaid caregivers still contains startling – and sobering – findings about the toll such caregiving takes on those of us in this role.

Three-quarters of the participants reported “high emotional stress” as a result of their caretaking responsibilities. They described the experience as living on “pins and needles.” About 4 in 10 said they found it difficult to take care of their own health, and 6 in 10 said caregiving had made their own health worse.

Overall, the caregivers of loved ones with psychiatric diseases were found to be spending significantly more hours a week and years of their lives caring for their loved ones, who were significantly more likely to be living with them.

Describing “Experiences and Challenges”

The purpose of “On pins & needles: Caregivers of adults with mental illness” was to “describe the experiences and challenges” of mental health caregivers. Prepared by consultants Greenwald & Associates, the study published by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NCA) analyzed a September 2015 survey of 1,601 caregivers of adults with serious-to-moderate emotional or mental health issues.

The report said mental health caregivers of adult children “are in an especially unique situation” because most (64%) report their sons or daughters are financially dependent on friends and family, yet barely one-third of the family caregivers have a plan in place for someone else to provide care once the parent no longer can.

“The findings in this report illustrate how mental illness can impact not only an individual patient, but the family caring for that patient,” according to the report drafted by Greenwald & Associates, with input from NCA, National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health American.

To read further, please click here to visit the Treatment Advocacy Center website.


World Bipolar Day logoWorld Bipolar Day is celebrated annually on March 30, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who is believed to have had bipolar disorder. World Bipolar Day is a day to remember that those who have bipolar disorder are capable of achieving great things and to remind them that they are not alone, for the general public to learn more about the disorder from people who live with it, and to learn the importance of fighting the stigma associated with bipolar disorder.  –

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By Margery Wakefield

Margery Wakefield

Welcome to SA (Schizophrenics Anonymous)!

I understand that you want to start an SA group, and that is great!

This is a brief primer on how to do just that.

First, some background about myself. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19. I went through a period of denial, but finally came to my senses and got on meds. I have been on meds and in treatment since then. My recovery now is pretty good.

I first heard about SA in 2004. I went to a SA conference in the Detroit area, and learned how to run a SA group. There was another woman in Denver, and we joined forces to start SA Denver in September of 2005.

At first, it was just the two of us. We made up flyers and distributed them in mental health centers, in clinics and in hospitals. Then, we waited. And waited.

Finally, another man joined us. Then, another woman. Now, we have an average of 15 or so members at each meeting. SA Denver continues to grow and to thrive. Members come and go, so I think we have helped a lot of people in 10 years.

The members of the group have bonded with each other, and become like a family, although we are always open to new members. We now have a coffee group on Saturdays, a walking group when the weather is good. We socialize with each other. We go to concerts together, to local museums, to the zoo, and other places.

This is just an example of what can happen with your SA group. Be prepared for success!

Now, I will share with you the steps to starting and growing a successful SA group:

1. First, order yourself a SA Blue Book from SARDAA. The Blue Book is a small manual which contains much useful information about SA including the history of SA, the philosophy of SA and the Mission Statement. It also contains some interesting stories of persons in recovery from schizophrenia and related disorders at the end of the book. The Blue Book costs $5 per copy, and is well worth the price. We do use the Blue Book in our meetings, so it is important to read it.

2. The second step is to order the Group Leader Manual by email. You can print this off. It is a reference book, about 70 pages long, which tells everything important about starting and running an SA group. The Group Leader Manual is free of charge by email.

3. Now you are ready to look for a meeting place for your group, if you don’t already have one. Mental health centers in your community will often offer free meeting space for your group. Other possible venues are hospitals, churches, libraries, and community centers. Often, centers or churches that already host AA or NA meetings will welcome your group.

4. Once you have your meeting space, you can decide on the time and day of the week for your group. There are no rules about this. The time and day of the week for the group is at the discretion of the leader/co-leader. Some groups meet during the day, while others meet at night.

5. Next, you might want to print up some flyers advertising your group. There is a sample flyer in the Group Leader’s Manual, and there are others available. Once you have printed up flyers, you can distribute them in local mental health centers, clinics and psychiatric hospitals.

6. It might be helpful to you at this point to talk to an established group leader to see how the group is run. There are leader sheets available in the Group Leader’s Manual.

In the groups, we have an introduction, a reading from a meditation book, then readings from the Blue Book. Then we usually read the Six Steps of Recovery, and have everyone pick out a step that they can relate to at this time, and give them time to discuss that step and how it relates to them now.

Then, we have the general check-in. We have everyone share about his or her week or any other subject they wish to share about. We don’t share about topics of religion, sex or politics unless it is very general. This is because these are topics that can be divisive to people, and we want the group to be safe for everyone.

An important thing to remember is that we do not do therapy in the groups. SA is a social/educational peer support group. We leave therapy to the professionals. If someone is needing therapy, we refer them to their clinician.

If there is time remaining in the hour, we read from the Blue Book, especially the personal stories from the back of the book. When the hour is up, we close the meeting with the Serenity Prayer, which is in the Blue Book.

That’s about all there is to starting and running a SA group.

There are a few tips to growing your group:

1. In Denver, we found it helpful to make a list of all the local psychiatrists, their names and addresses, and to send them a letter once a year with two flyers enclosed. Psychiatrists are our main source of referrals. When a psychiatrist sees that one of his clients does well in our group, he or she is likely to send more members to the group.

2. We also visit the psychiatric hospitals in the city. We usually make an appointment with the Discharge Planners for the unit, and take him or her a small stack of flyers. We tell them about the group and tell them how the group can benefit their clients.

3. We always continue to distribute flyers to mental health centers, clinics and hospitals.

4. We sometimes advertise in free local newspapers that have listings for support groups such as AA and NA in the city.

5. Word of mouth is also effective.

6. If you follow these simple practices, your group will grow.

7. Be prepared for success!

If you have any questions, please contact SARDAA at We will answer any questions that you may have. I hope this is all helpful!


Margery Wakefield for SARDAA

Interview: Mental Health, Gun Violence and The Constitution

After the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, President Obama told the reporters at his White House press conference he was tired of having to take the podium and discuss yet another senseless massacre. “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” said Obama.

Click here to read the complete Q&A on the Sovereign Health Group website featuring Audrey Smith, J.D., senior legal counsel with the Sovereign Health Group. 

In this interview Audrey Smith, J.D., senior legal counsel for the Sovereign Health Group talks about mental health, mass shootings and gun control and what impact more restrictive gun laws and background checks will have on the rights of the individual and on the Constitution. The priority would be early assessment and treatment.  Most of the very few people who perpetrated the horrendous attacks and live with a brain disorder did not receive treatment (even though they had parents begging for care or clinicians who wanted them to accept treatment).  None of these proposed laws would prevent the devastation.  So someone is identified that should not have a gun, BUT we don’t insure they are treated?