Rural Veteran PTSD Care Funded

Late last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced funding for the Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Program, an initiative meant to increase the number and availability of social workers and psychologists in rural areas, specifically to assist military veterans and their families.  Nearly $10 million in grants were awarded to institutions (including two in eastern Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia) to support study and clinical training in the areas of trauma and abuse, combat-related stress and substance abuse.  Although about 28 percent of the 22 million veterans in the United States reside in rural areas, treatment for PTSD and other combat-related conditions remains difficult to find and may lack the required intensity.  These grants aim to increase both the availability and intensity of trauma–related mental health care, as well as services to families of persons with chronic illnesses in rural areas.

Youth Who Bully More Likely to Have a Mental Health Diagnosis

Much of the of the media coverage on peer-to-beer bullying in schools focuses on the mental health of the victims. This kind of coverage makes sense both in appeal to the public and the connection between being bullied and feelings of despair and suicidal ideation. However, a paper presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans suggests that children and adolescents with mental disorders were more likely to bully other youth.   The presentation and paper, Association Between Mental Health Disorders and Bullying In the United States Among Children Aged 6 to 17 Years, may turn bullying intervention and prevention programs on their heads as the data show youth with depression or Oppositional Defiant Disorder are more likely to be fingered as bullies than their peers.

Studies indicate that at least 8 percent of American youth have serious emotional disorders  – how much of the bullying going on among adolescents is related to typical (although needlessly painful for those on the receiving end) developmental behaviors versus repeated acts of aggression related to, if not a symptom of, a known or unknown behavioral health issue? And regarding the family of the bully – so often maligned in comboxes across the internet, though at times with reason- perhaps these findings indicate that we should stop debating whether is it over-parenting or under-parenting that forms the bully and start looking at the emotional,  psychological and physical wellness of the child, even if it means recognizing something that we’d prefer to pretend we never noticed.


The Plotting of Happiness

An international study out of Australia found that happiness peaks (on average) during a person’s 60’s, then begins to decline, before dropping off considerably.  Earlier this year, Dr Tony Beatton of Queensland University of Technology and Professor Paul Frijters of The University of Queensland reported findings from their analysis of data from approximately 60,000 people from Australia, Britain and Germany. Highlights include:

  • Persons entering middle/retirement age (55 to 75 years) reported the highest levels of happiness
  • The data from Germany showed a decrease in happiness  as persons entered adulthood, then a peak at age 65 – a pattern different from the other data
  • Happiness dropped significantly after age 75 across cases

This research adds to the discussion of the ‘U bend of happiness” (see a great write-up on it in The Economist), the concept that happiness ultimately culminates in late middle age; but Beatton and Frijters also address the drop in happiness after age 75, suggesting that it  is related to the onset or worsening of health problems. This aligns with prior research on the relationship between the presentation of depression symptoms and medical issues/illnesses among the elderly population.  




Study Citation: Frijters, Paul & Beatton, Tony, 2012. “The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age,” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 525-542

Mental Health Risk Factors Among Refugees

Escape from conflict in one’s native country does not necessarily make for a life free of serious concerns or mental health challenges according to research out of the University of London, recently published in BioMed Central Public Health (available online).  Using a mixed-methods approach, the researchers examined  the social and environmental conditions in of two groups of Somali refugees – one group settled in London, England and one in Minnesota in the United States.

The study, Migration experiences, employment status and psychological distress among Somali immigrants: a mixed-method international study,  reveals the power of the mere label of “refugee”, along with other findings:

  • Employment was a major factor in the wellness of the displaced Somalis. Gainful employment lowered the risk for depression for respondents by a significant amount.
  • In London, 90 percent of the Somalis were unemployed, compared to 26 percent in the Minnesota group.  Even with similar pre-resettlement backgrounds, the rates of current major depression, suicide ideation and agoraphobia were higher among the London group.
  • The label “refugee” was a sort of stigma in itself, lending to a feeling of powerlessness. Researchers noted that even those displaced persons with professional-level skills and knowledge of the English language found it difficult to adapt to their new surroundings.

This study may be helpful for nonprofits that offer resettlement services as it highlights significant risk factors for mental health challenges that impact the refugee population both in Europe and the United States.  As the data suggest, while language skills and employment status are of high importance, the needs of this population are more complex and nuanced than perhaps realized by policy-makers and service providers.


Study Citation:  Migration experiences, employment status and psychological distress among Somali immigrants: a mixed-method international study BMC Public Health 2012, 12:749 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-749. Nasir Warfa ( Sarah Curtis ( Charles Watters ( Ken Carswell ( David Ingleby ( Kamaldeep Bhui ( September 2012.