Mental Health

All Articles in the Category ‘Mental Health’

Shedding Light on Mental Health Stigma and the Truth About Treatment

John Madden, now 22 years old, has referred to his stay as a teenager in the Seattle Children’s Psychiatric and Behavioral Medicine Unit as the 10 most important days of his life.

When John Madden was 16 years old, the growing stress from his demanding academic schedule became a catalyst for larger issues.

Madden had withdrawn from friends and family. His misuse of prescription medication and use of illicit drugs to cope with the stress further aggravated undiagnosed mental conditions. Bouts of depression and mania sometimes left him sleepless for days with little control over his thoughts and actions.

Madden recognized he needed help, but he was not relieved when he was admitted to the Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU).

“I had this Hollywood view of treatment and thought it was going to jump from talking to being restraint-oriented, locked in a room and treated sub-human,” Madden said. “I wanted to avoid that stigma about what goes on in mental health hospitals.”

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Examining Eating Disorders Through the Lens of “To the Bone”

As an adolescent medicine specialist, I help teens manage a wide range of eating habits, many of which can negatively impact their overall health and development. For example, I often hear teens say they’re skipping breakfast or trying to diet. Some have very rigid rules around food that alarmingly result in their bodies showing signs of starvation. Although these symptoms can rarely point to a severe eating disorder like anorexia and bulimia nervosa, when these disorders do take hold they can be life altering.

I recently watched a film on Netflix called “To the Bone,” which illustrated an example of one person’s struggle to recover from anorexia. Despite its dramatic portrayal for cinematic purposes, I was impressed with the truthful depiction of the emotional experiences the main character faced with her eating disorder.

Eating disorders affect about 0.5% of the population, but symptoms often start during the teen years. Complications of eating disorders can be severe and include shifts in electrolytes (like potassium, chloride and glucose), diminished hormone levels (estrogen and testosterone), decreased bone strength, poor concentration, and death.

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Crooks Family Turns Tragedy Into Change With Washington State’s First Mental Health Summit

Chad’s Legacy Project has been a driving force behind the first-ever Washington State Mental Health Summit. Laura Crooks (right) and her husband, Todd Crooks, started CLP in honor of their son, Chad Crooks (left), who died tragically months after he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

Laura and Todd Crooks have experienced personal devastation from losing a loved one whose mental health issues weren’t properly addressed. Their son Chad took his own life eight months after he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, on Jan. 21, 2016.

The professional help the gifted 21-year-old college student required wasn’t readily available when he needed it most.

The Crooks have since openly shared their family story in an effort to help others. They also started Chad’s Legacy Project (CLP), an endeavor in memoriam, to advance mental health education and innovations in the evaluation and treatment of mental illness.

CLP is realizing its mission, serving as the driving force behind the first-ever Washington State Mental Health Summit, which will take place on Thursday, Oct. 5. A portion of the more than $100,000 CLP has raised is covering the costs of the Summit.

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Treatment Helps Kids and Teens Control Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural response that alerts people to situations that they find threatening. Anxious feelings are a part of life for kids, teens and adults, but when anxiety is severe, frequent and lasts for months, it requires professional treatment. Dr. Kendra Read, attending psychologist on Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team, works with kids and teens with anxiety disorders, helping them identify their anxiety triggers and learn how to control their worries and fears.

“Research shows that once anxiety becomes problematic, most kids do not just grow out of it,” said Read. “In fact, left untreated, anxiety can result in problematic long-term consequences that impact academic achievement, employment, substance use, and development of additional psychological disorders, such as depression.” Read full post »

Three Cheers for the Team That Helped Wesslee Overcome Pain

Through Seattle Children’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PReP), physical therapist Sharon Yurs challenges Wesslee Holt to a game of hoops, with some extra balance work added in.

Last spring, Wesslee Holt rolled his ankle at his middle school in Shelton, Washington. The 12-year-old is a dedicated member of his cheer team and was eager to return to the squad quickly. He followed his doctor’s instructions to immobilize the foot and wear a boot — but his pain only increased over time.

Wesslee started using a scooter to keep weight off his foot and rested it as much as possible. Nothing seemed to work. His skin became splotchy and red, and was so sensitive to touch that he couldn’t put a sock or shoe on. He felt depressed and anxious, pulled out of cheer team completely and even left school.

His mother, Steph Fyfe, knew it was time for a different approach. “People wanted to put Wesslee on supplemental security income and call him disabled, but I knew there had to be a way for him to get better,” she said.

She was referred to Seattle Children’s Pain Medicine Clinic and learned Wesslee was suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which sometimes accompanies a routine injury and causes the nerves to send extreme pain messages to the brain. The good news is that Seattle Children’s was able to offer Wesslee a unique treatment option: the Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Program (PReP).

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What You Should Know About Teen Suicide

Recent conversations with friends and colleagues have been abuzz with discussions about “13 Reasons Why,” a new Netflix series about a teen who died by suicide that has sparked debate across the country. While they all have reservations about some of the graphic content and appropriateness for teen viewers, they also feel the issue of teen suicide is an important one to discuss.

I completely agree.

Suicide is one of the top three leading causes of death for youth under age 24. As healthcare providers, parents, friends, and loved ones, it’s vital we understand what we can do to support those who may be considering ending their life. Read full post »

Finding My Village

Kristin Jarvis Adams (back right) found different forms of support when her son Andrew (bottom right) was diagnosed with autism, and then years later when he battled a rare immune disorder. Also pictured are her husband, Jon, and daughter, Hannah.

The proverb that suggests it takes a village to raise a child can be easily adapted for parents facing the various challenges that come with having a child with special needs and circumstances. Parents sometimes need the support of a village. Author Kristin Jarvis Adams shared her experiences with On the Pulse in finding her village when her son, Andrew, was diagnosed with autism and years later, when he was treated and overcame a rare immune disorder at Seattle Children’s and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Adams, who is a member of the Autism Center Guild at Seattle Children’s, tells her family’s story in her book The Chicken Who Saved Us: The Remarkable Story of Andrew and Frightful.

For 10 years my husband and I had been making trips to and from Seattle Children’s with our autistic son, Andrew, who suffered from an unheard of progressive inflammatory disease. Andrew had been in the hospital for months, his body riddled with gaping ulcers, his organs compromised by chronic inflammation. Now we were in the middle of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that were preparing him for an experimental bone marrow transplant. It was our last hope.

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Study: PAL Program Drastically Reduced State’s Antipsychotic Prescriptions for Children

The Partnership Access Line (PAL) has helped reduce antipsychotic prescriptions for Washington children enrolled in Medicaid by 49% since 2006.

Antipsychotic prescriptions for children enrolled in Washington state’s Medicaid program decreased by nearly half following the implementation of an innovative psychiatric consultation program affiliated with Seattle Children’s, according to a study published in the March 2017 issue of Health Services Research.

The 49% reduction in prescriptions from July 2006 to 2013 is a reversal from the steady statewide growth in the use of antipsychotics to treat children prior to the introduction of the Partnership Access Line (PAL). The number of children on Medicaid treated with antipsychotics in Washington decreased by 940 despite an increase of 186,855 enrollees in the joint Federal/state program during the study. According to the study, this counters a national trend of increased antipsychotic use with children from 2002 to 2015.

Other key findings in the study include:

  • High-dose antipsychotic use fell by 57.8% in children 6 to 12 years old; and by 52.1% in teens
  • 1,458 providers received a direct patient consult through PAL
  • 759 providers attended at least one of PAL’s 31 general psychopharmacology education conferences

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Living My Life in the Now

morgan_lead_printMorgan Wood has been coming to Seattle Children’s since he was born — and as an adult, he continues to benefit from recreational and social skills classes at the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center.

He is known among both friends and providers for sharing his life mantras, which he developed to work through challenges related to living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Below, Morgan shares six of his mantras and other interesting insights from his life experience.

My name is Morgan Wood and I’m 26 years old. I was born very premature, weighing 729 grams, which is less than two pounds. Because of my weight and a bad infection I had at birth, they tell me I’m sort of a miracle. Read full post »

Program Helps Eva Find Freedom From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Eva, 14, has been suffering from OCD since she was a little girl.

Since Eva Tomassini was 4 years old, she remembers her life being controlled by rules. Not from her parents, or school, but rules she created in her head, like having to arrange things in a certain way or run away in order to prevent terrible things from happening. As Eva grew older, her compulsions and obsessions got worse. She thought if she didn’t follow the rules, someone close to her would be harmed or die.

Eva has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a disorder that literally ruled her life throughout her childhood.

“It was like she was controlled by an evil puppet master,” said Earlyn Tomassini, Eva’s mother. “She had spontaneous rules she had to follow or she’d run away at night because her OCD would tell her something bad would happen to somebody if she didn’t. It was really difficult for her and for our family.” Read full post »