Mental Health

All Articles in the Category ‘Mental Health’

Video Game Addiction: How Much Is Too Much

Last month, TIME reporteCommon_Signs_of_Video_Game_Addictiond on the death of a 32-year-old Taiwanese man who suffered heart failure after an apparent three-day video game binge. Over the past several years similar stories have come to light, and as the scientific research into the effects of video games on the brain continues to increase, many parents may be wondering just how concerned they should be about video game addiction.

Though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not definitively classify compulsive gaming as a disorder, according to Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, this doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t worry.

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Study Shows Kids with Autism Benefit from Parent-Led Language Intervention

iStock_000003157241SmallChildren with autism often experience communication challenges. It’s crucial for patients to receive treatment interventions during early development to prevent long-term deficits, but it’s often difficult for them to access the specialists they need.

As a clinical psychologist in Seattle Children’s Autism Center, Dr. Mendy Minjarez knows how high the demand is for therapists who can address core autism features, such as language deficits.

“Even if patients are lucky enough to see a behavior intervention specialist, their treatment is limited to the appointment time,” Minjarez said. “For years, parents would say to me ‘I wish I could practice with my child at home.’”

Minjarez made that wish a reality in 2007 by developing a new way to offer Pivotal Response Training (PRT), which focuses on teaching parents to improve their child’s language skills by using common motivations in daily life. PRT had previously been taught during individual therapy sessions with a clinician, the parent and the child, but Minjarez’s model aims to serve many more families by teaching parents in a group setting.

Now, Minjarez has collaborated with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford researchers to publish a study testing the group model of PRT.  She discovered most parents effectively used the training and their children showed significantly more language progress than those who did not attend the group training. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Hospital Unveils New Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit

Patient RoomOn Tuesday, Oct. 7, Seattle Children’s Hospital unveiled its new Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit to families and hospital staff members during an open house.

The new 25-bed unit, designed with input from families, will open to patients later this month and will feature single-patient private rooms, a classroom, group spaces, a dining area and an exercise area and recreation area. When the unit is fully completed in spring 2015, it will double the hospital’s current capacity, allowing Seattle Children’s to better serve children in the region in need of inpatient mental health services.

“The entire space was designed with patient and family input, as well as input from staff members, to ensure the utmost comfort and safety for our patients as well as those caring for them,” said Dr. Bryan King, director of psychiatry and behavioral medicine and program director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Tackles Tourette’s, OCD with Innovative Therapies

At least 138,000 children in the United States are estimated to have Tourette’s syndrome,  a condition which causes  urges that lead to repeated involuntary movements (motor tics) and sounds (phonic tics).  For decades, research suggested pharmaceutical therapies were the only effective treatments for tics, but clinical psychologist Dr. Geoffrey Wiegand  is having success using a new, innovative behavior intervention to treat tics. Wiegand is also offering highly effective behavior therapy to children with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) to help them manage their worries and compulsions.

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Jules Brown’s OCD made her afraid to leave her house. Now that she has has effective treatment, she tries new things like inner tubing.

Meet Jules

Jules Brown appeared to be a happy, healthy child until she was 5 years old, when her parents began noticing odd behaviors. She was constantly changing her clothes out of fear of being dirty and would wash her hands until they bled. It took the family hours to leave the house because Jules was terrified she would have an “accident” and would insist on visiting the bathroom repeatedly. At school, she spent many days in the nurse’s office, afraid of various illnesses or injuries that she did not have.

“As her mom, I wanted to protect her, so we were constantly doing anything we could to reassure her,” Christie Brown said. “But the impulsive behaviors just got worse.” Read full post »

Integrating Mental Health Treatment into Primary Care May Reduce Teen Depression

Richardson headshot

Dr. Laura Richardson, adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and principal investigator in the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

A new study from Seattle Children’s Research Institute suggests integrating mental health treatment into primary care may reduce depression symptoms in teens.

Challenges accessing treatment

While 14% of teens experience serious depression, few receive evidence-based treatments for mental illness. This puts them at greater risk of suicide, substance abuse, early pregnancy, low educational attainment, recurrent depression and poor long-term health.

Accessing mental health treatment can be challenging for patients and their families. In the typical clinic, teens diagnosed with depression by a primary care doctor are referred to mental health specialists for treatment, requiring their families to identify an available specialist, set up an appointment and travel to a new care setting. Dr. Laura Richardson, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and principal investigator in the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, said she often sees patients who have not been able to connect with a mental health provider return to her with worse depression symptoms. Read full post »

Brain Discovery Could Lead to Improved Treatments for Depression

iStock_000036067988SmallFinding mental health treatments without unwanted side effects can be challenging, but scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI) have discovered an area of the brain that could one day be targeted to treat depression more effectively.

Dr. Eric Turner, a principal investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Integrative Brain Research, together with lead author Dr. Yun-Wei (Toni) Hsu, also from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, learned that a tiny region of the brain – the dorsal medial habenula –controls the motivation to exercise and participate in other rewarding activities in mice, and potentially in humans. Exercise is one of the most effective non-pharmacological therapies for depression, so determining which part of the brain may be responsible for exercise motivation could help researchers develop more targeted treatments.

“Changes in physical activity and the inability to enjoy rewarding or pleasurable experiences are two hallmarks of major depression,” Turner said. “But the brain pathways responsible for exercise motivation have not been well understood. Now, we can seek ways to manipulate activity within this specific area of the brain without impacting the rest of the brain’s activity.” Read full post »

Study Helps Teens Cope with Stress of Cancer, Diabetes

blogpic1The teen years can be difficult– you’re fighting for your independence but still trying to develop an identity. And your 20s come with their own obstacles, like going to college, starting a career and living on your own. Can you imagine facing those developmental milestones while injecting yourself with insulin or enduring chemotherapy?

Dr. Abby Rosenberg, medical leader for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program and researcher in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research, and Dr. Joyce Yi-Frazier, research health psychologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, have seen teens with cancer and type 1 diabetes struggle physically and psychosocially. Adolescents and young adults with cancer are less likely to achieve social milestones like college, marriage, and employment and more likely to suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Likewise, teens with type 1 diabetes struggle to control their blood sugar levels and are more likely to be depressed.

“The teen and young adult years are a critical time of transition for anyone,” Rosenberg said. “When you add a serious illness to the mix, you are asking patients to do extraordinarily hard things. We want to help them integrate the experience into their identity so they are not only surviving, but thriving.”

An intervention model

To help patients, Rosenberg and Yi-Frazier worked together on the Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM) study. PRISM is an intervention model designed to teach patients resilience – the ability to maintain psychological and physical well-being in the face of stress – to buffer the impact of serious illness. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Researcher Finds Genetic Identifier for Autism

Dr. Raphael Bernier

Dr. Raphael Bernier

A researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Institute, in collaboration with researchers from 13 institutions worldwide, has found a genetic identifier for autism that includes physical features and a pattern of symptoms that may eventually allow clinicians to develop targeted treatments or ultimately potentially identify babies who are at risk for autism before they are born.

Dr. Raphael Bernier, clinical director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center and Associate Professor at the University of Washington, discovered that a mutation of the CHD8 gene, in addition to significantly increasing a child’s risk of developing a specific subtype of autism, also causes several unique physical traits.

We had the opportunity to chat with Bernier and ask him how this discovery will impact children and families.

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A Journey to Recovery: Pepper Inspires Others Battling an Eating Disorder

At 12 years old, Pepper Snider knew something wasn’t quite right. After a bout of Mononucleosis (mono), Snider began feeling a sense of enjoyment from hunger and started to purposely restrict herself. Years later, a comment from an eighth grade classmate would put everything into focus.

“Look at that roll.”

It was the beginning of a very dangerous journey for Snider, one that would take years to diagnose as anorexia nervosa. Now, at 25 years old, Snider is fully recovered and wants others to know they are not alone in their struggle. Her mission is to help build a community of support and let other people know it is okay to ask for help. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s offers summer camp for children with ADHD


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Many of us remember summer camp fondly – the games you play; the songs you sing; and the friends you make. But children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders don’t always have the chance to participate. Besides missing the fun, they also miss out on opportunities to learn new skills and experience success outside of school.

To address these concerns, Seattle Children’s Hospital has partnered with University of Washington’s Apex Summer Camp, which was created 6 years ago for children with autism. New this year, Seattle Children’s will offer the adjoining Camp Sea STAR for children with ADHD. These joint, evidence-based programs are designed to improve social skills and self-esteem of children with ADHD or autism and their peers or siblings with structured, day camp activities.

“Children with ADHD and autism can’t always go to camp because their behavioral challenges get in the way,” said Dr. Mark Stein, a Seattle Children’s ADHD expert who has been leading camps like this in Chicago for six years. “We use sports and creative exercises to teach them skills like paying attention and following directions.”

“The UW Autism Center created APEX summer camp to provide a fun, summer time experience for children with Autism to build their recreational and social skills,”said Dr. Annette Estes, Director, UW Autism Center. “We are delighted to extend the program to children with ADHD. Partnering with Dr. Stein is a great opportunity to bring together these two groups of children”

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