Mental Health

All Articles in the Category ‘Mental Health’

Research Continues to Disprove Link Between Autism and Vaccines


Dr. Bryan King worries that each time the media includes the MMR vaccine and autism in the same sentence, even if reporting the lack of association, the false idea of a linkage between the two is perpetuated.

A significant body of validated research over the last 15 years has found no link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders, yet the false myth that this vaccine may cause or intensify the disorder continues to circulate among some families of children with autism. As a result, some parents delay or forgo the life-saving MMR vaccine for their children.

A new study, led by The Lewin Group and titled “Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among U.S. Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism,” has been published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This study further refuted the concern that children who are at higher risk of developing autism could be negatively impacted by the MMR vaccine. The study included approximately 95,000 children with older siblings and found that receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with an increased risk of autism, regardless of whether older siblings had autism.

Dr. Bryan King, director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital and an investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, has written an editorial published in the same JAMA issue addressing this research and the controversies that surround it. On the Pulse sat down with King to learn more about these important issues. Read full post »

My Little Brother, My Greatest Inspiration: Celebrating the 1-Year Anniversary of Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Center


Mikey at high school graduation

April marks the 1-year anniversary of the grand opening of Seattle Children’s Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center. The Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center hosts year-round classes for adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disabilities. And though it’s only been a year, the Alyssa Burnett Center has already seen great success. Tammy Mitchel, program manager, recounts below her hopes and fears from day one and shares some of her favorite milestones from the past year.

Nearly one year ago, as I was driving to the grand opening of the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center, my head swirled with thoughts, hopes, dreams and – admittedly – fears for this journey to open a center for adults with autism. Would it be possible to thoughtfully offer classes to adults with autism and serve a wide spectrum of ability levels? Could we teach adults who had never been in a kitchen how to cook for themselves? Would we be equipped to handle even the most challenging behaviors? And most importantly, could we create a community where all of this could happen under one roof?

I’m so happy to say one year later that yes, we could. And we did. Read full post »

Clinical Trials Aim to Determine Best ADHD Treatments

Dr. Mark Stein is leading several ongoing research studies to improve ADHD treatments.

Dr. Mark Stein is leading several ongoing research studies to improve ADHD treatments.

Seattle Children’s Program to Evaluate and Enhance Attention, Regulation and Learning (PEARL) clinic aims to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and associated problems using the newest and most effective treatments available. To determine which of those treatments is most appropriate for each patient, Dr. Mark Stein, director of the PEARL Clinic and investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, is leading several ongoing research studies that are currently enrolling patients. Read full post »

Researchers Use Social Media to Gauge Suicide Risk

social mediaA Seattle Children’s researcher is chasing an elusive goal: finding a way to know when adolescents and young adults who contemplate suicide might actually try to harm themselves.

“Suicide risk rises and falls but it’s really hard to tell when it’s rising, even when you’re regularly seeing a patient,” said Dr. Molly Adrian, a psychologist at Seattle Children’s and investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development.

Now, Adrian is pursuing an innovative solution – a computerized system that would search adolescents’ social media posts for signs of crisis and alert a medical specialist or family member when someone needs immediate help. Read full post »

Cyberbullying Linked to Increase in Depression Among Female College Students

cyberbullyingAs social media, texting and internet use have become a part of daily life, researchers have observed the strong presence of cyberbullying and have begun to show concern about its effects. And while many may presume that bullying is mostly a problem in in the gradeschool years, a new study shows that college students are engaging in these behaviors as well.

The study led by Dr. Ellen Selkie, adolescent medicine doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital and researcher in the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, found that more than 1 in 4 females have experienced cyberbullying in college, thus increasing their risk for depression three-fold. Furthermore, the study found that those who acted as the bullies were more likely to report problematic alcohol abuse and also depression. Read full post »

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.

Read full post »

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.


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 »