Behavioral Health

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that a text message program that aimed to help young adults cut down on binge drinking worked six months after the program ended.

The study is in the journal PLOS ONE.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Poison ivy, bug bites, allergies — just hearing those words can make you want to scratch. But even though we all itch, and we all scratch, we don’t know very much about what is happening in our brains when we do so.

New work by researchers, including one in Pittsburgh, is attempting to figure it out.

One in four people live with some form of mental illness in the United States, according to the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania.

But Health and Human Services announced recently that seven health centers in the commonwealth will receive a total of $1,750,000 in Affordable Care Act funding.

This will be used to establish or expand behavioral health services for more than 20,900 people in the commonwealth.

The Squirrel Hill Health Center was one of the seven clinics that received $250,000.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Medical care is costly, and for many people that cost is prohibitive. More and more often, people like Melissa Jones find themselves turning to crowdfunding to pay for those extras health insurance won't cover.

Walking down Fifth Avenue in Oakland, Jones' 10-year-old daughter Montana Delciello describes it as a full-on sensory experience. The sidewalks swell with people as bikes, cars, buses and ambulances weave in and out of lanes on the massive street.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

By the time the federally funded Squirrel Hill Health Center’s Mobile Unit opens its doors in the South Hills community of Prospect Park, people are already lined up, looking for help.

A New Approach to Preventing Teen Smoking

Jan 15, 2014
UPMC / University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

A study published in the Journal of School Health finds media literacy is more effective in preventing teenagers from smoking than traditional anti-smoking efforts.

Dr. Brian Primack, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics, and director of the Program for Research on Media and Health at University of Pittsburgh was lead author in the study.

Primack describes a hypothetical comparison from his study's findings.

Over the next three years, researchers across Pennsylvania will be examining two different methods of mental health treatment, to determine which has the better outcomes. One of those is the Person-Centered approach.

“That’s focusing on the person who has a behavioral health condition getting support and information from a peer, someone who also has the experience, to prepare for the meetings with their doctors,” said

Kim MacDonald-Wilson is with the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care.

ebayink / flickr

Internet addiction is said to be more pervasive than alcoholism in the United States, and while treatment is available, how do you know when you need it?

Dr. Kimberly Young is founder of the Center for Internet Addiction at Bradford Regional Medical Center in central Pennsylvania, the first inpatient treatment program for Internet addiction in the nation.

Dr. Young says she first encountered internet addiction in 1994 when she learned that a friend’s husband was spending more than 50 hours a week in AOL chat rooms, at a time when internet usage was billed by the hour.

“It made me wonder, ‘could people get addicted to the internet in the same way we talk about drugs, alcohol, food, and gambling?’,” says Young.

From there she met people who have experienced job-loss, weight-loss and ruined relationships, because they couldn’t control their use of the internet.

Emergency Departments across Pennsylvania are seeing increasing numbers of psychiatric patients and many want to establish a real-time statewide bed-tracking system to find available psychiatric beds.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, along with the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society is asking to work with the Department of Health and Hospital Association of Pennsylvania to establish the database.

Michael Turturro, Chief of Emergency Services at UPMC Mercy in Uptown says there is a great need for this.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

With sexual violence can come a host of mental health issues — depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few. But dealing with the judicial system can also bring a slew of problems for victims.

A new policy brief out of Rutgers University in New Jersey looked at male Pennsylvania state prison inmates and found that almost all of them had experienced traumatic events in their lives. 

Nearly 600 men participated in the screening that looked at the prevalence of trauma in male inmates. Researcher Nancy Wolff, who runs the Center for Behavioral Health Services and Criminal Justice Research at Rutgers, found that the men had experienced a wide range of trauma in their lives.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The municipality of Mt. Lebanon announced a new initiative to fight prescription drug abuse on Wednesday.

The program is called Stop Addiction for Everyone, or SAFE, and includes a poster campaign, a PSA, and the installation of a new prescription drug drop box at the Public Safety Center on Washington Road.

How to Deal with New School Anxiety

Sep 16, 2013
Ken Colwell / Flickr

New school anxiety hits students transitioning between school levels each year. As this academic year gets underway Cathy Petchel, a clinical psychologist at Washington & Jefferson College, is ready to help.

Petchel says the major issues which contribute to new school anxiety stem from a fear of the unknown. That includes new social situations and how to build relationships in this new setting. Heightened academic expectations can also be a source of anxiety.

PTSD Treatment for Flight 93 Responders

Sep 11, 2013
Flight 93 Memorial/National Park Service / Department of Justice

It's been twelve years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The events of that day still haunt many of the responders who worked at the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA.

In July of 2011 the World Trade Center Health Program, run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health under the CDC, began offering counseling for responders who are suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On May 1 of this year Flight 93 and Pentagon responders were offered this counseling.

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry used brain scans to measure blood flow to parts of the brain associated with emotion regulation to gauge if the subjects had unipolar depression or bipolar disorder.

The study hoped to identify brain function markers that identified the two types of depression.

The study used 44 Pittsburgh-area women and was conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Kings College London, the University of South Florida and the University of Texas Southwestern.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Rachel Zwipf is packing. Boxes scattered around her home are being filled with pots, children’s toys and framed photos.

She’s moving to North Carolina, leaving behind a good job, her family and painful memories of Pittsburgh.  

"His name was Sean Thompson, but we all called him Lydell," she said.

Two summers ago, Zwipf’s fiancé was murdered in Lawrenceville, just a few blocks from their home. They were already planning to move. Thompson had spent years in jail for a slew of offenses and wanted a new start.

Dr. Arvind Venkat says that hospital emergency rooms are basically an autistic person’s worst nightmare.

“I think if you were to purposefully design an environment that was going to be difficult for an autistic patient, you could not do worse than what we do day to day in emergency medicine,” he said.

A new study partially conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that those with the herpes simplex virus 1, which typically causes cold sores, displayed reduced cognitive function.

The researchers studied people in India with and without herpes and with and without schizophrenia. They looked at their cognitive functions using a computerized battery and assessed different aspects of top processes.

A top administrator from the federal Department of Health and Human Services came to Pittsburgh on Friday to speak to leaders in the mental health community about the push to recognize mental health and substance abuse issues as a public health issue.

“I think a lot of people, especially in the public, have viewed mental health and substance abuse as sort of a social problem,” said Pamela Hyde, administrator of SAMSHA, the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The last couple years have seen high profile mass shootings and terrorist attacks — Aurora, Newtown, Boston.

Here in Pittsburgh we’ve seen the same. Last year a gunman opened fire at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, killing one person and injuring seven. And in 2009, a man walked into an aerobics class at an L.A. Fitness and started shooting, killing three women and injuring nine.

There are also regular incidents of community and street violence. Last month a gunman injured two women and killed a 15-month-old in the East Hills.

The state Department of Public Welfare wants to reduce mental health stigma.

A new initiative, "Mental Health Matters," is being funded by a reduction in Community Hospital Integration Program Project, or CHIPP, funding to a county that was unable to move clients into the community in the time frame that was originally planned and from money set aside for litigation needs that wasn’t used, according to department spokeswoman Donna Morgan.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Behavior specialists in Pennsylvania who work with autistic children have a soon-approaching deadline to apply for licenses to keep doing their jobs. But parents and advocates say that the requirements and the process to apply are arduous. 

When Act 62 passed, those in the autism community saw it as a victory. The 2009 legislation required private insurance companies to pay for services for those with autism — up to $36,000 a year. But it also required the Pennsylvania Department of State to license behavior specialists.

Living with Autism and Revising the DSM

Apr 23, 2013
Alexis Eperjesi / 90.5 WESA

April is Autism Awareness Month and if you or your child has autism you've likely heard of the DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association. DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the main purpose of the manual is to provide standard guidelines for clinicians to use when diagnosing psychological disorders and conditions. The manual outlines criteria that must be met to receive a diagnosis, as well as labeling and coding sometimes used by insurance companies to identify the diagnosis. The DSM is periodically revised and this spring new revisions to the manual will be published.  

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

When the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is published next month, there will be several changes to psychiatric diagnoses.

Many of these changes are controversial — especially the one made to autism spectrum disorders. 

Phil Garrow has Asperger's syndrome. It's what’s written on his medical chart. He says the social struggles that come with the diagnosis is why he hasn’t been able to hold down engineering jobs despite his proficiency in the field.

For children who have seen the images of death and destruction and have heard the heartbreaking stories surrounding Monday’s terrorist attacks in Boston, there may be a lot of confusion and fear. They may wonder if they are safe, if their caregivers are safe and how this will affect their daily lives.

Jeff Magill, Project Coordinator for Emergency Management at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at UPMC, said children’s responses will vary according to their age and the perspective in which they have been exposed.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the focus has turned, in part, to the mental health system throughout the country.

The conversation brought Congressman Tim Murphy to southwestern Pennsylvania for a pair of community forums on the topic. Dr. Abigail Schlesinger is the Medical Director of Developmental and Behavioral Services for Children’s Hospital and was a panel member.

Schlesinger said such forums are essential in keeping the dialogue on mental health going.

A new study from The University of Pittsburgh found that new mothers are more likely to experience depression before, during and/or after pregnancy. 

Researchers found that one in seven women have experienced depression. The study, published last week in the journal of The American Medical Association, is believed to be the largest of its kind.

Ten thousand new mothers from Southwestern Pennsylvania were screened over four years ending in 2011.

The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of prisoners with serious mental illness alleging prisoners were not given adequate treatment in solitary confinement.

The lawsuit alleges the Department of Corrections violates the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by isolating them in solitary confinement and not offering them sufficient or proper treatment.

Mental Health on Campus: A Culture of Stress?

Mar 5, 2013
Daniel Epstein / Flickr

After a Carnegie Mellon University sophomore committed suicide last December, CMU is looking at ways to support students mental health. CMU Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno, Student Body President Will Weiner and CMU graduate Katie Chironis join us to talk about the "culture of stress" in colleges and universities.

The Newtown school shooting brought the long-discussed issue of gun control to the forefront of national politics. But that tragedy also raised another concern—how mental illness is regarded across the country.

As part of an ongoing congressional review of the shooting, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a forum Tuesday focusing on severe mental illness and gun violence.