August 15, 2022

By Don Sapatkin

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s MindSite News Daily, we look at the event that parents both love and dread: the return to school for their children. This years, reports suggest, the schools they’re going back to are hard-pressed to meet their mental health needs. Also: Critics take to social media to express fears about the impact of calling 988. And super-heroes with mental health challenges.

First, we present a MindSite News Original that examines a problems common to both mental health and substance abuse services: Proven, effective treatments that can save lives are drastically underused.

And a reminder. We’re in the midst of a summer fund campaign. Please support our journalism and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same.

Overdose Deaths Now Top 100,000 a Year. Why Do So Few People Addicted to Opioids Get Treatment that Could Save Them?

The opioid crisis that killed a record 108,000 Americans last year is by now a well-known tragedy. Yet many of these deaths are preventable with the use of medications like buprenorphine. Trouble is only a small fraction of the people in the U.S. addicted to opioids have access to these medications. 

Vince Bielski explores the story. Continue reading here…

As schools get ready to start a new year, parents and experts worry about kids’ mental health

Via Twitter

With roughly a third of public-school students in the United States returning to classrooms this week, the landscape following almost three years of pandemic disruption seems more settled, cohesive and confident. But plenty of parents are concerned ─ and mental health professionals and educators say they have ample  reason to be, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Many parents interviewed for this story say their children need counseling services – and while some reported they were getting therapy, many others were searching. Some students may get help once school starts, but most districts have been unable to fill newly budgeted mental health positions because qualified professionals are in short supply. And while low-income and minority students are most in need of help, they often attend schools that have the least money to pay for it.

That’s too bad, because research shows that when mental health services are offered in school, students are six times more likely to receive the help they need, according to a U.S. News & World Report story overflowing with data. Yet most states have only a fraction of the school psychologists that experts say are needed. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends one for every 500 students, but the nationwide average is less than half that, and in some states, the ratio approaches 5,000 students for every psychologist. The average student-to-counselor ratio is 415 to 1, compared to the 215 to 1 recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Few districts hit those targets before the pandemic – and now, with the need greatly magnified, many students continue to live in mental health deserts that have almost no access to professional support.

Since MindSite News launched less than a year ago, we’ve built a newsroom, established an online presence, published more than 100 original stories and created two newsletters! This wouldn’t happen without the support of generous readers like you. Please give what you can and share this request with friends.

In U.S., concerns about 988 crisis line shared on social media

Not everyone is enamored with 988, the revamped Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched a month ago. It offers an easy-to-remember, three-digit number for people experiencing a mental health crisis, as an alternative to calling 911. But some mental health consumers and advocates have raised alarms on social media, pointing out that law enforcement might still be summoned and that callers could end up in a psych emergency unit.

Kaiser Health News explored the concerns and possible alternatives to 988 in a story that we republished here at MindSite News. A related hurdle to full use of the hotline is Black Americans’ mistrust of the mental health system, the Associated Press recently reported.

Across the pond, Spain also has a new three-digit crisis line

During its first few months of operation, the Llama a la vida (Call for life) suicide hotline, reached at the number 024, handled more than 34,000 calls, including 585 suicides in progress, according to government data reported by EuroWeekly News. The 24/seven hotline experienced high demand immediately and volume remains high. Staff trained in suicide interventions made 1,500 referrals to emergency services.

An earlier story in the Olive Press, an English-language publication aimed at expatriates in Europe, said that 290 crisis counselors had assisted in 290 suicides in progress during the line’s first month.

In other news…

Amazon plans to add behavioral health to its suite of health services for employers, according to reports by The Verge and The Insider. It also has formed a partnership with digital mental health provider Ginger to offer an optional add-on for Amazon Care customers.

The Daily Star offers short takes on the portrayal of mental health in superhero shows, from Legion to WandaVision, Superman & Lois and Moon Knight. The comics on which they are based have long plumbed the psychological depths of their superheroes but television and film adaptations skipped the interesting stuff ─ at least until recently, according to young writer Sabil Sadat Zahir who, like the newspaper, is located in Bangladesh..

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Hours after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overruled women’s civil rights to abortion, clinics began turning away patients seeking abortions. The overall effect: fear.

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Type of work:

Don SapatkinReporter

Don Sapatkin is an independent journalist who reports on science and health care. His primary focus for nearly two decades has been public health, especially policy, access to care, health disparities...