September 21, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s Daily, an expert panel recommends annual screening for anxiety – but skeptics wonder: who would treat all those anxious people ? A close look at EMDR therapy. Seattle’s King County Jail will make changes to deal with a spike in suicides. And the latest prescription: art.

Annual anxiety screening for American adults

Image: Shutterstock

For the first time, the US Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that adults aged 19 to 64 be screened for anxiety during their annual primary care exams, the Washington Post reported. “COVID has taken a tremendous toll on the mental health of Americans,” task force member Lori Pbert said. “This is a topic prioritized for its public health importance, but clearly there’s an increased focus on mental health in this country over the past few years.” While some doctors welcomed the news, others told the Washington Post that it’s yet another demand on an already overtaxed workforce. 

“If primary care providers are asked to screen for one more thing, we are going to break without more resources,” said a nurse practitioner who asked to remain anonymous. “It just feels wrong if people are positive for depression or anxiety, and we don’t have the mental health support to help them,” they said.

This is the second adjustment to mental health screenings recommended by the task force this year. In April, it called for pediatricians across the country to screen youth and adolescents for anxiety at their annual checkups. Adults 65 and older have been left out of the guidance, but that’s largely because some common symptoms of aging overlap with symptoms of anxiety. Without a better screening tool for older adults, the task force isn’t confident that a positive anxiety screening in older adults would be accurate.  

MindSite News Launches Live Conversation Series on Psychedelics and Mental Health

MindSite News — the only news site dedicated exclusively to reporting on mental health in America — is launching a live public conversation series that will take place throughout the month of October to explore the potential and pitfalls for the use of psychedelics in mental health. Continue reading…

Understanding EMDR therapy

Since gaining popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, has been widely used as a treatment for trauma, especially PTSD. Patients process their trauma while also focusing on some other action or sensation beyond the memory. For instance, patients might rhythmically tap their chest or dart their eyes back and forth with a moving object as they recall a traumatic memory. Sessions are carried out over a period of 6 to 12 weeks and last 60 to 90 minutes each.

Clinicians widely consider it effective – the World Health Organization and American Psychological Association recommend it for PTSD in adults and have issued guidelines. England’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence also recommends it for children who haven’t responded to trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.

Trisha Miller, a therapist at the Cleveland Clinic, told the New York Times that EMDR seekers should work with certified specialists in the practice – the EMDR International Association has an online directory of certified practitioners. The practice is for “anybody who has experienced trauma,” she says, but people with conditions like PTSD, depression, eating disorders, phobias and addictions may benefit the most.

Some clinical researchers counsel caution. There haven’t been enough studies to prove long-term effectiveness, said Henry Otgaar, a researcher and professor of forensic psychology based in the Netherlands. Sanne Houben, a colleague of Otgaar’s, said some researchers think EMDR increases a patient’s vulnerability to false memories. That’s a risk with many therapies, Houben said but “it’s too early to say if that’s inherent to EMDR.” Others are more bullish. “From a clinician’s perspective,” said PTSD specialist Shaili Jain, “I’m like, ‘whatever works. If EMDR works for you, do it.”

King County Jail resumes visitations as it struggles to reduce suicides

In an effort to halt a spike in suicides and reduce the conditions that exacerbate isolation and increase suicide risk, Washington’s King County Jail will make operational changes, including allowing visitation again. The Seattle Times reports that four people died by suicide between August 2021 and July 2022 in the jail or in the hospital after a jail stay – four times the national pre-pandemic average. 

“Our current staffing situation has been a challenge,” jail director Allen Nance said at a press conference earlier this week. “However, we are currently working on a plan to restore visitation for community agencies to work with individuals in our custody, as well as for those individual family members who want to visit their loved ones,” he said. Residents of the jail haven’t had in-person visitation or access to in-person activities since March 2020. 

Other expected changes included resuming in-person group programming, including religious, recovery and educational services, and fixing bunks with a known suicide risk due to their structural design. 

In other news…

Why are Americans so unhappy? Mary Elizabeth Williams opines in Salon that it may be due to our unique preoccupation with restricting happiness to an explosive feeling that looks “exciting,” comes with a smile, or is connected to personal achievement. But “there’s no single way that happiness looks,” says Harvard researcher Robert Waldinger, the author of a new book on happiness. “The expectation that we’re going to feel happy all the time is complete garbage.” 

Breathe. Psychology Today offers five good reasons to try breathwork to improve your mental health – and NPR reported on new research that shows another type of breath training can lower high blood pressure

Imagine getting to visit the local art museum – by prescription! The Guardian reported that it’s happening for certain psychiatric patients in Brussels as researchers embark on a six-month study to assess the impact of art and cultural institutions on mental health and wellbeing.

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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Type of work:

Rob Waters, the founding editor of MindSite News, is an award-winning health and mental health journalist. He was a contributing writer to Health Affairs and has worked as a staff reporter or editor at...

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...