August 29, 2022

By Don Sapatkin

Good Monday morning, MindSite News readers! We have a jam-packed newsletter today, starting with a MindSite News Original on the rapid growth of ketamine clinics — some of which are dispensing take-home ketamine. We also bring you a glimpse of a fascinating series of articles on depression, a Teen Vogue take on wilderness therapy camps and the latest on the two-week-old strike by Kaiser mental health workers in Northern California. Plus: A call to expand Medicare to cover addiction treatment and a new series – a psychological thriller! – starring Steve Carrel as a kidnapped therapist. 


As Ketamine Clinics Expand, Concerns Grow About Staffing, Protocols and Take-it-at-Home Models

As companies rush to open or buy ketamine clinics to treat mental health conditions, concern is growing about protocols, staffing levels and the safety of the newest approach: take-home ketamine.

Continue reading…


Can juicing the growth of neurons stave off depression?

Via Twitter

A round-up on the causes and effects of depression takes us on a spin through some fascinating findings, ranging from the disruptions of electric lighting to the up-and-down effects of hormones. These are among a group of unusually readable stories by science journalists in Nature Outlook: Depression from the Nature publishing group. (The last of 11 stories is a sponsored feature from the two pharmaceutical companies that helped sponsor the supplement but had no editorial role in its content.)

“Brain-cell growth keeps mood disorders at bay” examines the theory that stimulating the growth of new nerve cells in the brain – neurogenesis – can prevent symptoms of depression and even reverse the illness. The evidence is still in the early, preclinical stages, but it doesn’t come out of the blue. Scientists believe some brain functions may depend on maintaining a balance between cell death and cell growth, as new neurons replace older ones. Stress can disrupt this balance by damaging cells in the hippocampus and accelerating their rates of death.

The article examines a recent mouse study in Cells in which scientists deleted a gene that triggers cell death. Some of the mice were injected with the drug tamoxifen, which promoted neuron survival and growth; others were used as controls. When the researchers subjected mice to chronic, unpredictable mild stress by tilting their cages and alternating light and darkness, they developed signs of mouse anxiety and “depressive-like behaviors.” But the mice that had been given tamoxifen to stimulate neuron growth were more resilient and navigated “a tricky maze with ease.” (We’ll have more from Nature’s depression package in tomorrow’s newsletter).

MindSite News, WETA and Ken Burns present a FREE live back-to-school event: A Conversation About Youth Mental Health and the Making of Hiding in Plain Sight

THURSDAY, September 8th at 4:00pm PST | 7:00pm EST

Meet Billie, a young transgender woman featured in Hiding in Plain Sight. In the film, Billie gives voice to her experience in rural communities and the challenges she has encountered being accepted as a youth embracing her identity.

Watch her clip on Twitter here.

For more information regarding the film speakers and MindSite News interviewers for this special event, click HERE

Wilderness therapy through a former teen’s eyes

Via Twitter

Search for “wilderness therapy” on Reddit and TikTok and you’ll find yield a trove of personal accounts of the dangers of such programs from adults who spent time in them, dating as far back as the 1970s. Some former participants say wilderness therapy camps were therapeutic, but their horrors have been well-documented. In the 1990s, Paige Bierma of the Center for Investigative Reporting documented the deaths of three teens who died in separate camps in Utah for Vibe magazine. In the early 2000s, Bierma wrote about the conviction of an Arizona wilderness camp director for aggravated assault and manslaughter of a 14-year-old boy. Other teens at the camp reported they’d been beaten, kicked, and had mud forced down their throats.

Now a Teen Vogue piece takes on wilderness therapy through the eyes of “Riley,” the pseudonym of a teen who escaped from a wilderness therapy program in central Utah nearly a decade ago and managed to call home in hysterics, only to be sent back to the camp. Riley’s compelling narrative serves as the backbone of Vogue’s examination of the “troubled teen” industry, including a recap of a 2008 federal investigation that found multiple cases of deceptive marketing, abuse and death in residential programs for youth.

While such programs often win contracts from state and local governments to treat teenagers, the industry has successfully lobbied to avoid federal regulation, and state licensing requirements vary widely. The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs doesn’t plan to require accreditation until June 2023, and only for its 200 or so members. There is no nationwide accreditation for nonmembers. Unless the federal government takes action, there are likely to be more reports of abuse.

In other news … 

Steve Carell plays a therapist kidnapped by a serial killer and forced to provide daily sessions to a man with a habit of offing people who annoy him, as an appreciative New York Times story about the new psychological thriller puts it. Episodes of “The Patient” begin streaming Tuesday on Hulu. Watch the trailer here.

Photo courtesy FX Networks

Expanding Medicare coverage of addiction treatment would cost almost nothing given projected savings in the program’s spending on physical health, according to Fierce Healthcare coverage of a Legal Action Center report. The statute authorizing Medicare, which insures more than 60 million Americans, was never included in the series of federal laws that require most insurers to cover mental health and substance use treatments on par with those for physical health. 

California is investigating whether Kaiser Permanente is providing timely mental health appointments during a two-week-old strike by Northern California mental health clinicians, the Sacramento Bee reports. Union members walked out to protest staffing shortages that they say result in excessive workloads and long delays for patients needing appointments. A state law that took effect in July requires health plans to provide patients with follow-up appointments ─ not just lists of therapists to call ─ within 10 business days if a therapist recommends it.

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:

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...