In The News

Family said Colorado suspect had 'mental illness.' Experts say that's rarely the cause of mass shootings.
Posted on Mar 25 2021
USA Today

The 21-year-old suspect arrested in the rampage, the second in a week, was almost immediately described by family members as paranoid and antisocial. But researchers and advocates say the rush to cast blame on a mental illness is misplaced. "People are searching for explanations for behavior they don't understand. It's easy to put a label like mental illness on behavior that frankly seems just beyond the pale," said Angela Kimball, national director for advocacy and public policy at NAMI. Police have not yet said what the gunman's motive was, but Metzl said immediate blame on mental illness does not tell the full story of what causes a mass shooting. "Mental illness alone is not a predictor of violence," Kimball said. "If mental illness were a cause, we would be seeing proportionally so many more mass shootings." When people unfairly connect mass shooters with mental illness, it stigmatizes the millions of people living with mental health struggles who are not violent, Kimball said. "When they hear people falsely associate mental illness with a mass shooting, people tend to feel a kind of dread of this being associated with a condition that they may be living with every day of their lives," she said.

Racism and mental health
Posted on Mar 23 2021
CBS This Morning
*NAMI mentioned

In light of the recent attacks against the Asian American community and the rise in hate crimes around the country, psychiatrist Dr. Sue Varma joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss the toll that hate crimes take on our mental health, how the model minority myth is hurtful, how young people are impacted and give tips for how to protect our mental health and cope with trauma. Gayle King shares the NAMI HelpLine info at the end of the segment.

Prince William Police Launch New Mental Health Response Program
Posted on Mar 17 2021
NBCNews4: DC

Angela Kimball, NAMI National Director of Advocacy and Public Policy said these types of response units are becoming more common across the country. The Prince William County Police Department is launching a new program to bridge the gap in crisis management. The police department now has a small team of what they call "co-responders" — three police officers paired up with three clinical mental health professionals.

Smoking Makes a Comeback in the Pandemic
Posted on Mar 16 2021

During a recent panel discussion, smoking cessation and addiction experts raised concerns about the uptick in tobacco use and emphasized the urgent need to reverse it. "Researchers noticed this changed also for alcohol and other substances, and have suggested that stress and anxiety that resulted from the pandemic may be factors that are driving up the use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances," said Linda Bailey, CEO of the North American Quitline Consortium (NAQC). Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO and a member of the panel, noted there could be a long tail of mental health issues stemming from the pandemic, and Hurley suggested tailoring smoking cessation treatment to individuals. Strategies could include combining medical options and a mix of medications, counseling and support. Insurance coverage for programs to help people quit, as well as counseling and medications, are among keys to helping reduce tobacco use.

New Data on Worldwide Mental Health Impact of COVID-19
Posted on Mar 15 2021

A new survey that assessed the mental health impact of COVID-19 across the globe shows high rates of trauma and clinical mood disorders related to the pandemic. The survey was conducted in eight English-speaking countries and included 49,000 adults. It showed that 57% of respondents experienced some COVID-19-related adversity or trauma. Roughly one quarter showed clinical signs of or were at risk for a mood disorder, and only 40% described themselves as "succeeding or thriving." Nonbinary gender and not getting enough sleep, exercise, or face-to-face socialization also increased the risk for poorer mental well-being. Commenting on the survey results, Ken Duckworth, MD, NAMI CMO, noted that the findings were similar to findings from studies in the U.S., which showed disproportionately higher rates of mental health problems in younger individuals. "The idea that this is an international phenomenon and the broad-stroke finding that younger people are suffering across nations is compelling and important for policymakers to look at," he said. Duckworth noted that although the findings are not "representative" of entire populations in a given country, the report is a "first step in a long journey." Duckworth described the report as "extremely brilliant, creative, and generous, allowing any academician to get access to the data." He sees it "less as a definitive report and more as a directionally informative survey that will yield great fruit over time."

How the pandemic has changed our bodies
Posted on Mar 13 2021
NBC News

Whether or not you’ve been lucky enough to dodge the coronavirus for the last year, the global pandemic still could be taking a toll on your body, from your brain to your skin. Your body may be suffering effects big or small from the many ways the pandemic has changed our lives — whether it’s from regular fear of contracting the deadly virus, losing loved ones unexpectedly, social isolation, job losses and financial struggles, endless hours Zooming from home or other challenges faced. But for some, the pandemic has had a serious effect on their mental health. Nearly 1 in 4 adults, or 23%, reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress during the pandemic, according to the APA’s latest “Stress in America” survey. Overall, 43% of respondents reported at least one of these adverse mental health symptoms, a number that’s about double pre-pandemic figures, said Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO. “Broadly speaking, American mental health overall is worse,” Duckworth said. “We are very social creatures. Human connections are antidepressants, they’re anti-anxiety interventions.” Until it’s safe to be social, Duckworth encourages people to find creative ways to stay connected, such as virtually or by taking walks together outside, maintaining proper distance.

Cigarette sales increased during pandemic as fewer smokers sought help quitting
Posted on Mar 12 2021
USA Today

The number of people seeking help to quit smoking plummeted 27% last year as the public grappled with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report says. Experts said fewer people sought help to quit smoking last year as more Americans struggled with mental health and addiction during the pandemic. About 2 in 5 Americans reported significant mental health symptoms in a CDC survey last summer, said Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO. "We know there’s been more relapse with opiates. We know there’s been more relapse with alcohol," Duckworth said. "Smoking is a big challenge for people with serious mental illness and our population represents a significant subset of people who smoke." More than two-thirds of adult smokers reported interest in quitting before the pandemic and most tried to quit in 2019, according to a Surgeon General report released January 2020. But smokers who were interested in quitting might have faced other barriers. Non-emergency doctors’ appointments were canceled during shutdowns and widespread job losses mean many lost access to the employer-provided health insurance plans that typically cover counseling and smoking-cessation medications, said Anne DiGiulio, national director of lung health policy at the American Lung Association.

How the pandemic changed health care, one year later
Posted on Mar 10 2021
Roll Call

The pandemic exacerbated mental health and substance use challenges for many people. Dawn Brown, NAMI director of HelpLine Services, said the amount of calls over the last year ebbed and flowed, but that at the height of the pandemic, calls shot up as much as 75 percent. Calls about anxiety and depression replaced schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as the hotline’s top illnesses. The expansion of telehealth made it easier for some people to keep up with mental health care. Still, patients with severe mental illness often rely on community support services that weren’t always available. Lawmakers could weigh in on these challenges later this year. Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters last week that expanding the mental health care workforce would be an important focus for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “We were short on that before COVID. We’re really going to be short now,” the Virginia Democrat said.

What Meghan's openness about suicidal thoughts can teach us
Posted on Mar 09 2021

The feelings Meghan described — shame, fear, hopelessness — are familiar to many who've experienced suicidal thoughts. But hearing her share so openly the mental anguish she experienced is meaningful to people who've contemplated suicide, said Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO. Meghan's admission opens the floor to viewers who've had suicidal thoughts to discuss those feelings with people they trust or pursue treatment, Duckworth said. If one person watches that interview and says, 'I have struggled with this too; maybe I should reach out and get help,' (Meghan has) done another service," he said. In sharing that she's had suicidal thoughts, Meghan, a person who's so famous that she's recognizable from her first name alone, gave a voice to viewers who've thought about suicide, too. "I think it's a message that mental health is a 'we problem,' not an 'I problem,'" Duckworth said of her interview. Meghan's admission also challenges the stigma of having suicidal thoughts, he said, something that many Americans have experienced during the last year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hearing from a well-known figure who they can trust or relate to might put into perspective some of the issues people who've considered suicide face, he said. They may recognize symptoms she described within themselves, which could drive them to discuss those feelings with a mental health professional. "It's like physical pain — you have to attend to it," Duckworth said. "This is a reflection of tremendous emotional distress. (Suicidal thoughts) are the body's way of saying, 'Stop what you're doing.'"

Duchess Meghan revealing her mental health struggles could help others, expert says
Posted on Mar 09 2021
Good Morning America: ABC News

Meghan's revelation that she struggled with mental health, spoken in front of a global TV audience of tens of millions, could have a tangible impact on other people facing their own mental health battles, according to Dr. Ken Duckworth, NAMI CMO. "When a remarkable, famous person says, 'I'm getting help,' it raises the definite possibility another person will say, 'If she can join this club ... maybe I can join this club, because I too have felt, whatever the experience is,' depressed, suicidal, overwhelmed," Duckworth said. "I think it's courageous whenever anybody who is in a position to potentially influence others shares a vulnerability." "This is a year that mental health has gone from a 'they' to a 'we' problem. So many people are struggling. So many people are overwhelmed," said Duckworth. "[Meghan] represents a lot of people. These are common mental health problems."