“I call it mental health by stealth,” says Dr. Kutcher. Instead of labeling workshops and peer education programs as “mental health” initiatives, projects like his Farm Radio International program in Malawi talk about the brain like any other organ that needs to be healthy. “What’s good for your bicep is good for your brain,” goes the refrain, “and brain disease is no different than pancreatic disease.” These anti-stigma campaigns promote mental-health literacy by focusing on child development as an educational and economic goal, which gets students, parents and community leaders more readily on board. Together, these interventions bolster mental health in communities, identify cases requiring primary treatment, and free up the few professional psychiatrists and precious high-level resources to care for severe disorders resulting from traumatic events like war and disaster. Stronger mental health leads to economic returns from enhanced human capital, http://www.slideshare.net/alexsimring/alex-simring increased productivity and lower net health costs. And they empower people everywhere along their journey toward a healthier and happier life. The next challenge is scaling up these mental health programs to reach all the communities and countries that would benefit.
VA Mental Health Care Delays, Staff Shortages, Plague Veterans
“The turnaround on patients has gotten faster — there’s a lot of pressure to get them in and out and a lot of them aren’t ready to leave,” said a VA psychiatric nurse, who added that patients are sometimes discharged “AMA” — against medical advice. This senior nurse, a 23-year Army veteran who serves at a major VA medical center, said she had a mental health patient who was discharged without his medication, without a discharge plan and without transportation. “I just happened to find him sitting in our lobby with his stuff, with nowhere to go,” she said. “I sat with him three or four hours until his mother came.” Such stories are legion — and illustrate longstanding, systemic problems within the VA’s vast health care system. During the past decade, the VA has struggled to meet the growing demands of veterans for mental health care, hiring hundreds of professionals, opening community clinics, expanding the veteran crisis hotline , and contracting for outside mental health care. But shortages persist. The VA currently is advertising to fill 1,563 mental health job openings, and VA staff are not encouraged to send distress signals to VA headquarters in Washington to report shortages. Although the VA purports to enforce the No Fear Act intended to protect internal federal government whistleblowers, VA employees said the protections are routinely ignored by supervisors. “There is no such thing as ‘no fear’ within the VA,” said a mid-level VA employee, who like others quoted in this article asked not to be identified by name or location for fear of retaliation. “They do give us all this training on No Fear so they can let the people in D.C. know they’ve done the training.