Documentary challenges us to rethink our cultural understanding of mental illness

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~ Bruce Levine, Huffington Post ~
The soon-to-be released documentary Healing Voices goes a long way to healing our fear of people commonly labeled as "schizophrenic," "bipolar," and "psychotic." The message of this film is that understanding and love--not fear and stigmatizing labels--are what people who have experienced these altered states need.

Writer and director PJ Moynihan explores two question: What are we talking about when we talk about "mental illness"? What is truly helpful?

Over a five year period, Healing Voices follows Oryx, Jen, and Dan, all previously diagnosed with serious mental illness. Oryx, Jen, and Dan are each very different personalities but all are articulate, insightful, and fascinating in describing their return journeys from extreme states of consciousness to satisfying human relationships and meaningful work.

Healing Voices is not afraid to discuss aspects of our humanity that routinely terrify many of us, and Moynihan is also not afraid to make his movie fun and joyful--including playful music and animations. What is striking about Healing Voices is its combination of boldness and humility--its boldness challenging political correctness and its humility about its own assertions.

Unlike other documentaries that are critical of standard psychiatric treatment, Moynihan does not have an anti-drug agenda but instead seeks the truth regardless of where that might lead. Healing Voices confronts the damage done by the fear of our humanity and the fear of truth.

In 2013, the general public finally began hearing some truths--hopeful truths--about people who experience extreme emotional states, including voice hearers. Prior to this, ex-patients and dissident mental health professionals who attempted to depathologize and normalize extreme emotional states were mocked by the psychiatry establishment and not taken seriously by the mainstream media.

However, in 2013, Eleanor Longden's TED Talk, The Voices in My Head, went viral (ultimately with over three million views). Longden--diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, and told that she would be better off having cancer than schizophrenia because cancer could be more easily cured--describes her recovery, which involved letting go of the fear of her voices.

Also in 2013, as I reported in the Huffington Post ("NIMH Director Rethinks Standard Psychiatric Treatment for Schizophrenia"), the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, based on two major studies, concluded that people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychoses are a diverse group who need diverse approaches. NIMH director Thomas Insel acknowledged: "For some people, remaining on medication long-term might impede a full return to wellness."

So, between Londgen's TED Talk and the NIMH's rethinking, the time is ripe for a full-length documentary that fearlessly examines a topic that for so long we have been socialized to be frightened of.

The producers of Healing Voices have announced an innovative plan to release the film via community screening partners in a coordinated one-night global event on April 29, 2016.

Moynihan tells us, "What we refer to as 'mental illness' in our culture is widely discussed and debated, but not very well understood. These screenings are an opportunity for a range of demographic audiences to come together and engage in a dialogue about a very complex social issue." Moynihan describes his plan as a "grassroots, non-theatrical release."

The documentary is a must see for anyone who has been touched by mental health issues in their life. For more information about the film and how to be involved in its release, see

When Addiction Has A White Face

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~ An Analysis of America's Reaction to the Opioid Epidemic Versus the 1980's Crack Epidemic ~

“WHEN crack hit America in the mid-1980s, for African-Americans, to borrow from Ta-Nehisi Coates, civilization fell. Crack embodied instant and fatal addiction; we saw endless images of thin, ravaged bodies, always black, as though from a famined land. And always those desperate, cracked lips. Our hearts broke learning the words ‘crack baby.’

But mostly, crack meant shocking violence, terrifying gangs and hollowed-out inner cities. For those living in crack-plagued areas, the devastation was all too real. Children learned which ways home were safe and which gang to join to avoid beatings, or worse. 

Even for those of us African-Americans living at a relatively safe distance, there were soul-deadening costs. City centers, and by extension black neighborhoods, were seen in the national imagination as lawless landscapes. We were warned of a new wave of ‘super predators,’ young, faceless black men wearing bandannas and sagging jeans. The addicted, those who preyed on them and those caught by class, geography and especially race were swept together. At the edges of my 12-year-old mind was the ominous sense that no matter how far crack was from my actual life, I was somehow associated with the scourge.

Once again, African-Americans were cast as pathological, an indistinguishable and unsympathetic mass. The plight of Black America was evidence of its collective moral failure — of welfare mothers and rock-slinging thugs — and a reason to cut off all help. Blacks would just have to pull themselves out of the crack epidemic. Until then, the only answer lay in cordoning off the wreckage with militarized policing.”

SAMHSA Seeking Comment on Confidentiality Records

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HHS has published proposed revisions to the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulations—42 CFR Part 2. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, titled "Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records," was published in the Federal Register today, February 9, 2016. This proposal was prompted by the need to update and modernize the regulations.

The goal of the proposed changes is to facilitate information exchange within new health care models while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns of patients seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. The regulatory changes will ensure that patients with substance use disorders have the choice to participate in and benefit from new integrated health care models without fear of the risk of adverse consequences. Due to its targeted population, the Part 2 rules provide more stringent federal protections than most other health privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Deadline for public comment on this proposed rule is 5 p.m. Eastern Time on April 11, 2016.

Strategic Prevention Framework - Partnerships for Success

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2016 Strategic Prevention Framework - Partnerships for Success (SPF-PFS) grants. The purpose of this grant program is to address two of the nation’s top substance abuse prevention priorities: 1) underage drinking among persons aged 12 to 20; and 2) prescription drug misuse among persons aged 12 to 25. At their discretion, states/tribes may also use grant funds to target an additional, data-driven substance abuse prevention priority (marijuana, heroin, etc.) in their state/tribe. The SPF-PFS grant program is intended to prevent the onset and reduce the progression of substance misuse and its related problems while strengthening prevention capacity and infrastructure at the state, tribal, and community levels.  

Eligibility is limited to states and tribal entities that have completed a SPF SIG grant and are not currently receiving funds through SAMHSA’s SPF-PFS grant. SAMHSA is limiting eligibility to these entities because they have the greatest likelihood of achieving success through the SPF-PFS grant program. Current SPF-PFS and SPF SIG grantees (with the exception of eligible SPF-PFS and SPF SIG grantees that are in a No Cost Extension) are excluded from applying for the SPF-PFS grant because they already have the resources in place to support the SPF infrastructure and address their areas of highest need, which can include underage drinking or prescription drug misuse.  

Team-based Treatment for First Episode Psychosis Found to be High Value

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NIH-funded study shows early intervention is more cost-effective than typical care

New analysis from a mental health care study shows that “coordinated specialty care” (CSC) for young people with first episode psychosis is more cost-effective than typical community care. Cost-effectiveness analysis in health care is a way to compare the costs and benefits of two or more treatment options.  While the team-based CSC approach has modestly higher costs than typical care, it produces better clinical and quality of life outcomes, making the CSC treatment program a better value. These findings of this study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will help guide mental health professionals in their treatment for first episode psychosis.

This new analysis, published online today by Schizophrenia Bulletin, was led by Robert Rosenheck, M.D. , professor of psychiatry and public health at Yale University. It is part of the Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) initiative also funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. This paper reported on the cost-effectiveness of CSC treatment in the RAISE Early Treatment Program  (RAISE-ETP), a randomized controlled trial headed by John M. Kane, M.D ., professor and chairman, Department of Psychiatry at The Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and The Zucker Hillside Hospital.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

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Dating violence can happen to any teen in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship, anytime, anywhere. But it doesn't have to happen at all. Learn how to prevent teen dating violence and to promote healthy relationships with CDC's online resources.

Did you know that in a recent national survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend at least once in the 12 months before the survey? Additionally, during the 12 months before the survey, 1 in 10 teens reported they had been kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to at least once by someone they were dating.

Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a "normal" part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence. That is why adults need to talk to teens now about the importance of developing healthy, respectful relationships.




Health Observance: National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

February 2016

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month is a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and promote programs that prevent it during the month of February. Dating violence can happen to any teen in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship, anytime, anywhere. But it doesn't have to happen at all. Learn how to prevent teen dating violence and to promote healthy relationships with CDC's online resources.


Supporting LGBTQ Youth: What Peer Educators Need to Know

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Please join the Office of Minority Health Resource Center and Administration for Children and Families grantee Northwest Network of Bisexual, Transgender, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse as we share innovative approaches to working with LGBTQ youth to build healthy relationships and communities. Attendees will learn about Love+ a domestic and sexual violence prevention project that works with young people to build violence prevention messages and explore what peer educators can do to support LGBTQ youth and envision a world where all people can have access to loving equitable relationships and communities.

  • Supporting LGBTQ Youth: What Peer Educators Need to Know
  • Feb 09, 2016 at 3:00 PM EST.
  • Register now!

Master of Science Degree in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health: What Students are Saying

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anileidyWhat students are saying
The fully online Master of Science Degree in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health (MSCABH) at the University of South Florida prepares professionals to serve in public and non-profit agencies and schools that work with diverse children and adolescents experiencing behavioral health challenges and their families.  Read below what one of our first students in the Developmental Disabilities Concentration, Anileidy Perry, has to say about the program.

An interview with Anileidy Perry, student in the Developmental Disabilities Concentration

Why did you choose the MSCABH program at USF?

  • I love helping others in need. One way or another, I have always been focused on children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. I feel the need to work with these kids in order to help them develop new skills as well as to improve their abilities and attitudes and the way that they can participate in society.

Tell us about your undergraduate degree.

  • I obtained my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida.

When did you decide that you wanted to work in the field of children’s mental health?

  • Ever since I was a little girl, my main motivation has always been helping others in need. I have always tried one way or the other to assist people and become someone who can make a difference in their lives.

Have you had any experiences working in the field of child and adolescent behavioral/mental health?

  • While obtaining my Bachelor’s in Psychology at FIU, I was offered the opportunity to do an internship in Applied Behavior Analysis. While completing 300 hours of supervised experienced, I realized that I had chosen the right career and profession. It was very rewarding to see the daily improvements of the children, and being able to be part of that improvement was the best feeling.

What do you hope to achieve with this degree? Do you have a dream job in mind?

  • With this degree, I just hope to find a job where I can excel in my abilities and desire to help children and adolescents with disabilities.

How did you find out about the USF MSCABH program?

  • When I finished my Bachelor’s degree at FIU, I searched to find the best program that would fit my needs and interests. A friend of mine from FIU sent me a message she had received from FIU promoting this program. As soon as I read about it, I felt that this was the program for me. Today, I am glad to say that I wasn’t mistaken because it is truly the best program that I could have chosen. It is giving me the necessary tools and knowledge that I need to be successful.

If you are looking for a degree that can train you to create change in mental health, then apply for this program. If you are an avid learner and want to take that love for improving the lives of those affected with mental health by becoming a director or supervisor, go for it!


For more information

  • Bruce Lubotsky Levin, DrPH, MPH Program Director, • (813) 974-6400
  • Sandra Dwinell, Admissions Advisor, • (813) 974-0342

Brown is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority

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I can't think of a better thing to do during this political season than to pick up a copy of the new book, Brown is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority, a fresh look at the changing voting majority in the US. Written by Steve Philips, Brown is the New White sends a wake-up call to anyone with a social conscience that people of color are key to electing public officials who care about our children, our families, our environment, and our country’s future. Steve's commitment to social justice permeates this book and will inspire you.

Steve Phillips is a national political leader, civil rights lawyer and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. He was the youngest person ever elected to public office in San Francisco and is co-founder of PowerPAC, a social justice organization. In 2014 he coauthored the first ever audit of Democratic Party spending and was named one of "America's Top 50 Influencers" by Campaigns and Elections magazine.  He has appeared on multiple national radio and television networks and his address on race and politics before the City Club of Cleveland in 2014 was nationally broadcast on C-Span.

  • Brown is the New White is in bookstores and on Amazon. Check it out, Network faithful!

National Recommendation Bolsters Connecticut's Effort to Screen for Maternal Mental Health at Pediatric Well-Visits

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From our colleagues at the Child, Health and Development Institute of Connecticut ~

Experts estimate one in seven mothers may experience a mood disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or OCD. Because these perinatal and postpartum mood disorders can be detrimental to the mother and the child, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women should be routinely screened for depression both during pregnancy and after birth. Pediatricians are well positioned to help as newborns and their mothers visit pediatric providers routinely in the baby's first year of life. 

This recommendation will help support Connecticut's effort to engage pediatricians in screening new moms and strengthen our statewide system of services for maternal depression. Connecticut is far ahead of other states in that it's Medicaid program began reimbursing child health providers to screen for maternal depression in 2013 and many commercial providers followed suit. CHDI offers free training for pediatric health providers through our Educating Practices In the Community (EPIC) program to screen for maternal mental illness. 

Click here to read more about the recent national recommendation and get links to CT resources. Learn more about screening for maternal depression at pediatric well-visits from CHDI's 2014 report, Addressing Maternal Mental Health in the Pediatric Medical Home.

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