Monthly Archives: December 2011

Family of suicide victim changes college’s notification policy

Heather Rudow December 29, 2011


When students leave home to go away to college, it can be months before their parents see them again. And this time away, mixed with the various stressors that can occur while at school, can make it easy for serious mental health problems to go unseen, especially depression. This is what happened to the Kim family. Their son Daniel, a Virginia Tech student, completed suicide in 2007, and all the family received as a warning from the school was an email from its health center.

Kim’s father, William, said that by the time the family was notified by the email, it was too late for them to help their son. This is why, in a settlement with Virginia Tech, the family has also included an agreement requiring the school to notify the parents of potentially suicidal students, unless there is a documented reason not to.

Read more on The Washington Post

Source: AP

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Ponzi schemer alleges he is not mentally competent to stand trial

Heather Rudow December 21, 2011

Italian-born Charles Ponzi was a swindler in the early 1900s and from whom the phrase "Phonzi Scheme" originated (Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

The lawyers representing financier R. Allen Stanford are asserting that their client is not mentally competent to stand trial for running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme that he is accused of running.

As The New York Times reports, Stanford’s lawyers are claiming that between an addiction to anti-anxiety medicine and brain injuries Stanford suffered from a fight with a fellow inmate in 2009 their client is not fit to stand trial. Stanford has also argued that he has retrograde amnesia, a condition that he claims will prevent him from recalling events from his life before the altercation.

But a prison psychologist who evaluated Stanford said it is “incredibly” unlikely that he developed such a condition, and prosecutors are claiming that he is faking the memory loss.

Read the rest of the article

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Binge eating is linked with depression, according to study

Heather Rudow December 20, 2011


One of the stereotypical images of a sad person, whether they’ve just been dumped or they’ve had a tough day, is that of someone simultaneously reaching for tissues and a giant carton of Haagen Daz. And it appears to be more truth than fiction. A new study appearing in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that not only are teenage girls who are feeling depressed twice as likely to start binge eating when compared with other girls, but the study also found that girls who regularly binge eat are at double the normal risk of depression.

“Binge eating prevention initiatives should consider the role of depressive symptoms … and incorporate suggestions for dealing with negative emotions,” write the authors.

The study uses surveys conducted as part of the nationwide Growing Up Today Study. The researchers analyzed data from nearly 5,000 girls aged 12 to 18 who answered questions in 1999, as well as follow-up surveys in 2001 and 2003:

“Teens and young women who reported in the first survey that they always or usually felt ‘down in the dumps’ or ‘depressed’ were about twice as likely as others were to start overeating or binge eating during the following two years.”

“Binge eaters or overeaters can be very secretive, so parents may be unaware that there’s a problem. That’s a really important message for clinicians,” said study author Alison Field. “If they have patients who are depressed, they need to ask about disordered eating patterns and vice versa.”

Source: Health Behavior News Service

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Drone operators report high operational stress due to long hours

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

A new study from the United States Air Force found that almost half of drone aircraft operators report high amounts of stress from their jobs. However, the operators’ stress is actually from the long hours and constant shift changes, not from the work that they are doing.

Drone operators are responsible for flying aircrafts remotely in countries like Afghanistan by using computers and joysticks to control them. And as The New York Times reports, the survey of nearly 1,500 Air Force members found that 46 percent of Reaper and Predator pilots and 48 percent of Global Hawk sensor operators reported “high operational stress.” Another “[small] but still significant number — including a quarter of Global Hawk sensor operators” reported something called “clinical distress.” This is defined as having “anxiety, depression or stress severe enough to affect an operator’s job performance or family life.”

However, the researchers found that one portion of the drone operators’ jobs — having to watch close-up video of the people they killed with their drones — revealed “limited stress.”

“These guys are up above firing at the enemy,” explained study author Col. Kent McDonald to The Times. “They love that, they feel like they’re protecting our people. They build this virtual relationship with the guys on the ground.”
The real cause of stress for the operators, the authors found, is caused by long hours and frequent shift changes that have come from staff shortages in the department.

According to The Times, “The study did not include drone operators for the Central Intelligence Agency, which uses drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Iran.”

Source: The New York Times

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger

Heather Rudow December 19, 2011


When a person goes through a difficult experience, hearing the adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” can sometimes seem less than comforting. But University of Buffalo researchers found that when it comes to traumatic events like the death of someone close, an assault or a natural disaster, it is actually the truth.

“The idea is that negative life experiences can toughen people, making them better able to manage subsequent difficulties,” said study author Mark D. Seery.

The study found that people who experienced the most amount of traumatic life events were more distressed in general, and people who did not have to overcome any problems throughout their lives fared the same. The people with the best outcomes, the study found, were those who had experienced some amount of negative events throughout their lives.

A related study that the researchers mentioned found that people with chronic back pain could handle their symptoms better if they had experienced “some serious adversity.” However, those who had experienced a lot of adversity or no adversity at all were typically more hindered by the pain.

“Negative events have negative effects,” Seery said. “I really look at this as being a silver lining. Just because something bad has happened to someone doesn’t mean they’re doomed to be damaged from that point on.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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