Monthly Archives: March 2012

Juvenile mental health diversion court gives offenders option of treatment

Heather Rudow March 16, 2012

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

In juvenile mental health diversion court – known as JM-4 – in Washington, D.C., minors who are diagnosed with mental health problems and also charged with criminal offenses are given the option of treatment instead of incarceration.

As The Washington Post reports, JM-4 Superior Court is one of approximately a dozen courts in the country that aims to confront the problems plaguing these young people without incarcerating them.

According to D.C. law, minors charged with offenses such as misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses, including attempting to flee a law enforcement officer or driving while intoxicated, can apply to have their cases diverted to JM-4 if they have been diagnosed with a mental health issue.

“Instead of facing incarceration, which can increase the odds that the juvenile will re-offend, juveniles in diversion must deal with their problem behavior. If they’re cutting school, they have to go back — or consider getting a GED or a job. If they’re doing drugs, they have to get tested and get treatment. If they need therapy, they have to see a psychologist. If they succeed, they graduate from the program and have their cases dismissed. If they fail, they may find their case back on the regular juvenile calendar.”

Judge Joan Goldfrank, the court’s magistrate, said, “The message I want to give them is that they are supported. The whole point of juvenile justice is rehabilitation.”

But Superior Court Judge Zoe Bush, who helped design the program, said helping the minors and their families overcome the stigma of mental illness can be difficult.

“Nobody wants to be known as the kid who’s suffering from depression or suffering from PTSD,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s not a weakness if you’ve lost someone close to you to get treatment for depression or dealing with that loss.”

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Source: The Washington Post

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

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Michigan parents support mental health initiatives in schools

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Wikimedia Commons)

A survey of Michigan parents found that support for mental health initiatives in schools is strong within the state.The survey, conducted July 2010, was a collaboration between the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and Parent Action for Healthy Kids (PAFHK), and encompassed Michigan parents with children between the ages of 5 and 26. The parents were asked questions about mental health that focused on five different areas: attitudes about mental health in schools, prevalence of mental health issues and its impact on the child, access to and availability of mental health services, quality of mental health services, and the Individualized Educational Program (IEP).

Among the survey’s findings:

  • There was strong support for training of school staff (82 percent), students (76 percent) and parents (84 percent) around mental health issues.
  • 66 percent of parents felt someone at school currently supported or advocated for their child to be mentally well-adjusted.
  • 71 percent of parents supported mental health services being implemented in schools.
  • 26 percent of parents reported that their child had received a mental health diagnosis by a professional.

Of these parents:

  • 66 percent reported that mental health concerns impacted their child socially, 69 percent that they impacted their child academically and 74 percent said they had an impact on family life.
  • 85 percent tried to access mental health services.
  • 65 percent experienced a limit on insurance benefits available.

Writes PAFHK of the survey’s results, “The possible implications of these findings can have a powerful impact on students. Schools have the opportunity to create environments that are welcoming, healthy, safe and supportive and the role of the mental health professional in schools is crucial to that effort. A genuine partnership between parents and schools will ensure a strong support system to help students reach their greatest potential.”

Source: PRWeb

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

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Repressing reactions toward racism might lead to depression in African American men

Heather Rudow March 15, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/Rennett Stowe)

When African American men respond to racism by holding in their feelings and not reacting outwardly, they could be doing more harm than good for their mental health, according to a University of North Carolina study.

“We know that traditional role expectations are that men will restrict their emotions – or ‘take stress like a man,’” said study author Wizdom Powell Hammond. “However, the more tightly some men cling to these traditional role norms, the more likely they are to be depressed.”

Hammond looked at a phenomenon called “everyday racism,” which is defined not by how extreme the cases of prejudice are, but by their “persistence and subtlety”:

“She found that everyday racial discrimination was associated with depression across all age groups. Younger men (aged under 40) were more depressed, experienced more discrimination and had a stronger allegiance to norms encouraging them to restrict their emotions than men over 40 years old. Furthermore, some men who embraced norms encouraging more self-reliance reported less depression. … The data also showed that when men felt strongly about the need to shut down their emotions, then the negative effect of discrimination on their mental health was amplified. The association was particularly apparent for men aged 30 years and older.”

Everyday racism, Hammond said, “chips away at people’s sense of humanity and very likely at their hope and optimism. We know these daily hassles have consequences for men’s mental health, but we don’t know why some men experience depression while others do not.”

She continued, “It seems as though there may be a cumulative burden or long-term consequences of suffering such persistent discriminatory slights and hassles in silence. Our next task is to determine when embracing traditional role norms are harmful or helpful to African American men’s mental health.”

Source: University of North Carolina

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

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National task force asks mental health professionals to take action for children

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Flickr/Tammra McCauley)

The National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence is asking mental health professionals, especially those working with children and families who have experienced violence, for their input as part of a nationwide initiative to prevent children’s exposure to violence and to reduce the negative effects experienced by those who have already been exposed.

The task force is part of the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative, a project that aims to reduce children’s exposure to violence in the United States, which the task force says has reached “epidemic levels.”

In November 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder assigned the 13 experts on the task force with looking for new ways to prevent, treat and reduce children’s exposure to violence. The findings will be submitted to Holder at the end of the year and developed into a report. The task force says the report “will serve as a blueprint for preventing children’s exposure to violence and for reducing the negative effects experienced by children exposed to violence across the United States.”

The task force is asking that community members and professionals working with children and families who have experienced violence take action by attending or testifying at a public hearing, submitting written testimony, or visiting its website.

Source: The National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, SAMHSA

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

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Legislators question handling of soldiers’ mental health after shootings in Afghanistan

Heather Rudow March 14, 2012

(Photo:Flickr/The U.S. Army)

As Army and government officials grapple with the fallout of a shooting rampage by an Army staff sergeant Sunday that left 16 Afghan villagers dead, nine of them children, legislators are asking the Pentagon why the soldier’s mental health wasn’t called into question.

As Reuters reports, despite being treated for a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after being deployed to Iraq in 2010, the soldier accused of the shootings was sent back to combat in Afghanistan, his fourth time being deployed overseas.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who founded a congressional task force on brain injuries, wants to know how seriously the military is handling the mental health of troops. According to Reuters, the congressman wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking for the details of the accused (and currently unnamed) soldier’s injury and diagnosis, as well as when and how he was returned to combat duty.

“I am trying to find out basically whether there was a premature ‘OK’ on this guy,” Pascrell said in a telephone interview with Reuters. “This is not to excuse any heinous acts; we are all sickened by it. But dammit, we all have an obligation to prevent these things. If this soldier fell through the cracks, does that mean that others have?”

A TBI is one of the most common injuries from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Approximately 15 percent of troops deployed in Iraq reported suffering a head injury consistent with a TBI, say experts. According to the RAND study, which was based on interviews with nearly 200,000 service members, among soldiers reporting a probable TBI, a physician had not evaluated 57 percent of them.

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

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