Survey: Mental health stigmas are shifting

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April 25th, 2016

Mental health has a long-standing public perception problem, but the stigma appears to be shifting, at least in the United States, a new survey reveals. Results from a national online survey on mental health, anxiety and suicide indicate that 90% of Americans value mental and physical health equally.

“Progress is being made in how American adults view mental health, and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. People see connection between mental health and overall well-being, our ability to function at work and at home and how we view the world around us,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The foundation commissioned a Harris Poll with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention to gauge public opinion on mental health, anxiety and suicide awareness.
In August, the Mental Health and Suicide Survey was emailed to a random sampling of individuals age 18 and older who live in the United States.
Despite recognizing a link between mental health and overall well-being, the majority of survey participants view access to mental health care inaccessible and costly. 150115175106-mental-health-exlarge-169

How Americans view mental health conditions

Although most people surveyed identified life circumstances, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder as risk factors for suicide, more than half — 53% — did not know that people with anxiety disorders are also at risk for suicide, the survey found.
“The findings provide key insights into how Americans view mental health conditions, life circumstances, barriers for seeking help and their understanding of the risk factors for suicide,” said Dr. Doryn Chervin, executive secretary of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Though psychiatrists say women are more likely than men to have suicidal thoughts, the survey indicates that women are also more likely than men to receive mental health treatment and more likely to report experiencing anxiety and depressive disorders.
Men, the survey reveals, are less likely to report anxiety and depressive disorders and more likely than women to report substance-related conditions.
Between 1999 and 2013, nationwide suicide rates have increased 19.9%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide and rates are especially higher for middle-aged, white, non-Hispanic men 35 to 65 years old,” said Dr. Alex Crosby, branch chief with the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention.
Despite the statistics, nearly all survey respondents — 94% — think suicide is sometimes or often preventable.
“Effectively diagnosing and treating both anxiety disorders and depression, especially when they co-occur, are critical pathways to intervening and reducing the suicide crisis,” said Dr. Mark Pollack, president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Seeking care seen as a sign of strength

The survey also revealed that people ages 18 to 24 are becoming more comfortable with seeking medical help and are more likely to consider it a sign of strength to see a medical health professional, compared with older people.
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“There are many steps people can take to help if they know someone who is suicidal,” Moutier said. “Reach out to mental health providers, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) — and make sure the person is not alone until they can get help.
“Talking helps saves lives.”
While psychiatrists affiliated and not affiliated with the survey acknowledge the steady shift in people wanting to understand mental health better, many say more research needs to be done because a stigma still lingers.
“It’s a great step forward to see a public increase in awareness on mental health issues, but there are still limitations when it comes to gaining access to care,” said Dr. Ranna Parekh, director of the Division of Diversity and Health Equity at the American Psychiatric Association , which was not affiliated with the survey.
“There needs to be an increase in the number of trained mental health professionals, proper facilities and first-response support across the nation in order to treat all the patients who need the special care.”

New Test Can Detect Infertility Genes

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April 25th, 2016

Around 15% of couples have difficulty conceiving. 50% of the time the problem lies with the man. In many cases, faulty genes are the root cause of the problem. But up until recently, there was no way of knowing what these genetic issues were. Cornell University researchers have now come up with a way to detect mutations in genes affecting fertility. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Common genetic variations are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Every SNP affects a specific nucleotide or building block of DNA. Researchers say patients struggling with infertility can have their DNA sequenced. If doctors can figure out which SNP is defective, they can provide a genetic diagnosis. This may someday lead to intervention on the genetic level. Fertility specialists could simply detect faulty SNP’s and repair or replace them.

shutterstock_290143400To locate the SNP causing the problem today, the genomes of healthy people are placed side-by-side with those having fertility problems, to locate where differences occur. But this method has been ineffective so far. There are too many genes responsible for fertilization, and the process is too complex. John Schimenti the director of the Center for Vertebrate Genomics along with Priti Singh, a postdoctoral fellow in Schimeti’s department, came up with this new method. These researchers used laboratory mice. They looked at a database of all known mice genes responsible for infertility. These have been arrived upon through testing which is not possible in humans. Then these genes were compared to genetic variation within the human genome. They found SNPs associated within four different genes that are thought to cause fertility problems in our species. Then these SNPs were tested in mice. Through this practice, researchers are beginning to identify those SNPs that cause human infertility. Though this genetic testing is not available yet, couples trying for six months to a year without conceiving should consult a physician. Both partners should be tested. Men should see an urologist or fertility specialist.