Interview With MFP Alum Kermit Crawford
P2 Treating Trauma Globally
P4 News and Views
P4 Circling Recovery
P5 Olympians Speak Out for Youth Mental Health
P6 News From the Fellows
P6 Grant Announcements
P6 Professional Development Opportunities
Olympic Gold Medalists Help SAMHSA Bring Attention to Youth Mental Illness
by Joanne DiGiorgio
Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt pose with HHS staff. Photo credit: SAMHSA.
Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt have been candid about their respective struggles with behavioral health. Now they are working with SAMHSA to help dispel the prejudice and misconceptions surrounding mental illness by calling public attention to the needs of young people with behavioral health disorders such as depression and addiction.
The two gold medalists headlined SAMHSA's Partnering for Hope and Help panel at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., May 4, in recognition of National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. When Health and Human Services Secretary Thomas Price presented Phelps and Schmitt with SAMHSA's Special Recognition Award, Schmitt told the Jack Morton Auditorium crowd the award meant more to her than her eight Olympic medals.
Admitting that public speaking usually terrifies her, Schmitt said: "When it comes to mental health, I love it. A whole new me comes out. I think it's because I'm so passionate about it. I can speak from the heart, and I really want to spread the word that it's OK not to be OK. I want to spread the message that it's OK to ask for help."
Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, spoke of getting so low that he "didn't want to be alive anymore," adding, "For me, I reached that point where I finally realized I couldn't do it alone."
Phelps and Schmitt have trained together and often lean on each other for emotional support.
"By speaking about treatment and recovery, Michael and Allison are helping youth view behavioral health as an important part of their overall health," said SAMHSA Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto, as she opened the event.
Among the panelists were practicing family physicians, social workers, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, a senior parent professional development trainer, and the founder of a nonprofit organization devoted to helping young people with behavioral problems. Many spoke openly of their own mental health struggles, and of how they have been able to turn their experience into valuable tools to help today's youth struggling with similar problems.
Aaron Gilchrist, a co-anchor of Washington newscast News4 Today, moderated three interactive discussions in which viewers could join the online conversation and pose questions to onstage panelists. The three sessions emphasized understanding the connection between physical and behavioral health; improving communication among primary care providers, behavioral health providers, and youths and families; and supporting the mental health needs of youths who experience chronic illness.
Coordinated Health Models Needed for Families of Struggling Children In a session titled "Partnering Across Disciplines to Address Whole Health," SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services Director Paolo del Vecchio described the need for complete coordinated healthcare models with a centralized contact, so families with sick children do not have to visit multiple specialists to get help. Del Vecchio emphasized the importance of implementing this kind of system because "children are our futures and, with the right treatment, right supports, and right opportunities, there are no limits for children with mental health problems."
Dr. Wanda Rider of Family First Health, a federally qualified health center in York, Pa., said 85 percent of her patient visits involve some discussion on how the families are doing emotionally. If a child is diagnosed with behavioral health problems, she takes care of the child while making sure mom and dad are intact. Rider discussed the benefit of having mental health professionals connected with her agency. "It may take a visitor or two to convince someone to ask for behavioral health assistance, but if I can get that person on site or I can hook them in from telemedicine, I want to have that patient begin the visit as soon as they're receptive to it."
Also speaking in the first session was Alaska Native Teressa Baldwin, who grew up just below the Arctic Circle. Baldwin suffered the grief and fear of losing friends and family members to suicide. Her experience led her to establish a campaign to address the suicide rate in rural Alaska, which is quadruple the national average. She has visited many Alaska high schools to implement peer trainings and workshops and share her experiences with youth.
'Be There for Kids' The night's second session, "Partnering to Strengthen Communication Between Behavioral Health Providers, Primary Clinicians, Youth, and Families," included Lisa Lambert, executive director of Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL), a statewide family-run organization. PPAL has surveyed hundreds of families to capture their needs, hopes, and questions on various elements of integrated care, such as care coordination and communication of electronic health records.
Panelist Juan Vélez Court recounted his childhood experiences with obesity, isolation, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and suicide attempts. As an adult in recovery, he cofounded NuestraMente, a nonprofit organization that promotes recovery, wellness, and peer support. Court is the community coordinator for a child and adolescent mental health program in Puerto Rico. And he is a member of SAMHSA's Recovery Month Planning Partners Committee to help identify Hispanic support organizations throughout the United States.
Court noted that a family's unconditional acceptance is essential for creating an atmosphere where a young person can feel safe discussing behavioral health problems. He attributed his ability to overcome his problems in adolescence to the steady support of his family. When one audience member asked, "How do you become a youth leader?" Court replied that it is "to be there for kids in ways that no one was there for me."
Physical Illness Often Triggers Mental Illness The final session, "Partnering to Improve Outcomes for Youths With Chronic Health Conditions," concentrated specifically on how to help young people with chronic medical illnesses. Youths who are seriously ill may experience related mental health problems such as depression. Aside from enduring the physical and emotional toll of their illness, these young people may feel isolated and reliant at a time in life when their peers are becoming more independent.
Maureen Monahan, Ph.D., of Children's National Health System, is a certified diabetes educator. She described her work identifying symptoms of depression in young people with diabetes and coaxing them to discuss it. Monahan shared the stage with Kimberly Ehrlich, PNP, a project coordinator for the Adolescent Behavioral Health Project at Sutter Health in the San Francisco Bay area. Ehrlich teaches primary care providers to treat behavioral health disorders the same way they would treat other chronic conditions.
Also speaking in the third session was Nicole Pratt, a senior professional development trainer for New Jersey's Statewide Parent Advocacy Network. Pratt, whose adult children have undergone a range of physical and mental complications including cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and obsessive–compulsive disorder, described the kind of fear and anxiety that only a parent can feel when faced with her child's serious behavioral and physical health problems. Pratt found support at work and was able to access services and supports through the New Jersey Children's System of Care.
George Segouras, one of the evening's speakers, noted that the number of Americans seeking mental health care has increased significantly in recent years. According to SAMHSA's Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States, in 2015, an estimated 34.2 million adults ages 18 and older (roughly one in seven) received mental health care during the past 12 months.
Special Announcement From SAMHSA
SAMHSA is recruiting peer (grant) reviewers for behavioral health funding initiatives. SAMHSA's Office of Financial Resources, Division of Grant Review (DGR), is responsible for coordinating the peer-review process for non-formula discretionary grant applications submitted for funding. Peer reviewers are an invaluable and critical component of the non-formula discretionary grant review process. The primary role of the SAMHSA peer reviewer is to conduct an expert, equitable, and objective assessment of each grant application in relation to the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) evaluation criteria as well as provide accurate feedback to SAMHSA and the applicants. To ensure a fair and objective review, the DGR selects reviewers based on their knowledge, skills, and expertise related to the grant program under review.
To ensure there is a sufficient number of qualified individuals to review for each FOA, the DGR is currently recruiting behavioral health experts to serve as peer reviewers who will evaluate applications in response to the FOA requirements. At this time, the DGR is specifically recruiting "licensed and experienced professionals in the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of, or recovery from, mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders and who have a medical degree, a doctoral degree in psychology, or an advanced degree in nursing or social work from an accredited program." If you are interested in learning more about the SAMHSA peer review process, or if you would like to sign up to become a SAMHSA peer reviewer, please send a copy of your resume/CV and a completed Reviewer Contact Information form to Reviewer@samhsa.hhs.gov.
MFP Survey Deadline Extended
Current and former Fellows: The deadline to complete the Minority Fellowship Program Survey has been extended 1 month, to June 30. If you haven't completed the survey yet, please take 10 minutes to do so.
ANA has a new online course on the evidence-based, practical review of pharmacotherapy for bipolar disorder (BD). The training provides information on mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics for BD, current clinical practice guidelines, standards of care, and therapeutic options for patients whose first-line treatments fail.
Promoting Better Health for Native American Populations This grant supports the development of interventions that foster better health and prevent disease in Native American populations. Proposed interventions should promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles, improve behaviors and social conditions, or improve environmental conditions related to chronic disease, substance use, mental illness, and other physical illness. They should be culturally appropriate, sustainable, and adaptable by other Native American communities. Applications are due Aug. 24, 2017.
Innovative Mental Health Services Research The National Institute of Mental Health seeks innovative research that will inform and support the delivery of high-quality mental health services. This funding opportunity aims to inform future research or be translated into practice at the patient, clinic, healthcare, or policy level. Apply by Sept. 7, 2017.
Transformative Research Awards The NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards support groundbreaking, original, or unconventional science that has a potential major impact within biomedical or behavioral research. This includes projects with the capability for developing new scientific paradigms, establishing innovative and improved clinical approaches, and creating transformative technologies. Apply by Sept. 15, 2017.
Achieving Goals for HIV/AIDS Treatment The National Institutes of Health is calling for implementation research projects designed to achieve the 90/90/90 HIV prevention and treatment targets. This means 90 percent of all people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent receive timely and effective antiretroviral treatment, and 90 percent of those in treatment achieve sustained viral suppression. R01 applications will be accepted through Jan. 8, 2020.