Highlights from the inaugural AHCJ Mental Health Summit


The AHCJ concluded its first Mental Health Summit on Thursday evening, with speakers highlighting the stress the pandemic has placed on many Americans, especially young people, and featured speakers outlining solutions for a system of mental health care that leaves many people’s needs unresolved.

The summit was attended by three featured speakers who stressed the severity of the mental health situation and barriers to care, why traditional treatments don’t work, and what is being done in Congress to help resolve what the speaker main Vikram Patel, MD, called a broken mental disorder “It’s failing,” Patel told participants, while presenting data showing that, despite massive US spending on mental health care, key measures show no improvement and / or a decline in the mental health of Americans.

Patel presented his vision for a community-based care approach that teaches lay people to provide short-term intervention in places – including the United States – where mental health care is scarce or non-existent.

Featured speaker Bessel van der Kolk, MD, professor of psychiatry and founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, and author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Body Keeps the Score,” spoke at the beginning of the week in a similar vein. “Our diagnostic system is in ruins,” he said during a question-and-answer session on Tuesday. Despite advances in psychotherapeutic drugs, he said, the data shows there are more depressed people now than in 1972. “We really need to explore how we can change our minds,” said van der Kolk, whose work focuses on coping with trauma. through the body.

Representative Katie Porter, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 45th District, the spotlight speaker on Wednesday, spoke about a particular aspect of the U.S. mental health care system that is in dire need of change: intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system. He talked about the promise of the recently introduced Mental Health Justice Act, a bill that would create mental health rescuers who can be sent into a mental health crisis rather than involving law enforcement whose interventions too often result in injury or death from people struggling with mental illness.

A look at some panels

The summit, sponsored by the Icahn School of Medicine / Mount Sinai, was packed with sessions covering a wide range of topics from maternal mental health and the use of psilocybin and MDMA in PTSD and other burnout situations among nurses and doctors and the promise of mental health technology.

Here are just a few highlights.

On Monday, John Ackerman, Ph.D., clinical child psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator, at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, discussed the intersecting roles of journalism and suicide prevention. “Representing suicide responsibly is important,” he said. “Research suggests that certain aspects of suicide reporting can increase suicide.” Unsafe reporting can lead to a dangerous phenomenon: suicidal contagion, participants warned.

Iola Kostrzewski, a doula from Minnesota, told attendees Tuesday that mental health conversations must happen before “you have that pregnant person sitting in front of you. We have to culturally address these issues after this person has given birth.” He also explained the significant role doulas play in supporting patients, particularly women or people of color, who are more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts.

During her Wednesday presentation on nurse burnout and compassion fatigue, Desiree Shin, a practicing ICU nurse, spoke about the cultural and professional shame she felt at taking a month off to meet her needs. mental health. “There was this overwhelming feeling of helplessness,” she said, adding that she couldn’t sleep, was severely depressed and anxious. One speaker explained how hospital debriefings enabled nurses to unravel critical incidents, trauma staff had experienced, and adverse events in a compassionate form.

On Thursday the last panel of the summit shed some light promising research on substances such as psilocybin (aka “mushrooms” or “magic mushrooms”) and MDMA (aka “Molly” or “ecstasy”) as potentially powerful therapeutic tools for treating mental health conditions including PTSD, anxiety and depression.

“There is a lot of hope and anticipation that the psychedelic treatment model may have something to offer the mainstream of mental health care,” said Charles S. Grob, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UCLA School of Medicine and director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, adding that while these drugs may only be for a select group of people, the researchers are adhering to strong safety standards.

“This medicine has considerable potential and we may be able to explore its application at a level that its predecessors generations ago did not have.”

To check out the full list of recordings, detailed summaries and photos of each session, visit AHCJ’s “Recorded sessions” web page.


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