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News and Notes   |    
News Briefs
Psychiatric Services 2008; doi:
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Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008: In May President Bush signed legislation to protect Americans from discrimination by insurers and employers because of their genetic makeup or family history. The law prevents insurers from canceling, denying, or refusing to renew coverage or changing premiums solely on the basis of an individual's genetic predisposition toward a specific disease. Employers cannot use genetic information when hiring and when making other employment-related decisions. According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, one result of the measure is that more people will qualify for health insurance plans because some insurers are already using genetic test results to deny coverage. The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, and some supporters of the legislation said that such a law is a necessary follow-up to the project. The American Psychiatric Association has been a long-standing advocate for such a measure. Because research has shown that many people would refuse to take genetic tests if insurers or employers could access their private results, supporters of the legislation hope that it will encourage people to get the care they need and to participate in research that includes genetic testing.

>New features on Kaiser Foundation Web site: A new component of the Kaiser Family Foundation Web site features QuickTakes and Kaiser Slides—two new tools that provide direct access to facts, data, and graphics about the nation's health care system and programs. QuickTakes organizes the facts and data under a menu of key topics. For example, after the user selects "Uninsured," the following fact is included in the list: "More than one in three people (37%) living in poverty are uninsured, compared with one in twenty people (5%) with family incomes at or above four times the poverty level." QuickTakes are also listed by most-read items. Kaiser Slides allows users to view, download, and print hundreds of graphics and tables presenting health policy statistics and trends from studies by Kaiser and others for use in presentations or as meeting handouts. Visit www.kff.org/to access these new features.

APA survey of mental health of military personnel: In a recent survey of military personnel, 60% said that they believe that seeking help for mental health problems would have a negative impact on their careers. In the survey, which was conducted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 60% of military members and 66% of their spouses acknowledged having little or no knowledge about common warning signs of or treatment options for mental health problems that may result from serving in a war zone. Most military members (67%) and spouses (54%) said they rarely or never talk about their mental health with family or friends. However, most military respondents (90%) and their spouses (83%) agreed that mental illnesses can be successfully treated. The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of APA and included 191 military personnel and 113 spouses randomly chosen from a Harris database of military members and their spouses. The survey report, Mental Health Among Military Members and Spouses, is posted at www.healthyminds.org. To respond to the needs of recent combat veterans, many of whom have difficulty obtaining mental health care, APA has partnered with the organization Give an Hour, in which psychiatrists and other mental health professionals volunteer their services. For more information or to volunteer, visit www.giveanhour.org.

Report on preventing school violence: Creating a school climate in which students believe that staff members want to hear about threats or possible attacks is critical to preventing school violence, according to a report issued by McLean Hospital, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. Department of Education. The 15-page report, Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence: Information Students Learn May Prevent a Targeted Attack, summarizes findings from interviews with 15 bystanders—that is, people who had prior knowledge of school violence. The interviews sought to determine how bystanders made decisions regarding what steps, if any, to take after learning the information. Six of the bystanders had prior knowledge and chose to tell an adult. Nine had prior knowledge and chose not to tell. Bystanders who felt that there were trustworthy adults in the school community who would take them seriously and with whom they had a prior helpful relationship were inclined to come forward. In schools without a collegial environment, bystanders chose to remain silent, and in every case a school shooting occurred. The primary reason for students' failure to come forward was an anticipated negative response (for example, "getting in trouble" or "getting interrogated by teachers"). The report encourages schools to educate staff to be open with students and to create trusting bonds in a climate of mutual respect, not fear. School districts should also develop policies on reporting threats and provide several options for reporting, including doing so anonymously, and ensure that those who report will be treated with respect and the information closely guarded. The full report is available on the McLean Hospital Web site at www.mclean.harvard.edu.

Survey of parents whose children receive psychotropic medications: A survey of 274 parents whose children were taking psychotropic medications found that 74% reported satisfaction with the medications. In addition, 86% reported that their child was also receiving psychotherapy. Ninety percent of parents said that medications helped their child deal more effectively with problems. Eighty-six percent reported that they would recommend that a friend consider psychotropic medications if their child needed help. About half stated that their child had tried five or more medications, and most of the remaining parents reported trials of two to four medications. Most parents (84%) reported that they were included in decision making about medications, but nearly a third (29%) felt that their child's prescriber was not as available as they wished. Most families sought out two to five sources of information about psychotropic medications. Only 18% consulted advertisements, and less than 1% considered them a reliable source. Most parents (58%) said they were aware of the "black box" warnings and were not influenced by them. The survey was conducted by Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PAL), a Massachusetts organization for families whose children have emotional and behavioral problems, in collaboration with the Institute for Community Health (ICH), an organization dedicated to health improvement through community-based research and educational activities. The 34-page report, Medications and Choices: The Perspective of Families and Youth, is available at ppal.net.

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