mental health

Rising Concerns About Childhood Anxiety

May 20, 2014
CubaGallery / Flickr/CC

Childhood has always had its fears - from monsters under the bed, to sleep-away camp, to schoolyard bullies. But normal jitters, about these and other childhood challenges, become an issue when they interfere with regular activities, from riding the bus to going to bed at night. And this kind of debilitating anxiety seems to be on the rise: now affecting close to 1 in 5  kids.

J. Stephen Conn via Flickr CC

The House has killed a bill that allowed people barred from buying guns for mental health reasons to prove to a judge they're capable of owning a firearm.

Thomas Fearon / NHPR

In the 1990s, New Hampshire topped national rankings for its mental health system. Over the past twenty years, however, care has deteriorated to the point of crisis. With the erosion of community-based care, a ‘revolving door’ pattern of hospital admissions, and an alarming number of mentally ill Granite Staters in our prisons and jails. And so, in early 2012, the Disabilities Rights Center filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of six plaintiffs who had experienced prolonged stays in state institutions.

Calling the deal a “responsible resolution,” Judge Steven McAuliffe approved a major settlement agreement on Wednesday that will bring more resources to people in crisis.

Plaintiffs had brought a class action suit against the state, alleging that a lack of services resulted in unnecessary institutionalization of people with mental illness. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the case, saying the state was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Gun Store / Flickr Creative Commons

A new bill would prohibit gun sales to some with mental illness. Supporters say it’s a common sense public safety measure. But there has been fierce opposition from some gun-rights groups, and from advocates who say the mentally ill are being unfairly singled out and are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.


Attacks by two psychiatric patients awaiting treatment at Manchester’s Elliot Hospital last year underscored the well-documented problems with New Hampshire’s mental health system.

In December, the state agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed in 2012 on behalf of six plaintiffs who had cycled in and out of emergency rooms and the state mental hospital. The state has agreed to spend $30 million over the next three years to re-build its community-based system of care, once considered a national model.

Six Months After Attack, A Family Works To Recover

Jan 21, 2014
Todd Bookman / NHPR

The state’s mental health system has been under tremendous strain in recent years. Cuts to services in the community, combined with dwindling in-patient beds, mean patients in crisis end up waiting days for treatment--sometimes longer-- inside ill-equipped emergency rooms.

Last summer, two violent attacks inside Manchester’s Elliot Hospital ER brought to light just how unstable the situation has become. 

Donald Wyman was one of the victims of those assaults. He worked as a nursing assistant, but six months later, he’s still working toward recovery.

Paul W Hayes / Flickr Creative Commons

After more than a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, American troops are coming home.  For many, it’s a wonderful time, to return to family and a normal life. But for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, the transition is a rough road.   In New Hampshire, more a quarter who fought in these wars say they’ve struggled with PTSD, and a fifth with some kind of brain injury.

The state of New Hampshire has agreed to settle a major class-action lawsuit over its treatment of residents with serious mental illness.

Under the terms of the agreement announced Thursday, the state will spend an additional $30 million on expanding services for the strained mental health system over the next 4 years. 

courtesy of Tim Schreier, flickr creative commons

Since Newtown, debates over gun violence have focused largely on how to keep guns out of the hands of people who kill other people. The truth is that - by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 - suicide is the leading cause of death by gun violence.

It’s a toll not often discussed, but one that some law enforcement and public health officials say is worsened by easy access to guns.  We spoke to Leon Neyfakh this past January when he wrote about the topic in the Ideas section of The Boston Globe.

Thomas Fearon / NHPR

The unthinkable event that left twenty school kids and six teachers dead in Newtown, Connecticut last year, stunned a nation. But Newtown didn’t stand alone; there have been many incidents in the last few years that left us in disbelief, like the ones at Virginia Tech, Washington’s naval shipyard, an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, and a Wisconsin Sikh Temple. The two things they had in common: a gun was used, and in many cases the perpetrator had a mental illness. This year, as debates crossed the country about gun control; the question ‘are we doing enough for the mentally ill?’ arose.

Venturist via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s estimated that one in ten Americans show signs of depression, but in a society where mental illness is simultaneously taboo and overexposed, it’s easy to stick to a black-and-white label to describe mental health.

As part of the 'Almost Effect'  series from Harvard Health Publications, two instructors at Harvard teamed up to write a book on that uncomfortable gray area between well-being and chronic depression. It's called Almost Depressed. 

Thomas Fearon

With rising need and limited dollars, how best can we use funding? Should we add more acute care hospital beds, boost community services, focus on drug and alcohol treatment or diseases like schizophrenia?


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Governor Hassan is tapping former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Joseph Nadeau to lead a review into mental health services in Manchester following two high-profile incidents. 

In July, a 34-year old patient allegedly attacked two staff members at Elliot Hospital while awaiting transfer to the state psychiatric hospital in Concord.

Three New Hampshire school districts are the joint recipients of an $8.6 million federal grant to improve behavioral health services for children.

Governor Maggie Hassan announced the grant on Wednesday.

Schools in Concord, Laconia and Rochester will share the funding from the four-year grant, which state officials say will benefit as many as 10,000 children during that time.

The school districts joined with community partners, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services in applying for the grant.

kiss kiss bang bang via Flickr Creative Commons

In 1994, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine confirmed what anybody who’s tried to give up coffee suspected: caffeine is chemically addictive. It’s also the world’s most popular psychoactive drug… 80% of American adults consume it in some form. Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine are so dreadful that they are cited as a mental disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Here to unpack the chemical effect that caffeine can have on the human brain is Joseph Stromberg, journalist and science writer based in Washington, D.C. His work has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine and Slate.

Some North Country Health officials told Gov. Hassan Thursday that increasing funding for psychiatric services and expanding Medicaid are vital for improving healthcare in the region.

Hassan met with workers at Ammonoosuc Community Health Services in Littleton.

Its executive director, Edward Shanshala, told Hassan it is good that she restored funding for primary preventive care.

And he is hopeful that Medicaid will be expanded to help low-income families in the North Country who can’t afford health insurance.

Whether it’s the debate over expanding Medicaid or the struggle to improve mental health services, his department has seen its share of challenges lately, but did receive a bit of a boost in the last budget.  We’ll talk with the commissioner about all this, and  controversy over the state’s Medicaid managed care plan.


- Nick Toumpas - Commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

ADHD On The Rise

Jul 24, 2013

Almost one-in-ten New Hampshire children is diagnosed with some type of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, putting us around the middle of the pack nationally.  But those numbers may rise  as New England and New Hampshire show a particular predilection toward labeling our kids with ADHD.    These expected increases have once again raised a long, ongoing conversation here about what this disorder is, and what it isn’t, about whether too many children are diagnosed or if some kids in some demographic groups are under-diagnosed. And what about the role of drugs?

A Laconia man was arraigned today in District Court on 2nd degree murder charges stemming from an incident over the weekend. 19-year old Kasey Riley is accused of strangling Zachary March inside apartments run by Genesis Behavioral Health. Genesis provides support to residents, but not 24-hour monitoring at the facility.

Governor Hassan today announced the reopening of 12 psychiatric beds at New Hampshire Hospital. They'll be used to treat adults over the age of 55 in need of both psychiatric help and medical attention, and are meant to shore up a mental health system that the Governor calls deeply strained.

Virginia Guard Public Affairs Flickr Creative Commons

We spoke with Mac McClelland about the spread of the invisible disorder that somewhere between 100 and 300-thousand veterans brought back from war …trauma. “Secondary traumatic stress” does not have its own entry in the DSM, and is often called compassion fatigue, a more euphemistic title. Sufferers experience PTSD symptoms, but are often faced with even more hurtles than veterans when seeking help. The important difference people see between the victims of PTSD and secondary traumatic stress is that the latter’s trauma was not originally their own. Mac McClelland wrote an article for Mother Jones’ about the phenomenon of secondary traumatic stress and its affect on the families of returned soldiers. She’s also working on a book about PTSD.

Diagnosing Depression

Mar 20, 2013

A recent article in the Concord Monitor outlines the often-hidden but serious problem of this mental illness. An estimated one-in-ten Americans have this disease and have to deal with not only the symptoms, but managing the health care system and the stigma around depression. We’ll look at this issue and how it’s addressed in New Hampshire. 


Mental Health Math Doesn't Add Up For Hospitals

Feb 21, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

In the 1950s, the state psychiatric hospital in Concord was home to about 2,500 adults. The manicured campus had it all, including a golf course, barber shop, skating rink.

“For some folks, they talk about those days like some of us talk about going to college," says Ken Norton, Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness in New Hampshire (NAMI-NH).

“There was bowling and movie theaters and different events at night. They had their friends there and they were very used to the way that the hospital functioned.”

Later this week 110 members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard will mobilize in support of combat operations in Afghanistan. The 237th Military Police Company will train in Texas for several months before departing to Khost Province.

77 of the soldiers are deploying for the first time. But others are on their second and third; one is one his fifth deployment.

It’s those repeated deployments that have been a signature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and a researcher at UNH, they could take a toll on servicemembers’ families.

Mental Health Advocates Push For $37M In Funding

Jan 15, 2013

Advocates for the state’s mental health centers say the state hasn’t lived up to its own plan to improve services in the state. And this week, they’re calling for more than $37 million in increased funding to support a stretched system.

The state’s 10-year plan, called ‘A Strategy For Restoration,’ came out in 2008. It called for major investments in the state’s mental health system, and was hailed as a great step forward. But 5 years into the initiative, advocates say the state has actually slid backwards.

The recent and somewhat controversial changes to the manual to diagnose mental illness, also known as the DSM-5, will become official later this spring. Edits to the manual are based around an evolving understanding of mental disorders, which historically, haven’t always been accurate. A shocking diagnosis took hold at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, when thousands of young black men were arrested at protests and sent to the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Michigan, where they were systematically diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Though it’s unclear what motivated the shootings, many say mental health care can be a line of defense in preventing tragedies. But in the Granite State, these services have been cut and a new report says the system is in “crisis”. As part of a three day series on possible lessons from Newtown, we look at the conversation around mental health.


Advocates for mental health services say the state’s plan to re-open 12 beds at New Hampshire Hospital doesn’t go far enough to improve care. Representatives from more than a dozen organizations gathered today in Concord, and described a system stretched beyond its limits.

And they want New Hampshire lawmakers to know that no other medical condition gets treated this way.

tifotter via Flickr Creative Commons

Andrew Beaujon is senior online reporter for the Poynter institute. He talked to a number of health reporters about how they think mental health coverage is being handled post-Newtown, and he joins us with his findings.