Key Update, September 2019, Volume 16, Number 3

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is now affiliated with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion!

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“Proposal to monitor people with MI to predict violence sparks field outcry,” MHW Writes

“Following a recently announced proposal by the Trump administration to create a new research arm within the proposed Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), mental health and disability rights advocacy groups banded together on a preliminary conference call [recently] to weigh concerns and discuss potential steps should this proposal move forward,” according to a September 16, 2019, article in Mental Health Weekly. “‘National mental health and disability groups have joined together and are planning a steady stream of joint action to counter these proposals and to fight against the level of scapegoating that is occurring at this time,’ Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS), told MHW. ‘Public fears, gun lobbying tactics and the failure of politicians to stand up to the NRA [National Rifle Association]’ are fueling these proposals, he told MHW. ‘A proposal to monitor people with mental health conditions and look for neurological signs of potential violence would be ludicrous, if not outrageous.’” For the Mental Health Weekly article as well as numerous links to other articles debunking the spurious link between mental health conditions and violence, click here.

Peer Support Outpaces Clinical Practice in Fostering Mental Health Recovery, Research Says

“Systematic reviews have confirmed that, while peer support and clinical practice typically perform fairly equally on traditional outcome measures like rehospitalization and relapse, peer support scores better in areas related to the recovery process,” according to a recent Psychiatry Advisor article. “In particular, peer support tends to offer greater levels of self‐efficacy, empowerment, and engagement…‘There is a lot of value in sharing with people who have overcome similar mental health challenges,’ says psychotherapist Hilary Jacobs Hendel,” author of It’s Not Always Depression. “‘Peer support builds confidence and hope for healing.’…”For the article, click here.

2020 Presidential Candidates Talk about Mental Health

Mental Health for US, a nonpartisan coalition “intended to elevate mental health and addiction in policy conversations during the upcoming election season,” has reached out to a number of the 2020 presidential candidates to ask them about their positions on mental health issues, and has posted on its website the answers of those who have responded: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. As of August 27, 2019, candidates Joe Biden, Julian Castro, Donald Trump, William Weld, and Andrew Yang had not replied. For the positions of the candidates who went on the record about their mental health policy positions, click here.

Courtesy of Jacek Haciak

“Union Alleges Illegal Practices at SAMHSA”

“The National Treasury Employees Union is in the process of filing ‘many grievances,’ including a complaint over the sudden elimination in August of telework accommodations for disabled employees, the union’s national president told POLITICO. The union is also asking for examples of legal and ethical violations after some staff alleged that they were reassigned or suffered other retribution when they raised concerns about labor practices. ‘SAMHSA is at the center of our government’s response to the nation’s opioid crisis,’ said Tony Reardon, the union's national president. ‘SAMHSA employees are concerned that the agency’s poor treatment of its own workforce will impede this vital work as skilled, veteran employees head for the exits.’ A senior SAMHSA official disputed the allegations in an interview with POLITICO, stressing that the agency is appropriately implementing the union contract and focused on ‘an all-hands-on deck approach’ to combating the opioid crisis. ‘We certainly did not take telework away from disabled employees,’ said Deepa Avula, who oversees the agency's HR practices and suggested that the allegations stemmed from miscommunication. SAMHSA has experienced considerable turnover and declining morale during the Trump administration, ranking 413th out of 415 agencies in a government employee engagement survey last year. More than a dozen senior officials have departed or been reassigned since the summer of 2018, including a handful of staffers—like the agency’s new chief medical officer—who only lasted several months in their roles.” For a brief summary, click here.

“PRA Releases Free Safe Messaging Icons to Honor Suicide Prevention Month”

“In honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, suicide prevention efforts, and survivors everywhere, Policy Research Associates Inc. (PRA) has collaborated with experts in the field to create a suite of nine icons that illustrate key suicide prevention concepts in a strength-based and recovery-oriented manner. This suite addresses key concepts within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices, as well as critical topics addressed in suicide prevention work.” For more, click here.

Free Webinar: “Financial Wellness and Peer Support” on September 24

On September 24, 2019, at 2 p.m. ET, Doors to Wellbeing will present a free 60-minute webinar on “Financial Wellness and Peer Support: Building Hope for a Better Financial Future.” Among the learning objectives are recognizing “concrete strategies peer support providers can use to help build financial hope in five domains: day-to-day financial stability, long-term financial security, autonomy from public benefits, ability to control their financial decisions, economic citizenship and participation”; and following “a six-step economic empowerment process to engage people in culturally meaningful conversations about life dreams and financial goals, build financial hope, develop financial wellness action plans and coach people through a process that helps them to move toward financial goals.” For more information and to register, click here.

U.S. Should Create a National Agenda to Improve Child and Youth Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health, Says Report

“A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine calls for a comprehensive national agenda to improve mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) health in children and youth…The report finds that new research into factors that influence MEB health, effective interventions, and better ways to implement those interventions on a broad scale are forming a foundation for significantly improving healthy MEB development.” The report—Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda—“calls for federal leadership and coordination between public and private partners at the national, state, and community levels to make MEB health a priority, and for them to take full advantage of research on interventions and implementation.” For the press release, which includes a link to the free report, click here.

Courtesy of Fran Hazam

Free Webinar: “How to Embed Strategic Planning into the Culture of Your Organization”

A free, 90-minute webinar on “How to Embed Strategic Planning into the Culture of Your Organization” will be presented on September 26, 2019, at 2 p.m. ET, as part of a collaborative series by the five federally funded national technical assistance centers. “In this webinar, participants will not only learn the basic tools and techniques of developing a strategic plan for their peer-run organization, but they will also discover how to incorporate their strategic plan into their organization’s culture and day-to-day operations. This webinar will feature the National Empowerment Center's work with the Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance as an example of how we can work toward embedding strategic planning into the culture of an organization. The presenters will offer tips, practices, and exercises that organizational leaders can utilize to ensure that their strategic plan is not just a document to be referenced but a practical vision that unites and guides staff, board members, and stakeholders under shared aspirations.” To register, click here.

60th Annual National Dialogues on Behavioral Health Conference November 3-6 in New Orleans

The National Dialogues on Behavioral Health—formerly known as the Southern Conference on Mental Health—is “the oldest ongoing annual conference on mental health and substance abuse in the United States. The 2019 conference, its 60th, will be held in New Orleans November 3-6. This year the conference will focus on “the disconnect between individuals and families’ need for care, and the need for the interconnectedness across systems that is necessary to provide true integration of care that results in good outcomes for individuals, families and communities.” For more information and to register, click here.

PIER Program May Prevent Psychosis

A program developed in 2001 may help prevent the onset of a psychotic episode, according to a recent New York Times article. The PIER—Portland Identification and Early Referral—program involves multifamily group sessions, and each group has “two professional leaders, some combination of the following: a nurse, a social worker, an occupational therapist, a psychologist and sometimes a young person who has been through the experience and is now well…The intervention is adapted to each individual and focuses on practical issues like how to stay in school, make and keep friends or jobs, how to handle stresses and plan for the future. ‘We also emphasize the value of healthy eating and exercise and spending more time outdoors,’ [Dr. William R. McFarlane, who developed the program,] added. ‘Only when necessary do we use medication, like a mood stabilizer or anti-depressive. This isn’t about drug treatment.’ The PIER program has been replicated at some 18 centers around the U.S., and SAMHSA has authorized funding to establish 21 additional sites. For the article, click here.

New Research Center Will Study Using Compounds Like LSD and Psilocybin for Mental Health Problems

“Johns Hopkins Medicine recently announced the launch of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, to study compounds like LSD and psilocybin for a range of mental health problems, including anorexia, addiction and depression. The center is the first of its kind in the country, established with $17 million in commitments from wealthy private donors and a foundation,” The New York Times reports. Some researchers urge caution, but others believe that the new Center can help provide answers that have previously eluded scientists. “‘This is an exciting initiative that brings new focus to efforts to learn about mind, brain and psychiatric disorders by studying the effects of psychedelic drugs,’ Dr. John Krystal, chair of psychiatry at Yale University, said in an email about the Johns Hopkins center.” For the article, click here.

Depression Can Be Physically Painful, Researchers Find

When Columbia University researchers analyzed nerve cell activity in more than 200 MRI scans and considered brain changes associated with both depression and treatment, they observed a network of nerve activity that is central to processing pain, “but it has never been previously connected to depression,” according to study author David Hellerstein, MD. “The Columbia researchers noted that treatment with antidepressant medications relieved both psychological and physical symptoms, while treatment with the placebo had no effect on pain in study subjects,” according to a recent article in Bustle. For the article, click here.

'FACT' Teams Aim to Keep People with Mental Health Conditions Out of Jail

Around the country, Forensic Assertive Community Treatment—or FACT—teams have been launched to provide an array of support services intended to keep people with serious mental health conditions out of the hospital and out of the criminal justice system. The concept is based on Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, which were developed in the 1970s. Current evidence indicates that the teams work well for some people, some of the time, according to a recent BBC World Service article. For the article, click here. For an eight-page SAMHSA publication about FACT, click here.

Air Force Launches “Resilience Tactical Pause” to Combat Suicide in Its Ranks

“The Resilience Tactical Pause (RTP) is intended to provide an opportunity for leaders to engage their Airmen in a manner that fosters interpersonal connection,” the Air Force writes. “The RTP is not a ‘down day,’ but deliberate time to promote trust and confidence in leadership, drive awareness, and to highlight the importance of candid feedback about how we can better support our Airmen…This is not a one-and-done effort, but the beginning of an ongoing, sustained effort to combat the challenge. Care should be taken to ensure facilitators and participants of small group discussions do not view this event as training. The RTP will foster discussion, connection, and identification of potential solutions to optimize Airmen performance.” For the RTP Playbook, click here.

Archived Webinar on “Trauma and Brain Science: Why Can’t I Think My Way Out of This?” Will Be Available in October

Approximately one week after it airs on September 24, 2019, a National Training & Technical Assistance Center webinar that has been fully subscribed will be available via YouTube. The webinar “will address how trauma responses, protective during traumatic experience, change our brain function and physiology in ways that are not subject to our voluntary control. It will explain how those changes can result in negative impacts to our functioning, thinking, relationships, and work if they are not addressed. Participants will learn why we can't just decide to make the effects of trauma recede, based on recent brain science. The webinar will address why we need to learn skills that actually address the changes in brain function during trauma to prevent negative effects. Skills for addressing trauma responses during traumatic experiences that are not dangerous and immediately post-trauma exposure will be presented.” For the YouTube link, at which other archived NTTAC webinars are also available, click here. NTTAC is a program of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Courtesy of Jacek Haciak

Optimists May Live Longer, Study Shows

“Researchers found that people who scored higher on an optimism assessment were more likely to live past the age of 85,” according to a recent article in Scientific American. “Those with higher optimism levels at the start of the study were more likely to have advanced degrees and be physically active, and less likely to have health conditions like diabetes or depression. However, when researchers accounted for these variables, they still found that optimism was associated with people living significantly longer.” The article noted that the study participants were “mostly white people of higher socioeconomic status. It is difficult to determine how generalizable these findings are.” To read more, click here.

“DC Comics’ ‘Heroes in Crisis’ Explores the Mental Health of Superheroes”

“…comics are actually a lot like the real world: Their heroes suffer a physical and psychic toll as a result of cyclical violence…That friction is the main theme of DC Comics’ Heroes in Crisis, the latest endeavor from writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann. An early example of this friction appears in the premiere issue, in which King cleverly turns the struggle of Blue Jay—a Justice League rotational player beginning to lose grasp on his shrinking power—into a genuine testimony on the ways depression breeds stasis: ‘I go to sleep,’ said the hero. ‘And wake up small … I’ll be drowning in my own bed.’” For the article, click here.

A Digest of Articles about Alternatives to Traditional Mental Health Treatment

For “Anxiety and depression: why doctors are prescribing gardening rather than drugs,” click here. For “Healing Depression with Integrative Medicine: Dr. Kim Celmer,” click here. For “Nature and Mental Health: An Ecosystem Service Perspective,” click here. For “Surprising Alternative Treatments for Mental Disorders,” click here. For “Feeling depressed? Mahjong might be the answer,” click here. For “Why more depression treatments should include exercise,” click here.

The September 2019 Digest of Articles about the Criminal Justice System, in Which Many Individuals with Mental Health Conditions Are Incarcerated (and the Key Update continues after this Digest)

Here is the September wrap-up of stories about the criminal justice system. (Note: Some of the titles and other language are not politically correct but are reproduced as written.) For “Documentary to Showcase Education in Prison,” click here. For “When Solitary Confinement Is A Death Sentence: Mariam Abdullah died by suicide after the teen spent much of the final two years of her life in solitary confinement,” click here. For “‘I’m Gonna Die in Here’: 19-Year-Old ‘Mentally Ill’ Woman in Jail for Spitting,” click here. For “How Southern California jails are changing the way they treat the mentally ill,” click here. For “In Prison, and Fighting to Vote,” click here. For “KOLD INVESTIGATES: Battle over conditions inside Arizona prisons heating up,” click here. For “The graying of America’s prisons: ‘When is enough enough?’ Inmates over 55 are among the fastest growing population. They burden prisons and taxpayers, but pose the lowest threat to society,” click here. For “Unlocking Prison Problems: Four questions on the future of incarceration,” click here. For “After prison, more punishment” They did their time. But as the formerly incarcerated reenter the workforce, will their past be held against them?” click here. For “Federal prison suicides were quietly rising before Jeffrey Epstein's death in a New York detention center,” click here. For “Mourning a Stranger’s Suicide in Prison: ‘Together we prayed and talked about who this girl might have been—and who she might have become,’” click here. For “Misdemeanor and Felony-Friendly Jobs: 70 Million Jobs will connect you with great companies that offer second chance jobs for people with criminal records. No cost to you,” click here. For “She Begged Them to Take Away His Police Handgun. He Died Anyway: New York is facing a record number of police suicides, but has lagged in mental health initiatives for troubled officers,” click here. For “How Would You Spend a Life Sentence? For one inmate, a new federal law gave hope where there had been none,” click here. For “Art vs. Mass Incarceration,” click here. For “What Gate Money Cab (And Cannot) Buy: Most states give money to people leaving prison. But some formerly incarcerated people say it’s often not enough to meet their basic needs,” click here. For “A Fair Fight: …indigent defense systems across the country have been chronically under-resourced for decades,” click here. For “An illusion of justice: The baffling conviction and death sentence of Toforest Johnson reveal a broken system,” click here. For “The Criminal Justice Debate Has Changed Drastically. Here’s Why. Democratic candidates are pushing ideas that were considered radical just a few years ago. But the American public has changed its views, too,” click here. For “‘Treatment Facilities’ Aren’t What You Think They Are: Convicted of no crime, more people are being forced behind bars to undergo involuntary addiction treatment,” click here.


If You Have Experienced Psychosis, “Psychosis Beyond the Box” Wants to Hear From You.

“Psychosis Beyond the Box” seeks to gather anonymous descriptions of “aspects of psychosis that are often neglected, such as felt presences, visual or quasi-visual experiences, and alterations of space, time or distance,” as well as strategies to help with any distressing or challenging aspects of the experiences. The narratives will be compiled and shared in early psychosis programs and other service settings across the U.S. A major aim of the project—which is not a research project—is “to validate the diverse range of things people with psychosis experience, and help people, especially young adults experiencing psychosis for the first time, feel less alone and isolated (in these experiences).” For more information about the project, based at the University of South Florida, or to share your story, click here. Questions? Write to Nev Jones ( or

“Experiences with Hospitalization” Survey Seeks Participants

“The purpose of this survey is to help us understand people's lived experience with voluntary and involuntary treatment because of suicidal thoughts. It was created by people with lived experience…We are planning to use this information to facilitate discussions with suicidologists and the suicide prevention community about the impact of the use of these interventions, particularly within marginalized populations. We feel the voice of people with lived experience with these interventions has not had adequate opportunity to be heard, and hope that by completing this survey anonymously, people who have been most impacted can find a safe way to share their experiences. Please note that this is not a research project.” For more information and/or to participate, click here.

Thanks, Leah Harris

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin Seek Participants for Depression Study

Trinity College Dublin researchers write: “We are a team of psychologists at Trinity College Dublin who are trying to better understand depression. We are interested in using language to predict the occurrence of depression early. Our hope is that in doing so we can one day be able to help doctors provide treatments earlier and maybe even prevent depression altogether. In order to participate, you must be at least 18 years old, have had a Twitter account for at least one year, [and] have at least 500 Tweets. Interested in participating? Learn more by clicking. If not, thanks for taking the time to read about our research.” For the “continue” link to more information, click here.

Mental Health First Aid Australia Seeks Research Participants to Update MHFA Guidelines

Mental Health First Aid Australia is inviting people from Australia, UK, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Sweden, and the USA who have expertise in the field of psychosis to participate in research whose goal is to update the Mental Health First Aid guidelines for psychosis, which were last updated in 2008. Invited participants include people with lived experience of psychosis, people who have cared for or provided significant support to someone with psychosis, and professionals with research, education, or clinical experience related to psychosis. For more information, click here.

International Survey on Antipsychotic Medication Withdrawal Seeks Respondents

“Have you taken antipsychotic medication (such as Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify, Risperdal, Haldol, Geodon, Stelazine, and others), for any condition or diagnosis, with or without other medications? And did you ever stop taking antipsychotics, or try to stop taking them? Are you 18 years or older? If yes, you can take this survey about antipsychotic withdrawal and attempts to withdraw, including if you stopped taking them completely or if you tried to come off and still take them. The survey aims to improve mental health services by better understanding medication withdrawal. Lead researcher is Will Hall, a therapist and Ph.D. student who has himself taken antipsychotics. Service users/survivors/consumers from around the world also gave input. The study is sponsored by Maastricht University in the Netherlands; co-sponsors include the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. Questions? Please contact”  For more information or to take the survey, click on

What Is a Peer Support Specialist? Your Opinion Is Wanted

“On behalf of iNAPS, a national workgroup has developed a proposed definition for peer support specialist to submit for federal standard occupational classification through the U.S. Department of Labor,” iNAPS writes. “We are asking you to complete this short survey regarding the proposed definition...The proposed title, Peer Support Specialist, does not prevent the use of other job titles, such as Recovery Coach, Peer Bridger, Peer Navigator, etc.” To complete the survey, click here.

New Virtual Group Is Launched to Advance Peer Research Capacity, Leadership, and Involvement

Nev Jones, Ph.D., and Emily Cutler, a doctoral candidate, have launched a new listserv dedicated to building research capacity, leadership, and involvement among peers, survivors, and service users.  Dr. Jones, assistant professor, Department of Mental Health Law & Policy, University of South Florida, was part of the team that developed “User/Survivor Leadership & Capacity Building in Research: White Paper on Promoting Engagement Practices in Peer Evaluation/Research (PEPPER),” published by the Lived Experience Research Network. For the white paper, click here. Anyone interested in joining the virtual group can email Nev at

Do You Supervise Peer Support Workers? Then Researchers Have Some Questions for You

Researchers in the University of South Florida’s Department of Psychiatry and at Magellan Health are investigating the backgrounds, training, and experiences of individuals who currently supervise at least one peer support worker in a behavioral health setting or agency. “To the best of our knowledge, this will be the first comprehensive research study of the landscape of peer support supervision practices in the United States,” writes Dr. Nev Jones, the primary investigator of the study (Protocol Number 00040223). Participants must be at least 18 years old and work in the United States or U.S. territories. An online survey lasting approximately 10 minutes will ask about respondents’ backgrounds, training and preparation for supervision, perspectives and practices, and views on barriers and facilitators to high-quality supervision. There is no monetary compensation. Questions? Contact Dr. Nev Jones ( or the co-primary investigator, Dana Foglesong ( To access the survey, click here.

What Happens to People after Discharge from First Episode Psychosis/Early Intervention Programs? New Study Seeks Answers—and Participants

A study led by Dr. Nev Jones at the University of South Florida seeks current and former clients as well as family members of clients previously enrolled in early intervention in psychosis (EIP)/coordinated specialty care (CSC) services. The study aims to better understand what happens after discharge from EIP/CSC programs, including in the areas of school or work and access to/use of other mental health services. Eligible participants must be at least 18 years old and must be “current clients within one month of discharge from an EIP/CSC program, former clients discharged at least six months (at the time of the scheduled interview), and the family members of former clients.” In exchange for a phone interview of approximately 1.5 hours, each participant in the study (Protocol Number 00035193) will receive a $75 money order. Questions? Contact Dr. Jones at 813.415.5532 or by email at

Disclaimer: The Clearinghouse does not necessarily endorse the opinions and opportunities included in the Key Update.

About The Key Update

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is now affiliated with the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion!

The Key Update is the free monthly e-newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. Volume 16, No. 3, September 2019. For content, reproduction or publication information, please contact Susan Rogers at Follow Susan on Twitter at @SusanRogersMH