The Key Update, Volume 12, Number 8 - February 2016

Key Update, February 2016

Volume 12, Number 8

How to Keep People with Mental Health Conditions from Landing in Prison and “Human Toll of Jail”

“Early intervention programs may be the key to preventing people with serious mental illness from ending up in prison,” according to a new report by the Vera Institute of Justice. Examples include “programs that help homeless clients find housing, and offer enough flexibility to allow them to enroll in school or vocational training and foster a sense of empowerment,” write the authors of First-Episode Incarceration: Creating a Recovery-Informed Framework for Integrated Mental Health and Criminal Justice Responses. For more information and a link to the report, click here. The Vera Institute has also launched a website called The Human Toll of Jail, which “aims to put a human face to the uses and abuses of jails in the United States. Along with every story featured here, Vera brings information about and links to the research, policy analyses, and best practices that address the larger questions and issues.” More than a half million Americans with mental health conditions are incarcerated on any given day – about the same number of people warehoused in psychiatric institutions in the 1950s, Vera notes. For the website, click here. At the same time, the American Friends Service Committee has compiled Reports and Testimonies on the Use of Torture in U.S. Prisons, available here, and a web page on Impacts of Incarceration, available here. 

Comments Are Sought on Draft Competencies for Whole Health Peer Specialists

Mental Health America is seeking comments on its draft core competencies for Whole Health Peer Specialists, who promote physical as well as emotional wellness. The certification “is designed to build upon and enhance traditional peer specialist training and core competencies … and add the additional competencies necessary to enable peers to work alongside any other health care team(s),” such as in emergency rooms and with private practitioners, including primary care physicians, according to Mental Health America (MHA). “Whole Health Peer Specialist is not a new classification,” said Patrick Hendry, MHA’s vice president of consumer advocacy. “What is new is that this is the first national certification, it takes peer support to new levels of skills and knowledge, and it is oriented to preparing people to work in the private sector.” The core competencies, published on February 15, are available here. To provide feedback, fill out MHA’s online survey—available here— by March 31, 2016. For additional information, click here.

Emotional CPR Webinar to Be Presented on March 8

A webinar on Emotional CPR (eCPR)—an educational program designed to teach people to assist others through an emotional crisis by Connecting, emPowering, and Revitalizing—will be presented on March 8 at 3 p.m. ET. Its theme will be Creating a Culture of Recovery and Empowerment. The presenters will be eCPR co-developer Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., along with two other eCPR trainers, Flora Releford and Stella Archer. Dan “first imagined eCPR when he was helped out of a catatonic state by two young naval corpsmen whose authentic, caring ways restored his wish to live,” according to information posted on Facebook. He became a psychiatrist, a co-founder of the National Empowerment Center, a member of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts. To register, click here.

BRSS TACS First Friday in March Will Cover “What If I Am the Only Peer on My Team?”

On March 4, 2016, at 12 p.m. ET, BRSS TACS (Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy) will host a free teleconference that answers the question What If I Am the Only Peer on My Team? Leading the Way in Traditional Behavioral or Integrated Healthcare Settings. “First Fridays with BRSS TACS is a free monthly opportunity to meet with nationally recognized leaders to discuss recovery-related topics in an open and informal setting.” Join BRSS TACS on March 4 to hear about peer leadership and submit your questions to presenter LaVerne Miller of Policy Research Associates. For more information and to register, click here.

Free Guide to Using Your Employer-Sponsored Health Plan to Cover Behavioral Health Services

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently published Parity of Mental Health and Substance Use Benefits with Other Benefits. The guide examines “what the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act means for people with employer-sponsored health plans who need treatment for substance abuse or mental illness. [It] discusses key elements of health care legislation particularly as it relates to filing a claim, denial of a claim, and the appeals process.” To download the digital version, click here.

APA Issues Call for Papers for a Special Issue on Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Holistic Mental Health Care

The American Psychological Association (APA) is inviting submissions to Psychological Services for a special issue “devoted to all aspects of holistic care, including but not limited to culture-based approaches, evidence-based approaches, mindfulness, acupuncture, yoga, Ayurveda, traditional healing practices, nutritional and herbal approaches, meditation, physical care (e.g., exercise), indigenous approaches, mind-body medicine, religious and spiritual approaches, and ecological treatments.” The deadline for receipt of papers is August 31, 2016. For the call for papers, which includes detailed guidelines, click here.

Thanks, Mad in America

National Storytelling Network Seeks Applications for Brimstone Award

“The National Storytelling Network is accepting applications for the 2016 Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling, an annual award that recognizes the transformational properties of storytelling and the ways storytelling can promote change in individuals and communities. Grants of $5,000 will be awarded in support of model storytelling projects that are service-oriented, based in a community or organization, and are replicable (to some extent) in other places and situations….Projects may involve various kinds of stories, including traditional tales and myths as well as personal and ad hoc narratives….Areas of interest include health care, environmental education/activism, community development, law, multicultural awareness, organizational development, leadership, intergenerational initiatives, empowerment of the disabled, substance abuse prevention, and educational curriculum at all levels.” The preliminary proposal deadline is April 28, 2016. For details, click here.

Thanks, Matt Canuteson

Are Pictures Worth a Thousand Words in the Struggle Against Prejudice and Discrimination?

Cartoonists are posting online drawings to combat the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental health conditions, the BBC reports. Mental Health Week: How drawings on social media are changing the conversation includes drawings by such artists as "Robot Hugs," "Sylvia Reuter," and "Ruby etc." Although they take different approaches to the subject, each has the goal of opening up the conversation, combating isolation, forging connections, and giving people hope. For more, click here. Although the BBC did not include her, Allie Brosh has been doing the same thing for a long time with Hyperbole and a Half. For Brosh's Adventures in Depression, click here. For Depression Part Two, click here.

Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism Seeks Applications for 2016-17

Applications are being accepted for six one-year journalism fellowships with the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program. The program is open to journalists who are U.S. citizens or residents working in all media forms with a minimum of three years of professional experience. “These fellowships aim to enhance public understanding of mental health issues and reduce stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses through balanced and accurate reporting,” the Carter Center writes. Each fellow is awarded a $10,000 stipend and provided with two required expense-paid trips to the Carter Center to meet with program staff and advisers. Fellows are not required to leave their employment. The deadline is April 6, 2016. The application is available at

Exercise and Meditation -- Together -- Help Beat Depression, Rutgers Study Finds

A combined program of meditation and aerobic exercise can reduce depression, according to a new Rutgers study. The study, published in Translational Psychiatry in February, found that the mind and body combination—done twice a week for only two months—reduced the symptoms for a group of students by 40 percent. “We…saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students,” said lead author Brandon Alderman, an assistant professor at Rutgers. The researchers discovered that a combination of mental and physical training (MAP) enabled students with major depressive disorder not to let problems or negative thoughts overwhelm them. “Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression,” said Rutgers professor Tracey Shors, who also worked on the study. “But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.” For the press release, click here. For the study, click here.

Thanks, Mad in America

Three Newsletters Offer In-Depth Information on Mental Health and/or Criminal Justice Reform Issues

Three newsletters that offer a wealth of information on various topics related to mental health and/or criminal justice reform are published by Mad in America, the Marshall Project, and the International Association of Peer Supporters, respectively. Mad in America’s mission is “to serve as a catalyst for remaking psychiatric care in the United States (and abroad)”; the Marshall Project is a nonprofit news organization that focuses on the American criminal justice system; and the International Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the use of peer support services worldwide. For the February 23rd edition of the Mad in America newsletter, click here. To subscribe, click here. For the February 26th Opening Statement from the Marshall project, click here. To subscribe, click here. For the latest edition of the iNAPS newsletter, click here. To subscribe, click here. (You do not need to join iNAPS in order to receive its free newsletter; however, membership is encouraged. Membership information is included at the bottom of the iNAPS newsletter.)

New Social Media Site Aims to Help People Deal with Stress

Koko, a new app that runs on mobile devices, “helps you navigate through stressful thoughts and find your way forward,” according to its website: The app “asks users to choose a topic of concern (think: school, work, relationships, family) and write, in a few sentences, the worst-case outcome of their worries….Whatever the user types into the box then shows up on a card, that other users swipe through like Tinder profiles. If someone sees a problem they can address, they click a bright pink button that says ‘Help rethink this.’ A little text box pops up and gives the user prompts like, ‘What’s a more optimistic take on this situation?’ Or ‘This could turn out better than you think because…’ [A]n algorithm watches out for trigger words that indicate someone is dangerous to themselves or others.” For a article about Koko, click here.

Virtual Reality Can Combat Depression by Fostering Self-Compassion

A study that helped individuals to step outside of their own reality has shown success in combatting depression. Researchers at University College London and the University of Barcelona developed a way for people experiencing depression to enter a virtual reality as life-size avatars. Wearing virtual-reality glasses and body sensors, the participants watched their avatars mimic their body movements, in a process called “embodiment.” First, the participant’s avatar encounters an avatar of a crying child, and says kind and compassionate things to the child, who has been programmed to respond positively. Then the adult adopts the role of the child, and hears and sees the adult avatar say these same kind things. Many of the subjects felt that participating helped reduce their symptoms of depression. “We’ve created an artificial situation which allows them to hear themselves be self-compassionate, and they think, ‘Actually this makes me feel good,’ ” said Chris Brewin, a clinical psychologist at University College London and the study’s lead author.  Although the study was small, Brewin believes that, if more research confirms the results, it could be a revolutionary way to treat depression. The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open this month. For more, click here.

Essay Contest for Youth to Combat Prejudice and Discrimination Associated with Bipolar Disorder

The International Bipolar Foundation (IBF) is sponsoring an essay contest for young people aged 13 to 19. Participants will answer the question Are People Who Live with Bipolar Disorder Stigmatized in Your Community? IBF writes: “Chances are someone you know has this mental illness or cares for someone who does. Learning about bipolar disorder can help you understand the impact this disease has on those affected by it so you can respond to them with care and sensitivity.” The deadline is March 30. For details, click here.

Thanks, Carol Coussons de Reyes

Not Too Late to Comment on Whether ECT Device Should Be Reclassified from Class III to Class II

There is still time to submit comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on whether it should reclassify the device used to administer electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a controversial procedure that even proponents admit can cause “adverse cognitive effects [that] can persist for an extended period, and that they characterize routine treatment with ECT in community settings.” The device is currently in Class III; the proposal is to reclassify it to Class II. For information about the three classes, click here. For testimony by Daniel B. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D., in 2011, the last time the FDA threatened to reclassify the equipment, click here. For information about Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know about Shock Treatment, which the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine called “brilliant analysis,” click here. For additional information, click here. The comment period is open until March 28, 2016. To comment, click here.

“Healing Voices” Documentary to Have Global Premiere on April 29, 2016

“Healing Voices,” a “new feature-length documentary which explores the experiences commonly labeled as ‘psychosis’ through the real-life stories of individuals working to overcome extreme mental states and integrate these experiences into their lives in meaningful ways,” will have its global premiere on April 29, 2016. “The film follows three subjects – Oryx, Jen, Dan – over a period of nearly five years and features interviews with notable personalities, including Robert Whitaker, Dr. Bruce Levine, Will Hall, Marius Romme, and others.” For more information and to see the trailer: The film makers are planning a “One Night, One Voice” global event to mark the VOD (Video-On-Demand) release of the movie. Click here for information about screening packages. For additional information about licensing or tax-deductible donations, click here or contact

National Technical Assistance and Networking Teleconferences Are on Hiatus for Now

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is no longer operating under a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Although we are keeping our doors open – including publishing our monthly e-newsletter, the Key Update – we are suspending our monthly national technical assistance and networking calls for the time being. We will keep you posted!

Consumer-Driven Services Directory

The Clearinghouse welcomes all programs in which consumers play a significant role in leadership and operation to apply for inclusion in its Directory of Consumer-Driven Services. The directory, accessible at, is searchable by location, type of organization, and targeted clientele, and serves as a free resource for consumers, program administrators and researchers. Apply online at, via fax at 215-636-6312, or by phone at 800-553-4KEY (4539). To receive an application by mail, write to or Susan Rogers, Clearinghouse, 1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

About The Key Update

The Key Update is the free monthly e-newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. Volume 12, No.8, February 2016, To subscribe, please send a message to: subscribe thekey. To unsubscribe, please send a message to: unsubscribe thekey. For content, reproduction or publication information, please contact Susan Rogers at or 800.553.4539 x3812, 267.507.3812 (direct). Follow Susan on Twitter at @SusanRogersMH