Trump expands mental health benefits to decrease suicide rates among new veterans

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to provide more benefits to service members transitioning from the military to civilian life in an effort to decrease veteran suicides.Veterans who have recently left the military are between two and three times more likely to commit suicide than active duty service members, and nearly 20% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.The order directs the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs to submit a plan within 60 days to provide “seamless access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources.”"We want them to get the highest care and the care they so richly deserve," Trump said. More: 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, new data show More: 'A war within myself': One veteran's struggle for life after combat VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged that in 60 days, the VA will begin offering a full year of mental health care to all departing service members. He said they will be pre-enrolled before they leave the military."Currently, up until your executive order, only 40 percent of those service members had coverage in the VA to get mental health," Shulkin said at a White House signing ceremony. "Now, 100 percent will have that coverage."White House officials said the Department of Defense also plans to start the transition process sooner, so it’s less abrupt, although the details and timetables are still being worked out.The order marks another step toward delivering on the president’s pledges to improve services and care for veterans and to modernize the VA, which has been buffeted in recent years by crisis after crisis. More: VA taps Cerner for new veterans medical record system More: Exclusive: VA goes high-tech with Uber-like tracking center for veteran health care Trump signed laws last year aimed at expediting Continue Reading

Sarah Silverman talks depression, having a panic attack: ‘Every breath is labored, you are dying’

Even though she's known for dishing out laughs, Sarah Silverman has a dark side that she rarely exposes in her work. The comedian opened up to Glamour magazine about her battle with depression and anxiety. She said it crippled her life as a teen to the point at which during a school camping trip, she hid her "gigantic and shameful secret" of bed-wetting by keeping "Pampers in her sleeping bag." "My mom was there to pick me up, and she was taking pictures like a paparazzo. Seeing her made the stress of the last few days hit home, and something shifted inside me," she told the magazine in its November issue. "It happened as fast as the sun going behind a cloud. You know how you can be fine one moment, and the next it's, 'Oh my God, I f---ing have the flu!?' It was like that. Only this flu lasted for three years." Shortly after that, Silverman, 44, started having "terrifying" panic attacks. “Every breath is labored. You are dying. You are going to die. It's terrifying. And then when the attack is over, the depression is still there," she explained. "Once, my stepdad asked me, 'What does it feel like?' And I said, 'It feels like I'm desperately homesick, but I'm home.'" Throughout her teens the "Masters of Sex" star sought the advice of therapists and was prescribed the anti-anxiety medication, Xanax, which she took up to four times a day. In college, she weaned herself off of the meds, but at 22 had another breakdown when she was living in New York and writing for "Saturday Night Live." "I got a prescription for Klonopin, which blocks panic attacks. It saved my life, even when I was fired from 'SNL' at the end of the season," she said. "I eventually weaned off Klonopin, but to this day I have a bottle of seven pills in my backpack that I never touch because just knowing that they're there is all I need." Today she's prescribed a small dose of the anti-depression medication Zoloft and Continue Reading

Suzy Favor Hamilton, Olympian turned escort, claims depression medication drove her to prostitution in new book, ‘Fast Girl’

MADISON, Wis. — Former U.S. Olympian and University of Wisconsin track star Suzy Favor Hamilton said Wednesday that she will release a memoir next month that will touch on the mental health issues that compelled her to lead a double life as a Las Vegas call girl. Favor Hamilton told her Twitter followers that the book, "Fast Girl," will go on sale Sept. 14. She tweeted that she's "so excited to finally share my story with you next month." FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS SPORTS ON FACEBOOK. "LIKE" US HERE A blurb on publisher HarperCollins' website says the book will recount how manic depression and bipolar disorder drove Favor Hamilton to excel as an athlete. It will also explain how medication exacerbated her mania and made her become hypersexual, giving her a newfound strength and a desire that drove her to secretly become a $600-an-hour Las Vegas escort known as Kelly. The blurb also promised that Favor Hamilton will discuss how she contemplated suicide after word of her secret life was revealed on The Smoking Gun website in 2012 and how she finally got the right medical help. "Today, thanks to diagnosis, therapy, Kelly has stepped into the shadows, but Suzy is building a better life, one day at a time," the blurb states. "Sharing her story, Suzy is determined to raise awareness, provide understanding, and offer inspiration to others coping with their own challenges." Favor Hamilton, a middle-distance runner, competed for the U.S. at the Olympics in 1992, 1996 and 2000 but didn't medal. She also captured seven U.S. national titles. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New Mexico medical pot board wants to add health conditions

SANTA FE — New Mexico officials want to expand the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, to include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and anxiety, among other ailments.The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board also voted Friday to increase the amount and potency allowed for an approved user.Other conditions the board wants to recognize include depression, chronic headaches, including migraines, sleep disorder and dystonia, a neurological condition that causes muscle spasms, tremors and other problems with movement.The recommendations now go to the state Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher for final approval.The board's recommendations in November to add Alzheimer's disease and opiate use disorder to its current list of 20 qualifying health conditions are still pending. Continue Reading

Are diet soda drinkers more depressed? New study says maybe

Used to relying on sweet drinks for a daily pick-me-up? The long-term effects may not be so sunny. A new National Institutes of Health study found that soda drinkers — particularly those who chose artifically sweetened diet sodas — were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who didn't drink sweetened beverages. The study doesn't show that soda causes depression, but the link was strong enough to make researchers take note. The study involved nearly 264,000 people between the ages of 50 and 71. Researchers looked at participants' consumption of a variety of different drinks — soda, tea, fruit punch and coffee — over a 1-year period from 1995 to 1996. Then, 10 years later, researchers checked back to see who had been diagnosed with depression. 11,311 people said they had been. Among the findings: Those who drank more than 4 cans or cups per day of any kind of soda were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than the non-soda drinkers. Fruit punch drinkers (again, 4 cans per day) were about 38 percent more likely to be depressed than those who didn't drink sweetened drinks. Interestingly, diet sodas, fruit punches and iced teas showed a stronger link to depression than the non-diet drinks. Those who drank diet sodas had a 31 percent greater risk of depression than non-soda drinkers, compared to a 22 percent greater risk for those who drank regular sodas. Diet fruit punch drinkers fared even worse — a 51 percent greater risk compared to those who didn't touch the stuff. There is some good news for coffee drinkers: Those who downed 4 cups of joe per day were about 10 precent less likely to develop depression than non-coffee drinkers. “Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk,” said study author Honglei Chen, MD, PhD. “More research is needed to confirm these Continue Reading

Former ESPN personality Sean Salisbury works to overcome depression and health issues in TV comeback bid

Dr. William Focazio reviewed the medical file on his desk at the Endo Surgical Center of North Jersey in Clifton earlier this year and accomplished something millions of sports fans never thought possible: He got Sean Salisbury, the motor-mouth football analyst on ESPN for 12 years, to shut up for a few minutes. Salisbury, known for his strong-brewed opinions and over-caffeinated broadcasting style, sat in silence, a stunned look on his face, as the physician who founded Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments (PAST), a New Jersey medical group that treats retired athletes, read the results of the former NFL quarterback’s blood test. Focazio told Salisbury that the screening indicated he would join the 26 million Americans who suffer from diabetes if he didn’t lose weight and modify his diet. Salisbury remained speechless as Focazio told him the test also showed that Salisbury’s testosterone level was extremely low, which explained why he suffers from fatigue and other issues. The repeated blows football players take to the head, Focazio explained, may damage the brain’s ability to manufacture the hormone.A.J. Daulerio. He even sued Daulerio and Gawker Media, Deadspin’s parent company, claiming he was the victim of a “long-running smear campaign.” He later dropped what turned out to be an ill-advised lawsuit.Jennifer Smith, PAST’s director of player programs, didn’t think it was unusual when Salisbury sent her a friend request on Facebook a few years ago, even though they had never met. They have mutual friends, and they both live in Dallas. Smith, who helped Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer found Gridiron Greats before she joined PAST, is well-known in retired athlete circles as an advocate for former NFL players. She’s also an avid football fan and she remembered Salisbury from the years he played at the University of Southern California and in the NFL and CFL, as well as his stint at ESPN.Brad Continue Reading

New heroin? ADHD drug abuse similar to opioids

Public health officials have focused on the national plague of narcotic painkillers. But another scourge is looming largely unnoticed: The drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults.Since 2013, there have been more than 19,000 reports of complications from ADHD drugs, most of which are stimulants like Adderall, made to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today analysis.Of those, adults were far more likely than children to suffer severe complications, such as death and hospitalization.Petros Levounis, chair and professor of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said he saw an increase in people seeking help for stimulant addiction when he opened a treatment center aimed at college students in Manhattan.From 2005 to 2015, "it kept going up," he said. MORE: Breaking free from the grip of addictionLevounis said that uptick has been fueled by a false sense of security that comes in pill form. If the heroin epidemic has produced one good thing it is greater public awareness of the dangers of opioids."But we don't see any kind of awareness built around stimulant abuse," he said.Particularly with young people. People 26 and over with stimulant addictions were far more likely to have used street drugs like cocaine or crystal methamphetamine, he said."What was striking was that younger groups are more attracted to prescription stimulants," he said, They are used both recreationally and for academic performance enhancement, he said.Levounis said he believes ADHD is poorly understood, which leads to both under- and over-treatment.In some cases, people who need treatment don’t seek help, he said. Other times, doctors are quick to diagnose ADHD when other conditions are causing the problems. MORE: Feds give NJ $7.6M to fight heroin, opioid epidemic“Medicine has a huge responsibility with what happened with the prescription opioid Continue Reading

La India talks candidly about love, depression & medical marijuana

Viva caught up with India in Taranto, Italy, where the salsa star was attending a festival last weekend before coming to New York to play at People en Español’s Fiesta 2009, an all-day event this Saturday in Central Park. In an hour-long phone interview, the Puerto Rican-born, Bronx-raised singer, who is marking 25 years in music and whose hits include “Ese Hombre” (“That Man”) and “Sola” (“Alone”), was frank about her life’s struggles.The 39-year-old laughed heartily as she dished out romance advice to female fans, wept recalling the nearly 15 years she spent estranged from her mother and was candid about her fight with manic-depression, which has led her to the use of medical marijuana. Here are excerpts:Where do you live now? Caguas, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is not like it used to be; I really see it as more modern. And the men are so beautiful, so sensual and ready for anything, and that attracts me a lot. I am a single woman. Looking, you know.You have talked openly about your heartbreaks. How is it going? Louie Vega. Then I suffered through a divorce because I didn’t want to be unfaithful. We spent a lot of time apart, but in reality he is the love of my life. I admit that it’s been 10 years, but I haven’t been able to overcome that love ... even though he is married and has a son. ... After him, I got some very strange men and I had to scrap with them and everything. I was in the news. My fans saw me running after an ex-boyfriend holding a hot frying pan. [Laughter] You fall and you get up and you have to keep walking. That is what determines having courage and being strong.What are you working on?What’s next for me is a musical venture. Obviously, it’s been three years since I have released a tropical salsa album, and a lot of people want to know what I’m going to do.What happened with the CD you were working on in 2007?Cuba. I made a promise to her that I Continue Reading

New Yorkers poppin’ pills as economy tanks

When the going gets tough, stressed-out New Yorkers turn to their pharmacists.The use of sleeping pills, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs soared in September and October as the financial tsunami swept away bonuses, 401(k)s and seemingly invincible institutions like Lehman Brothers, according to a new report in Crain's New York Business."If we looked to diagnose the city, I would say it has an anxiety disorder," said Mel Schwartz, a psychotherapist.In September and October, prescriptions filled for sleep aids jumped more than 7% - to 366,870 - as compared with last year, Crain's found.September was especially stressful. That month, New Yorkers bought 11% more prescription sleep aids and 9% more anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications than they did during the same period in 2007. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Mindful cognitive therapy may work as well as anti-depressants: study

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be just as effective as anti-depressants in helping prevent people with chronic depression from relapsing, scientists said on Tuesday. Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness, affecting more than 350 million people worldwide. It is ranked by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disability globally. Treatment usually involves either medication, some form of psychotherapy or a combination of both. Yet many patients fail to get better and suffer recurring bouts of illness. MBCT was developed to help such people by teaching them skills to recognize and respond constructively to thoughts and feelings associated with relapse, aiming to prevent a downward spiral into depression. In the first large study to compare MBCT and anti-depressants, researchers found little difference in outcomes. In terms of cost, mindfulness training — often viewed as more costly because it requires more time with a trained therapist — was not significantly more pricey, particularly when given in group sessions, the study found. Richard Byng, a professor at Britain's Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said that, while current standard treatment for chronic depression is to keep taking anti-depressants, many people don't want to take them for long periods and others want to avoid side-effects. In this study, 424 adults with recurrent major depression who were on maintenance anti-depressant drugs were randomly assigned either to come off their anti-depressants slowly and receive MBCT or to stay on their medication. While 212 patients continued taking their anti-depressants, the other 212 attended eight group mindfulness therapy sessions and were given daily home practice as well as an option to have four follow-up sessions over a 12-month period. Study results published in The Lancet medical journal showed that after two years, relapse Continue Reading