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The Best and Worst States for People With Mental Health Issues, Ranked

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A majority of people in the U.S. with mental health issues aren’t getting help, according to Mental Health America's newly released rankings of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. However, not all states were equally bad for those suffering from mental illness, as  The Huffington Post reports. The study found that Nevada was the worst at addressing the mental health needs of its residents. Connecticut ranked No. 1.

The research found that out of 40 million Americans with mental health concerns, 56 percent of adults aren’t receiving treatment for their conditions. The rankings were determined according to 15 measures of publicly available data on the number of adults and young people with mental illness or addiction issues in each state, as well as the rates of treatment, insurance coverage, medical costs, and the availability of mental health providers.

Ranking for adult mental illness care. Image Credit: Mental Health America

 
Nevada’s poor showing in the rankings reflects the lack of treatment rates for adults with mental illness and a shortage of available mental health professionals to provide that treatment. More than 67 percent of adults with mental health issues in the state aren’t receiving treatment, and there is only one mental health worker per 570 people. The rates of young people not receiving treatment for depression were even worse, at almost 72 percent.

But even the best states aren’t doing great. The current best state for mental health treatment, Connecticut, only has a little more than 50 percent of its mentally ill adult population in treatment, and one mental health worker for every 300 people.

“It isn’t just about what states are red and what states are blue,” Mental Health America CEO Paul Gionfriddo said in a press release accompanying the rankings. There are left-leaning states and right-leaning states on either end of the list. “But political environments in states do seem to matter," he said. "Those that invest more in mental health clearly have to throw away less money on jails and prisons.” Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama had the least access to mental health care in the rankings (Alabama has one mental health worker for every 1200 people), and in turn, the highest rates of imprisonment. There are 57,000 prisoners with mental health conditions in those three states.

[h/t The Huffington Post]

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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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