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Mental Health

Mental Health

Department News

  • 4.5 Million Young People Nationwide Are Not Working or in School. How Cities Are Working to Get Them Back on Track — & Avoid the School-to-Prison Pipeline
    Disengaged from both education and the labor force, an estimated 4.5 million young people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, too often finding themselves in the school-to-prison pipeline.
    Tamar Mendelson is quoted.

  • Study finds more edible pot among Colorado teen users
    Some teenagers in Colorado, where marijuana is legal for adults, are shifting away from smoking in favor of edible cannabis products.
    Kayla Tormohlen, a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-author of the featured study, is quoted in AP News.

  • Suicide Crisis: Can the rising rate be stemmed?
    Paul Nestadt shared a good long form investigation of Suicide (past and future) that he’d been interviewed for several times over the past several months.

  • Fatal overdoses decline in Maryland for first time in years as fentanyl-related deaths dip in first quarter
    Fatal overdoses linked to the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl dipped in the first three months of 2019 in Maryland, leading to a decline in the total number of drug and alcohol deaths for the first time in years.
    Michael Fingerhood (joint appointment) is quoted.

  • Alabama Sex Offender Bill: What Is Chemical Castration and Why Is it So Controversial?
    While there is no cure for pedophilia, the ACLU believes forcing sex offenders to undergo chemical castration is a violation of the Constitution.
    Elizabeth Letourneau is quoted in Rolling Stone.

  • Insomnia Can Kill You
    Chronic insomnia is linked to an increased risk of developing hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, depression, anxiety and premature death.
    A study co-authored by Adam Spira is cited in The New York Times.

  • Sleep Habits May Be Directly Related to Alzheimer’s Disease
    Analysis of data captured during a long-term study of aging adults shows those who reported being very sleepy during the day, were three times more likely to have brain deposits of beta-amyloid; a protein that's a hallmark for Alzheimer's disease, years later. This suggests that getting adequate nighttime sleep could be a way to help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
    Adam Spira is quoted in an article in the

  • How Exercise Affects Our Memory
    Even a single workout may make our brain's memory centers, like our muscles, more fit.
    Alfonso Alfini, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow, is co-author of the paper described in this article in the New York Times.

  • The Sleep-Dementia Connection
    Among the many things that can shatter when Alzheimer's disease tightens its grip is the steady rhythm of the body's sleep-wake cycle.
    Adam Spira is quoted in an article in Scientific American.

  • Want to Leave a Legacy? Be a Mentor
    This is how you cam make a positive impact so that even after you've left this earth you'll stay on in the memories and lives of others.
    Michelle Carlson,  PhD, is quoted in an article in SBS News.

  • NASA twins study explores space, the final genetic frontier
    From his eyes to his immune system, astronaut Scott Kelly’s body sometimes reacted strangely to nearly a year in orbit, at least compared to his Earth-bound identical twin — but newly published research shows nothing that would cancel even longer space treks, like to Mars. (The Associated Press)
    Andrew Feinberg, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor with appointments at the Bloomberg School, the Whiting School, and the School of Medicine, led one of the 10 research teams that scrutinized the twins’ health before, during and after Scott Kelly’s 340-day stay at the International Space Station. This research was covered in multiple additional outlets including the New York Timesthe Washington Postthe Los Angeles TimesCNNthe Wall Street Journal and the Guardian.

  • The opioid epidemic is increasingly killing black Americans. Baltimore is ground zero.
    On the ground with the people fighting to help the city’s most vulnerable. This article in Vox features the good work that Deborah Agus (Adjunct Associate Professor) and Noa Krawczyk, doctoral student, do with opioid treatment programs in Baltimore.

  • Background checks for long gun sales would reduce suicides in Md. [Opinion]
    While dramatic mass killings in Maryland have led to the proposed legislation of requiring background checks on all long gun (rifle and shotgun) sales, the law would also reduce firearm suicides, which constitute two-thirds of all gun deaths.
    Paul Nestadt is the author of the OpEd piece in The Baltimore Sun.

  • Exercise Boosts Cognitive Abilities In Older Adults, Study Says
    A recent study revealed that constant exercise positively and significantly affects human brain functions. It also uncovered that concrete short-term benefits could also point to who benefit from long-term exercise.
    Michelle Carlson is featured in an article in MSN.

  • The Precursors Study: Charting a Lifetime
    For more than 70 years, School of Medicine graduates have filled out an annual survey. Today, their information forms one of the world's longest and most detailed studies of health from 1948 to today.
    Joe Gallo (study director) is quoted in an article in the Hub.

  • Jefferson High School one of eight schools nationwide selected to participate in unprecedented teen mental health pilot
    Through a handful of courses that follow a five-step action plan, Jefferson High School teens will soon learn how to recognize and respond to developing mental health or substance use problems among their peers.Surveys will be sent to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to assess the U.S. teen mental health first aid course effectiveness.
    Holly Wilcox is one of the researchers involved with the evaluation. Article in Montana Standard.

  • Suicidal thoughts and other mental-health problems drive more youth to emergency rooms
    The number of children and young adults visiting the emergency department for psychiatric concerns rose 28 percent over a four-year period, and visits having to do with suicide more than doubled, according to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
    The findings amplify concerns that the mental-health care system is failing to meet the country’s needs, forcing people to rely on emergency rooms ill-equipped to deal with psychiatric concerns.
    Luke Kalb, PhD is quoted in the Inquirer Daily News (

  • Mental Health Problems Are on the Rise Among American Teens and Young Adults
    You can call the generation of young Americans now working their way to adulthood Generation Z, because they follow Generations X and Y. You can call these 14-to-27-year-olds “iGen,” after the wireless devices that seem permanently affixed to their persons. And if they’re your kids and still living with you, you can even call (or text) them late for dinner. What you can’t call them, according to new research, is happy.
    Ramin Mojtabai is quoted in LA Times .

  • Brody: Those who can, do — and then they teach
    Experience Corps, a program dedicated to helping older adults find purpose later in life, has proven to allow older, poorly educated African-American women with signs of cognitive decline to improve their decision-making ability and brain function while the schoolchildren they interacted with improved academically.
    Michelle Carlson is a co-author of the mentioned study in the Herald Tribu.

  • Stagg Students to Get Mental Health Training with Help of Lady Gaga-backed Foundation
    Stagg High School in Palos Hills has been selected as one of eight sites around the country to participate in the first teen Mental Health First Aid pilot program, an initiative backed by singer and songwriter Lady Gaga, according to the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health. The pilot program is being evaluated by researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
    Holly Wilcox is one of the researchers.

  • Want to Leave a Legacy? Be a Mentor
    A study of people recruited to help low-income children thrive showed that by participating in Experience Corps, older, poorly educated African-American women with signs of cognitive decline improved their decision-making ability and brain function while the schoolchildren they interacted with improved academically.
    Michelle Carlson is a co-author of the featured study in The New York Times.

  • How Wearable and Implantable Technology is Changing the Future of Health Care
    Adam Spira is quoted in an article in the Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine - Spring 2019 edition.

  • Drinking, Drug-use Dreams in Recovery Tied to More Severe Addiction History
    A study found that vivid relapse dreams are more common in those with more severe clinical histories of alcohol and other drug problems.
    Claire Greene, post-doctoral fellow and co-author of the study, is quoted in Sleep Review Magazine.

  • Use of Valium and Xanax for Pain Rising in U.S.
    A growing number of people in the U.S. are taking anti-anxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax not just for anxiety or depression but also for chronic pain, researchers say.
    Marissa Seamans is quoted in

  • Study defines differences among brain neurons that coincide with psychiatric conditions
    Previous studies of key brain cells have found little variability in a common cell process that involves how genetic information is read and acted on.
    Andrew Feinberg and Kasper Hansen co-led the study.  Results of the study are published online in Nature Neuroscience.

  • Many Addiction Centers Lack Anti-Opioid Meds: Study
    Although the U.S. opioid epidemic dates back more than a decade, only 6 percent of treatment centers in 2016 offered the three medications approved to treat opioid addiction, new research reveals.
    Ramin Mojtabai, lead author, is quoted in U.S. News & World Report.

  • Committee to Study Health Effects of Malaria Drugs Taken by US Troops
    A National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee, on which Elizabeth Stuart serves as a member, will conduct a review of the long-term health effects of an anti-malarial drug taken by U.S. troops that has been linked to brain damage and psychiatric disorders.
    On January 28 the committee will launch an 18-month study of mefloquine, also known by its brand name, Lariam, and other malaria medications used by military personnel, Peace Corps volunteers and State Department employees over the past several decades.
    Alum Remington Nevin, MD, DrPH, Executive Director of The Quinism Foundation, spoke to the Committee on January 28.  He has played a major role in studying the long-term psychiatric effects of mefloquine. Although their group did not ask for this study specifically, Nevin notes that it appears likely their advocacy was in large part what led VA to the decision to pursue it.

  • Depression in adolescents and young adults is rising: Are phones and social media to blame?
    Dr. Mary Alvord, psychologist and professor at GWU, discusses teen depression risk factors and helpful hints to help nurture resilience in your child in USA Today
    Ramin Mojtabai, whose study is referenced, is quoted.

  • Mental Illness Doesn't Mean Mass Murderer
    People with mental illness rarely commit homicide, and few homicides are committed by people with mental illness. About 5% of homicides are committed by people with psychotic conditions. People with serious mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators.
    Paul S. Nestadt, MD, an assistant professor, and Elizabeth Prince, DO, an instructor, both of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Baltimore are among the writers of this opinion piece in MEDPAGE TODAY.

  • Infections in Kids Tied to subsequent mental Illness risk in New Study
    The study, published in the Journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that infections requiring hospitalizations were associated with an about 84% increased risk of being diagnosed with any mental disorder and an about 42% increased risk of using psychotropic drugs to treat a mental disorder.
    Bill Eaton is quoted in an article in CNNHealth.

  • Johns Hopkins Researchers Receive $890,000 CDC Grant to Evaluate Medicaid Expansion’s Impact on Prevention of Violence
    Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, professor in the department of mental health and director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dr. Beth McGinty, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, received a $890,000 three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advance the understanding of what works to prevent violence in low-income communities. Article in the ASPPH Friday Letter.

  • What to do when your child is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior
    When it comes to sexual abuse, parents often focus on protecting their children from adult predators; few consider the possibility that their child might be the perpetrator.
    Elizabeth Letourneau is quoted in The Washington Post.

  • The Behavioral Health Leadership Institute among 11 community health organizations receiving a grant from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to help boost addiction treatment efforts.
    Grant will expand the mobile van buprenorphine treatment program that sits outside of the Baltimore jail.  A good article about the mobile van program...
    Deborah Agus, Adjunct Faculty, is director of BHLI. This article was posted in The Baltimore Sun.

  • The high economic toll of mental illness
    Mental disorders are estimated to cost the global community nearly $2.5 trillion each year–and those costs are increasing.
    Judith Bass is quoted in Marketplace.

  • Mental Health Mentions in the Fall 2018 Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine
    M. Claire Greene, PhD ’18, MPH  “Dangerous Drinking”  Alcohol's Global Toll
    Luke Kalb, PhD ’18, MPH   “Crisis Averted” An Emergency Mental Health Screening Tool for Youths with Autism

  • School counselors outnumbered as they struggle to help students with mental health issue
    “Sad” and “frustrating” are words some local school counselors use when they talk about the obstacles they face as more students seek mental health services at school. In Winchester and Frederick County public schools, an increasing numbers of students are seeking help, while staff members grow outnumbered.
    A study by Ramin Mojtabai is mentioned in The Winchester Star.

  • It's difficult to predict: Psychiatrist discusses mental illness's part in mass shootings
    Looking for a motive or root cause of Thursday's shooting in Aberdeen, investigators said they interviewed family and friends of the shooter, Snochia Mosely, who took her own life. Moseley was a licensed gun owner who was diagnosed with a mental health disorder in 2016. That is a red flag, according to experts, but they also said it is a mistake to consider mental health as the primary driver of violence.
    Paul Nestadt, MD is quoted on

  • How to Find the Right Place for the PhD or Postdoc
    Researchers share their advice for approaching this important decision.
    Wendy Ingram
    , PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, is quoted in

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness may signal Alzheimer’s risk
    A study found that adults who reported being very sleepy during the day were thrice more likely to have brain deposits of beta amyloid, a protein that is a hallmark for Alzheimer's, years later.
    Adam Spira is quoted in The Tribune..

  • Brain training: What PCPs need to know
    Cognitive decline is a distressing aspect of growing older for many people and it affects a large proportion of the aging population. Brain training can aid in improving cognitive performance among older patients, according to a presentation from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
    George Rebok is quoted in Healio.

  • Pittsburgh Diocese May Have Improved Sex Abuse Prevention Efforts, More Work Needs To Be Done
    Over the course of 30 years, the Pittsburgh Diocese has made changes in how it prevents and responds to accusations of clergy abuse, including psychological screenings of seminarians so as to identify potential issues in men before they enter the priesthood.
    Elizabeth Letourneau is quoted in NPR - 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh.

  • An urban-rural divide over gun suicide
    There’s a growing understanding that when it comes to suicide, the most significant difference between urban and rural counties may be the ubiquitous presence of guns.
    Paul Nestadt is quoted in The Bulletin.

  • Tamar Mendelson named Bloomberg Professor of American Health
    Associate Professor Tamar Mendelson, PhD, an expert in adolescent mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been appointed as a Bloomberg Professor of American Health.

  • The Hidden Danger of Suicide in Autism
    Many people with autism entertain thoughts of suicide and yet show few obvious signs of their distress. Some scientists are identifying risks — and solutions — unique to autistic individuals.
    The Spectrum article quotes Paul Lipkin, MD, of the Interactive Autism Network at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Lipkin and colleagues have begun using a suicide screening tool in at KKI outpatient clinics, while a team including Holly Wilcox, PhD, an associate director of mental health, used the screener previously at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  The article also quotes Roma Vasa, MD, director of psychiatric services at KKI”s Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

  • Through the Eyes of a Teenager
    After infancy, the brain’s most dramatic growth spurt occurs in adolescence, and that growth means things get a little muddled in a teen mind. Teen brains are also wired to seek reward, act out, and otherwise exhibit immaturity that will change when they become adults.

    Sara Johnson (joint) is quoted in The Bay City Tribune.

  • The Summer 2018 Magazine is live! Several DMH Faculty are featured!
    “Swimming with Dolphins”
    Faculty Mention: Michelle Carlson
    A smiling dolphin named Bandit, part of an immersive video game adapted from an original design by @HopkinsMedicine's Department of Neurology, could help older adults maintain physical and cognitive health.
    “Women Empowered” Reflexes of Resilience
    Faculty Mention: Judith Bass, Sarah McIvor Murray; Student Mention: Daniel Lakin
    The continuing impact of group therapy for sexual violence survivors in the Congo.

  • Opinion: Suicides Rates Are Rising. What Should We Do About It?
    It is estimated that more than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. This means that, in theory, suicide should be preventable if the right treatment can be delivered to people who have these psychiatric illnesses. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know which treatments are most effective at preventing suicides because most studies of mental health interventions specifically exclude suicidal subjects.
    Elizabeth Stuart is a co-author of the Johns Hopkins study featured in the piece in The New York Times.

  • Tragedy of Child Sexual Abuse Takes Financial Toll, Too

    Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health calculated that in 2015 alone, the costs associated with the aftermath of abuse exceeded $9 billion. That figure included costs associated with health care, child welfare, special education, violence and crime, suicide and survivor productivity losses.
    Study author Elizabeth Letourneau is quoted in HealthDay.

  • Surge in young Americans using marijuana as first drug
    The proportion of young people using marijuana as their first drug doubled in the 10 years from 2004, a US-based study has found.
    Renee Johnson is quoted in The Guardian.

  • Opioid Prevalence in Suicide Victims Skyrockets
    The prevalence of opioids in the blood of suicide victims has more than doubled in the past decade, new research shows.
    A study conducted by investigators at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, showed that the number of people who died by suicide who had opioids in their system increased from 8.8% in 2006 to 17% in 2017.
    Paul Nestadt is quoted in Medscape.  Commentary by Maria Oquendo (last APA president and psychiatry chair of Penn.

  • 7 Adderall Side Effects You Need To Know About
    Taking Adderall when it’s not needed and when dosing isn’t monitored can have unpleasant and dangerous side effects.
    JHSPH research (Ramin Mojtabai’s study) is mentioned in Women's Health Magazine.

  • Autism Awareness Month [Video]
    April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the strides being made and what still needs to be done.
    Gazi Azad is featured on WBFF (Baltimore Fox affiliate).

The Department of Mental Health conducts research to advance the understanding of mental and behavioral disorders; develops, implements, and evaluates methods to prevent and control these disorders; and promotes mental health in the population.

Our department -- the only department dedicated to mental health in a school of public health -- brings together leading researchers across multiple disciplines joined by their passion for understanding, preventing, and treating mental health and substance use disorders. Faculty, students and community health leaders in Mental Health are dedicated to educating the next generation of public health workers and scientists about the importance of mental health, the specific skills needed to address public mental health issues and the integration of mental and physical health.

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The Department of Mental Health holds a weekly seminar in various areas related to public mental health.

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Students and faculty talk about the unique opportunity to pursue their passions in the context of rigorous public health training.