Child Psychologist Addresses Newtown Questions

By Clark McKown, PhD

In the wake of the Newtown incident, there’s been a lot of speculation about the psychiatric diagnosis of the shooter. Did he have Asperger’s? Did he have a personality disorder? My concern is that people will conclude that people with these diagnoses are dangerous. This is simply not true. The vast majority of people with these diagnoses do not usually commit acts of violence. The important thing about his psychiatric status is he was deeply disturbed, and that he came up in a country that pays little attention to the prevention and treatment of child psychiatric disorders.

Would gun control reduce the prevalence of shootings like this? Probably. Would a greater investment in prevention make a difference? Almost certainly. There is no one prescription to cure the affliction of mass shootings. But a greater investment in child mental health prevention and treatment would almost certainly reduce the frequency and horrific nature of this kind of event. Continue reading

Autism Center Established for Children, Young Adults

Louis Kraus, MD

Louis Kraus, MD

The Chicago region’s first comprehensive center serving patients from childhood into young adulthood with autism spectrum disorders has been established at Rush University Medical Center.

The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services Program is building assessment, treatment, residential care and research programs to serve families across the lifespan of an individual with autism. A gift from the Boler family’s foundation provided funding for the center to be established. The program will be integrated with the existing Autism Resource Center at Rush to provide families with long-term coordinated care, and a comprehensive clearinghouse of resources.

“Research has demonstrated the power of targeted interventions to improve educational performance, socialization, language skills and sensory integration issues in people with autism,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. “In Chicago, no single site offers this full range of services, creating financial and time-related burdens on families as well as limiting the degree of coordination and communication among care providers.”

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Religious Belief Helps Response to Antidepressants

The mind certainly works in mysterious ways.  Chaplains at Rush have discovered a curious fact:  people who have been diagnosed with clinical depression are more likely to respond to medication if they believe in a caring God.

Antidepressants can be an effective treatment for depression, but they don’t work for everyone.  In this study, the authors found that patients who had strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience a 50-percent reduction in symptoms. 

The researchers tested whether the explanation for the improved response was linked instead to the feeling of hope, which is typically a feature of religious belief.  But degree of hopefulness, measured by feelings and expectations for the future and degree of motivation, did not predict whether a patient fared better on anti-depressants.

The study’s primary author, Patricia Murphy, PhD, a chaplain at Rush University Medical Center and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values at Rush University, says that medical professionals who treat depression “need to be aware of the role religion plays in their patients’ lives.  Spiritual beliefs can be an important resource in planning patients’ care.”