Focus on Asian mental health and gambling

October 16, 2006

Conference: Experts gather to discuss addictive behavior.

By David Rogers, Staff writer

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document.getElementById(‘articleViewerGroup’).style.width = requestedWidth + “px”; if(requestedWidth > 0){ document.getElementById(‘articleViewerGroup’).style.margin = “0px 0px 10px 10px”; } LONG BEACH – Treat the cause of a disease, not its symptoms.

To Dr. Suck Won Kim, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School who has studied drug treatments for compulsive gamblers, the behavior is a symptom that might be connected to depression or another mental disorder – and a treatment that works for one patient is probably not the right treatment for everybody with the problem.

“If it’s bipolar, use lithium. Don’t use `gambling’ drugs (that are useful for another cause),” said Kim, who received laughter from his approving audience of psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health workers at Friday’s 12th Annual Asian American Mental Health Training Conference at the Long Beach Marriott.

The conference was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and the psychiatry department at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. More than 300 people listened to experts in the area of addictive and compulsive behaviors, who spoke to this year’s theme: “Controlling the Uncontrollable – Impulse Control Behavior in Asian Americans.”

Ken Kondo, a spokesman for the Department of Mental Health, said attendees came from as far away as China and Taiwan. The

focus of the annual conference is on treating people in the Asian American culture. The department also organizes conferences for treating African Americans and Latinos. The conference has grown to the point where organizers may find another location to hold it next year, possibly in Long Beach. “This year we had to turn people away,” Kondo said.

The people who got in were able to hear Stephen Cheung, an Azusa Pacific University associate professor, talk about treating eating disorders, and Glenn I. Masuda of Pacific Clinics in Rosemead, who spoke of the need to teach parents about the uses of and potential dangers on the Internet before their children find out for themselves.

“You don’t let your 12-year-old daughter walk around at 2 in the morning in the big city, knowing she’ll be able to handle herself,” Masuda said. “It’s easier to teach parents about technology than it is to teach children life experience and wisdom.”

Dr. Timothy W. Fong, an assistant professor of psychiatry and the co-director of UCLA’s Gambling Studies Program, said that problem gambling has disproportionately affected Asian Americans. Fong said the reasons behind and the scope of the problem haven’t been studied as much as they should, but he estimated that between five and 35 percent of the Asian American population has a gambling problem, compared to one or two percent for the general population.

David Rogers can be reached at david.rogers@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1246.

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