Photo credit: By "Ollyy," a German photographer whose work can be found on Shutterstock.

This Week in Mental Health, Sept. 15-21 – Psychosemantics, the Popularity of Evolutionary Psychology, Delightful Blog/Forum Discoveries, the Benefits of “Delayed Adulthood,” and More

  • Last Sunday (9/14), 60 Minutes aired a special report on the difficulty youth in crisis have accessing mental health treatment in the U.S. 60 Minutes Correspondent Scott Pelley, discussing Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, who was slashed and stabbed repeatedly by his own son last November, relates how “Deeds discovered that ‘talking to somebody,’ getting treatment, is harder in mental health than any other kind of medicine. In the decades after the 1960s most large mental institutions were closed. It was thought that patients would get better treatment back in their communities. But adequate local facilities were never built. The number of beds available to psychiatric patients in America dropped from more than half a million to fewer than 100,000. That leaves many kids in crisis today with one option: the emergency room.” Watch the segment or read the transcript of it here.
  • The Nation has a long and dense but interesting story on the origins and current popularity of evolutionary psychology (which I admittedly have only skimmed and am saving for a full read when I have more time). It’s central thesis, however, proposed by authors Mal Ahern and Moira Weigel, is “that [evolutionary psychology’s] popular success has nothing to do with how plausibly its proponents describe the struggle to survive on the plains of the Pleistocene Era. What it does reflect is the brutally competitive economic environment today. Evolutionary psychology may just provide an ideal theory of love for the precarious age in which we live.” Read the story here.
  • In the latest edition of Schizophrenia Bulletin, Daniel Helman wrote about how, among other things, “It is important for those with schizophrenia to see themselves as normal. A religious framework affords this to a very large degree.” His article was summarized here at Mad in America
  • Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg wrote an intriguing piece about how the two-decade, demographic trend of “delayed adulthood” – today’s youngsters take longer to finish school, marry, become financially independent, etcetera – can actually reap developmental advantages, perhaps even higher IQs. Due to the brain’s increased plasticity before entering the more entrenched, routined life necessitated by adulthood, “Prolonged adolescence, in the right circumstances, is actually a good thing, for it fosters novelty-seeking and the acquisition of new skills,” wrote Steinberg in the New York Times Sunday Review. 
  • The New Scientist critically analyzed a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry which linked daily, teenage cannabis use with increased school dropouts, addiction and suicide; the study generated a lot of news coverage. But the New Scientist points out flaws in the study’s conclusion, such as the fact that correlation does not equal causation, and how dose-response relationships can be easily confounded by factors researchers don’t take into account. Research scientist Alex Wodak is quoted as saying the authors should not have drawn the erroneous policy conclusion that pot use should therefore not be decriminalized. Read the New Scientist article here
  • The U.S. Psychiatric & Mental Health Congress took place this weekend. You can find highlights by searching the hashtag #psychcongress on Twitter. I will try to post some of the take-aways myself in next week’s mental health round-up.
  • While I will discuss openculture.com on the “This Week in Literature” post (hopefully also coming out today), here is a quick mental health-related tidbit they recently alerted readers to. The Stanford Continuing Studies Program is now offering a free online course, “How to Think Like a Psychologist,” organized by The Willpower Instinct author Dr. Kelly McGonigal. Read more about the course here.

DELIGHTFUL DISCOVERIES:

  • While delving into research for an upcoming story this past week, I discovered a great blog called “Science of Eating Disorders,” devoted to critically reviewing and writing about peer-reviewed ED research, to help make it more accessible to the public. The site also posts articles debunking many of the myths surrounding eating disorders. The multi-author blog was created by Tetyana Pekar, a brilliant writer and analyst who holds an MSc in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. (As a Canadian who benefits from socialized health care, she also brings a unique perspective on the delivery of for-profit vs. nonprofit treatment for eating disorders.) The site examines almost every imaginable aspect of EDs, from one latest post about how researchers study the experience of “embodiment” among people who struggle with eating disorders, to how some clinicians’ attitudes towards their patients can end up doing more harm than good, to the myth that “fat phobia” as propagated and perpetuated  by the Western media is the major underlying cause of anorexia throughout the world. The site aims “to foster an interaction between bloggers, researchers, clinicians, families, patients, and interested readers.” Its contributors include people with first-hand, adult experience of struggling with and recovering from an eating disorder. I encourage you to visit Tetyana’s site if you are interested in this field or subject; it is one of the most thoughtful, nuanced forums for eating disorder treatment, research and experience I have come across. 
  • When I first started following more mental health sites via Twitter, for the purposes of this weekly round-up, I also discovered @MHChat, “an online open access community with a weekly mental health Twitter chat… dedicated to promoting and advancing the interdisciplinary understanding of mental health and mental illness.” The forum occurs Wednesdays at 8 pm UTC; that translates to 12 p.m. PST. Last week’s forum, for example, posed a series of questions exploring social norms and expectations in relation to mental health. Two comments/tweets from the moderators themselves I found particularly on point: “Rigid norms are often aimed at maintaining the imbalance of power & resources within the society,” and “In a fast changing world, rigid norms have a significant impact on social capital & individuals’ well-being.” Participating in these forums is not only a way to get your own voice heard, but also provides a chance to discover others battling mental health issues – or professionals treating them – who share interests similar to yours, or just pure brilliance. To participate in the weekly forum, all you need is a Twitter account; then get online on Wednesdays, and follow the discussion @MHchat and tweet using the #MHchat hashtag. This Wednesday’s chat is about meditation and mental health.

COLUMNS OF NOTE FOR HELP WITH MANAGING MENTAL HEALTH 

  • At PsychCentral, Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., writes a very good and important article here about using our internal language (“psychosemantics”) to help reduce feelings of powerlessness as well as  take responsibility for the things we do have agency over in our lives. 
  • Also at PsychCentral is a good article by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS, on why we need to accept, not judge, our emotions.
  • Here’s a piece from appcessible.org on nine smart phone apps that can help you manage your mental health, depression and anxiety.
  • Again at Mad in America is a well-written column on why helping others helps ourselves. Among other things, it brings up the point about how the act increases our sense of mattering – which, as I’ve written myself, is crucial for psychological well-being.

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5 comments

  1. LaDonna Bionica says:

    I must take issue with Karl Albrecht’s article on psychosemantics. To me it is a gross over-simplification of the power dynamics entailed in an abusive relationship. Robin Givens was more likely switching pronouns due to the dissociation that allows a victim to endure abuse. Most abusive relationships also include “grooming” by the abuser that the recipient is “less than”, which conditions a person to feel powerless.

    I dislike Albrecht’s implication that having power in one’s life is simply a choice of language alteration. Many factors i.e. : socio-economic status, education, gender, race, history, religious affiliation, sexual preference, temperament; contribute to a sense of personal effectiveness. His manipulation of language dynamics to implicate abnegation of personal responsibility, is little more than victim blaming. In light of this week’s “End the Violence” campaigns, I find his views deplorable.

    • Jeanene Harlick says:

      I went back and re-read his article. I agree with everything you said. I think he is speaking from the perspective of someone who has never had their power taken away from them through no fault or “abdication” of their own. Admittedly, in my haste to complete the above round-up, I only skimmed the article. I won’t let that happen – on such a sensitive topic in partiular – again. It’s amazing that he doesn’t acknowledge the abuse Robin Givens experienced and that in cases such as her, the language she uses is entirely understandable and appropriate and perhaps a form of protection? Not having experienced abuse myself, I at first saw the article as his attempt to help survivors take their power back. But when I re-read the article, it doesn’t really seem like he’s doing that. Now I have to agree with the adjective “deplorable.” For me, particularly the second to last paragraph about political activist using a “victim narrative” about SOCIETY holding them back is also deplorable. I have done everything in my power to fight to re-gain financial self-sufficiency — according to American conservatives, if you simply work hard enough you can achieve whatever you want, right? Wrong. When you have certain labels attached to you in particular, decades if not centuries of institutional discrimination and prejudice can prevent you from achieving your goals no matter HOW fu–ing hard you work. He’s probably just another ignorant Republican who’s never experienced an ounce of struggle or poverty etc in his life. Thank you to you and Sarah for pointing this out. I don’t think he’ll ever be in my “This Week in Mental Health” feature again!

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