August 4, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. The new mental health crisis line 988 has hit some potholes in rural America, where many states were not prepared for its rollout. Learn more about vitamin B6 and mental health, memory and smartphone use, and the need for research on autism in adults.

The 988 hotline has launched, but what is its impact on rural residents?

Credit: Twitter

It hasn’t even been a full month since the new Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and its 988 hotline for mental health emergencies launched. Still, it’s not too early to consider the gap the hotline is closing – or not – for rural residents. As Kaiser Health News reported, “the US has a patchwork of resources for crisis assistance…and the level of support that 988 callers receive depends on their ZIP code.” The service has a special burden since rural Americans die by suicide at a higher rate than their urban neighbors, often due to the scarcity of mental health services nearby. 

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration wants states to develop a full range of services – not just 988 call centers but also mobile crisis teams to respond to callers and places to bring them for crisis stabilization, diagnosis and treatment. Key aims of 988 are to remove mental health calls from law enforcement response and to ease pressure on hospital emergency rooms. But in rural areas especially, a lack of capacity is likely to leave police officers, rather than mental health workers, responding to people in mental health crisis.

The Biden administration provided about $105 million to states to boost call center staffing but it will take additional funds to expand the call centers, run mobile crisis teams and provide additional mental health resources for people who need extra help. Congress authorized states to cover 988 expenses via a tax on cell phone services back in 2020 – but only 13 states have done so. 

Is vitamin B6 a secret to mental well-being?

The short answer: We don’t know yet. Although a recent study from the University of Reading in Britain found that people who took 100 milligrams of B6 per day for 30 days reported feeling less anxious than those who took a placebo, the researchers’ sample size was small. In addition, there aren’t enough studies to credit B6 for any boost in mood. So for now, scientists say there’s no need to rush out and buy B6 supplements – unless your physician has tested and found you deficient in the nutrient.

Credit: Twitter

“B6 is the forgotten vitamin,” Dr. Reem Malouf, a University of Oxford neurologist, told the New York Times. The essential nutrient supports a number of chemical reactions within the nervous system and brain function and is critical for fetal and infant brain development. In addition, vitamin B6 deficiency is associated with seizures, migraines, anxiety, depression and impaired memory. The good news is that most people will be able to consume all the B6 they need each day eating fortified cereal and unprocessed, whole foods such poultry, fish, potatoes, oranges, chickpeas,  bananas and dark leafy greens.

“There needs to be more research on autism in adults”

Credit: Twitter

In an op-ed for the Seattle Times, Reilly Anderson revealed the 34-year long journey it took him to be diagnosed with autism, one that nearly ended with him dying by suicide. “There needs to be more research on autism in adults,” Anderson said. “Autism presents itself differently at every age group. By not having this knowledge for adults, we are causing unnecessary harm by misdiagnosing medical conditions.”

Years of trying to find help from multiple therapists ended with misdiagnoses and prescriptions for medications that gave him heart attacks in his early 20s; mood and behavioral difficulties left him with low-wage employment, precarious insurance coverage and ruined friendships. In despair, he decided to give therapy one more try. Around his 34th birthday, Anderson was finally paired with a therapist that took his personal inquiries about being screened for autism seriously – and gave him great relief. “I now have something to work off of,” he said, “and I know why I behave a certain way or struggle in social situations.”

What do smartphones do to your memory?

Credit: Shutterstock

Are you worried that your cell phone has taken over your working memory? If so,  a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology should set your mind at ease. The Hill reports that researchers at University College London think smartphones may actually help people improve their memory. “We found that when people were allowed to use an external memory, the device helped them to remember the information they had saved into it. This was hardly surprising,” Sam Gibert, the study’s senior author, said in a press release. “But we also found that the device improved people’s memory for unsaved information as well.” 

In other news…

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) launched a nationwide text hotline widely expanding crisis communications to young people. The hotline is right on time for the nation’s youth as they experience a mental health crisis. Texting “HELPLINE” to 62640 between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday, will connect seekers to free information, resource referrals and support for folks living with or loving someone with a mental health condition.

Not everyone’s mental health deteriorated during the pandemic. Writer Christina Crawford wrote in the Dallas Morning News that it actually improved hers. “When the world collectively shut down in March 2020, it became a pivotal moment for me; I was forced to pause, take stock and recalibrate,” she wrote. “The pandemic, for all its calamity, discord and devastation, also served as a revelation and provided me with some invaluable insight into the rushed and distracted pace of our lives. Dealing with these crises has given me a whole new outlook…”

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Type of work:

Courtney WiseReporter

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...