Tuesday, September 19, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. Today we bring you a story from MindSite News about the stigma that makes grieving a loved one’s death from overdose still more agonizing – and a pioneering city-run grief support program in Philadelphia to support bereaved parents, grandparents, children and partners left behind.

We also feature an excerpt from While You Were Out, a searing memoir by award-winning journalist Meg Kissinger about a family ravaged by mental illness and her experiences as a reporter investigating the failures of our mental health system. Also in this issue: How the boom of mental health start-ups is waning, a group of incarcerated teens in New Orleans receive national recognition for their mental health project, and comedian Aparna Nancherla, once named one of the nation’s 50 funniest people by Rolling Stone, prepares to release her memoir as she navigates depression and anxiety that’s kept her away from the stage since 2019. 

A time to mourn

Taunya Ransom with her late husband Rhasaan (courtesy of Taunya Ransom)

For grieving families of loved ones lost to drug overdose, support can be hard to find. In Philadelphia, a city agency called Philly HEALS aims to change that. Here, grieving parents, grandparents, partners and children can find solace as they battle stigma to mourn loved ones gone too soon.

“Little did I know there would be so many women who also lost a husband to an overdose,” says Taunya Ranson, who lost her husband Rhasaan to an overdose death in December 2022. “I was looking for some kind of outlet where I could listen and share. The support and love I’ve experienced has been outstanding.”

While You Were Out: An intimate portrait of a family ravaged by mental illness

Meg Kissinger family photo

In this issue, we bring you an excerpt of a brilliant new memoir by investigative reporter Meg Kissinger on a family trapped in the “tiger pit” of mental illness and suicide in an era of silence – and her journey to uncover the systemic failures of our mental health system. Tragic, moving, intimate and at times unexpectedly funny, Kissinger’s book is an eloquent tour de force on her family’s struggle with mental illness and a health care system that failed them and others in the era of “Leave It To Beaver” and beyond.

The boom in mental health startups appears to be slowing down 

Just two years ago, venture capital firms invested almost $5 billion in mental health startups. Now though, changes in the market, including an overabundance of behavioral health startups, possible cutbacks in remote care, and high interest rates have many of those same startups seeking buyers – or another way out – reports Modern Healthcare. One investor, Ryan Drant, said that the growth in mental health companies was critical during COVID shutdowns and as the globe began to reemerge from isolation over the past few years. But now, he thinks there’s room for downsizing and company consolidation. “I think there probably will be some rationalizing that has to happen. The market will decide who are the winners and some companies will probably combine,” Drant said. 

There are also significant changes in which companies have a chance at getting venture capitalist funding. Brian Smiga of Alpha Partners said firms like his will be less likely to support companies without evidence that their investment will have a demonstrable impact on patient outcomes. He called out firms focused on text therapy options in particular.

“A lot of the soft therapy deals are crashing and burning,” Smiga said. “They just weren’t delivering results and there was too much phoniness in [their services].”  Moreover, companies that were once able to offer remote medication prescription services may face less flexibility in that power from the nation’s Drug Enforcement Agency. In that case, suggested one lawyer Nathaniel Weiner, certain companies whose models depend upon remote prescribing may no longer be viable.

But rather than anticipating lots of company shutdowns, Mark Frank, the CEO of Sondermind, an online therapy platform that accepts many different insurances and can serve those without insurance, expects company mergers. “The proliferation and stratification of all these companies I think actually moves in the wrong direction,” Frank said. “In order to make the appropriate change, we must have some sort of consolidation.”

In other news…

Aparna Nancherla at the San Diego International Comic Con in 2022 (Shutterstock)

Depression and anxiety long fueled comedian Aparna Nancherla’s act. “I got into comedy to translate my brain,” she told the New York Times. “I always wrote from the inside out — kind of like, these are things I think about, this is what’s going on in my head,” she said. “I kind of like to do anxiety for the week, depression for the weekends. They both have custody,” she joked. Until that is, the day her mental health got so bad she had to step away from the stage. She hasn’t done live performances since 2019, when her anxiety became unmanageable. She asserts she hasn’t lost her funny either, both of which will be on display in Unreliable Narrator: Me, Myself and Impostor Syndrome, her memoir due out later this month. 

More on the hodge podge of lawsuits against gender-affirming care: ProPublica did a comprehensive investigation of the challenges people face accessing gender-affirming medical treatment. They found that 15 states fail to offer such care in health plans for state employees – and that upwards of $1 million has been spent to restrict access to gender-affirming care in the case of North Carolina, Arizona, and one county in Georgia. That’s quite a contradiction in the case of North Carolina, which argues offering gender-affirming care would be too costly. “Lacking any justified or justifiable reason, the only conceivable purpose of the exclusion is to single out transgender people undergoing a gender transition,” one complaint against Georgia alleges.

The Voices Behind the Walls, an anonymous and incarcerated group of New Orleans high schoolers, recently received national recognition for crafting a program that teaches adults how to identify mental health challenges in their children and others. They shared information about the project, its purpose, and the recognition’s impact with CBS News in this 6-minute report

Can fashion affect your mental health? Sarah Seung-McFarland, a psychologist and founder of fashion- and design-psychology blog Trulery, told Essence magazine it’s not quite that simple, but looking your best does support feeling better. “Clothing can also affect how we think when we wear pieces that have symbolic meaning to us,” she said. “This is known as ‘enclothed cognition,’ [which] suggests that when we put on clothes that have significant meaning to us, we take on the characteristics of the clothing. This can explain why wearing your ‘lucky shirt’ for your presentation may make you feel more equipped in the face of nerves.” 

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.

Recent MindSite News Stories

Surviving the Tiger Pit: How a Journalist’s Family Story Pushed Her to Report on a Failed Mental Health System

In a moving memoir, journalist Meg Kissinger tells the story of her own family’s struggles with mental illness, and how those experiences fueled her passion to be an investigative reporter and storyteller.

Continue reading…

The federal government has been greatly underestimating the number of people with schizophrenia, our most serious mental illness. That’s a big deal

Every health policy decision depends on having an accurate estimate of how many people are living with a particular disorder. Yet for years the federal government has been erroneously measuring the number of people living with the most disabling mental condition – schizophrenia.

Continue reading…

If you’re not subscribed to MindSite News Daily, click here to sign up.
Support our mission to report on the workings and failings of the
mental health system in America and create a sense of national urgency to transform it.

For more frequent updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

The name “MindSite News” is used with the express permission of Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops in the field of mental health and wellbeing. MindSite News and Mindsight Institute are separate, unaffiliated entities that are aligned in making science accessible and promoting mental health globally.

Copyright © 2021 MindSite News, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you signed up at our website. Thank you for reading MindSite News.

Type of work:

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...