June 15, 2023

By Courtney Wise and Diana Hembree

Hello, MindSite News Readers! In today’s Daily: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation works to promote mental health awareness and support for LGBTQ+ youth. Moms for Liberty, which we wrote about in our investigation of faux grassroots groups that oppose schools’ efforts to improve mental health, has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And the pandemic isolation proved fertile ground for online recruiting of lonely teens into violent extremism.

We urge parents concerned about online recruiting and the rise in racist and LGBTQ attacks to join us today at 10am PT/1pm ET for our online panel discussion “Breaking Away From Hate” with anti-hate activists who talk about the psychology of hate and how to help extricate youth and others from violent extremist groups. Register now to save your spot!

In other news: A drastic change in a bank account or other financial problems may be an early warning sign of a grandparent’s dementia. A look at the ways trauma is passed down from generation to generation. A dog named River, aka Newton, Iowa’s newest crisis canine. And more.

Help for families struggling with a loved one caught up in violent extremism

During the pandemic, at least one family was stunned to find out their teen was involved in a hate group when the FBI showed up at their door asking about online plans for a bombing. The Massachusetts-based group Parents for Peace offers a lifeline for distraught parents seeking to help extricate their child from violent extremism. Register now to join our online discussion today at 10am PT with anti-hate workers from Parents for Peace, a deradicalization specialist, and a psychiatry professor whose research focuses on violence.

LGBTQ+ youth looking for kind communities, says survey by Lady Gaga’s foundation 

Survey by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation

With the Benenson Strategy Group, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation conducted an online survey of 1,001 LGBTQ+ adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15-24. The survey confirmed other research that says LGBTQ+ youth are struggling with their mental health. Of those surveyed, only 35% said they live in a community that is kind to them, 25% rated their emotional health as ‘poor,’ and nearly half of all respondents, including most trans and nonbinary youth surveyed, said that getting access to essential mental health resources is tough.  

Given the current landscape, it’s especially important to hear from LGBTQ youth about their experiences, notes Terez Hanhan, programs and research manager of the Born This Way Foundation. “We are deeply committed to ensuring that every young person feels safe – and not only validated, but celebrated – as they connect and engage with others around them,” Hanhan says. “This research serves as a call to action for all communities…to build a kinder, braver world, together.”

Besides amplifying the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth, the Born This Way Foundation created the Be There Certificate in 2022. It’s a free, self-paced, digital course directed at all audiences to provide participants with increased mental health literacy and guidance on how to help people within their communities who might be struggling with their mental health.

“Having access to free and accessible mental health resources has been a lifeline for me and many of my queer friends. Online support groups, therapy, journaling, and informative articles have helped me develop coping strategies and maintain my wellbeing, especially amid the threatening anti-LGBTQ+ legislation,” said Desmond Napoles, LGBTQ+ advocate and Born This Way Foundation advisory board member. “Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we foster inclusivity, education, empathy, safe spaces for dialogue, and advocacy efforts to challenge discriminatory laws and build kinder communities where everyone can access the support they need.”

A bizarre surge in spending could be early sign of dementia

Sharon Gwinn didn’t realize anything was wrong until the night her husband treated a bar full of strangers to $3,000 worth of drinks. It was uncharacteristic behavior and a total surprise. She didn’t discover the spending until her credit card was declined at the grocery store. The change was the first in a series that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. “He drove for years after his financial awareness was gone,” Gwinn told NPR

Mounting research shows that people with dementia are often plagued by worse financial outcomes, and that financial problems can be a warning sign of cognitive decline. The findings suggest that people – and their families – should plan for the worst by putting financial safeguards in place while they are cognitively healthy, said Carole Shepard, a geriatric care manager. “It’s about controlling your own destiny,” she said.

What does a past generation’s trauma have to do with the present?

The idea that trauma can pass from one generation to the next can be a difficult concept to grasp – especially when it’s discussed in weighty research tomes. But researchers have recently documented the existence of intergenerational trauma – something we’ll explore further in upcoming issues – and the concept is now increasingly surfacing in popular culture, including recent films and TV shows like Everything Everywhere All at Once and Transparent that show traumatic events of the past trickling down to the present. “I believe that trauma is at the core of so many mental health problems,” Sandra Mattar, a clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma-informed therapy told the Washington Post

Research from Rachel Yehuda, director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has examined the ways intergenerational trauma can be passed down through biology, learned behaviors, and the collective experiences of a group. Studies suggest that trauma may alter a person’s DNA and thereby impact the health of generations long after the traumatic event. 

Yehuda compared blood samples from Holocaust survivors with those of Jews who lived outside of Europe during World War II. She found that mothers who survived the Holocaust showed changes in epigenetic markers, chemical tags attached to a segment of DNA that act as switches, turning on and off genes that can in turn influence stress response. The children of survivors shared the same markers, despite having been born after the Holocaust ended. These findings, though far from conclusive, suggest that the environmental wounds inflicted on one generation may be transmitted to the next. “Clearly there is a signal of something interesting happening on a molecular level with intergenerational trauma,” said Yehuda, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience. “It will be a while before we figure it all out.”

In other news…

Meet River, a crisis response dog. She works in Newton, Iowa with the fire department, but she doesn’t get close to the heat. Instead, she serves through the city’s therapy canine program, identifying and helping people dealing with trauma and severe stress. “In the station, she’s basically going to be a pet,” Captain Steve Ashing told the Newton Daily News. “But when she’s all said and done, she’ll be able to sense (stress). Stress response in the body gives off different hormones. So she’ll be trained to go to that person. So that’s a simple way to think about that.”

Concerns about the mental health of American youth are mounting. Senator Bernie Sanders writes about the crisis in an op-ed for The Guardian, castigating his fellow lawmakers for not doing enough (as he sees it) to solve the problem.

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 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...

Diana Hembree, MS, is MindSite News co-founding editor. She is a health and science journalist who served as a senior editor at Time Inc. Health and its physician’s magazine, Hippocrates, for four years,...