February 16, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers! Later this morning at MindSite News, we’ll bring you two exclusive stories about school mental health. (We can’t release them at newsletter press time, so be sure to check the website this morning!) Here in the newsletter, we are sharing several other stories from around the web on the same theme. One is about a population often ignored when it comes to mental health support: teachers. Another is about the role academic advisors can play supporting their grad students. Plus: Museum insensitivity to mental illness (specifically, Van Gogh’s) and declining rates of child abuse.

Mental Health Counseling at School: Not Just for Students

Elnur/Shutterstock

Many schools in California and elsewhere are creating special rooms for troubled students to decompress, but what about teachers, who by all reports are increasingly exhausted, stressed and burned out? The Los Angeles Times reports on a school in East Oakland that has created a special counseling room at school just for teachers.

It’s there that Lance McGee, a trauma-informed wellness consultant, counsels teachers at the Frick United Academy of Language. He explains that teachers’ first impulse may be to punish disruptive kids who are acting out. But if they can connect with those students and help them feel welcome and supported, teachers often see the troubling behavior vanish. To help them avoid “compassion fatigue,” he also encourages teachers to become more aware of their own trauma. “If teachers understand what traumatized behavior looks like,” McGee told the Times, “their approach to supporting the student is very different.”

The counseling room has been funded since 2015 by a grant from Kaiser Permanente designed to build stronger school communities. With the grant’s funding coming to a close at the end of 2022, it is unclear whether this valuable support service will continue. This would be a shame, said Frick restorative community school manager Simone DeLucchi: “This kind of work is what will make public education more sustainable.”


Supporting U.S. graduate students with “mental health disabilities”

In an op-ed published by Inside Higher Education, Ashley Ransom, Adam Anderson and Eve De Rosa provide strategies on how academic advisers can support graduate students with mental health issues. Anderson and De Rosa are on the faculty of Cornell University’s psychology department, where Ransom is a PhD candidate. Using their own experiences managing bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression, the trio argue that “while most universities look to student health centers to provide support, academic advisers are in the most influential position to help graduate students who have a mental health disability.” 

Photo: Shutterstock

In support of their position, the three present five strategies to support their argument: 1) Advisers can and should help students take full advantage of student disability services offered by their schools. 2) They can learn about a student’s specific mental health disability to better understand how to support them. 3) They can ask how students want to be supported. 4) They’re in the best position to help students focus on their work. 5) They have the authority to offer students the flexibility they may need to accomplish academic goals and graduate.


Minnesota PACT program helps recruit diverse social workers

The Department of Social Work at the University of Minnesota-Duluth is able to recruit, retain, and graduate students from underrepresented populations thanks in part to a program that provides MSW students $10,000 stipends to help offset the cost of required, yet unpaid, internships. MinnPost reported that The Providing Advanced Clinical Training (PACT) program has been around for ten years and recently received $900,000 from the federal government to increase the number of clinical social workers supporting children, youth, and families in the Duluth area.

Students who are granted PACT funding must commit to work in the Duluth area for two years after graduation. It makes a huge difference in the northeastern part of Minnesota, which is home to just 6 percent of the state’s licensed social workers. Said Matt Delaini, a 2020 graduate of UMD: “You hear about it in the abstract that here is a real demand, but once you get into the field, you start realizing just how many people are seeking mental health care, and you see how you are providing a really needed service right here in the community.”


Rates of child abuse dropped in 2020

To the surprise of public health experts, two physicians based at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, recently wrote an article for JAMA Pediatrics that reported a decrease in child abuse in 2020. They found that despite the global health crisis and widespread unemployment sparked by COVID-19, other risk factors for child abuse were mitigated with increased family time, community resources and economic assistance from the federal government. 

In an interview with Tufts Now, co-author Robert Sege said, “Most parents really love their children. When child abuse occurs, it’s not because parents don’t love their kids; it’s because they’ve reached the end of their rope…We think that during (that phase of) the pandemic, families were given enough support that they never got to that edge.”

In other news:

Some people experience genuine grief when their favorite team loses a big game. In a report from Consider This on NPR, Ailsa Chang spoke to Eric Zillmer, a professor of neuropsychology at Drexel University who focuses on sports psychology. Zillmer’s research has found that some people experience such an intense dependency on their favorite sports that it can feel integral to their very identity. 

Self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh done at the asylum in Saint-Remy (Credit: Shutterstock)

Severed ear erasers made of rubber are no longer for sale at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Artnet reported that mental health advocates denounced the souvenirs that accompanied the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit as making light of mental illness. The other discontinued gift shop items included “a bar of soap for the tortured artist who enjoys fluffy bubbles” and an “emotional first aid kit,” touted as advice for psychological problems.

Picture books on mental health: Happiful has compiled a short list of children’s picture books to make it easier to explain anxiety, depression, and mindfulness. They include:  Don’t Worry, Murray!, The Bad Mood and The Stick, The Princess and The Fog, Why Are You So Sad?, and Baby’s Big World: Mindfulness.

Using proper pronouns may save lives: In an op-ed published in The Berkshire Eagle, Solana Lash-St.John, a nonbinary, first-year high school student at Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, wrote that using a person’s proper pronouns could deter them from attempting suicide. They said, “If you see someone and aren’t sure which pronouns they use, just ask.” Citing two peer-reviewed studies that examined the risks of suicide for trans and nonbinary youth, Lash-St.John argued that doing so could greatly reduce the risk of suicide for trans and nonbinary youth. 


If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.

A Timeline of Parity Laws

1961 – President John F. Kennedy directs the Civil Service Commission to implement mental health […]

A Family’s Struggle Reveals Gaps in Mental Health Parity

Inferior insurance coverage for behavioral health has persisted for decades. The Kumar family learned about it the hard way.

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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.