April 19, 2022

Hello, MindSite News readers. Today we have a special roundup about news on families and mental health. We take a look at the need for expanded employee benefits, including caregiving and sick leave, for working parents, as well as an innovative approach to kids’ depression and anxiety. Plus, millennial parents’ openness to their children’s full range of emotions, the mental health benefits of singing, and more.

Needed: Rx for the pandemic’s working parents

Image credit/Shutterstock

The Business Insider headline sums it up: “‘Overwhelmed, fragile, exhausted’: A youth mental-health crisis is crushing working parents. Employers need to pay attention.”

The article cited a recent survey from Nationwide Children’s Hospital that showed more than 50% of working parents said they’d missed work at least once a month or had to interrupt their working day to deal with their children’s mental health. And those who were distracted at work by concern about their child’s well-being? Between 30% to 50%. 

In an eloquent first-person piece, BI writer Rebecca Knight pointed out that it’s critical for employers to expand employee benefits, such as caregiving and sick leaves and mental health resources.“Today’s working parents are under enormous pressure, and their stress has quickly gone from leaking into their professional life to crashing through the floodgates,” she concludes. “It’s up to employers, experts say, to help working parents manage their priorities and offer flexibility to face this daunting reality.” 


Millennial parents: Let kids cry if they want to

Credit: Fizkes/Shutterstock

The major difference between Jamie Miller’s parenting and the way she was parented is that she lets her daughter express all her emotions, positive or not. She’d never tell her to “stop whining,” or “don’t be so sensitive.” She herself had lacked the freedom to express her own emotions growing up, so that made it hard for her to process them later, especially the tough ones, she told Nicole Karlis of Salon. Now that she’s the parent, she tries to understand what’s at the root of her daughter’s powerful emotions. “It’s something nobody ever did for me,” she adds.

In this way, Miller is like a lot of her millennial peers, most of whom were raised by baby boomers. Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Happiest Baby, told Salon, “Forty years ago, more parents were still being verbally tough with their kids, saying ‘Don’t be a baby,’ ‘You shouldn’t be scared,’ and denying their feelings. And that’s something we’ve learned not to do.”

One reason for the change may be because millennials have greater experience with the mental health system. Having amassed more anxiety and depression diagnoses than the generations before them, millennials are more likely than boomers to have gotten help from licensed mental health professionals, Salon notes. For millennials, the increased focus on their own mental health may translate to greater acceptance for a range of emotions in their own children. 


Texas hospital offers innovative approach to kids suffering from depression and anxiety

Everything’s bigger in Texas, as the saying goes — and so is the audacious approach that Children’s Health, the Dallas-based, nationally ranked pediatric hospital, is taking to combat the existing mental health crisis in kids. “If you don’t catch cancer until it’s at stage four, it’s a much harder road with the patient and there’s a lot more treatment involved,” said Brent Christopher, president of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation to NBC-5, Dallas-Fort Worth. “The same is true for mental health issues. We need to identify these as early as possible and intervene as early as possible.”

Children’s Health of Dallas/Children’s Health hospital website

To help, Children’s Health is launching an initiative to give parents more access to mental health care for their kids – through their primary care doctor. The idea that Christopher describes as a “game-changer” is this: Rather than send parents out to comb through mental health resources without support, they can call their child’s pediatrician for guidance. The foundation has already raised $27 million in community donations that will be used to partner with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute to train pediatricians to be able to treat children with mild to moderate mental health right in their offices. Through the training, pediatricians can earn certifications that help them treat depression, anxiety and substance use, and provide them access to more resources beyond the Children’s Health system.

“By empowering community physicians with training and concrete supports, we can reach children in weeks rather than years, beginning to help them and their families as soon as symptoms first emerge,” said Andy Keller, president and chief executive officer of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Officials hope the initiative becomes a model for other health systems across the state. (Disclosure: Andy Keller is an advisory board member for MindSite News.)

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.

In Other News

Got the blues? Try singing. That’s the latest from The Conversation, along with these evidence-based reasons it can give you a mental boost: Singing helps combat social isolation and creates new levels of social support; it can raise awareness about physical tension you hold in your body; and it counts as a great “super-ager” activity, a cognitive tool that promotes a healthy memory and attention span. 

Ann Gaysorn/Shutterstock

One way to get started: Sing along to your playlist or songs from concerts available on YouTube. Says one MindSite News editor: “Even reading comments on the songs is uplifting: Conversation threads under songs from musicians from the Beatles, Spirit and Nina Simone to BTS, Cavetown and Beyoncé are one of the only places on social media where posts are almost universally thoughtful, authentic and kind.”

It’s hard to overstate the toll that the pandemic has taken on the mental health of first responders, including health care workers who’ve stood on the frontlines since emergency rooms and hospitals were flooded with people suffering from COVID-19. Burnout doesn’t even begin to describe it. In this 14-minute listen from NPR’s Short Wave podcast, Rhitu Chatterjee talks with a group of ICU nurses who may very well be suffering from PTSD. Trigger warning: The episode makes near-immediate mention of suicide.

A recent study examined the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on how people make decisions and process rewards later in life. Forbes reported two of the key discoveries from the study, published in the journal of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences: People with higher ACES are less likely to explore new opportunities to take advantage of “the range of rewards in their environment,” and they also tend to undervalue positive feedback. In practical application, researchers say these findings mean people with traumatic backgrounds could likely benefit from encouragement to try new things and may need help recognizing the importance of positive feedback about themselves.

A lawsuit about the homeless crisis in LA now has a proposed – and widely criticized – settlement. Before the pandemic, a group called the LA Alliance for Human Rights—composed mainly of downtown Los Angeles business owners and residents—sued LA and LA County for what it saw as poor management of the homelessness crisis. Earlier this month, the LA Alliance presented a proposed settlement to litigation about the crisis that, the LA Times wrote in this scathing editorial, “won’t do much about homelessness.” The terms exclude explicit support for people who are unsheltered and mentally ill or struggling with substance abuse. In other words, it offers no help for those who most need it.

And on the other side of the country: “It’s a lot harder for women to be homeless,” 53-year-old Lisa Hathaway Oliveira, told the Boston Globe, “but this has been a safe haven for me.” Oliveira is one highlight in a 40-year success story about Women’s Lunch Place, a daytime shelter and advocacy center housed in the historic Church of the Covenant in Boston, Massachusetts.


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Courtney Wise

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