January 31, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Greetings, MindSite News readers. In today’s newsletter, we visit a writer who uses her personal experience navigating an eating disorder to help others avoid developing one. A viral “personality quiz” sparks some confusion about whether or not it’s based in science. A writer reflects on how he’s begun to address disappointment–before it grows into professional jealousy and resentment.

Plus, Missouri’s health department asks for a large increase in its budget. When you’re misusing therapy words. And how to know when it’s time to quit your job or just take a real vacation.

We also look at the ripple effects from Tyre Nichol’s death at the hands of Memphis police – another horrifying testament in the archives of Black deaths.

Coping with the trauma of Tyre Nichols’ killing – and the horrific video documenting it

Phil Pasquini/Shutterstock

Whether you’ve actually watched it or not, the video of the brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols is beyond horrifying, another piece of evidence of how important it is to overhaul policing from the ground up. The question for many of us is not so much should we watch it — but rather what we should do about it.

“To honor Tyre Nichols’s life, we would need to do the work of making change,” Julie Scelfo, a longtime journalist and executive director of Get Media Savvy, a nonprofit initiative devoted to helping humans navigate the 21st-century media environment — and retain our humanity, wrote in an opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle. Those things don’t happen as a result of watching the video, he added. 

Amanda Calhoun, a psychiatry resident at Yale who specializes in the mental health effects of anti-black racism, told the BBC: “If you feel you need to bear witness to it, you want to see exactly what happened to him, I think that’s also okay.” 

Watching a traumatic video can be traumatizing, and there’s a multiplier effect for Black Americans, experts say. Knowing that the same thing could happen to you because of your race, Calhoun said, can make watching the footage especially traumatizing for Black Americans. 

And because of the history of violence against Black people, watching videos like this means “we’re revisiting the history of violence to Black and brown bodies in this country,” Alex Pieterse told the BBC. He’s a professor and clinical psychologist at Boston College whose research focuses on race-based trauma. The fact that “our trauma often is unrecognized, or it’s almost not even validated,” also heightens the impact, he said. Psychologists advise checking in with yourself frequently after (and before) watching the video and being aware of how stress and grief can express, like headaches or stomach aches hours or days later. Talk to people. Don’t isolate yourself.

Rev. Ronald Sullivan leads Harlem’s Christian Parish for Spiritual Renewal and before the video was released, CBS New York reported, he was encouraging members and friends who intended to watch it to allow themselves to feel the pain. “We’re not going to get through it,” Sullivan said. “It’s trauma. It’s going to hurt, so for those of us who are going to choose to watch the footage, know that you’re inviting trauma into your spirit.” He added: “But then process that with the mind of, how do I go from here? How do I heal from here? And how can I help others heal from here?” – Don Sapatkin

Dieters at risk of eating disorders

via Twitter

In a first person narrative for the New York Times, Kelsey Herbers wrote about how dieting to fit into her wedding dress morphed into a “full-fledged eating disorder.” The mental transformation shocked her, but professional clinicians said it’s no surprise to them. 

Registered dietician Robyn L. Goldberg, who wrote The Eating Disorder Trap, said that research shows one out of three people who diet develop an eating disorder: “It’s very, very common. You get so consumed that to pull yourself out of that dark hole seems impossible.” Therapist and author Thom Rutledge placed some responsibility on the influence of our society’s diet culture. “So much eating disorder thinking is so normalized in our world,” he said. “People don’t even question you when you say, ‘I need to lose weight to fit into that dress.’ Nobody flinches, and that’s a very negative view of yourself.”

Herbers said that her disordered eating expanded so gradually, she didn’t notice it until two years had passed and she needed professional help. That’s not unsurprising either, Rutledge said, in wedding-related eating disorders: They tend to grow worse after the ceremony. “People don’t usually show up in therapy around the time of the wedding, they show up afterward,” he said. “And soon after that, some of them end up dealing with the same stuff when they’re having babies. Don’t be too quick to assume that it’s just a momentary thing. Do yourself, your marriage and your family a favor and pay attention afterward.”

Here’s what Herbers learned about what experts recommend people do to prevent an eating disorder from taking root, particularly for people with a history of anxiety or depression who are already predisposed: Practice being more present when eating and focus on what you can eat more of instead of what you can eat less of, such as fruits and leafy greens. Explore foods that nourish you physically and make you feel emotionally satisfied. Don’t diet if you’re at risk for an eating disorder or have had one in the past; instead, eat when you’re hungry. And always, if you’re struggling with your body image, reach out for professional help.

Viral Pooh trend is fun, but beware not to spread misinformation 

Here’s a personality quiz to get the conversation going at your next dinner party. In fact, your guests may have already seen it, if they spend any time on TikTok. The “Pooh Pathology Test” was created by IDRlabs for your entertainment, but some test takers – and media outlets like the NY Post –  believe it’s based on research from clinicians who “studied” popular characters from the Hundred Acre Wood. 

Take care to warn your friends, though. The paper, first published 23 years ago in the “Research of the Holiday Kind” section of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, isn’t a serious scientific study. Instead, it’s a spoof based on A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. “By delivering psychiatric diagnoses of Pooh (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and more), Piglet (generalized anxiety disorder), Owl (reading disorder), Rabbit (narcissistic personality disorder), and other characters, the paper delighted Pooh fans and others.

One of its authors, Sarah Shea, told Almetric ten years ago that it actually began as “idle foolishness” from an informal chat with colleagues. While interviewing Shea and her fellow clinicians in 2013, Altmetic reporter Jean Liu learned, “Some of the inspiration for the paper’s distinctive style came as a spoof on medical histories. The rest came from admiration for A. A. Milne’s stories.” “We love Winnie the Pooh,” Shea told Liu, “so it was done with love.”

Do you need a new job – or a good vacation reset? 

As New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern impressed the globe by promptly addressing gun reform following a horrific massacre at two mosques in Christchurch and swiftly responding to the COVID-19 pandemic – all while navigating first-time motherhood. Now, the New York Times reports, she’s causing the world to consider how to quit gracefully, in service of good mental and physical health. “I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility — the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not,” said Arden in her resignation speech. “I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

If you’re waffling between whether or not to find a new job yourself, consider these four questions: 1) Are you burned out? If you take a mental health day and find yourself distressed or angry at the thought of returning to work, the answer is probably yes. “There’s a difference between ‘Ugh, work’ and ‘Oh my gosh, I cannot be there for one more day,’” psychiatrist Jessi Gold said. 2) Are you experiencing an identity shift? If work was once a core part of your identity and now it isn’t, that might indicate it’s time to explore something else. 3) Do you feel valued or supported at work? If not, start the search. 4) Does your organization support employee wellness? If your employer doesn’t prioritize equitable worker wellness including physical, emotional, social, and financial wellbeing, it’s likely time to move on. 

Say you answer yes to all four questions, but life’s circumstances make it such that you can’t quit right now. The article suggests looking into taking a brief leave, with the support of short-term disability. If that’s not an option, diagnoses like PTSD and major depression often require employers to make reasonable accommodations for you to effectively do your job. That could mean scheduling shifts around therapy appointments or granting permission to work from home. 

Missouri’s mental health department requests major budget increase from state lawmakers

Missouri’s Department of Mental Health requested a $300 million increase to its existing budget for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning July 1. Department director Valerie Huhn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the increase is necessary to support the agency’s projected growth and to address rising community needs. For instance, substance use treatment, which rose in the budget by 28 percent, “is an issue that is growing across the state,” Huhn said. Among other things, a bigger budget would help increase pay to potential staffers who could help alleviate the shortage of mental health workers. 

The budget proposal also asks for funding to reduce bed shortages for the people awaiting placement in a mental health facility or those who need to be processed before standing trial including some 225 people held in jail while awaiting transfer to a state mental health facility and 600 people with developmental disabilities in homeless shelters or awaiting placement in hospitals.

In other news…

Learning to address disappointment before it turns into professional jealousy is hard but necessary, writes Benjamin Schafer in this personal essay published in Electric Lit. “The pitfalls of professional jealousy are too numerous,” Schafer writes. “The most obvious is that it makes another human being the target of my disappointment. I tell myself that if I had what they had, I would not feel how I feel, and it doesn’t take long for that story to harden into something like resentment. I begin to blame the other person for what I’m feeling, often unconsciously…And while that might offer some temporary relief for my ego, if I’ve learned anything in my years of recovery, it’s that when I resent another person, I am the one who suffers.”

Do you misuse therapy words? Words like trauma, narcissist, and gaslighting get thrown around a lot–frequently and incorrectly. The Washington Post has a short on what they mean so you don’t get caught up misusing such powerful terms.

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

A Healed Black Man Works to Heal Others

During his six decades on the planet, Douglas Reed has worn many uniforms. He spent two decades in Army fatigues, then did a tour in federal prisons as a corrections officer.  Nowadays he tours the U.S. talking about his mental […]

Continue reading…

Gun Violence: Four Graphics Worth a Thousand Words

As the nation reels again from mass shootings and gun violence – and really, when have we stopped reeling in recent years? – four graphics can tell us almost everything we need to know about the true nature of gun […]

Continue reading…

The Unspoken Toll Migration Has on Mental Health

Since last spring, more than 30,000 migrants have been processed at NYC shelters. Many are grappling with serious mental health problems, stemming from their migration, language barriers and housing insecurity.

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...