November 10, 2021

Hello, MindSite News Daily Readers. In today’s newsletter, you’ll learn about promising results from a study investigating the use of psilocybin in the treatment of depression that hasn’t responded to medication. You’ll also read one commentator’s take on the mental health of Black women, and you’ll learn about a study that charts the connection between experiences of discrimination and mental health struggles.

Shape magazine runs package of stories on Black women’s mental health

“You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘strong Black woman,’” says writer Chrissy King in a think piece titled The Mental Health Cost of Being a Black Woman In America in Shape magazine. Black women have earned that distinction for the hurdles they’ve faced and coped with, “with poise and grace. But it comes with a cost, she says: “increased levels of depression, anxiety symptoms, and loneliness.” 

King’s piece is part of a package of stories on Black women and mental health, including pieces on how Black women are shedding the shame of psychotherapy, the healing power of dance, and overcoming the legacy of intergenerational trauma.

King leads with a statistic from a 2017 study on the great economic responsibility Black women bear: 84 percent of Black mothers are the only, primary, or  co-equal breadwinners for their families, more than white or Latina mothers who hovered around 60%. King says the strength and outward-facing stoicism of Black women is, in fact, a survival response that many researchers trace back to slavery and intergenerational trauma. That response continues today in the workplace where Black women are often passed up for promotions and have to continually downplay their reactions to microaggressions – such as comments like “you’re so articulate!”–  from coworkers. The undercurrent of unconscious bias and undermining of Black women in the workplace was captured in a 2021 report by McKinsey & Co. and Leanin.Org, Women in the Workplace

Black women also lost economic ground during COVID, when 10% of Black women were unemployed and Black people faced twice the risk of dying from COVID compared to whites, according to the CDC. Another burden: Black women are half as likely as others to seek professional mental health support. And a contributing factor: only 2% of psychiatrists and 4% of psychologists are Black.


Discrimination at a young age linked to mental health challenges

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, and the push for racial justice, some 242 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Antonio have declared racism a public health issue. A new study by UCLA researchers underscores the importance of those declarations. Researchers followed 1,834 study participants over 10 years who were 18 to 28 years old at the start of the study. They found that the more times participants experienced discrimination, the more likely they were to be at risk for behavioral and mental health problems, according to a story by NPR about the study from the journal Pediatrics. Some 93% of participants said they had experienced discrimination based on race, sex, physical appearance, and age, among other factors. Participants who had experienced frequent incidents of discrimination – at least a few times a month – were 25% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness than those who experienced no discrimination. 

Discrimination and disparities in mental health care — including “inequities in care access, provider biases and structural and institutional discrimination in health care” – also affected health outcomes,  Adam Schickedanz, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Geffen School of Medicine and the study’s senior author, told NPR.



Bilingual mental health care seen as essential for immigrant students 

When the Somerville School District in Sommerville, Massachusetts, closed down in compliance with lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, it took away a treasured resource for many of the school’s parents, more than half of whom are immigrants – access to mental health support for their children, according to an article on the website of WGBH radio in Boston. “Our families really heavily rely on school, not only for education, but…as a form of care for their children,” said Jennifer Ochoa, the family and community liaison at the East Somerville Community school, adding that the lockdown caused “chaos” for families.  

Bilingual school services have been especially important during the COVID 19 pandemic, which has exacted a heavy toll among immigrant families who make up a large percentage of the essential workforce, have suffered job loss, hunger and were ineligible for many of the safety net programs that helped non-immigrant families, according to a report by the Urban Institute. This year the Somerville school district welcomed back students to in-person learning, and district authorities hired new bilingual and multilingual social workers to meet the mental health needs of the immigrant student body, but services are still falling short.

The importance of school mental health services cannot be underestimated, according to Jeffrey Winer, an attending psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Schools, he said, are “a common hub, and often for refugee and immigrant work, it’s a really important place to anchor for delivery of services as opposed to in a clinic setting, because schools are…more trusted.” 


Largest psilocybin trial finds the psychedelic is effective in treating serious depression

Photo: Shutterstock

Newly released results from the largest study of psilocybin, the chemical name for the psychedelic compound in “magic mushrooms,” show promise in its ability to relieve symptoms among patients with treatment-resistant depression, according to an article in STAT. The trial was sponsored by Compass Pathways,  which has a commercial interest in the research and was granted a new US patent for crystalline psilocybin this October. The trial divided 233 patients from 10 countries into three groups, receiving 25 milligrams, 10 milligrams, or just 1 milligram, tantamount to a placebo. None knew which dosage they received and all were provided psychological support by therapists. 

The results: 29% of the patients taking 25 milligrams were in remission three weeks after treatment, compared to 7.6% in the placebo group. Three months after treatment, more than 25% of high-dose patients were still in remission. Serious side effects were reported in about a dozen patients, including suicidal behavior and self-injury, which occurred about a month after treatment. Compass’ Chief Medical Officer Guy Goodwin said those events occurred in participants who did not experience any reduction in their symptoms of serious depression.  Boris Heifets, a neuroscience researcher at Stanford who studies psychedelics and was not part of the study, found the results “super promising,” adding that “we’re still missing a lot of the detailed data.” The results, announced via press release, have not been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal.


Report shows COVID toll on mental health – especially among health care workers

A new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found substantial increases in mental health issues during the pandemic, according to an article by CNN. “The prevalence of anxiety and depression in early 2020 was double or more the level observed in previous years in a number of countries, including Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and the United States,” according to the report. The findings underscored the devastating mental health toll the pandemic has had on health care workers. “In the United States, a survey of frontline health workers found that more than three fifths (62%) reported that the stress or worry over COVID 19 affected their mental health negatively, and close to half (49%) reported that the stress had affected their physical health,” the report noted. “Almost one third of respondents reported needing or having received mental health services due to the pandemic.”


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.


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