June 14, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. LA County is testing out a computer model that can tell who’s at risk of losing their housing so they can be helped. Teenagers really do need more sleep – and early school start times don’t help. And, in a world of stress, employees are turning to their companies for more mental health support.

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Can a computer model prevent homelessness?

Photo illustration: Shutterstock

Researchers at UCLA have developed an algorithm that they hope accurately predicts who is at risk of becoming homeless in Los Angeles, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The strategy “is to find out who’s actually going to become homeless if they don’t get immediate assistance” – and connect them to services to help keep them housed, said Janey Rountree, founding executive director of the California Policy Law at UCLA and a lead researcher on the project.  

The computer program pulls data from eight county agencies, weighs some 500 factors such as whether people have had a psychiatric crisis, landed in the emergency room, been booked in jail, gotten cash aid or food benefits, and listed a county office as their “home address.” Information is shared with the county’s Homeless Prevention Unit which calls the people who seem to be at risk. They’re also paired with a case manager for four months to get vital cash assistance, help navigating the bureaucracy and – hopefully – get back on track. 

Anthony Padilla Cordova is one of the roughly 150 people who have been helped through the program. His case manager helped cover the costs of a breathalyzer that had to be installed and activated in a vehicle before he could legally drive again —keeping him employed. He also got gift cards to purchase groceries along with appropriate clothes and shoes for work. “If I didn’t have any of these resources, I’d probably be homeless,” he said. 

Now if the protocols could figure out a way to house the 66,000+ people already homeless in LA County…

Poor sleep from early school start times undermine teen mental health

Salon recently sat down with Lisa Lewis, a mom, author, and activist whose efforts are focused on getting teens more sleep. It’s an issue she hadn’t given much thought to until her own son moved from middle school to high school, with a 75-minute earlier start time. She noticed he was always tired on the way to school and as soon as he got home. “I quickly realized this was not (a) a new issue or (b) unique to our community,” she said. “There’s a huge body of research about teen sleep.”

That research is pretty unequivocal: Sleep deprivation makes it harder to process, retain, and recall new information, meaning school is simply harder to do when teens are tired. Beyond that, not getting enough sleep is associated with increased risk of substance use, depression, anxiety, irritability, and even suicide. Lewis’ goal isn’t to necessarily scare policy makers into change, though – it’s to spread the gospel of how much better day-to-day behaviors are for teens who get to start school later: Teens who drive have fewer crashes, their interactions with parents are less volatile, and well-rested adolescents are less impulsive. Read the whole interview here.

More workers seeking mental health support in wake of mass shootings

Photo: Shutterstock

A survey of 2,226 working adults for Bloomberg News found that 30 percent of respondents have used or plan to use their company’s employee assistance program (EAP) benefit to help deal with the emotional impact of recent world events, including mass shootings and the war in Ukraine. In contrast, typical EAP use rates average below 10 percent, according to research published in the Journal of Insurance Regulation,

Ginger Miller, an HR director at Utz Brands Inc. told Bloomberg, “It’s almost like, okay, COVID was hard enough. And then you have the war and political unrest and battles going on. It’s really hard to reset and just go about a normal routine.” 

The uptick in need is forcing employers to step up their structured mental health support. While short-term counseling has been available as long as EAP has been around, mental health workshops and group sessions are now becoming another way to offer help. In addition, some employers are partnering with digital startups like Lyra Health and Headspace to host forums on how to cope with gun violence and race-based hate crime. They’re also offering support to parents struggling to talk to their children about these calamities.

In Greece, psychiatric patients get therapy by working as beekeepers

At the “Caserma of Herbs,” a social cooperative on the island of Leros, Greece, patients from a nearby psychiatric hospital experience work therapy as beekeepers on an idyllic hillside. “It’s not only to extract the honey, royal jelly, and the pollen, but it’s a therapy for the people,” said beekeeper Chrisodoulos Grilis. “It’s a nice job that gives life.” In addition to caring for the bees, workers also tend to lavender, oregano and other herbs that the bees forage on, according to a story in EuroNews. “I love what I do here, it’s a real relief for the soul,” said Artemis, a patient in his 60s.

To make the project work, the cooperative employs 13 salaried workers, supervised by specialist beekeepers, as well as several nurses and occupational therapists from the island’s psychiatric hospital. Doctors say a handful of patients who once lived at the hospital have been able to return home as a result of the program. “Abandoned and neglected people manage to build their skills again so as to feel productive and equal to others, which helps overcome their issues,” psychiatrist Giannis Loukas told Euronews.

In other news…

How does music therapy actually work? If you’re a fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things, it may be a question you’ve asked yourself while watching this season. Erik Gundel, a board-certified music and creative arts therapist based in New York City, has some answers. He sat down with InsideHook to discuss what music therapy is and how it works.

Do you dread eating alone? If so, you have company. Journalist Morgan Ome felt that way, but when the globe shut down in March 2020, she had to figure it out. This essay in The Atlantic is all about the strategies she’s used to not hate it so much and to cope. 

Meta has been hit with eight lawsuits from the law firm Beasley Allen that argue its social media sites, Facebook and Instagram, are detrimental to youth mental health. Mashable reports that Beasley Allen released a statement saying Meta “exploits young people for profit,” and intentionally makes its platforms psychologically addictive.

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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Type of work:

Courtney WiseReporter

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...