August 17, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers. Before we share today’s news highlights, we want to let you know about a MindSite News Live event focused on youth mental health that we’ll be hosting in about three weeks. And a reminder that our summer fund drive continues.

In today’s news summary: Virtual Reality isn’t just for fun and games, it can also be a form of treatment for mental health disorders: VR Therapy. And Black school psychologists – a rarity across the country – are working to increase their numbers, to make a difference for Black kids. Plus, three books you can use to help you feel more fulfilled.

MindSite News, Ken Burns Presents and WETA present a FREE live back-to-school event:
A Conversation About Youth Mental Health and the Making of Hiding in Plain Sight

THURSDAY, September 8th at 4:00pm PST | 7:00pm EST

As students return to school after 2-1/2 years of pandemic stress and setbacks, concerns about the mental health of young people have never been greater. We invite you to join us for a MindSite News Live Interview focused on youth mental health. Our guests will be some of the people behind the brilliant new Ken Burns Presents documentary, Hiding in Plain Sight, a four-hour program being shown on PBS stations, and streaming free on PBS digital sites in September. 

We’ll talk to the editors of the film, Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers, and two of the young people interviewed in the documentary, Makalynn Powell and Billie Henderson. Please join us.

Is virtual reality therapy for you?

You’ve heard of in-person therapy, and thanks to the pandemic, you’re likely familiar with teletherapy, too. But what do you know about virtual reality therapy (VRT)? Donna Davis, director of the Oregon Reality Lab in Portland, told Forbes that, unlike teletherapy, VRT occurs in a computer-generated world. Real licensed therapists are always involved, but people typically present as avatars. Pointing to a VRT support group she leads for folks with Parkinson’s disease, Davis said, “People in the group create an avatar and they feel more comfortable opening up while their true physical identity is not revealed.”

Extending the experience further, some clients engage in virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) – immersing themselves in a specific 3-D environment as treatment. People terrified of heights might journey via VR to the top of a skyscraper inside a glass elevator, for instance. More research is needed to gauge its effectiveness, but for now, VRT practitioner Lucy Dunning said it’s a viable option to treat a variety of conditions, including: pain management, PTSD, phobias, social anxiety, and disorders involving compulsive behavior.

“Virtual reality therapy can help someone feel safe when they might not otherwise,” Dunning said. People can use VRT to become immersed in environments that cause them fear – but if they become overwhelmed, they can simply remove their headset. People interested in giving it a try should only select providers trained in VRT or VRET and, said Davis, should find out what software, equipment, and sessions their insurance covers before their first session.

–Courtney Wise

Since MindSite News launched less than a year ago, we’ve built a newsroom, established an online presence, published more than 100 original stories and created two newsletters! This wouldn’t happen without the support of generous readers like you. Please give what you can and share this request with friends.

What’s keeping Black men from the field of school psychology?

What can be done to combat the shortage of Black male school psychologists? Recruiting Black men into the profession is an uphill battle, Celeste Malone, professor of school psychology at Howard University told NPR’s All Things Considered. “It can be hard to reconcile wanting to be in a profession and wanting to support kids that look like you, but then also learning more about school psychology and the role that it has played in the labeling of kids,” she said. Substantial data shows that students of color are disproportionately referred to special ed, due in no small part to the bias of school psychologists who are overwhelmingly white.

Byron McClure, a Black former school psychologist, served in Washington D.C.-area schools for nearly a decade. He advocates shifting the culture to allow school psychologists to go beyond special ed and build restorative justice practices or culturally responsive curriculum. “We have such unique training,” he said. “Like, we are experts in human learning and child learning and child development and social-emotional development.” McClure co-founded the Black School Psychologist network to recruit and support Black men and women in the field.

-Courtney Wise

In other news…

Want to feel more fulfilled? CNBC caught up with workplace wellness coach and happiness scholar Kortni Alston, who suggested these three books:
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness To Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive by Kristin Neff
Make Your Job A Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work by Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy.

As transgender people gained rights in recent years, backlashes quickly followed as they always have, according to a story in The Conversation headlined Trans rights and political backlash: five key moments in history.

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.

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