August 9, 2022
By Courtney Wise
Good day, MindSite News readers. We’re coming to you a little later in the day today than we typically do. We’ll be experimenting in the coming weeks with different delivery times, as we balance the workload and assess optimal times for you, our readers. If you have opinions on this subject, please let us know! Now on with today’s newsletter…
By all reports, people are far more accepting of neurodiversity than just a few years ago – but we’ve still got a long way to go, as can be seen in The Guardian’s takedown of some of the more pernicious myths about mental illness. Plus: Adults with autism are as sensitive at recognizing facial cues to emotions as other people, how severe hair loss inspired one designer to new heights, the secret of happiness…and a little reminder that MindSite News needs your support.
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Debunking mental health myths
Although people with mental illness report much less discrimination today than they did only a few years ago, there is plenty of stigma, misperceptions and outright myths, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Among the myths the newspaper explored:
—Mental illnesses are overdiagnosed. Professor Johan Ormel of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands told The Guardian the evidence points the other way: Depression diagnoses, for example, aren’t on the rise in western countries.
—Time is a healer. By and large, depression doesn’t just go away on its own. After reviewing the data from 16 clinical trials, researchers in Australia found that just one in eight patients diagnosed with depression went into remission as they awaited therapy over a three-month period.
—Antidepressants are no better than placebos. Despite new research that suggests SSRIs, like Prozac, don’t show a clear link between levels of serotonin and depression, they may help by easing inflammation. A recent meta-analysis in The Lancet suggests they’re 50 percent more effective than a placebo; the feeling of numbness in people taking antidepressants, in fact, may be a residual symptom of depression. Says Professor Guy Goodwin of the University of Oxford, “The feeling of emotional blunting is real, but it isn’t caused by the drugs.”
Adults with autism as sensitive to recognizing emotions as adults without autism
Social awkwardness or difficulty has long been a characteristic associated with autism, attributed to an inability of some people on the autism spectrum to accurately interpret the emotions of others during social interactions. But a study published last month in Autism Research found “no evidence of autism-related deficits” in the awareness of emotion recognition. In the study, as reported by News9 Live, a digital new service based in India, autistic adults were just as good at identifying facial emotions as non-autistic adults, “regardless of how stimuli were presented, the response required, or the particular emotion.”
There was, however, a gap in how long it took people with autism to respond. This has led researchers to wonder what the extra time reflects. Does a delay in emotion recognition represent internal processing limitations, or can the ability to recognize emotions improve? To answer these questions, researchers say, further study is needed.
Alopecia triggers a mental health journey– and inspiration – for fashion designer Amon Ogyiri
With music stars Cardi B, Offset, and Gunna already donning his brand, Amon Ogyiri is successfully building a name for himself in fashion. But earlier this year, his confidence took a hit following a diagnosis of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease whose most visible symptom is severe hair loss, according to a story in Ebony magazine. “As someone whose form of self-expression included their hair, I truthfully felt defeated,” he said. Ogyiri likely isn’t alone in his feelings; psychological research published in 2005 found that many people with alopecia experience anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, poorer quality of life, and poorer body image.
But Ogyiri was determined to learn more about alopecia and help others overcome the mental woes it can bring. “After a 3-month stint of dealing with depression… I didn’t want to exacerbate my current situation, so I figured I’d deal with it headfirst,” he told Ebony. His solution? Become more intentionally health-forward across his lifestyle, from diet to workouts to being aware of his stress levels; he also created a plush figurine to offer comfort to people of all ages in times of uncertainty. “[Alopecia] is just another obstacle in my journey to overcome,” Ogyiri said. “I didn’t come this far to allow something like this to stop all the progress that I’ve made…Sharing my experience may be a beacon of hope for anyone who is battling any sort of mental or physical battle that hinders their productivity and lets them know they are not alone.”
In other news…
One couple walked 350 miles to honor four loved ones lost to suicide and raise awareness about the risks. George and Cindy Downey walked from Glasgow, Scotland to St Neots in Cambridgeshire, where his brother Pat Kenny died two years ago. “The lows for me were the blisters,” Cindy told the BBC. “But the highs were all the people we met along the way, all the support we received and the awareness we raised.” Along the way, the couple also walked to places that honored George’s father, uncle, and grandfather.
Helping others can help you. This may come as a surprise in our competitive culture, but setting aside time to help others can actually help you feel better. Yahoo News spotlighted research from the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine and the American Psychosomatic Society that found helping others reduced stress and improved well-being, happiness and health. It doesn’t work by curing depression or anxiety, but in people struggling with those conditions, social service can spark purpose and passion.
And speaking of purpose, what actually makes for a fulfilling life? Robert Waldinger, MD, and Marc Schulz, PhD, directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and leaders of the world’s longest scientific study on happiness, share the surprising answer to this question in their forthcoming book, The Good Life (out January 10). The book brings research-based insights to light through the life histories of dozens of participants in the Harvard Study. The research makes clear that wellbeing is not synonymous with financial success and achievement, but that it flows from the quality of our relationships. And as The Good Life suggests, it’s never too late to strengthen the relationships you have – and to build new ones.
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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