March 3, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In today’s newsletter, researchers investigate social media use and tics in children, National Public Radio talks about healing (with our own Tom Insel), and a breathing practice that may improve your mental health. Plus, a virtual arts festival whose proceeds will go to providing mental health & psychosocial support to people in war-torn Ukraine.

Scientists explore whether social media triggers worsening tic disorders in kids

A preliminary study from the University of Florida has researchers wondering if pandemic social media use is triggering more severe tic disorders, such as Tourette syndrome, in children. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, while the study is small and did not show a rise in tic frequency among children with social media use, it did show an onset of more severe tic behaviors with increased use during the pandemic. It’s a question worth exploring since children with tics often face social isolation and bullying. According to one author of the study, Dr. Jessica Frey, this can lead to “difficulty with interpersonal relationships, including impairments in social, psychological and intellectual development.”

Shifting from a culture of mental illness to one of mental health

Much of the common conversation around mental health places a focus on genetic risk, and the biological and neurological underpinnings of brain disorders. Our own Tom Insel trod that ground as a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the National Institute of Mental Health from 2002 to 2015. Now he is working to shift the culture and transform the mental health system – and all of the systems that affect mental wellness. Insel, a co-founder of MindSite News, recently spoke to NPR’s Health Desk about his critiques of the existing system, the key changes he thinks should be made, and his new book, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health

In one of the most significant parts of the conversation, Insel acknowledged that while at NIMH, he learned that existing medications were less effective than he’d previously believed for treating conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. He noticed they were being prescribed as if the medications alone were enough to bring about recovery and came to realize that people responded much better to a continuum of care that included medication, therapy, and family involvement. This was especially clear in treating young people after a first episode of psychosis in schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. 

A breathing practice that may improve mental health

If you’ve considered microdosing psychedelics to ease your psychic pain but have concerns about a bad trip, holotropic breathwork may be worth a closer look. It’s a breathing practice that was developed in the 1970s by psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof as a way for people to develop an altered state of consciousness without using drugs. It’s always practiced within a group setting, typically where people pair off, and is marked by fast, controlled breathing patterns. Sessions are long, measuring two to three hours, and they follow a schedule of exercises matched up with specific musical tones. According to Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the practice helps influence the mind and emotions.  

Holotropic breathwork was founded on the idea that it can push people toward positive transformation and wholeness, according to Women’s Health magazine, and it has gained in popularity on social media. But it’s more than a TikTok trend – researchers like Johnson and his team at Johns Hopkins have partnered with the Psykia Institute and Veterans for Natural Rights to study its effectiveness as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Paid trauma leave in Dallas, Texas

Human resources officials for the city of Dallas, Texas are seeking an additional $200,000 per year from the city council to offer all 8,000 municipal employees access to paid leave after experiencing trauma. If approved, city employees would have to submit proof of the need for leave from a mental health professional to receive up to five paid days away from work to care for themselves.

In an interview with KERA News, Dallas Human Resources Director Nina Arias said she hoped the program would “give people an incentive to go in and speak with a mental health professional – to take that first step to make that connection to establish that relationship so that they can better take care of themselves.”

In other news…

If you’re a fan of theater, mark your calendars for March 19th at 4 pm PT/7pm EST. That’s when the Talking It Out Virtual Arts Festival will present its next series of one-act plays by emerging playwrights around the world. Tickets are free, but all donations to the festival will partially support the International Medical Corps, an organization committed to providing mental health & psychosocial support to people harmed by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Ever wondered if not being a morning person and failing to perfect “the morning routine” was affecting your mental health and productivity? This article from Stylist magazine explores that question. Spoiler: The routine, rather than the time of day, probably matters more.

Exercise can bring mental clarity – but overdoing it can backfire. A recent article from Triathlete magazine explores the fine line between enough training to bring relief from stress and overtraining that piles it on. Too much exercise without time for recovery, the authors note, “can cause disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenocortical (HPA) axis leading to dysfunction of the endocrine system and yes, overtraining syndrome.”

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.

Biden Uses State of Union to Announce Mental Health Strategy

President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union speech to address the mental and emotional suffering that has been festering in the United States.

Suicide by Gun Rising Among Youth of Color

Firearm suicide rates rose steadily among young people in their teens and twenties over the last decade, with the sharpest increases among people of color.

We Have a Message: The Government Must Stop Criminalizing Mental Illness 

As Partners for Justice advocates embedded in the offices of public defenders, we work to connect clients to resources. In turn, our clients have taught us that to heal this nation, we must learn to respond to social harms and injustice with mercy.

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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.

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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.