July 1, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In this issue: “Forest bathing” is good for your mental health. Twitter reacts to the Supreme Court ruling on abortion and gun control. The campaign for a warning label on cannabis products, and more.

Try “forest-bathing” for better mental health

Credit: Twittter

“Forest bathing” is a term coined by the Japanese government about 40 years ago. It means to “make contact with and take in the atmosphere of the forest,” and its therapeutic effects are well documented. In Japan, the practice is so popular, there’s been an Association of Therapeutic Effects of Forests since 2004, and a Japanese Society of Forest Medicine since 2007. There’s plenty of evidence for the benefit of nature walks on mental health. It’s associated with lower levels of cortisol, lower blood pressure, decreased heart rate, reduced “fight-or-flight” nervous system activity, and increased activation in the part of our nervous system responsible for rest. 

A column in Psychology Today reviews multiple studies that find forest bathing reduces hostility, depression, tension-anxiety, depression, and fatigue-inertia. One possible reason: awe – “the experience of being amazing by something bigger than yourself, and the ability to place your own problems in the context of something huge, powerful, and hard to understand, may be good for you,” Psychology Today explained.

In one study chronicled by the journal Emotion, participants were encouraged to “cultivate awe” by recording their walks in some way, often through selfies in the environment. Over time, people’s faces were smaller and smaller in the shots, while the emphasis on the environment grew greater. As psychologist Loren Soeiro writes in his column: “Perhaps 20 minutes spent walking in the woods, focusing on the details of the natural world and not on your personal problems, can help us recognize that feelings of peace and comfort can be constant and that the ups and downs of our daily lives may be transitory.”

Once in the shadows, “Mike” talks about his mental illness in Ken Burns documentary

Washington Post writer Pete Early wrote a book about his son’s hellish struggle for mental health care for his bipolar illness, calling him what appeared to be a pseudonym: Mike.

via Twitter

As a recent article in the Post recounts, “’Mike’ was wrestled to the ground and Tasered. ‘Mike’ was receiving encrypted messages from an Oliver Stone movie. ‘Mike’ broke into someone’s home and took a bath.” His father was told his son would never recover, have children, or hold down a job, and that he would likely wind up homeless. But in the new PBS documentary “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness” and at a screening at the White House last week, his son appears, using his full name: Kevin Mike Early. And as the Post reports, “he has a graduate degree, a job and a full, artistic life.”

Pete Early’s book Crazy, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, traces how excruciatingly hard it was for him to get his son help. Even after being told to take him to an emergency room for faster treatment, the family was told they would have to wait another four months for treatment. But today the younger Early is working as a peer counselor for other people with mental illness and said he loved meeting the young people in the documentary for a screening in Billings, Montana.

“They’re so articulate and well-spoken and able to clarify their experiences,” he told the Post. “I was amazed at how wise beyond their years they are. I wish I had that.” With the rest of the cast, who rushed to get tattoos reflecting the documentary just before the screening, he got one that seemed especially apt: “Hiding in Plain Sight.”

Also, don’t miss father Pete Early’s moving columns on his son and “Hiding in Plain Sight,” including this one: “The Importance of Hugs: My Son Writes About Camaraderie Among ‘Hiding In Plain Sight” Participants Who Told Their Stories.”

In other news….

California lawmakers and doctors want cannabis producers to warn consumers that many scientific studies have linked marijuana use to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. The Lancet recently found that the risk is four times as great for people who use highly potent marijuana daily than those who have never used it. Another study found that getting rid of marijuana use in teens could slash global schizophrenia rates by 10%. Besides the warning labels, they’d like sellers to distribute brochures to first-time users. “Today’s turbocharged products are turbocharging the harms associated with cannabis,” said Lynn Silver, a pediatrician and senior adviser at the Public Health Institute, a nonprofit sponsoring the proposed labeling legislation, Senate Bill 1097, the Cannabis Right to Know Act.

After his own struggles with stress and burnout during the pandemic, serial entrepreneur Russel Glass realized that workplaces were not going to be able to ignore mental health much longer. Read the Quartz interview about his mental wellness app Headspace Health and his predictions for the future.

Idaho firefighters and other first responders are getting mental health training to understand the impact of trauma and stress on the body. The idea is to help them better withstand the pressures of their crisis response jobs. (To learn more about the mental stress of firefighting, read the CalMatters series on California firefighters and trauma republished by MindSite News.)

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889. Services are free and available 24/7.

Recent MindSite News Stories

Youth Mental Illness: Four Young People’s Views on New Documentary

A new PBS documentary aims to show how commonplace and universal youth mental struggles really are — and to encourage young people to get help.

“Hiding in Plain Sight” Goes Inside the Youth Mental Health Crisis

The new Ken Burns Presents documentary looks at the youth mental health crisis through the eyes of more than 20 young people. MindSite News reviewer Sarah Henry offers her take.

Can Peer Support Help Unhoused Portlanders in Crisis?

Service organizations in Portland, Oregon, hope to expand a program that supports unhoused locals living […]

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Type of work:

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...