April 25, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Greetings, MindSite News Readers! In today’s daily, there’s good news about bad feelings, Harvard launches a new center for mindfulness in public health, and a new survey of employers finds widespread dissatisfaction about mental health directories in their workplace health plans. And long-time therapy dog Gizmo retires from service in Connecticut schools.

Plus: Fighting anxiety when you’re trying to get to sleep.

Lean into those “bad” feelings for better mental health, researchers say

Good mental health isn’t about always having good feelings.“Many of us have this implicit belief that emotions themselves are bad, they’re going to do something bad to us,” said social psychologist Iris Mauss of UC Berkeley to the New York Times. “But most of the time, emotions don’t do harmful things.” 

Mauss’s recent study, which appeared in the journal Emotion, found it’s actually the judgment of unpleasant feelings as bad or wrong that causes mental distress. People who tend to view emotions like sadness, fear, and anger as inappropriate experience more anxiety and depression, according to the study, and feel less content with their lives than people who perceive so-called negative emotions in a neutral or positive light.

Why? Labeling emotions as bad piles more bad feelings onto the existing ones, making you feel worse, explained study co-author Emily Willroth, a psychologist at the University of Washington at St. Louis. Willroth says to remember that no emotion is inherently bad – in fact, they can help provide us with necessary information. As she explained, “Anxiety can help you to face a potential threat, anger can help you stand up for yourself and sadness can signal to other people that you need their social support.” 

Harvard launches new research center on mindfulness in public health 

Photo of Thich Nhat Hanh (credit: Harvard Medical School)

One of Harvard Medical School’s best-known graduates and department chairs, the late and deeply missed Paul Farmer, MD, co-founded Partners for Health, an international nonprofit to deliver healthcare for those who are sick and living in poverty, making the fight to deliver health care to the global poor the central mission of his life.

Farmer would likely have been excited to hear about the new Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness in Public Health, which is being launched at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The center is named in honor of the late Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, author, poet and peace activist who was central in bringing the practice of mindfulness to the Western world. (We especially admire his writings on anger and forgiveness, which bear reading and re-reading these days.) As a press brief from the medical school explains, “Throughout the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled tirelessly to spread the principles of nonviolence, compassion, and solidarity, working alongside activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated the Buddhist monk for a Nobel Prize at the height of the war.”

The Center was created with a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor, one of the single largest donations to the school to date. Its key research areas include the potential  of mindful eating and exercise to improve mental and physical health. A launch symposium, which will take place in Boston this Wednesday, April 26, will involve mindfulness scholars from around the world as well as monks and others who trained with Thich Nhat Hahn.

“I am so pleased that this new Center will enable the scientific study of mindfulness in the context of public health,” said Walter Willett, the Center’s director and a researcher and a Harvard professor of epidemiology and nutrition, in a news statement. “We are looking forward to establishing the Center as a hub of rigorous inquiry and to collaborating with colleagues around the world to advance the science of mindfulness.”
-Diana Hembree

Less than a third of employers satisfied with their workplace mental health coverage: Report

Only 31% of employers were satisfied with their employee health plan’s mental health provider network, according to a just-released survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions and HR Policy Association.

The survey, which involved 221 employers that provide health coverage to more than 10 million people, was funded by the Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use. It found widespread dissatisfaction about mental health coverage among employers and plenty of room for improvement, including better support for workplace mental health and integrating mental health into primary care. Among the findings:

– Only 34% of employers agreed that their directories of mental health providers reflected what was truly available.

–– While 99% agreed that timely access to in-network mental health providers is important, 31% expressed dissatisfaction with health plan efforts to address gaps in network access.

– Only 27% of employers were satisfied that their service providers tailor mental health services to diverse communities (including LGBTQ+ and people of color), 

“Many of the services provided, particularly in managing network access, continue to fall short of employer expectations,” said Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO.  “While there are bright spots, as an industry we still have a long way to go to meet the needs of employees and their families.” 

In other news…

WSFB was on the scene as students and faculty at Joel Elementary in Clinton, Connecticut, celebrated the retirement of Gizmo, longtime mental health therapy dog. He served people for 12 years and is the face of the Gizmo’s Pawsome Guide, a resource guide packed with tools to help K-12 children understand and manage their mental health.

According to critic Henry Giardina’s review of Good Night, Oscar, the play is a love letter to Oscar Levant (1906-1972), a musician, actor, comedian, and talk show host with myriad mental health struggles. Levant’s transparency about mental illness, Levant notes, may have inched us closer to erasing its stigma.  “Early critics of the play have noted that contemporary audiences’ familiarity with a figure like Levant might be on the low end,” Giardina writes for the online journal IntoMore  “But it isn’t true. If you’ve ever been so depressed you couldn’t brush your teeth for weeks, or get out of bed on the weekends, or change out of your ratty, disgusting robe, you know Levant..It’s just become OK to talk about all this stuff out in the open now.”

Fighting anxiety is my biggest personal battle, and it’s most annoying when I’m trying to get some sleep. Turns out, I’m not alone. A few weeks back, the New York Times reported on why it is that sometimes happens. “Most of us are incredibly busy during the waking hours; our attention is pulled in many different directions, so we have limited time to think about our worries,” said sleep researcher Candice Alfano. “But at night, while we lie in bed, there are few distractions from the thoughts that make us anxious.” Fortunately, there are some ways to put worry to bed so you can get some rest: Leave the caffeine alone at nighttime. Give your worries a place to go, like the pages of a journal at the end of the day. And think about the thing you’re really looking forward to as you head to sleep.

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.

Recent MindSite News Stories

Teen Expert Lisa Damour Wants Us All to Embrace Sadness

Damour wants us to realize that stress, irritability and unhappiness are as normal in teens as joy.

Continue reading…

Indiana Jail Let Man with Schizophrenia Starve to Death in Solitary, Lawsuit Alleges

Employees at the Jackson County Jail in Indiana locked a man having a psychotic episode in solitary confinement for three weeks – without care or toilet access – until he died of malnutrition. Surveillance footage over 21 days shows him […]

Continue reading…

Famished for Care: Two Books on Eating Disorders from Experts Who Have Grappled with Them

The information on eating disorders is often complex, thorny and conflicting. Here are two recent books for parents that can help guide you and your child through this grueling time.

Continue reading…

If you’re not subscribed to MindSite News Daily, click here to sign up.
Support our mission to report on the workings and failings of the
mental health system in America and create a sense of national urgency to transform it.

For more frequent updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

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.

Copyright © 2021 MindSite News, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you signed up at our website. Thank you for reading MindSite News.

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...