May 5, 2022

Hello, MindSite News readers. You probably heard about the tragic death of country music star Naomi Judd, but did you realize she had been a powerful mental health advocate for years? Find out more about her legacy. Also in this issue: The city of Los Angeles vowed to find shelter for the people living in homeless encampments downtown before razing their encampments, but failed on a massive scale. Plus, a 21-minute walk daily can lower your risk of depression by 25% — good news for dog owners and everyone else.

Country music star Naomi Judd loses long battle against depression

Naomi Judd arriving at the Academy of Counry Music Awards in Las Vegas, April 3, 2011. Credit/Kathry Hutchins/Shutterstock

Family, friends, and devoted fans are grieving the suicide of beloved country music superstar Naomi Judd. The singer was transparent about her struggles with treatment-resistant depression for years, publishing a memoir, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope, in which she described the trauma she experienced in childhood and as a young woman that rippled into the present years later. Hoping to destigmatize conversations about mental health, she wrote in a post on Instagram, “Only by telling our stories will more people understand. Only by telling the truth will we stop the stigma. I’ve told my story. And now you can tell yours. You are not alone.”

But despite a movement to ease the stigma of mental illness, helped along by advocates like Judd, the National Institute for Mental Health estimates that only half of the tens of millions of people in need of mental health treatment are actually receiving it. And as people age, experts say, they may become more prone to depression. In addition, there is often a generational divide, with older adults feeling less open to discussing their mental problems and seeking care. 

Nonetheless, experts interviewed by The Tennessean felt there has been a cultural shift toward greater openness. “Mental health is not about being broken,” therapist Amy Alexander told the paper about Judd. “Mental health is our relationship to our own inner voice.”


Los Angeles failing the homeless people it wants out of sight

It’s harder enough being homeless with no safe place to live. It’s even harder with anti-homeless laws that prohibit you from sitting, lying down, or sleeping on the sidewalks, as if you could somehow levitate above the ground when you need to rest. 

But that’s exactly what Los Angeles did last July, when the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance, Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.18, which banned sitting, lying down, sleeping, and storing property on sidewalks. The city council announced it planned to enact a “street engagement strategy” in which outreach workers would help unhoused residents find shelter before clearing the encampments. Yet statistics show that there are fewer than 20,000 beds for the more than 40,000 homeless people in LA proper, not to mention the 66,000+ people without homes in LA County. All this means the city is preparing to start tearing down the tents of people with nowhere else to go. 

Neatly kept tents under an underpass in Los Angeles, 2019 (Mikeledray/Shutterstock)

The Los Angeles Times did a fine job of showing what this means to people in those encampments. Chuy Nunez, who lives at an underpass of the 101 Freeway in Silver Lake, told the LA Times that he’s been placed on resource lists after speaking with outreach workers from the LA Homeless Services Authority, but after several months, he’s not heard back from anyone. “Where am I supposed to go?” he asked. Other people like Gabriel Dominguez have jobs that make it impossible for them to stay in the hotels or shelters the city has offered. For the past two years, he’s been employed as a night worker at a bakery in Culver City. But his work hours make it impossible for him to be in any shelter by their expected curfews. What will happen when he can no longer sleep in his car?

The city has hailed its tiny wins, such as moving a dozen people into tiny homes and getting the 127 people who once lined a two-block stretch of Main Street near City Hall into temporary (emphasis on temporary) housing. It’s good news for those 139 people, but what about the other 40,000 people without homes, including many families and unaccompanied minors? And what about the nearby housed residents who are rightly worried about sanitation and safety? The city of Los Angeles has long been at the bottom of the list of cities providing their unhoused residents with shelter. It seems the only way to get real traction on housing for people without homes – not just in Los Angeles, but in the country – is to do what the ACLU is pushing for: Declare housing a human right.

Housing as a human right doesn’t mean the government has to build free housing for everybody, but it would mean more public housing, vouchers, and incentives to develop affordable housing, according to Eric Tars, legal director at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. You know, the kind of things the U.S. had decades ago, when virtually everyone had a place to live and a roof over their heads. Even in Los Angeles.

D. Hembree and Courtney Wise


Exactly how much exercise is needed to improve mental health?

Credot: Rawpixel/Shutterstock

There’s a wealth of research underway to discover the relationship between physical activity and depression. So far, multiple studies have shown that exercise is a useful tool to combat the mood disorder. Exercise works because, as stated in this Women’s Running report, “Activating your body also activates your mind; our emotions and behaviors have a reciprocal relationship.” In other words, what we do can affect how we feel. Knowing that, it’s only natural for scientists (and the public) to wonder—what’s an effective “dose” of exercise?

Just last month, researchers published a meta-analysis in JAMA Psychology that concluded it really doesn’t take very much. Adults who got moving at the recommended amount of 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week, or roughly one 21-minute walk each day, were found to have a 25 percent lower risk of depression. Though lower for people who exercised less, the analysis found that walking even half the recommended amount reduced the risk of depression by 18 percent. That’s good news for people whose depression makes just getting out of bed a struggle. The best part, though, is this: Findings were consistent over time, as researchers found out when they followed up with participants three years later.

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.


In other news…

Breaking the cycle of ntergenerational trauma: In this 4:46 minute listen, WAMU-85 reports on a new study from University of Maryland’s School of Public Health that found “The passing of trauma between generations is not inevitable. It is absolutely preventable.”

Kids and teens today have never lived in a world without easy access to screen time and social media, but some may be ready for a self-imposed tech break. In an MSN piece covering the evolving relationship between her own children, their screens, and a willful disconnect during the pandemic, Kaity Velez spoke to licensed professional counselor Yolanda Renteria. “The ages between 5 years old and 21 years of age are key in a person’s development where they explore their identity, and social media is a place where kids and teens are constantly consuming information about who they think they should be,” Renteria said. “Taking a break from social media can allow kids and teens to explore their natural abilities and interests without being overly worried about fitting in or doing things ‘right.'”

Time without screens is important (Rawpixel/Shutterstock)

ZDNet reports that an investigation from Mozilla that focused on 32 mental health and prayer apps has concluded they failed “spectacularly” around user security and privacy. The site’s latest *Privacy Not Included guide says that of the 32 sites examined, 25 fail to meet Mozilla’s minimum security standards. The biggest issues, according to Mozilla’s investigators, were routine sharing of user data, allowing weak passwords, such as “1111,” targeting vulnerable users with personalized ads, and poorly written privacy policies. Talkspace, listed as one of the worst culprits, had this to say in response: “Mozilla’s report lacks context from Talkspace and contains major inaccuracies… We have one of the most comprehensive privacy policies in the industry, and it is misleading to assert we collect user data or chat transcripts for anything other than the provision of treatment.”


In the US, if you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

‘Corporal Punishment is Violence’: Black Communities Vow to Ban School Paddling

Corporal punishment is disproportionately inflicted on Black children and is higher in areas with histories of lynching.

Young Advocates Take the Lead to Curb Campus Suicide

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death on college campuses. Peer support, trainings and suicide prevention aim to reverse this trend.

Crying on the Subway: A Journalist Explores Her Trauma History

Journalist Stephanie Foo thought she had conquered her demons from an abusive childhood. So why was she crying every day on the subway?

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Courtney Wise

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