January 12, 2022

Good morning, MindSite Daily News Readers! In today’s newsletter: A new film incubator that’s training students how to make stigma-free films about mental health. Black-owned hospice agencies are raising awareness about comfort care at the end of life. Plus: A mom-and-son team spoons out barbecue sauce along with open talk about mental health. 

Black-owned hospice agencies are spreading the word on end-of-life comfort care

Photo: Shutterstock

When Mary Murphy first heard about hospice while caring for her mother with dementia, she had an aversion to the idea, feeling as though using hospice meant she was giving up on her mother, reported Kaiser Health News. Murphy, who is African American, eventually received help through Heart & Soul, a Black-owned hospice agency in Nashville that is working to alter racial disparities in the use of hospice care: In 2019, 54% of white people on Medicare used hospice before they died, compared to only 41% of Black people.  

Murphy turned to Heart & Soul again to help her care for her husband, who died in November. The agency helps with bathing and provides medication, medical equipment and emotional support. She recalls that when her mother died, the hospice nurse came by as soon as she heard the news. “Wasn’t no doctor going to come here, hold my hand, stay here until the funeral home came for her,” she said. The same nurse came by when her husband died. “If you don’t feel like, ‘Oh my God, thank God I have hospice,’ if you can’t say that, then we’re doing something wrong,” said Keisha Mason, Heart and Soul’s director of nursing.

New Northwestern University film lab to tackle mental health stigma

Northwestern University students with film aspirations and an interest in mental health will now have a way to put those passions into action at a newly launched film incubator in the School of Communications, according to an article in Psychiatric Times. “Mass media has long perpetuated a profoundly negative stigma related to mental health,” said filmmaker and program director David Tolchinsky. “Through one-dimensional viewpoints, inaccurate portrayals, and depictions centered on fear and shame, the media has reinforced discriminatory behavior toward people experiencing mental health issues.” To combat that stigma, the program offers grants to support the development of screenplays and films that cut across genres including drama, comedy and horror. The lab will also host lectures from psychologists, screenwriters, anthropologists and social scientists and encourage filmmakers “to entertain while also promoting empathy, understanding and acceptance.” It is supported by a $1 million grant from the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation.

Instead of trying to escape from stress, Jon Kabat-Zinn says pay attention

Image: Shutterstock

In these times of pandemic stress, it’s tempting to escape by binging a Netflix series or scrolling on our iPhone. But to Jon Kabat- Zinn, who developed mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) some 40 years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the answer is to pay attention. Such awareness is foundational to meditation, a form of mindfulness, he explains in an interview with National Public Radio reporter Shereen Marisol Meraji. But it doesn’t mean that you have to block out any other thoughts and make your mind blank. “Let me just say that that is such a crock,” says Kabat-Zinn, in one of our favorite quotes. Instead, he suggests, “just experience a few breaths, one by one, moment by moment, just surfing or riding on the wave of your own breathing. Of course, there’s all sorts of other things going on in your universe, sounds and thoughts and emotions and whatever is going on in your environment. And we’re not trying to shut any of that out.” The more present we are, he says, “the more we are there for our family, for our friends and for our colleagues and for the world itself.”

Former Alabama Senator Doug Jones champions children’s mental health

As mental health struggles grow among children, the exorbitant cost of seeing a therapist – and the shortage of therapists for kids – are major barriers to care, writes former Alabama Senator Doug Jones in a USA Today commentary. Jones is now working with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Inseparable, a coalition working for mental health policy change. Jones’s prescription: student loan forgiveness for budding mental health providers and expanded access to telehealth services to families in the federal Medicaid program. He also calls for increased funding for community-based mental health and substance use programs and expanding crisis response services. “Stop criminalizing mental health issues,” he says. “This is not a partisan plea. Our children’s mental well-being is unrelated to their parents’ political affiliations, but it is inextricably tied to our nation’s future well-being.”


In other news:

Can hot-sauce ease depression? Floena Spencer kept her Covid-era depression to herself, even after painful surgeries made her feel more isolated. But when she learned that her son, Shawn Woods, was also depressed, she jumped into action, Nashville’s WTVF reports. The mother-and-son team, who hail from the small town of Franklin, Kentucky, developed their own barbecue sauce and used it as a way to talk openly with others about mental health struggles. “A closed mouth does not get fed,” Spencer said. “If you’re feeling down, tell somebody.”

Learn how aging happens on a cellular level from a website written by scientists called The Conversation (“academic rigor, journalistic flair”). In this story, the authors report that exercising and doing things you enjoy, from listening to music to playing computer games, can increase stress resilience (associated with longer telomeres) and possibly add years to your life.

Attendance at a Yale University course on how to be happier, offered online, surged during the pandemic, the Hill reports, and has been attended by 3.7 million people and counting. “You might think more money, a better job, or Instagram-worthy vacations would make you happy. You’re dead wrong,” says the instructor, Psychology Professor Laurie Santos. Find out what will.

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.

Eco-Anxiety: The Real Tsunami of Climate Change

Kiersten Little is among the 40% percent of young people around the globe so distressed about climate change, they hesitate to have kids.

Replicating research and the mental health impact of evictions

Only a small fraction of the findings in cancer biology can be reproduced. What about mental health?

Cavetown’s ‘Boys Will Be Bugs’: Rx for Teen Boys’ Mental Health

The 2018 sleeper hit is the most important song about teen boys that most adults have never heard of.

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Laurie Udesky

Laurie Udesky reports on mental health, social welfare, health equity and public policy issues from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.