October 4, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. The Indianapolis Colts are “kicking the stigma” out of mental health conversations. Mindfulness may help the body deal with chronic pain. And the grieving parents of a hero who died by suicide several years after risking his life to aid gunshot victims in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre are looking for survivors he helped save.

NFL’s Indianapolis Colts are “kicking the stigma” out of mental health conversation 

Indianapolis Colts vs Oakland Raiders, 2019/ Jamie Lamor Thompson, Shutterstock

For the past two years, the Indianapolis Colts have positioned themselves as leaders in the National Football League around the issue of mental health. In 2020, they became the first team in the league to launch a mental health initiative, Kicking the Stigma, which seeks to make space for people to talk about their challenges with mental health. According to a story in The New York Times, their extra effort is in keeping with the team’s history. Four years before the players union and the league mandated in 2019 that every team have a behavioral health clinician on staff, the Colts employed a full-time counselor.

“A lot of people feel as if you have to be in crisis mode to be experiencing mental health” issues, said team vice chair Kalen Jackson. “But mental health is health. If you are alive, you are experiencing mental health.”

Aside from the Kicking the Stigma initiative, the Colts have also supported Indiana University with $3 million to establish a new research institute intended to further destigmatize mental illness and increase the number of professionals working in the mental health field. Players and staff alike are encouraged by the team’s commitment. “I just feel unbelievably blessed to be in an organization that understands the importance of people’s mental health and creating it and fostering a space, a family-oriented environment, to allow players to speak how they feel and make sure everyone is doing well,” said Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

In the aftermath of a son’s suicide, parents seek mass shooting survivors he helped save

via Twitter

On October 1, 2017, Scotty Pettersen was enjoying a vacation with his girlfriend in Las Vegas when the deadliest mass shooting in US history began. During the bloodbath that stole 58 lives, Pettersen’s crisis training as an EMT and firefighter kicked in, saving lives. “I grabbed gauze, grabbed bandages and started wrapping a guy up, and another guy came up who was shot in the back, and I started wrapping him,” USA Today wrote, pulling from an interview Pettersen gave to KIRO-TV in Seattle just a few days after the shooting. 

The need didn’t stop, he said, so neither did he. The 6’1, 200-pound Pettersen, marked with a distinctive tribal tattoo on his right arm, treated victim after victim inside an ambulance parked in front of the Mandalay Bay Hotel until he was covered “head to toe” in their blood and there were no more supplies. His girlfriend stayed with him nearby. 

Five years later, his parents are in search of any survivors Pettersen may have helped, hoping to find comfort in the aftermath of his death. Petterson died of suicide in January 2021. His parents, Scott and Michele, believe his mental struggle was connected to the mass shooting trauma and they urged him to seek help, but he never did. 

“We have to find all the good that Scotty brought to this world because it was such a traumatic and dark ending to his life and we’re left with that,” his mom, Michele, said. “If there was a life that he’s saved, what a bright spot.” Last month, she began an online search for anyone her son may have helped with an earnest post to a Facebook group started to connect survivors with those who may have saved their lives. So far, she hasn’t turned up anyone, but her search continues.

Can mindfulness help the body deal with chronic pain?

via Twitter

There’s plenty of evidence that chronic pain undermines health and may even contribute to job insecurity. Chronic pain also affects people’s mental health and ability to focus. Yet it wasn’t until 2018 that the World Health Organization gave chronic pain its own diagnostic code. “I always have described it as noise because on the days when that pain is intense, my ability to absorb other information, deal with multiple things at a time, it’s just gone,” said Joel Anderson, who has lived with chronic pain for 28 years, in an interview with Medical News Today’s In Conversation program. 

New research on the condition is aimed at understanding how the body registers pain, with theories suggesting that the brain determines how much pain is felt at the area of damage. Peripheral sensitization, as the phenomena is called, occurs when a person still feels pain or sensitivity in areas that have ostensibly been healed. “The brain is now seeing what is otherwise an innocuous event, generating a signal that looks as if, as we would say, hell has frozen over, bad news is coming up the pipe,” said anesthesiology and pharmacology researcher Tony Yaksh. 

Stress has been shown to increase feelings of chronic pain and decrease a person’s ability to manage it. But mindfulness exercises have been shown to affect the brain in a way that makes the pain easier to handle. Anderson was initially frustrated when he was told to use therapy as a way to manage pain. Now, after experiencing the results of mental health treatment, he’s amazed by the body and brain’s coworking relationship to pain. That insight, he says, “changed everything for me.”

In other news…

According to research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), baby boomers “have had a relatively higher suicide rate at any given age than earlier or subsequent birth cohorts.” Moreover, data shows that older adults are currently disproportionately dying of suicide. In an effort to save lives, SAMHSA published a blog on the warning signs of suicide, particularly in older adults, offering prevention strategies that may help stave off early death.

McKinsey & Company and the business of addiction: In 2017, McKinsey & Company, the global consulting behemoth, partnered with vaping company Juul Labs. However, they kept the consulting relationship secret, advising Juul on marketing strategies for just under two years, charging $15 to $17 million, according to the New York Times. It’s not the first time McKinsey & Company has worked closely with companies selling known addictive products. In a feat of investigative reporting, New York Times journalists Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe recently published a book, When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm, to reveal the story of McKinsey’s role in advising such companies—while also consulting for government regulators. 

Retired NFL player Domonique Foxworth spoke on his ESPN podcast with his wife, Ashley Foxworth, and his former teammate, D’Qwell Jackson, in an honest and thoughtful conversation about concussion awareness, his fears of developing CTE, and whether or not he is open to his 9-year-old son playing tackle football knowing the risks. 

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.

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Courtney Wise

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