Good Morning, MindSite News readers! Today we’re thrilled to announce the launch of the MindSite News Review of Books, a new addition to our arts and culture coverage.

In the new section, you’ll find reviews of The Distance Cure, which documents how remote therapy can both democratize mental health counseling and make it more affordable; Morningside Heights, a powerful novel set in New York City about a marriage tested by early-onset Alzheimer’s; and Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness, a meticulous and evocative investigation of the source of Western prejudice against the mentally ill – a scourge that has caused untold humiliation and suffering. 

In addition, we interview award-winning historian Jonathan Sadowsky about his book The Empire of Depression, which analyzes the remarkable history of depression treatments through the ages.

In today’s newsletter you’ll also find out how colleges are moving towards crisis prevention as they struggle to recruit new mental health counselors. You’ll also read about Black joy as a form of resistance. Plus, Viet Thanh Nguyen – author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Sympathizer – weighs in about kids, reading, discomfort, empathy and book banning. Onward!

Colleges are competing with hospitals to recruit therapists

Photo: Shutterstock

In September 2020, University of California at Davis student Ryan Manriquez was able to get a same-day appointment with a therapist. Today UC Davis  students wait up to a month to be able for therapy appointments, according to a California Healthline story. UC Davis, which is trying to add 10 more counselors to its existing workforce of 34, is in competition with eight other universities in the UC system, 23 California State Universities and an untold number of health facilities. Even when universities are able to increase their mental health staff, as USC did over the last few years, more students are showing up feeling suicidal or unable to function, Dr. Sarah Van Orman, the university’s chief medical officer for student health told Healthline. For staff members, she said, “This is like working in a psychiatric ER.” 

Colleges and universities are trying to fill the gaps through better prevention. UC Davis embeds counselors in student groups, including its Cross-Cultural Center and LGBTQIA Resource Center. Stanford offers 24/7 peer counseling, and many college campuses are considering offering remote counseling, which can serve as a way to retain counselors who might prefer working at home. 

In new book, Black joy is an act of empowerment and resistance 

Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, collective anguish gave rise to racial justice protests, but less visible were moments during or between protests where protestors bonded together in displays of camaraderie and love. That’s a glimpse from Tracey Michae’L Lewis-Giggett’s new book, “Black Joy: Stories of Resistance, Resilience and Restoration,” discussed in an article in USA Today. During such moments in Black Lives Matter gatherings, protestors sang and danced, became engaged and even got married. Lewis-Giggett points out that the inclination to move, to sing, to dance is also rooted in the church, and was a traditional way of working trauma out of the body, “The way the mothers of the church would sway to a beat provided by the shoes and wooden canes, it’s like they knew,”  Lewis-Giggetts writes. “They didn’t have the fancy language, the academic jargon for it. They didn’t do any research on somatic experiencing and how moving the body in certain ways can help alter how trauma functions in the body or move it out entirely. They just had the song, and the meditation.”

Suicidal thoughts rampant among prisoners and staff in Vermont prison

A survey at a prison in Vermont shows that staff and inmates alike are suffering from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems, according to an AP story. The study, conducted by the University of Vermont, surveyed staff and inmates at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield and found that about half the prison’s staff members developed anxiety, 39% reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS), and 46% developed depression since they began their careers – and over the last year 10% were seriously considering suicide. Reports from prisoners were even worse: About 70% of inmates at the prison reported anxiety, 65% had developed depression, 55% had PTSD, and 36% had considered suicide in the last year. Department of Corrections Commissioner Nicholas Deml called the report “disturbing” and “concerning,” noting that state officials now had a better idea of the problem and how to tackle it. The survey was developed by the Prison Research and Innovation Initiative and Network, a consortium that includes Vermont, Colorado, Missouri, Delaware, and Iowa and works to promote transparency, innovation and accountability in prisons. 

Counseling support for songwriters feeling more than just the blues

Sony Music Publishing is launching a hotline available 24/7 for its musicians and composers who are plagued by anxiety or depression, according to an article on It will also offer ongoing counseling as part of the new program known as the Songwriters Assistance program. “The importance of wellness cannot be overstated,” said Sony Music Publishing CEO Jon Platt. “And with Songwriter Assistance, we look forward to offering a whole new level of care and support.” The program builds on another program, “The Soundtrack of Mental Health,” that Sony  began a year ago in partnership with an organization called Silence the Shame. That program offers workshops such as how to cope with stress and manage anxiety.

In other news:

UK barbers and mental health: After losing a friend to suicide, barbar Tom Chapman founded a charity called the Lions Barber Collective to develop a curriculum to offer suicide prevention training in college barbering and hairdressing courses, according to an article in Milton Keynes College and South Devon College are the first to participate. “The relationship between such professionals and their customers can be a very intimate one, and people will sometimes open up about their struggles when sitting in a barber’s chair in ways they otherwise wouldn’t,” said Milton Keynes College executive Maria Bowness.

The price of censorship: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen recalls his intense discomfort reading the book Close Encounters by Larry Heinemann as a teenager, which included in its pages racial slurs, sexual assault and rape, he writes in The New York Times. Rereading it as an adult, he understood that the writer, himself a combat veteran, was actually condemning what war and racism did to Americans fighting in Vietnam. Even though he hated the writer and the book as a teen, he recalled, “I didn’t complain to the library or petition the librarians to take the book off the shelves. Nor did my parents. It didn’t cross my mind that we should ban Close Quarters or any of the many other books, movies and TV shows in which racist and sexist depictions of Vietnamese and other Asian people appear.”

With an uptick in hotline calls for mental distress among young Canadians, health experts are calling for standardization of tools to diagnose mental illness as well as streamlining how data is collected according to “If you don’t have any standards, you won’t be able to evaluate if you’ve improved the health-care system of those people who are suffering from a mental illness,” said Paul-Émile Cloutier, president of HealthCareCAN.

Please check out all of our stories at And did we mention you should share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues? Thanks for reading.

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