August 3, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In today’s edition, comedian John Oliver sounds off on the national mental health crisis. A survey finds overwhelming support for mental health workers – rather than police – being the prime responders to mental health emergencies. Also: How rage can ruin your relationships, more evidence that early childhood intervention works, and why Beyoncé’s Church Girls track offers some real redemption. Enjoy!

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight takes on the national mental health crisis

Earlier this week, comedian John Oliver tackled “cracks in our broken mental health care system” in a biting segment on his weekly HBO program, With input from experts from The Kennedy Forum, an organization devoted to mental health equity, the segment highlighted the precarious nature of mental health insurance coverage following the recent reversal of a 2019 decision on mental health parity in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Oliver called the U.S. mental health care system “so dysfunctional it seems almost designed to prevent patients from accessing it.” He went on to explain that mental health parity in insurance coverage – that is, requiring insurers to cover mental health care at the same level as physical health care – was mandated by federal law. But that’s not how things have worked in practice.

Three years ago, the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled that health care giant United Behavioral Health wrongly rejected accepted clinical care standards for mental health and addiction, putting profits over people’s needs and leaving some 67,000 claims to be paid by patients out of their own pockets. The district court ruled that the claims had to be reprocessed, but a three-judge appellate panel disagreed and reversed the decisions. If the appellate panel’s decision stands, advocates fear it will set a dangerous precedent for the insurance industry at a time when mental illness and addiction are on the rise.

“If we want to be a society that truly respects and values mental health,” Oliver said, “we have to respect and value mental health care.”

Survey: Voters support counselors, not cops, responding to mental health crises

Voters overwhelmingly support sending mental health experts rather than police officers for most crisis calls related to mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness. Those are the findings from a national survey of roughly 1300 voters conducted by Safer Cities Research. Support for the mobile crisis teams is strong across party lines, with a majority Republicans and Democrats preferring a non-police response. MindSite News has the full story here.

How to keep rage from sinking your relationships

Credit: Twitter

There’s a difference between anger and rage. “Anger can be a healthy emotion. It is a signal to us that something is not right,” says clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg. But it’s risky to store up that anger. In a column for Psychology Today, she writes that pent-up anger can evolve into rage, which can destroy relationships. “Unloading on other people can leave them feeling hurt, betrayed and surprised,” she says, and it can erode trust. They may even decide to retaliate, distance themselves or cut you off entirely.

Greenberg, who serves as an editorial advisory board member for MindSite News, offers several tips for navigating feelings of anger before they become overwhelming. Among them: Use a journal to write about your feelings of anger, and begin a conversation about anger gingerly, letting whoever you’re speaking to know that you value the relationship. Check in during tough conversations to see how your listener is dealing with your anger and whether they understand it. Finally, trust that your relationships may improve thanks to your honesty.

Early childhood intervention shows positive effects even in adulthood

Credit: Duke University

A 2022 follow up study out of Duke University examined the Fast Track Project, an early 2000s childhood intervention program aimed at reducing aggressive behavior in children and criminal arrests in young adulthood. The good news: It found that the program provided lasting and positive residual effects. According to Medical Xpress, researchers discovered that girls who participated in Fast Track in grades 1 through 10 showed mental health improvements that extended to their family environments 18 years later. 

Fast Track intervention focused on reducing household food insecurity, the use of corporal punishment, mothers’ challenges with depression, and substance use. In the follow-up study, researchers sought to learn if girls who benefitted from the program as children were also more emotionally aware and connected as mothers. The findings were positive, with implications for policymakers hoping to address the current crisis in youth mental health.

“This research demonstrates that the early intervention doesn’t just benefit the children receiving the services,” said W. Andrew Rothenberg, a Duke University researcher and lead author on the study. “It also improves the family environments those children form as adults, benefiting their own children. In other words, it looks like the effects of early intervention can ripple across generations.”

In other news…

In an op-ed for Religion News, public theologian Candice Marie Benbow praises the song “Church Girl” from singer Beyoncé’s latest album Renaissance. In this track, Beyoncé has “invited church girls to celebrate their freedom” from religious judgment and restriction to truly embrace themselves. 

In an effort to combat “harmful body expectations,” the UK’s Health and Social Care Committee wants the government to legislate body image warnings on all retouched photos. It also wants to regulate ads for cosmetic services on social media and require that people booking cosmetic procedures have their medical and mental health histories assessed, the BBC reports.

Hot dog and ice cream lovers, close your eyes. CNN reports that too much indulgence in the ultra-processed delights is associated with mental decline and even dementia.

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.