April 21, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s newsletter, we share a cautionary tale: If an employee declines a birthday party, better honor that. Another story looks at a push by Detroit high school students to get state legislators to provide more funding for school counselors. Plus, what does it really mean to be diagnosed with ADHD?

Like a bad episode of The Office

No means no. Even for birthday parties at work. That’s a lesson a Kentucky company learned the hard way. Gravity Diagnostics employee Kevin Berling, who has an anxiety disorder and sees birthdays as a source of stress, asked the office party planner not to plan anything for his birthday, but she forgot. The unexpected birthday party triggered a panic attack in Berling. Worse, when he returned to the office the next day, he was chastised for “stealing his coworkers’ joy,” which triggered another panic attack and led to his firing.

The other employees interpreted the panic attack as rage, his attorney Tony Bucker told Link NKY: “They made assumptions that he was dangerous based off of his disability and not off of any evidence he was violent.” A trial jury agreed and awarded Berling $300,000 for emotional stress, $120,000 for back wages and benefits, and $30,000 for front pay. The company has since challenged the decision.

Michigan students rally for more school counselors 

A group of Detroit high school students have organized to tell the Republican-led Michigan state legislature to double the amount of funds approved for in-school mental health resources. 482 Youth Organizing Collective, an outgrowth of 482Forward, a parent-led Detroit-based education advocacy group, is calling for $300 million to be set aside for school counselors next school year. Among other reasons, roughly 400 of Michigan’s 900 K-12 schools lack a full-time counselor. 

“When a student needs a counselor or mental health support and one is not available, then our state government has failed that student,” student organizer Emily Gonzalez told Michigan Advance. “Our state was given billions of dollars to help us recover from the pandemic. After three school years with masks, virtual classes and the normal demands of growing up, it’s time to invest in our long-term mental health.”

When ADHD isn’t considered a ‘deficit’

Not long ago, researchers believed that almost half of all children diagnosed with ADHD would enter remission or “grow out of it” by adulthood. But over time, our understanding of the condition has changed. “It’s neurodevelopmental,” said Amy Marschall, a clinical psychologist based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in an interview with Discover. “It’s a brain difference, so ‘outgrowing’ isn’t really the right word.” 

In Marschall’s view, ADHD is more noticeable in US children because they can’t select their environments. But in adulthood, as people self-select spaces more aligned with their needs, ADHD symptoms become harder to detect. Marschall says that in countries like Finland, where classrooms are more readily adapted to suit a student’s needs, there are lower rates of diagnosed ADHD – but not necessarily lower rates of the condition. “It’s not that their kids don’t have ADHD,” she said. “It’s that their ADHD is not a ‘deficit.’” 

In other news…

Hundreds of Canadian athletes are fed up with what they say is a national high-performance system obsessed with winning.

Image: Shutterstock

Active and retired athletes in gymnastics, bobsleigh, rugby, rowing, and artistic swimming are calling for changes in leadership and coaching to end an organizational culture that breeds harassment, criticism, and mental abuse. Sports psychiatrist Carla Edwards told the CBC: “I’ve had Olympic coaches say to me ‘mental health is bullshit. There’s nothing that you can tell me that’s going to change my mind.’ That’s permitted and it’s tolerated, and it comes from maybe the way they were coached or the environment that they were brought up in. It’s the old way of doing things.”

The LA Community College District is piloting a program aimed at giving 100 unhoused students a home, using $1.5 million in state funds earmarked for student needs. “In many ways, our students’ experiences are a microcosm of the challenges faced by millions of Californians, and that includes the issues of housing and homelessness,” Board President Gabriel Buelna said in a statement shared by the Los Angeles Times. Too many California students, he said, “have had their studies heavily impacted by the lack of a safe and quiet place to sleep and study.”

One woman’s view: The UK’s efforts to ease obesity may trigger disordered eating. In an op-ed for Yahoo News UK, mental health advocate Cara Lisette, who lives with anorexia, says new laws requiring restaurants to label their menus with the calorie content of each food could spark negative eating behaviors.

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.

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Type of work:

Courtney WiseReporter

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...