March 23, 2022
Good morning, MindSite News readers. Today we’re sharing two new stories from the MindSite News website. One, from our friends at CalMatters, looks at California Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to put $4.4 billion into youth mental health. Another is a tribute to a pioneering therapist who helped create the field of infant mental health and trained generations of clinicians.
In news from around the web, we have odds and sods of stories from England – about the mental health epidemic among teenage girls, the link between the rise in people using food banks and needing mental health services, and a British psychologist warning about the ugly trend of labeling women with psychiatric disorders for expressing strong emotions. And that’s but a smidge of our offerings.
MINDSITE NEWS ORIGINALS
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has allocated $4.4 billion in one-time funds to create a statewide Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative. The “unprecedented” funding aims to create a sweeping transformation of the children’s mental health system. The bulk of the money has yet to be distributed, but efforts to develop a vision and work with stakeholders are underway. Republished from CalMatters. Keep reading.
Some cases that you encounter as a psychotherapist you never forget. In 1986, as a trainee at the Infant-Parent Program, I worked with a family that almost broke my heart. Fortunately, I had an excellent teacher and mentor: Jeree Pawl. Keep reading
NEWS FROM AROUND THE WEB
Teen girls in the UK face mental health struggles, just like their US peers
Adolescents across the pond are struggling with their mental health, much like their peers in the United States. A recent study from the National Health Service, England’s publicly funded health system, found that between 2017 and 2020, the number of children ages 5 to 16 identified as having a mental health disorder rose from one in six to one in nine, according to The New Statesman. Teen girls, in particular, are struggling; according to research from Manchester University, 22 percent of girls report emotional difficulties, compared with 7 percent of boys.
Girls are more likely to feel pressure to be “perfect,” in body and behavior — and spending time on unavoidable social media exacerbates their struggles with body image. “You need your phone constantly, for school stuff, for meeting up with friends,” one teen girl told the New Statesman. “So even if you are not wanting to be, you are always on your phone and seeing this stuff, always thinking about how you look.”
Experts encourage parents and guardians to help their teens regulate the use of social media and understand its limitations. Helping teens identify adults they can trust and speak to honestly about their feelings is also crucial. And once teens do open up, experts advise, “avoid either lecturing or fixing.” Start off instead by just listening and acknowledging their feelings.
Cornell adjusted the engineering credit load limit, in favor of mental health
In an effort to improve student mental health, Cornell University has lowered the number of credits engineering majors can take each semester from 23 to 20. The move follows a 2020 university-wide mental health review that recommended several other changes as well: grading on a curve, mandating meetings between students and advisers, and exploring pass-fail assessments. The shift is slated to being next semester.
In a statement to Inside Higher Ed reporting on the change, engineering deans Alan Zehnder and Miranda Swanson said that “setting academic credit limits is an effective strategy for decreasing student stress and anxiety in a manner that complements our emphasis on excellence.” It also comes at a time when universities and K-12 public schools across the nation are working to address rising levels of distress and anxiety among students.
Demands at food banks may point to need for mental health support
In an opinion column published earlier this week in the British Medical Journal, England-based social worker Tom Pollard linked the increased demand at food banks in London and Kent to an increasing need for mental health services. It tracks with the National Health Service’s previous warning of a “mental health pandemic” born from the widespread trauma inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After conducting interviews at independent food banks in London and Kent, Pollard wrote: “The inadequacy of people’s income was not only causing material hardship, but also meant that people were psychologically consumed by the task of trying to make ends meet. This left little space or energy for being able to plan for a better future or take practical steps towards achieving this. People spoke about a constant sense of pressure and struggle…Even those who did not describe themselves as having mental health problems were often showing signs of poor mental health – constant worry, struggling with sleep, possible physical manifestations of anxiety.”
‘Sexy But Psycho: How the Patriarchy Uses Women’s Trauma Against Them’
That’s the name of the new book by British psychologist Jessica Taylor. She argues that women are duped into believing they’re mentally ill simply for displaying normal emotions. In an essay for Stylist, Taylor laments what she calls an alarming trend – increased advertising for items and women’s apparel with labels like “cute but psycho,” “borderline,” or “my wife is psycho, but hot.” The merchandise intends to be lighthearted but reflects a larger problem in the culture of pathologizing women and girls by labeling them with unmerited psychiatric diagnoses.
The growing movement to destigmatize mental health, Taylor argues, is hindered when women are pathologized as abnormally emotional for expressing anger, sadness, or heartache. It’s an echo of horrific times in history when women who didn’t submit to men, asked “too many questions,” or dared to challenge authority were subjected to witch trials or confined to asylums and tortured for their “hysteria.”
To combat this alarming trend, Taylor says, she employs a trauma-informed approach that enables her to understand the circumstances affecting a woman before diagnosing her as mentally ill or disordered. “It’s a simple, humanistic approach. We don’t seek to medicate or sedate,” she writes. “We simply listen, work together and validate women and girls in their times of crisis and distress. In my 12 years of work in this field, I’ve never suggested that a single one of the women I treat is mentally ill, and yet I’ve had incredible success in supporting them through their traumas.”
In other news …
Andscape highlighted the photo stories of documentary photographer Stephanie Mei-Ling whose work centers “the other” and people of color. She describes herself as “a sociologist. I care about the structure of society and the ways people are treated. I care about justice and equal rights. These things are in my soul.” Her work “celebrates the bold and the beautiful on their quest for liberation,” the article says.
In an interview with Salon about her newest project, veteran Irish writer and actor Sharon Horgan discusses the adventures involved in exploring the connection between depression and possession in Shining Vale, a horror-comedy airing on Starz featuring Courteney Cox, Greg Kinnear, and Mira Sorvino.
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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The name “MindSite News” is used with the express permission of Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops in the field of mental health and wellbeing. MindSite News and Mindsight Institute are separate, unaffiliated entities that are aligned in making science accessible and promoting mental health globally.