February 7, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In this edition, musician Machine Gun Kelly discusses his intense discomfort at music awards shows and his journey to love himself whether he wins or loses. Psychiatrists discuss how U.S. Representative George Santos has raised awareness of pathological lying as a mental disorder. And a pill for postpartum depression is currently under development.

Also in this edition: Research shows that the toxic stress from poverty and racism may alter Black children’s brains. Certain rehab centers are now treating crypto addiction. And if you missed our article about Pets Rx in the parenting newsletter, check it out: Studies show that having a furry companion is good for children’s mental health – and that of adults as well.

Machine Gun Kelly and Laverne Cox put mental health on the Grammy red carpet

Mental health stole the spotlight at the Grammys’ red carpet Sunday evening. In an interview posted to Twitter ny E! News, actress Laverne Cox talked with Grammy nominee Machine Gun Kelly, who admitted that he’s “always pretty uncomfortable” at awards shows. He also mentioned that his fiancée had told him to give her a look if he felt “too vulnerable” and needed her to offer special support, It was a moment of transparency that opened up a rare opportunity for two stars to talk honestly about the struggle to feel self-love without external validation. 

Kelly lost the best rock album category to industry veteran Ozzy Osbourne “Ultimately, I’m really happy to be in the company of such great musicians,” he said. “I didn’t take the category home, and I almost feel like I asked for that lesson. I felt like I lacked self-love and was valuing myself so much on career accomplishments that I needed this…Once that self-love happens for me, things like the awards and all that will come.”

Cox echoed his sentiments, agreeing that “there’s nothing outside of us that can make us love ourselves more, it has to come from inside.” It was a bright moment in Kelly’s mental health journey; the musician has spoken publicly about his struggles with PTSD, substance use, depression, and suicidal thinking. It’s taken some work to get to where he is now, more focused on appreciating what he already has. “I feel more at peace now than I think I ever have in my life,” he told Cox. “I had a car ride on the way here to contemplate and just experience gratitude.”

US Rep. George Santos: Raising awareness about pathological lying

via Twitter

Timothy Levine, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wrote a book about deception in 2016. However, it wasn’t until this year that reporters have regularly sought him out. The new interest in his book Duped, he told CNN, is newly minted US Rep. George Santos (R-NY). Since Santos’ election to Congress, media investigations have shown nearly every aspect of his background he shared with voters is untrue, including where he went to high school, where he went to college, where he worked, what sports team he played for, and even his ethnicity. In one of the more famous examples, Santos, who was born in Brazil, says he never claimed to be Jewish during his campaign (he did), but rather “Jew-ish.” 

Santos has also been accused of theft and swindling, another realm altogether. But his web of lies have sparked new interest in the subject of pathological lying. Although psychiatrists have identified it as a mental condition since the 1800s, it’s never had its own individual listing in the DSM. Santos’ high profile, however, may help to change that. Drew Curtis, a researcher studying pathological lying at Angelo State University, is gathering evidence to submit the condition to the American Psychiatric Association for consideration as a new diagnosis. “It’s the clinical category of people who tell excessive amounts of lies that impairs their functioning, causes distress, and poses some risk to themselves or others,” Curtis said.

A pill for postpartum depression is under development

After the birth of each of her daughters, Stephanie Hathaway was assaulted by agonizing bouts of postpartum depression. Both bouts were horrible, as she battled intrusive suicidal thoughts, she told the Boston Globe, but the second round was unrelenting. Despite taking an antidepressant that worked previously, a hospital stay, and intensive outpatient therapy, she couldn’t escape the notion that “my husband deserves a better wife, my children deserve a better mom, and the world would be better off without me.” 

Exhausted by the mental torment, Hathaway volunteered for a clinical trial of an experimental treatment, Zulresso, from Sage Therapeutics, available only via intravenous drip over 60 hours. The drug took near immediate effect. Eight hours into the infusion, she began to imagine what to cook for her family’s dinner rather than suicide. “I called my husband, and I’ll never forget what he said,” Hathaway rrecalled. “He said, ‘Stephanie, I have not heard the ;you’ in your voice in so long.’

Though Zulresso was approved by the FDA to treat postpartum depression in 2019, it didn’t sell. Zulresso can have serious side effects, such as excessive sedation and sudden loss of consciousness; alcohol should be avoided entirely while taking it. Few hospitals offered the $34,000, 2.5 day infusion for patients, with Sage CEO Barry Greene saying only hundreds rather than thousands of moms were helped. He’s hoping that things will change since Sage researchers believe they’ve found a way to imbue a pill with the same level of effectiveness. Zuranolone is the name of the potential medicine, which would be taken once a day for two weeks. It’s expected to receive regulatory approval sometime in 2023.

Psychiatrists interviewed by the Globe say they welcome the new research focus on postpartum depression. The speed with which the Sage medication works is especially promising, added UMass psychiatrist Nancy Byatt. Although traditional therapy and antidepressants are often recommended, getting an appointment with a qualified therapist can be hard. And SSRIs, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, can take weeks or months to work.

In other news…

via Twitter

The stress of poverty and racism may alter the brains of Black children, researchers say. Those are the findings from a study published last week in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Using data collected by the National Institutes of Health in 2019, Harvard University researchers examined MRIs of 7,350 White and 1,786 Black children aged 9 and 10. They found that as a result of ‘toxic stress,’ Black children had less gray matter in their brains. Toxic stress is defined as “prolonged exposure to adverse experiences” leading the body to pump out an excess of stress hormones that “disrupt the immune and metabolic regulatory systems.” 

Nathaniel Harnett, lead author of the study, told CNN he began planning a cognitive development study to extinguish “this kind of folk belief that Black and White people have categorically different brains.” He and his team have since learned “that what’s really driving any differences are the sort of disproportionate burden of life experiences that people have.”

The BBC reports that luxury rehab centers have expanded services to treat crypto addiction. Trading digital currency is a lot like gambling, experts say, and the signs of addiction are also similar. Unfortunately, it’s less common for struggling crypto traders to seek help, said Jan Gerber, chief executive at Paracelsus Recovery, a Zurich-based rehab. “Crypto trading has an air of being legitimate, whilst gambling is more talked about as being potentially problematic,” Gerber said. In addition, where crypto trading is still primarily unregulated.

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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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...