July 14, 2022
By Courtney Wise
Hello, MindSite News readers. In today’s edition, researchers in a large British study find that the way mindfulness training is taught in schools is often too dull to be effective. Pioneering psychedelics researcher Ann Shulgin has died, board and care homes for the mentally ill are shrinking, and a federal health official defends gender-affirming care for trans youth. Plus, good books for overthinkers.
School mindfulness training often too boring to be effective, study finds
School mindfulness classes can help teens manage their emotions but don’t improve their wellbeing or mental health, according to a large British study, the Guardian reported. That’s because many students were bored by the classes and didn’t practice what they learned at home – and it’s regular practice, not just learning the concept, that makes the difference.
The new research, published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health, is based on a cluster of five studies conducted over eight years by 100 researchers looking at 28,000 teens and 650 teachers across 100 schools. The studies focused on teachers who were trained in mindfulness, and in turn, taught the practice to their students in 10 lessons. The training didn’t do more for the students than social-emotional learning programs were already doing, but it did help reduce burnout among the teachers. It also seemed to have a positive impact on school climate – at least for a while.
Findings suggested to some researchers that mindfulness courses could still be helpful, but input from teens is necessary. “While mindfulness sessions can be hugely beneficial, it’s important to understand that it isn’t a surface level intervention, and how children and teenagers respond to it will be affected by the context in which it’s being taught and the school environment,” Dan O’Hare of the British Psychological Society told The Guardian.
Pioneering psychedelics and mental health researcher Ann Shulgin is dead
Ann Shulgin, a pioneer of the use of psychedelics in mental health therapy, died late last week at age 91. Though not formally trained as a therapist, “she was always the one who people talk to and you always felt like you could open up to her. She called herself a lay therapist,” her daughter, Wendy Tucker, told the Associated Press. Shulgin conducted her work alongside her late husband, scientist Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who rediscovered MDMA in the 1970s. Together, the couple tested the effectiveness of the compound on themselves and a small group of friends in mental health treatment.
The couple opposed the recreational use of psychedelics, but thought they could be helpful in therapy. They eventually wrote two books to that effect, in 1991 and 1997, self-publishing the first one after publishers were hesitant to move forward. “They were the ones pushing to do all the PTSD work with veterans with MDMA because they saw people who had severe trauma could really break through. They were so brave to publish their work because that really opened the door and paved the way to all that is happening now,” Tucker said.
U.S. assistant health secretary defends gender-affirming care for trans youth
The data on transgender youth are stark, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel L. Levine wrote in an op-ed in the Miami Herald. She cited studies showing that more than 80% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and at least 40% have actually made an attempt. This isn’t because transgender people are inherently prone to mental illness, she notes, citing the American Psychiatric Association. Rather, she says, “these conditions are brought on by harassment, bullying and discrimination and made worse when supportive medical care is unavailable.”
Levine writes that numerous studies have shown that gender-affirming care is medically necessary, safe, and effective for trans youth and protective of their mental health. She also notes that a majority of Floridians – 54% according to a recent poll – say gender-affirming care should be accessible to minors if it is recommended by their doctors or supported by their parents.
“These facts shouldn’t be lost in the political rhetoric,” she writes, “and it shouldn’t be hard to translate this knowledge into more compassionate policies that protect, rather than undermine, youth mental health. All of us, especially those in positions of governmental responsibility, should work against intolerance until everyone living in America can live their life openly and freely.”
Levine, a pediatrician and former professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn College of Medicine, is the first transgender person ever confirmed to a position by the U.S. Senate.
In other news…
“I don’t want Gregory to be a statistic.” Courtney Pike, a nurse in Newfoundland, Canada, told the CBC she’s prepared to spend the rest of her life advocating to change the “intolerable” and inhumane conditions within Her Majesty’s Penitentiary where her brother died by suicide two days after being denied bail from prison to a rehabilitation program. “They’re offering people time off their sentences for intolerable conditions in the HMP, but yet my brother is passed away,” she said. “It don’t make sense.”
Board-and-care facilities for adults with mental illness are rapidly closing in LA County, with more to follow, unless significant change occurs in the bureaucracy keeping them funded and open. “These are the forgotten people. They don’t have anybody,” Mark Samuel, who owns and operates Sepulveda Residential in Van Nuys told the LA Times. “It breaks my heart knowing that if I end up closing, their community is going to be lost,” he said. Yet that’s just what he’ll do by 2025, unless there’s significant reform.
Are you pensive or a true overthinker? Whichever the case, Nada Alic, author of Bad Thoughts, shared a list of 9 good reads in Electric Lit about women “who can’t get out of their heads.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889. Services are free and available 24/7.
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