July 19, 2022
By Courtney Wise
Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s edition, we look at magic mushroom therapy without the, well, magic. A spate of suicides among the Chicago police department spurs a call to do more for officers’ mental health. How to protect your privacy if you’re using mental health apps. Plus, another reason to set boundaries.
Psychedelic therapy without the trip?
Use of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in so-called “magic” mushrooms, has been shown in clinical research to ease and in some cases virtually eliminate depression, anxiety and PTSD, even in people who haven’t responded to other medications. Now, scientists are searching for a way to harness the benefits of psilocybin – by producing molecules based on psychedelics that don’t induce a trip (that is, a hallucinogenic experience).
“There’s no definitive data for either you need a psychedelic experience or you don’t need a psychedelic experience,” Bryan Roth, a pharmacology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, told the New York Times. “One can interpret the data either way, I think. What I say is, I would like to find out. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Doing so could vastly expand the number of people who could use a non-hallucinogenic drug based on a psychedelic and extend its use to people with schizophrenia, for whom a trip could trigger psychosis and who, as a result, are ineligible for psilocybin in its current form. It might also protect people from abuse by clinicians while in a hallucinogenic state, a risk that’s gaining increasing attention. The ultimate goal, said David Olson, an associate professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine at UC-Davis, is to create a drug that alters the brain positively, in a long-lasting way – in effect, a mental health cure.
Chicago Police Department urged to do more to protect officers’ mental health
The Chicago Police Department is grappling with a spate of officer suicides, including three this month – and the department’s former wellness adviser says the city needs to step up. Alexa James, the chief executive of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, resigned her role as adviser last year, alarmed at the lack of support by the city for officers’ mental health. The understaffed department is canceling officers’ days off so often that they “feel like a number,” James told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I think what’s happening is inhumane,” she said. James believes the city needs to enact a “comprehensive strategy” to allow officers at risk more guidance and support through counseling, in addition to paid time off from the job. “They really see these horrific, triggering events all the time,” she said. “With no opportunity to kind of debrief unless you’re forced to, it can become increasingly likely that you develop stress disorders, depression [and] anxiety.”
Last month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfood pushed back against the notion that canceled days off means officers are “‘being worked like mules’ — it’s just simply not correct.” But after the recent suicides, she tweeted: “Please know that we hear you & are working tirelessly to ease the mental & physical burden of our police officers.”
Use mental health apps? Here’s how to protect your private data
With online therapy exploding, millions of people are using mental health apps in a quest to ease their mental distress. As with every digital platform, users should know that engaging them puts their private data at potential risk. So, how can people protect their information from being scraped up and exploited? NPR has some tips:
1) Limit the app’s ability to track you in your phone’s privacy settings. Computer scientist Arvind Narayanan says it’s important to pay attention to the screens that pop up during this process. “Don’t simply tap the default option. When you try to restrict tracking, many apps will try to convince you that you’re missing out. These are generally misleading or deceptive claims.”
2) Always opt out of personalized ads and cross-app tracking. To turn off ads personalization in your Google account, click here. Turn off personalized ads on Apple devices, Androids, Facebook and Twitter by following these steps.
3) Don’t connect apps to any social media accounts or third-party tools, and do not authorize them to use or disclose your medical information. If you’ve done so already, you can revoke access in some apps by contacting customer service.
In other news…
Setting boundaries can help protect your energy and lead to improved mental health. Author and licensed therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab shared lots more on this episode of NPR’s Life Kit podcast. It’s a 19-minute listen.
WLUC-Marquette reports that Yoopers, or people who live in Michigan’s upper peninsula, are “less happy” than other people in the state, because of the lack of mental health resources in their largely rural community.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. 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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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.