May 24, 2022

Good morning MindSite News readers. In today’s newsletter, we look at a man who’s been there, done that – a suicide prevention specialist in Wyoming. We also learn that daydreaming can be troublesome and that a bit of adventure and outdoor risk is good for kids’ self-confidence. Plus, choosing a counselor and dancing for mental health.

Using talk to save lives, one Wyoming cowboy at a time

Image: Shutterstock

If you’re looking for the poster child of rugged, idealized masculinity, it might just be the Wyoming cowboy. Trouble is achieving that image often means suffocating emotions that aren’t angry or “tough” – and struggling with the mental anguish that develops as a result. Bill Hawley should know. He’s been there, a suicide survivor who now works to help other men in America’s “Suicide Belt.” 

As prevention specialist for the public health department in Johnson County, Wyoming, Hawley’s mission is to connect people who struggle with substance abuse and suicidal impulses to the stateʼs limited social service programs. But his real mission is to help his peers reimagine All-American manhood, he told Jose A. Del Real, the writer of a Washington Post profile.

White men made up 70 percent of those who died by suicide in the U.S. in 2020, despite their centuries-long hold on positions of power and stature. So what about white American masculinity has to change to prevent more suicides? “The cowboy-up mentality is part of why you donʼt say something,” said one of Hawley’s clients, Jerry Dean Osborn. “You can have a story, but it doesnʼt mean anything if you donʼt burp it out.” Hawley’s radical tool for intervention is judgment-free, transparent conversation. “Talk saves lives,” he said. It saved his.

What is “maladaptive daydreaming” and does it belong in the DSM?

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Back in 1999, Gary Hardwick wrote Trippin’, a screenplay about Greg, a graduating high school senior whose daydreams were so frequent and vivid, they’d transport him from the reality he shared with everyone else to the detriment of his chores, social life, and studies. The character’s daydreaming never stops, but he gets just enough of a handle on it to keep his life under control. At that time, the film seemed to be just another feel-good comedy about a teen’s final passage from adolescence into young adulthood. But maybe Greg (or perhaps Hardwick) had a condition called maladaptive daydreaming. 

People with maladaptive daydreaming (MD) experience such intense, regular daydreams they get distracted from the actual people and responsibilities in front of them, sometimes for hours. It’s a real thing – though it’s not officially defined as a mental disorder in the DSM-5. Some clinicians think it should be because it often is misdiagnosed as ADHD. Israeli clinical psychologist Nirit Soffer-Dudek, lead author of a new study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, says MD differs from ADHD. Her study looked at the symptoms of 83 people diagnosed with ADHD and found that 20% of them might more accurately be diagnosed with MD. “ADHD-like symptoms can result from MD, but they are not one and the same,” she told Inverse. 

Adding MD to the diagnostic manual would enable clinicians to better address the needs of people who have been dismissed by clinicians in the past, Soffer-Dudek says. Others disagree. Adding it to the DSM would “apply the medical disease model to elements of the human experience,” a British psychologist told CNN.

Outdoor adventure is good for kids’ mental health

Image: Shutterstock

Kids should climb trees, ride their bikes with no hands, and jump off of big rocks – and parents should let them, according to a story in Neuroscience News. It’s good for them, especially the adventurous romps away from adults, because it lets kids work through their fears and build resilience and self-confidence. The story cites a new study in Child Psychiatry & Human Development, which found that children who played outside more had fewer “internalizing problems” like anxiety and depression and faced the first COVID lockdown with greater positivity. 

“Play is free, instinctive and rewarding for children, available to everyone, and doesn’t require special skills,” said Helen Dodd, a professor of child psychology at the University of Exeter. “We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural spaces, well-designed parks and adventure playgrounds, to support the mental health of our children.”

How to choose a therapist

The pandemic has increased stress and given more people license to talk about their depression and anxiety. It also has left more people wanting professional help. But navigating the world of therapists, counselors and psychiatrists can be overwhelming. CBS News has some tips.

Familiarize yourself with the different kinds of therapy providers. Generally speaking, only psychiatrists can write prescriptions, so patients who need medication may have both a counselor and psychiatrist support their treatment.

Check with your insurance company about coverage and costs before your first session. The insurer can guide you to its directory of in-network providers, potentially making treatment more affordable. Also, don’t be afraid to browse the internet for provider options. Online directories at sites like Psychology Today, Therapy for Black Girls, and the National Board of Certified Counselors can help you narrow your options.

Set goals for your time in therapy. If you deal with anxiety, for example, it may help to identify what changes you want to see in your symptoms as a result of your sessions. Finally, trust that it’s okay to change counselors if the first one you encounter isn’t a good fit.

In other news…

Dance like nobody’s watching and improve your mental health. According to the 28-second note from Monday’s Morning Edition on NPR, dancing has been shown to relieve anxiety, improve your mood, and ease chronic pain. Now dance therapy is being used to treat conditions including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

First-aid for mental health: CBS Chicago is shining a light on a new program taking root across the country to help adults identify and support people in mental distress. The Mental Health First Aid Kit gives participants concrete steps to take when they notice concerning changes in the behavior or conversation of friends and loved ones.

The American Psychiatric Association held its annual meeting in New Orleans this past weekend. In a video interview with HCPLive, psychiatrist Jonathan Alpert discussed some of the changes in the latest edition of the DSM-5.

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...