October 27, 2021

Study: More screen time and less “green time” equals unhappy teens

A recent exposé in the Wall Street Journal tied a greater risk of developing eating disorders and poor body image among teenage girls with their use of Facebook’s social media platform Instagram – and Facebook knew all about it, according to leaked company documents. Many studies have looked at the effect of social media on teenagers’ mental health, but it’s hard to pinpoint cause and effect. Now a new international study of more than 577,000 teenagers in 42 countries found worsening mental health in boys who spent more than 105 minutes and girls who spent more than 75 minutes glued to their devices, according to a piece in Greater Good Magazine. On the other hand, the study also found that teens who got more regular exercise had greater life satisfaction and fewer physical complaints – even if they also spent a lot of time on screens. Still, the study’s lead author said, the findings support guidelines by the American Pediatric Society to limit teen screen time to two hours a day.

Police and therapists on patrol together in Atlanta

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and other killings by police of Black and brown people, advocates began pushing to reduce police budgets and move the money to other uses, including efforts to use trained civilians to respond to mental health crises. In metro Atlanta, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports, several police departments have boosted their budgets in the past year. Lawrenceville and Gwinnett counties are trying a “co-responder model,” using the extra funds to send mental health specialists on patrol alongside police officers. The clinicians can link people with counseling, treatment and other assistance. At least 100 people have avoided jail time as a result of this partnership, Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis told the paper.

Seniors say age discrimination is alive and well in health care

Joanne Whitney, an 84-year-old retired associate clinical professor of pharmacy knows a thing or two about medications. Yet several years ago, when she told an emergency room doctor that the antibiotic he wanted to give her wouldn’t work for a urinary tract infection, the ER doc ignored her – even when she detailed her credentials. She felt devalued because of her age and she’s not alone, according to a Kaiser Health News story. Her experience of age bias in health care is all too common: Some 20 percent of people over 50 feel they’ve been discriminated against by health care providers because of their age, according to a 2015 report. “When I ask questions, they treat me like I’m old and stupid and they don’t answer,” 63-year-old nursing home resident Pat Bailey told the news service. During the COVID pandemic, age discrimination took the form of rationing care to younger patients in some states, including Idaho, and parts of Montana and Alaska – restrictions that in Idaho triggered a civil rights lawsuit by a legal advocacy group.

Too few beds in Georgia psych hospitals leaves patients stuck in ER

Georgia’s psychiatric facilities are so short on staff that patients with severe mental health crises are having to wait for days in the emergency room of general hospitals for a bed in a psychiatric facility to open up, according to Kaiser Health News. “We’re in crisis mode,’’ Dr. John Sy, an emergency medicine physician in Savannah, told a KHN reporter. “Two weeks ago, we were probably holding eight to 10 patients. Some of them had been there for days.” People are also being held in jails while they await a psychiatric bed to open up. The problem isn’t confined to Georgia. Across the country, the shortage of psychiatric beds has been building for years and has been worsened by the pandemic.

Shadow loss: Missing out on milestones during the pandemic

Researchers at Washington State University surveyed students about their experiences of grief and loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 736,000 people in the United States. While many of the students said they’d lost loved ones, the majority reported suffering from another affliction associated with the pandemic that one researcher call “shadow losses.” Those include missing out on seeing friends and family in person, cancellations of weddings and graduations and being unable to visit grandparents in nursing homes. Researchers found that students felt that they didn’t have the right to feel these shadow losses, according to a report in EurekaAlert. “They would say things like ‘It was a loss, but not a death, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.’ There’s a sense that we shouldn’t grieve smaller losses. But we need to acknowledge that talking about smaller losses is a healthy response and can benefit our mental health,” according to Raven Weaver, an assistant professor at Washington State University’s Department of Human Development and lead author of the study.

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Laurie Udesky reports on mental health, social welfare, health equity and public policy issues from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.