May 12, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers. Today, we check out some new research with an encouraging finding about the easing of stigma toward people with mental health conditions. Facebook content moderators in Africa say the company treats them callously, with little support for their mental health. And a plea for for helicopter parents to stop the whirling.


Stigma? What stigma?

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Anyone who has explored the notion of stigma and mental health across generations in the U.S. is likely to have sensed something remarkable in recent years: that stigma is fading rapidly among members of Gen Z and the millennials – at least compared to older generations. That impression gets strong support from a new study published in JAMA Network Open, which suggests that concerted efforts to destigmatize behavioral health conditions – at least some of them – are working. 

The study presented participants with vignettes in 1996, 2006, and 2018 about people experiencing schizophrenia, depression, alcohol dependence, and daily troubles. People were then surveyed about their beliefs relative to the causes for each condition, their beliefs about the propensity of sufferers to act violently, and their desire to socially distance themselves from them. Stigma associated with depression decreased across every vignette in 2006 and 2018, but remained steady for alcohol dependence and daily troubles. On the other hand, stigma toward people with schizophrenia grew – with greater numbers of respondents viewing people with the diagnosis as dangerous or violent.

For many people with mental illness, overcoming the stigma associated with a diagnosis is as challenging as managing the illness itself. Fearing discrimination, stigma can deter people from seeking help or cause them to self-isolate, leading to worse outcomes. The new results – the first major findings showing a reduction in stigma toward mental illness – gives some experts hope. “I think it’s a big finding,” Stephen Hinshaw, a distinguished professor of psychology at UC–Berkeley, told Slate. “The big question is: Do attitudes lead into behavior change? We hope so, but it’s an unknown.”


Content moderator in Kenya sues Facebook for callous treatment, lack of mental health support

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A former content moderator for Facebook in Kenya is suing the social media giant for damaging his mental health, exploitative work practices, and wage theft, the Associated Press reported. The Guardian noted Meta, the company that owns Facebook, and Sama, a California-based Meta subcontractor, recruit people from impoverished families across Southern Africa with “misleading job ads” to work as content moderators, the lawsuit alleges. The case was brought by Daniel Motaung, who worked for the company in Nairobi after being recruited in South Africa. On his first day at work, he says, he watched a video of someone being beheaded. 

In 2021, the company agreed to an $85 million settlement in a California lawsuit brought by 10,000 content moderators that accused Facebook of repeatedly exposing them to disturbing content, including animal cruelty and child and sexual sex abuse – and failing to protect them from psychological injuries.

Motaung’s attorney, Mercy Mutemi, told AP that the deceit Meta used to recruit its workers amounted to forced labor. In its defense, Meta said that it sought to provide “industry-leading pay, benefits and support,” and also encouraged content moderators to speak up about issues when they occur. 

Helicopter parents: Can you just stop?

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Whether you call it “helicopter” parenting or “bulldozer” parenting, this highly interventionist – and increasingly common – style of child-rearing is harming kids and parents, according to a new essay in The Atlantic. Now identifiable across class lines, historians believe intensive parenting developed from the fear-based anxiety that middle-class parents felt in the mid-to-late 20th century at a time of growing wealth inequality, shrinking manufacturing and expanding globalization. In response, parents imposed a strong will and heavy hand to guarantee their children’s success.

But an abundance of research suggests that parental micromanaging guarantees parental burnout and delays children’s development of confidence and competence – while also harming kids’ mental health. Parents should focus instead on providing an environment of “love, safety, and stability” in which their children can stretch, explore, and grow. How does one step away from intensive parenting, though, if it’s already a habit?

Writer Elliot Haspel suggests that the top priority for parents is to show love, validate feelings, and spend quality time. Beyond that, it’s all about being flexible with the other stuff. Parents should allow their children more freedom to explore – and even fail. And policymakers can help. A lack of affordable, quality childcare and paid family leave in the U.S. forces many parents into a vice grip around their children’s lives. But he writes, “By replacing mindsets and policies of scarcity with mindsets and policies of abundance …a new, healthier way forward can emerge: not more, not perfect, but good enough.”


In other news…

In a series called “Read Alouds that Rock, Publisher’s Weekly spoke with four teachers who identified their favorite books that emphasize social emotional learning. Titles for young readers include: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst; and When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. For upper elementary and middle school students, the article applauds Honeysmoke by Monique Fields, the story of a biracial child seeking her identity, and Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee, which one teacher described as a #MeToo story for 10-year-olds that spurred a conversation about “boys (who) were pinching girls’ bottoms at school…and what the girls felt about it.”

Last weekend, the Detroit Police Department and the Detroit Public Safety Foundation hosted the city’s first-ever Teen Wellness Summit, reaching 300 teens and pre-teens with panels, keynote talks, and workshops designed to equip them with resources to fortify their mental health. “We came up with this idea to get kids comfortable with sharing feelings,” Officer Dan Robinson told the Detroit Free Press. “We want them to know how to identify if they’re having an issue, and what to do to cope with that issue – and same for their friends and family.” The department plans to do it again in the fall. 

ADHD symptoms in women can include depression and anxiety, making it easy for doctors to misdiagnose them, writes Edward Hallowell, a child and adult psychiatrist. Exacerbating the issue, some doctors prescribe SSRI antidepressants to help – but SSRIs don’t address depression or anxiety due to ADHD. The solution? Practitioners need to learn more about the presentation of ADHD in women, Hallowell says in an article for ADDitude.

Pennywise, pound-foolish? More than 2,500 Texans with cognitive and developmental disabilities are being cared for in 13 state residential facilities – even though each of them could be receiving home-based care at a cost of about $200,000 less per year. Why? The state legislature refuses to accept federal dollars to expand its Medicaid program. “Texas could technically draw down a lot more federal Medicaid dollars, but they have to match, and they don’t want to do that,” Mary Jane Williams, who leads the nonprofit Family to Family Network, told Houston Public Media. The result: wait times of three to 17 years for home-based services, while families struggle to fill the gap.


If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or experiencing a crisis and would like to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – and if you’re a veteran, press 1. You can also text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both services are free, confidential, and available 24/7.


OCD: Misunderstood Mental Illness Finally Gets Its Due

There’s a culture shift in media coverage of OCD. Once played for laughs, it’s now recognized as exhausting, debilitating and relentless.

Black Communities Fight School Paddling

Corporal punishment is disproportionately inflicted on Black children and is higher in areas with histories of lynching.

Young Advocates Take the Lead to Curb Campus Suicide

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death on college campuses. Young leaders are fighting back.

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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.