By Don Sapatkin

Good morning, MindSite News readers. We are deeply saddened – and angry – that the country’s July 4th celebration was marred by a mass shooting at a Highland Park parade in Chicago.

In today’s MindSite News Daily, mental health providers and others react to the Supreme Court ruling on abortion. Hiring autistic workers not only expands neurodiversity at the workplace, it can be really good for business. Plus, a love letter to Ordinary People.


Why hiring autistic workers could benefit your business

Credit: Twitter

The autism community is an untapped resource for industry, Forbes reports, although hiring  workers on the spectrum won’t work unless there is a cultural shift within the company. “Neurodiversity is part of diversity [and] your diversity efforts are not charity, they are good for business,” said Andrew Komarow, a financial planner and creator of the The Neurodiversity Index for investors.

With unemployment rates of autistic people far higher than the general population, fairness would be a strong argument, but the article focuses on the benefits to businesses: Autistic workers bring intense concentration, ability to memorize and reference factual information, logical thinking, attention to detail (including visuals), quick grasp of new technical skills, and comfort with animals. So how to make the hiring process accommodating for autistic job-seekers? Top suggestion: no unstructured questions or panel interviews, where applicants with better social skills will win out but may not be the best choice for all positions.

A Harvard Business Review article showed that businesses that employ people with autism or who are otherwise neurodiverse would experience increased morale, improved products and services, higher productivity and, ultimately, increased bottom lines. Other studies have determined that autistic consultants find, on average, 10% more bugs than their non-autistic colleagues when checking software code for errors. And research conducted by Accenture found companies that hired people on the spectrum reported higher revenue and profit margins, on average, than other companies in the study sample. And here’s a resource for companies and job-seekers: the Neurodiversity Career Connector.

Twitter reacts to the Supreme Court ruling on abortion and mental health

Arianna Huffington’s pithy summation, retweeted almost 100,000 times, encapsulated the incredulity felt by so many Americans after the court overturned Roe vs Wade and then nullified a key gun control decision days after the horrific mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas:

The American Psychological Association tweeted that “abortion is health care,” and joined the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers in a joint statement decrying the “adverse mental health consequences” to people denied the right to an abortion.

In a four-part tweet, Dr. Christina Mangurian noted the strong relationship between unwanted pregnancy and intimate partner violence – and that the impact of abortions denied would fall most heavily on people who already face barriers to health care.

A popular thread entitled #AsAChristian also emerged as progressive Christians expressed their support for women’s right to choose. “As a Christian and an American, I understand that there is a separation of church and our American government,” wrote one user. Another wrote: “As a Christian, I am expected to love my neighbor, help the poor, protect the marginalized, heal the sick and to watch over the environment. I am not to oppress and destroy and condemn.” Still another agreed: “As a Christian, it is not our job to force anything on anyone.”

And before the thread was hijacked by talk about hellfire and damnation, Muslim attorney Qasim Rashid posted this:

Diana Hembree


New ways of viewing suicide prevention

Suicide rates in the United States rose 30% between 2000 and 2018, even after a small downtick in the past two years. Awareness of the issue has likely increased far more. Yet the strongest risk factor – a prior attempt at suicide– applies to only half of those who go through with it. Prevention strategies often focus on “suicidal ideation,” aka suicidal thinking, but research has found that only 3% of people who attempt to take their own lives had expressed such thoughts. Sixty percent of males who die by suicide have no known mental health condition.

All the above suggests that we need a new perspective, according to a Discover Magazine article headlined “Redefining Suicide in the U.S.” Among the approaches laid out in the piece is “defining the symptoms, so you can find the treatment,” said Igor Galynker, director of the Suicide Research and Prevention Lab at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. He proposes establishing a suicide-specific medical diagnosis that would consider the pre-suicidal mental state as its own condition, rather than the result of another mental illness.

Suicide Crisis Syndrome, as Galynker calls it, is a lot like a panic attack – it exists for just minutes or hours – and most suicide attempts take place less than an hour after the idea occurs. Defining symptoms include frantic hopelessness, extreme panic, acute social withdrawal and a loss of cognitive control, aka “going down the rabbit hole.” The most common triggers, according to the lab’s research, are financial or career failure, a romantic breakup, bullying and homelessness, along with intractable mental illness.


Ordinary People: An appreciation

You may be forgiven if you haven’t seen Ordinary People, the groundbreaking 1980 movie about an ordinary family dealing with one son’s suicide followed by another’s attempt. Directed by Robert Redford and starring Timothy Hutton (the surviving son and winner of the best supporting actor Oscar), Mary Tyler Moore (the embittered mother and best supporting actress nominee) and Donald Sutherland (the father and Golden Globe nominee), Ordinary People (best picture Oscar) has been overshadowed over the decades by other releases that year (Raging Bull, The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining, Airplane! and Friday the 13th).

But it’s a gem of a movie, Fionna Farrell, a creative writing student in Ohio, reminds us on Movieweb. Mental health issues were far less talked about and far more stigmatized four decades ago than they are now, and the notion that they could be tearing apart a typical suburban family that looked normal to the casual observer was new to cinema. Mental health experts say the portrayals were accurate.

Told through the perspective of the surviving son (Hutton), the film is memorable for its powerful performances. The characters don’t cry and scream. The story is told through silence and tension. The players continue to grow. “The movie has no end for them, but only a beginning,” Farrell writes in her appreciation. “Redford’s film opens up a whole new world of exploration within the conventions of what makes and breaks the American family.”

Ordinary People is available for rent or purchase from Amazon (as is the book, by Judith Guest, on which it is based) and some other streaming services, and for free on Pluto TV.


In other news…

Military parents of transgender children are increasingly worried about being assigned to bases in states that are pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation, USA Today reported. Some couples are splitting up, with non-member spouses moving to or remaining in friendlier states with their kids. Some other service members are quitting the military altogether if their relocation requests cannot be accommodated.

Vermont’s terribly named Suicide Six ski resort, saying it “embraces the increasing awareness surrounding mental health,” announced that it is changing its name to something “that better represents and celebrates” what makes it a beloved part of the community (no word yet on the new name).

Missouri enacted a law that criminalizes homelessness by making it a felony to stay illegally on state-owned land (and authorizes the attorney general to sue municipalities that don’t enforce the law), according to the St. Louis-based Riverfront Times. Meanwhile, faith leaders in Sacramento, Calif., implored the city council to stop towing vehicles that people experiencing homelessness are living in, Capital Public Radio reported.

In the 19th Century, when the belief that mental illness was purely a moral failing or punishment from God was just beginning to fade, a small group of radical thinkers in the City of Brotherly Love began a short-lived experiment in “moral treatment,” according a Philadelphia Inquirer report on an exhibit titled Hearing Voices: Memories from the Margins of Mental Health.

The Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights has now been applied to a transgender issue by Alabama’s attorney general. The AG cited it while appealing a federal injunction that prevents the state from enforcing a law that prohibits parents from providing puberty-blocking hormones to their transgender children, CNBC reported.


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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Don Sapatkin

Don Sapatkin is an independent journalist who reports on science and health care. His primary focus for nearly two decades has been public health, especially policy, access to care, health disparities...