September 15, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In the poverty porn department, KQED examines when posting photos of people suffering from homelessness and addiction is unethical. Prescribing antipsychotics to foster kids in California dropped by 58% over a nine-year period, giving child advocates a new victory. Plus, a study finds that limiting meals to daytime hours helps control depression and anxiety in shift workers.

When does posting images of addiction in SF’s Tenderloin go from advocacy to exploitation?

Via Twitter

Graham MacIndoe, a photographer and teacher, has an answer to the question of when posting pictures of addiction becomes unethical: As soon as you take a photo of someone in crisis without permission.

MacIndoe, who shared his own active addiction in a photography exhibition called “Coming Clean,” told NPR affiliate KQED that being ethical requires people to get consent from subjects to capture them—and to be totally honest about the intent for film and video use. “I do think we should show all sides of the war on drugs and the crisis that’s happening right now,” he said. However, simply adding photos of misery for its own sake “just reinforces that there’s a problem…It doesn’t bring us closer to a solution.”

Meanwhile, thousands of photos of people taking drugs or living in squalor in San Francisco’s Tenderloin have been shared online, according to a recent story by KQED, which examined the ethics of such practices.

Although it is generally legal to take pictures of people in public, there can also be risks to those being photographed, according to Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. Be mindful that sometimes the strangers we encounter are fleeing domestic violence or other dangers, she says. Moreover, some photos call for people with addictions to be put away and punished. “I just don’t think it’s ethical to do that to people.” she said.

Even with consent, subjects of photos or videos may suffer a loss of privacy. Among them is Tracey Helton Mitchell, who says she has had to deal with stalkers since her appearance in 1999 film called “Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street.” These days Mitchell advocates for the privacy and protection of unhoused and substance-addicted citizens on the streets of San Francisco. “The pictures that you really see a lot of are people suffering, just suffering,” she says. “If you really cared about them, you could black out their faces…Are we dehumanizing people by highlighting them at the worst moments of their life?” 

California has cut way back on prescribing antipsychotics to its foster youth

via Twitter

Prescriptions of antipsychotics for California’s foster children have dropped by 58% between 2011 and 2020, according to a study covered by the San Jose Mercury News. The drop is consistent for foster care youth across all racial and ethnic backgrounds and all regions in California, according to a new study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

Child advocates have hailed the decline in antipsychotic prescriptions as a victory. If foster children “are not numbed,  they can pay more attention in school and with friends, and have more meaningful conversations about their trauma with trusted professionals,” said Julio Nunes, lead author of the study, told the Mercury News. “That all increases their potential for growth.”

The biggest problem with prescribing antipsychotics to ease trauma in children is that they can cause more problems than they solve, according to the Mercury News. Intended for use in adults, the antipsychotics can throw children into a stupor and sometimes trigger changes that result in chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, and irreversible tremors. Sarah Pauter, a former foster youth, said that antipsychotics transformed her from the straight-A editor of her high school newspaper to a student who struggled to speak, frequently fell asleep in class and was soon failing school.

The study also found that the approximately 2,000 foster youth in California prescribed antipsychotics in 2020 were not monitoring for spikes in blood and cholesterol levels, something Nunes called a “concerning” lack of oversight.

Shift workers: Prevent mood problems by limiting meals to daytime eating

For shift workers, limiting meals to daytime hours may help prevent anxiety and depression, even after accounting for caloric amount and nutrition content. The revelation comes from new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and reported in Science Alert. The findings are sure to keep scientists locked into a search for wellness solutions for shift workers — such as first responders, medical professionals, and others — who face a 25 to 40 percent increased risk of depression and anxiety from living in opposition to the body’s typical circadian rhythm. 

“We found evidence that meal timing had moderate to large effects on depression-like and anxiety-like mood levels during simulated night work, and that such effects were associated with the degree of internal circadian misalignment,” wrote the study’s authors, comprised of researchers from Harvard Medical Scohol and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Massachusetts.

The small randomized trial placed 19 participants in simulated night work for two weeks. Half of the group ate only during the day, while the other half ate during night and day. Calories consumed, sleep length, physical activity, and lighting conditions were kept the same for all participants. Researchers found that night and day eaters had a 26 percent increase in depression-like mood and a 16 percent increase in anxiety-like mood, much like their actual shift work counterparts. Participants who ate only during the day did not report similar mood changes. The findings suggest that restricting eating to daytime hours only may help prevent anxiety and depression among shift workers, though further studies are needed.

In other news…

If you want to stop feeling anxious about things you can’t control, consider these 8 tips from the Washington Post.

Update to the documentary Facing Suicide on PBS Tuesday night: Now there’s a four-part YouTube docuseries expansion of the film titled Facing Suicide: Let’s Talk. Episode topics include: “How Do I Ask For Help?, “How Do I Ask Someone If They’re Having Thoughts of Suicide?” and “How Do We Find the Resilience We Need To Go On?” Episodes are roughly 10 minutes long.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Courtney Wise

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