August 23, 2022

Good morning, MindSite News readers. Today we share with a MindSite News guest essay on the yawning gender gap in youth mental health. Plus: In what many saw as a raw political move, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed safe injection sites to be set up in three cities. The New York Times tells the story of a 22-year-old whose mental health struggles as a teen were compounded by the dark side of the internet. And NPR has tips on helping your-back-in-school kids.

CA Gov. Newsom vetoes safe-injection bill, infuriating drug-reform advocates

Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation yesterday that would have established a pilot program in three California cities – Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco – to let drug users inject themselves in a supervised setting. The concept, modeled on programs in Canada, Europe and now New York City, was aimed at stanching the skyrocketing number of fatal overdoses, largely from fentanyl, that have ravaged California cities.

This was the second time such a bill has passed the Democratic legislature. After then Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a previous version in 2018, Newsom, who was then running for the top job, said he was “very, very open” to the idea. But today, Newsom, who is widely thought to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run, said in a veto message that “unintended consequences” could lead to “worsening drug consumption challenges.” But he also said he was instructing Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly to work with local officials to create “minimum standards and best practices” for a new legislative proposal “for a truly limited pilot program.”

His action, which received national coverage from outlets including CNN, Fox News and the New York Times, was praised by Republicans and criticized by advocates of drug policy reform and by allies in the legislature. “Today’s veto is tragic,” said State Sen. Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Democrat who wrote the bill. “Each year this legislation is delayed, more people die of drug overdoses — two per day in San Francisco alone.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that despite the veto, nonprofit groups and city leaders may still consider ways of creating a safe-injection site, perhaps with funding from private donors. The New York City program that opened last November and has reversed 400 overdoses is run by a nonprofit and is privately funded.

-Rob Waters

MindSite News, WETA and Ken Burns present a FREE live back-to-school event: A Conversation About Youth Mental Health and the Making of Hiding in Plain Sight

THURSDAY, September 8th at 4:00pm PST | 7:00pm EST

Meet Alexis, a young Native American woman featured in Hiding in Plain Sight. In the film, Alexis gives voice to the beauty of her culture, as well as the challenges of living in a community with high rates of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse – and how it has affected her mental health.

Watch Alexis’ clip on Twitter HERE

For more information regarding the film speakers and MindSite News interviewers for this special event click HERE

Young adults struggle to ground themselves after falling down the internet rabbit hole as teens

“I don’t want to blame the internet, but I do want to blame the internet. I feel like if I was born in 2000 BC in the Alps, I’d still be depressive, but I think it’s wildly exacerbated by the climate we live in.”  — C, now 22, uses the pronoun “they” and was identified by the New York Times only by their first initial.)

Credit: Twitter

C was only 10 when they took refuge in the internet, posting selfies, making friends, but also being harassed by adult male strangers sending photos of their genitals and asking for sex. Depressed by such “gross” interactions, they learned to self-harm from other teens online. It’s a sadly common story. “The internet is a volume knob, an amplifier and accelerant,” said Byron Reeves, a professor of communication at Stanford University.

What’s less clear is how the internet and other technologies affect the brain. One well-known study found that 40% of girls on Instagram feel unattractive when comparing themselves to images on the platform. While many adults face the same concerns, early puberty leads some adolescents to be overwhelmed, because their brains aren’t yet developed enough to handle it. 

“On a content level and on a process level, it makes your head explode,” said Stephen Hinshaw, a California-based psychologist. “You want to make it stop — cutting yourself, burning, mutilation and suicide attempts.” Too little sleep, exercise, and in-person connection — which get worse as screen time increases — make it even harder to cope, though scientists can’t agree on how much screen time is too much. “There are so many effects that are totally idiosyncratic to individual kids,” Reeves said. “Each of their experiences are so radically different.” One thing most researchers agree on: Some teens are far more vulnerable than others.

-Courtney Wise

Since MindSite News launched less than a year ago, we’ve built a newsroom, established a digital presence online and across social media, published more than 100 original stories and created two newsletters! This kind of reporting is resource-intensive — so please support this essential work today.

In other news…

School is back in session all over the country, and NPR has these tips on how to help protect your children’s mental wellness as they make the adjustment.

With a growing awareness of neurodiversity, the journal HR Director published this piece about how office spaces can be designed to create workplaces that enable all employees to thrive. Suggestions include providing a variety of “zones” in the office, including enclosed silent spaces for concentration, designated phone and meeting zones, resting rooms, and relaxation spaces; paying close attention to sound control and acoustics; and bringing in sunlight and plants.

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.

Recent MindSite News Stories

What’s behind the gender gap in the teen mental health crisis?

“How did your teen do during the pandemic?” That’s a question I often ask other parents, and their answer is almost always the same: Their sons were fine – they even flourished during Zoom school, getting more sleep and spending more time playing video games. Their daughters imploded.

Cowgirl Boots, Anxious Nights: Transgender Youth Grapple with Hostile Legislation – and Sky-High Rates of Mental Illness

It started with a pair of cowgirl boots – pink and blue with floral embroidery. Grandpa B. offered to take his grandchild Marty shopping for boots. At the store, which sells Texas-style western wear, 5-year-old Marty checked out the offerings and decided that the coolest by far was that special pair from the girls’ section. Assigned male at birth, Marty (a pseudonym) had already been experimenting with mixing “boy” and “girl” clothes, a point of tension between the generations in the family. Grandpa B. wasn’t about to buy girly pink boots for the kid he considered his grandson. He said no. 

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Courtney Wise

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