May 26, 2022
Dear MindSite News readers,
We’re heartbroken over the mass murder at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, along with the mass shootings at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store and a church in Southern California, all in a two-week span. And we know that, as occurred after so many other massacres, some will raise the specter of mental illness and talk about this as a “mental health problem.” To be sure, the mental health system of this country has massive failings (and exposing those failings are the essence of our mission). But the drumbeat of daily gun violence, and of near-daily mass shootings, are a failure of public policy and protection, not mental illness. Our leaders are failing to protect us, the most basic job they have.
Although mental illness may play a part in the actions of some killers, the Steinberg Institute noted in a powerful statement that “other countries with similar rates of mental illness aren’t facing carnage in classrooms, in houses of worship, and in grocery stores. What is unique to the U.S. is access to guns” – including military assault-style weapons for civilian use.
As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in an impassioned plea for gun control, “We can’t get numb to this.” We all have to do our part to stop this horrific cycle of violence. Part of that means screening, treating and healing childhood trauma, along with early treatment of mental illness. But it also means demanding the passage of sensible gun laws – like those that could have helped protect the innocent children and teachers in Uvalde and their inconsolable families – and removing politicians who stand in the way of enacting such basic public health and mental health protections.
–Diana Hembree and Rob Waters, Editors
By Courtney Wise
A public exhausted and scarred by mass shootings
Mass shootings are eroding this country’s mental health. It hasn’t been two weeks since the world reeled in horror as 10 people were murdered in a racist hate crime while shopping for groceries in Buffalo, NY. The next day, we were stunned by another mass shooting, this one at a church in Laguna Hills, where five parishioners were shot and physician John Cheng killed while fighting to disarm the gunman. Today, we’re sickened by the massacre at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 elementary school students and two of their teachers were shot to death. A CNN tally found that Tuesday’s school shooting was the 30th this year, and last month, the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that gun violence is now the leading cause of death among American teens and children.
“This is nauseatingly exhausting, to experience these things over and over and over and the conversation is still the same,” said Daniel Flannery, Director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University, to News 5 Cleveland. Tweets on the live reporting from Uvalde reflected countless Americans’ grief, horror, outrage and fury over the killings and the political inaction on gun control.
Those sentiments were shared by NBA coach Steve Kerr, who was a freshman in college when his own father, a university professor, was gunned down at the American University of Beirut in 1984. At a pregame press conference Tuesday afternoon, just before Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals, Kerr refused to talk about basketball.
“When are we going to do something?” an emotional Kerr asked, slamming his fist on the table. He noted that even a bill requiring background checks for gun sales had been stalled by 50 senators for the last two years. “I’m tired. I am so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there,” Kerr said. “I am so tired of the excuses. I am sorry, I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough!”
Is your job making you sick? If so, you’re not alone
In Japan, there’s a word for dying from overwork: karoshi. Peter Schnall, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine, said that although we don’t have a word for it here in the US, we see it throughout the nation’s hustle culture. “We have widespread karoshi,” he told Slate. “We simply don’t call it that. We basically are in denial about the work environment.”
He went on to explain that the acute psychosocial stress we experience at work can impact our physical bodies directly. Cate Lindmann, a Chicago-based attorney, said that stress from work caused her a heart attack. She knew she was overwhelmingly stressed, but felt pressured to push through. “You don’t stop to say, ‘This is so wrong. I’m not going to do it,’” she said. “You just do it. And I think that goes for a lot of people.”
The good news is that there are solutions to make work in this nation better. The vast majority require a commitment from lawmakers and employers to prioritize worker wellbeing. They include offering sick, parental, and caregiver leave; creating predictable work schedules that don’t require regular mandatory overtime; and even engaging managers in “family-supportive supervisor training,” which goes a long way toward making employees feel supported at work.
FOMO: Overcome the ‘fear of missing out’
If you’re anything like me, there have definitely been times when you knew you should’ve opted for rest on a weeknight. But after your friends posted a smiling photo on Instagram, you suited up and headed out. Worried that staying in might mean you’re boring, you crossed your fingers, hoping the next morning’s grogginess would be worth it. FOMO – the “fear of missing out” – can rattle mental well-being, but this week’s NPR Life Kit offers some tips on how to overcome it.
FOMO taps into the sense that we’re fallen out of our selected group in some way and may be rooted in survival. “Humans are social beings and rely on each other to survive, and being left out or not being in the know could have, once upon a time, been a matter of life or death.” says Aarti Gupta, clinical director at TherapyNest. But these days, it could also mean that we’re spending time comparing ourselves to others, focusing on what they have rather than being present with what’s already ours.
To prevent or push through FOMO, Gupta encourages an “abundance mindset.” Basically, remember that there’s plenty here for everybody. Also, figure out what makes you go into FOMO mode. If it’s scrolling through Instagram, restrict your time on the site. “I think the irony of all of it is it’s called ‘the fear of missing out,’” Gupta said. “But really, what it is doing is it’s making you miss out on today and that warm and cozy bed that you’re in right now, or the job that you’re in right now, or the relationship that you’re in right now because you’re so worried about what else is out there.”
In other news…
The Washington Post has some advice for parents trying to help their teens in crisis: Help them get a good night’s sleep – all the time. The current generation is the most sleep-deprived in U.S. history, and teens without sufficient sleep are at higher risk of poor mental health and problems with behavior and attention.
The City of Boston says it’s committed to doing more to help the homeless. The Associated Press reports that Mayor Michelle Wu unveiled an 11-point plan earlier this week to “create a continuum of care for individuals experiencing homelessness and substance use disorder” with a pathway to permanent housing.
Researchers at the University of Southern California have completed a study that suggests that older adults who face loneliness or interpersonal problems are more vulnerable to monetary scams and exploitation. “To our knowledge, this is the first study showing that the quality of older adults’ interpersonal relationships has an impact on their financial vulnerability at a later time,” said lead study author Duke Han in a press release.
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). If you’re a veteran, press 1. Or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both services are free, confidential and available 24/7.
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The name “MindSite News” is used with the express permission of Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops in the field of mental health and wellbeing. MindSite News and Mindsight Institute are separate, unaffiliated entities that are aligned in making science accessible and promoting mental health globally.