March 21, 2022

Happy Monday, MindSite News readers. Today we’re featuring two original stories from MindSite News, one about the stunning rise in the popularity of narcissism on TikTok and other social media channels (think: billions of views), and another story on a new funding bill proposed in Congress to help the 988 mental health crisis hotline off the ground.

In news from around the web: People who can’t escape their grief get a new, hotly debated diagnosis. Some teens are getting anxious about … removing their masks. And a therapist advises couples whose sex lives were buffeted by the pandemic how to get back their lost libido.


What’s behind Americans’ obsession with narcissism?

Image credit: TikTok

TikTok users are flocking into the social media giant’s narcissism channels, MindSite News writer Diana Kapp reports. The #NarcTok community on TikTok has 1.9 billion views, followed closely by hashtag #narcissism, with 1.6 billion. And it’s not just TikTok: Quora subgroups like All About Narcissists and Narcissistic Victims Syndrome Support and the Reddit community r/raisedbynarcissists have hundreds of thousands more.

The NarcTok community includes many survivors of abusive relationships seeking support or celebrating “a life without a narc,” as well as therapists and a small number of “self-aware” narcissists and people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), each offering information, sympathy and entertaining riffs on everything from “gaslighting infidelity” to “intrapsychic” mechanisms of narcissists, often set to music. To learn more about this phenomenon and what is driving it, read Kapp’s engrossing story.

New funding proposed to jumpstart struggling 988 crisis hotline

“If we had a 988 line to call on June 2, 2019, it might have saved Mile’s life,” said Taun Hall, the mother of Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Black man shot and killed by Walnut Creek, California, police while in the midst of a mental health crisis. The three-digit mental health crisis hotline is supposed to go live this July, but its progress is imperiled by inadequate state and federal funding. Legislation introduced in Congress last week could change that, MindSite News reported. Our story detailed where states stand – at present, funding is largely up to them – and where the roughly $1 billion proposed in the bill would go.

Only four states have authorized funding via surcharges on phone bills, which initially were seen as a key source of support, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness; some others have provided initial funding. Five have killed funding legislation. NAMI’s maps provide the status of every state.

“988 represents a turning point in American history,” said the new bill‘s author, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), at a press conference. “Right now America’s default for people who need immediate help when experiencing a mental health crisis is calling 911,” he said. “And the default treatment facilities are jails and emergency rooms.”


A new diagnosis for people debilitated by long-term grief may help (or hurt)

Grief is normal. But what if it doesn’t go away? The mental health field has debated the question for more than a decade, with some arguing that a diagnosis would allow people incapacitated by long-term grief to get help and others warning that it could pathologize a key part of the human experience and lead drug companies to market medicines for mourning. Now the decision has been made, the New York Times reports in a story full of history and context: “Prolonged grief disorder” has been added to the latest edition of the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic bible.

Clinicians will now be able to bill insurers for treating the estimated 4 percent of bereaved people who meet the criteria for diagnosis – isolated sufferers like “the widows who wore black for the rest of their lives, who withdrew from social contacts and lived the rest of their lives in memory of the husband or wife who they had lost,” said  Paul S. Appelbaum, the psychiatrist who chairs the steering committee overseeing revisions to the DSM. The diagnosis will likely unlock a stream of funding into treatments and set the stage for competition to seek approval for new medicines.

The latest edition contains other noteworthy changes, according to Psych Central, among them a new diagnosis for self-harm without suicidal intent and more gender-inclusive language. The news site also lists the criteria for a prolonged grief disorder diagnosis.

After decades of obstacles, suicide barriers rise on Golden Gate Bridge

Photo: Shutterstock

For more than 80 years, the Golden Gate Bridge has stood alone as an almost mystical draw for people who want to take their own lives – more than 1,800 deadly plunges so far, including at least 21 last year. Calls for some sort of suicide barrier go back nearly as far. The end is finally in sight, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, with a vast, $207 million steel net scheduled for completion by the end of next year.

Bridge engineers everywhere long assumed that suicide barriers would be ineffective, simply driving severely depressed people to other places or other ways to die. Multiple studies show that is not the case, that the final decision to jump typically comes at a brief, unique moment in time. A 2017 Toronto study found a 99 percent decrease in suicide rates after a barrier was built at a popular location for suicides with little increase elsewhere. A 2020 Cochrane Database Systematic Review found a 91 percent drop at locations with barriers. But there were still plenty of obstacles to building the Golden Gate suicide deterrent, from politics to aesthetics and the difficulty of engineering a huge addition to the bridge in a windy marine environment.

Kymberlyrenee Gamboa, whose son jumped to his death in 2013, three weeks into his senior year of high school, said she felt almost giddy when she saw net construction in progress. She has fought to build the barrier ever since her son’s suicide. “They can jump, they just won’t die,” Gamboa told the Chronicle, her voice fluttering.

Teens who get anxious about removing their masks

Darren Baker/Shutterstock

To the normal unpleasantries of life as a teenager, add this: fear of removing your mask. You and everyone else have been wearing masks in school, when you were in school, for nearly two years. What if you’re considered less attractive? No one has seen your acne. Might you get sick, or infect your family? What if not wearing a mask makes you uncool, given the politics of your school? Even as much of the world celebrates the lifting of mask mandates, for some teens the peer pressure and disagreements that come with it are causing new anxieties, the New York Times reports.

When her high school in Stillwater, Minn. lifted its mask requirement a few weeks ago, 16-year-old sophomore Belle Lapos and her friends decided to keep their masks on, at least for now. “Not because of their views on the pandemic, mostly because of their views on themselves and how they think people are going to judge them,” Belle said. “Only seeing half of someone’s face for two years straight and then completely opening up to them, like, ‘Oh, here’s my face’ — you know, it’s a lot.”

In other news … 

Research that relies on small numbers of brain scans to try to find links between brain function and structure and various mental disorders may not be accurate, the New York Times reported. Imaging studies often are based on fewer than two dozen participants, whereas thousands would actually be needed, according to the study published in Nature.

Couples whose pandemic sex lives declined may need help recharging their passion and intimacy, licensed clinical psychologist Jelena Kecmanovic wrote for the Washington Post. Kecmanovic explains how to get back that lost libido.


The Senate unanimously passed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent two days after the clocks changed, the New York Times reported. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in the House. Surveys show that Americans hate the twice-a-year adjustment and research has found a rise in depression following the fall move to Standard Time. But many scientists say Standard Time more closely tracks the sun’s patterns and that year-round daylight saving time leads to sleep deprivation.

Idaho senators see a downside to criminalizing gender-affirming care: The Senate stopped House-passed legislation that would have made it a felony to provide the care to transgender minors or help them cross the state line to receive it. The reason, as the Republican majority caucus made clear in a statement reported [not exclusively] by Fatherly, a news site for dads: The bill could deny “medically necessary care for kids that is in no way related to transgender therapy.”

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.

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Type of work:

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...