October 26, 2022

By Diana Hembree and Rob Waters

Good morning, MindSite News readers. More therapists are treating patients for “cultural bereavement”: the distinct grief and loss of identity that many refugees and migrants experience. A psychiatrist says that Gen Z employees are suffering from career milestone FOMO. Scientists explore the ethical issues of transplanting human brain cells into rats to study autism and ADHD. Plus: an LA concert to raise money for suicide prevention nets $750,000.

When you long for a country you needed to leave

How far I am from the land where I was born!
Immense  homesickness invades my thoughts.
I see myself as alone and mournful as a leaf on the wind.
I wsh I could weep ‒ I wish I could die ‒ out of sorrow.
O land of the sun!…So far from you, I live without light, without love.

From Canción Mixteca, José Lopez Alavez

“There is a name for the specific type of grief that both refugees and migrants experience. It’s called ‘cultural bereavement.’”

That’s how the New York Times opens its article on the grieving familiar to many immigrants who had to leave their homeland. With skill and sensitivity, the reporter explores the feelings of Ukrainian refugees and others forced to flee their countries. “Feeling uprooted is something many immigrants are familiar with, split between the here and the back there, between the push to assimilate and the pull to preserve parts of themselves and their culture,” writes Alish Haridasani Gupta. “And it is often the intangibles from home — the smells and sounds, the metaphors and jokes in a native tongue that can’t be translated, and cherished rituals — that they long for.”

via Twitter

The name “cultural bereavement” came from psychiatrist Dr. Maurice Eisen Bruch, a professor at Monash university in Melbourne, Australia, who conceived it in 1991 as he was interviewing Cambodian refugees. The term is becoming more well-known, according to the Times, which noted that a small study of Ethiopian refugees in South Korea linked cultural bereavement with widespread mental distress.

Korean-American author Min Jin Lee recalls that her father, a marketing executive in South Korea, opened up a newspaper stand in the neighborhood of Koreatown after he migrated to New York. “I remember, as a little girl, watching people throw a dime at him or 15 cents to purchase the daily paper,” she told the Times. “In Korea, when you hand an object to another person, you use both hands. That’s a sign of respect and he faced so many of these kinds of indignities.” Discussing migrants and cultural bereavement, she concluded, “It’s not a nation or a place and it’s not just that they miss the taste of food — it’s that all those things are essentially associated with a loss of an identity.”

And, as therapist Sahaj Kaur Kohli of Brown Girl Therapy told the Times, immigrants are likely to express their deep sadness in different ways, such as saying “my feet are hurting.” Therapists  treating such patients from their own cultures often recommend they complement therapy with books, movies and foods from their home culture “to feel less alone in their grief,” to develop a strong social network and to celebrate cultural holidays.

Is Gen Z suffering from career milestone FOMO?

via Twitter

Even though “quiet quitting” seems to be more popular than before the pandemic, some young Americans are now obsessed with FOMO (fear of missing out) over promotions and raises, according to Business Insider. This trend has accelerated in recent years, says psychiatrist Anisha Patel-Dunn, chief medical officer at LifeStance Health, who says this fear of missing out can even extend to marriage, having kids and buying a house.

“Whether it’s pressure from family to get married by the age your parents were married, or to have kids or buy a house before you are emotionally ready to do so or financially stable, it’s common to feel like you are the only one who is falling behind,” she told Business Insider. 

Patel-Dunn urges young employees to limit their social media time (which encourages FOMO) and to remember that “everyone’s timelines are different.” She also encourages Gen Z workers to set realistic goals and to be kind to themselves whether or not they meet them.

Transplanting human cells into a rat’s brain to study autism and ADHD leads to advances, ethical debates

Kirill Kurashov/Shutterstock

A team of Stanford University researchers say they’ve uncovered a new way to study conditions such as autism, ADHD, and schizophrenia, according to a recent story on NPR. It involves transplanting a cluster of lab-grown living human brain cells into the brains of newborn rats. The team published a study recently in the journal Nature that lays out how the cell cluster, called a brain organoid, is able to mimic a human brain in ways that may help scientists learn more about a range of neuropsychiatric disorders. “It’s definitely a step forward,” said Paola Arlotta, a brain organoid researcher at Harvard who was not involved in the study.

Sergiu Pasca, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford who oversaw the study, said the successful transplantation makes the rats useful models to study human disease. In a lab dish, the brain organoids only grow for a few months and make few connections before they stop developing. But once transplanted into rats, the organoids are able to continue to grow. Not only do the transplanted cells seem to not harm the rats, Pasca said, but they just push aside the rat’s own tissue, “integrating into the circuitry” as the rats continue their normal development. As the cells mature, they begin to react to whatever the rats are sensing and eventually become capable of helping scientists identify brain changes associated with certain human disorders.

But bioethicist Insoo Hyun of the Museum of Science in Boston notes that the advancement is sure to cause some discomfort. “There is a tendency for people to assume that when you transfer the biomaterials from one species into another, you transfer the essence of that animal into the other,” he said. “I think that’s a mistake. We don’t exactly know what we mean by ‘human-like consciousness,’ and the nearer issue, the more important issue, is the well-being of the animals used in the research.” So far, the rats in the study seem fine. Hyun is concerned, however, that if human brain organoids were grown in bigger, more complex animal brains, the cell cluster changes might cause them to suffer. As he says, “What I’m concerned about is what’s next.”

In other news…

Suicide prevention group raises $750,000 with LA concert. A benefit rock concert – “We Can Survive” – at the Hollywood Bowl raised $750,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Forbes reported. Among the performers was Shirley Manson, lead singer of the 90s rock band Garbage and a longtime mental health advocate. “I’m a fragile, messed up individual,” Manson said in an interview, but she has learned some survival skills. When feeling intense distress, she advises, “Talk to your friend, talk to a lover, talk to your wife, husband, whatever, sister, talk to a stranger on a helpline. I think the problem with mental health is you can feel unbelievable despair. Then, if somebody is talking you through a couple of hours, all of a sudden, you get through 24 [hours] and things look a little different the following day.”

Breakfasting for mental health awareness in Memphis: Officials and advocates gathered at a church in Memphis for a Mental Health Awareness breakfast to raise awareness of the need for law enforcement, first responders and mental health organizations to coordinate their efforts. The event, covered by WREG-News 3, presented some numbers: More than 120,000 Tennesseans experienced a crisis call for help in 2022, and some 125,000 residents of Shelby County have a substance use disorder. Police Chief CJ Davis said his department is training all recruits in crisis interventions. But more needs to be done: “What else are we doing outside of our comfort zone to really get at the heart of these issues?” asked Shelby County Health Department Director Michelle Taylor.

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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Type of work:

Diana HembreeCo-founding editor

Diana Hembree, MS, is MindSite News co-founding editor. She is a health and science journalist who served as a senior editor at Time Inc. Health and its physician’s magazine, Hippocrates, for four years,...

Rob WatersFounding Editor

Rob Waters, the founding editor of MindSite News, is an award-winning health and mental health journalist. He was a contributing writer to Health Affairs and has worked as a staff reporter or editor at...