October 5, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s Daily, we share a new MindSite News investigation. Co-published with WBEZ and Block Club Chicago, it looks at how mental-health crisis calls to 911 in Chicago have often led to violent interactions between people experiencing mental health emergencies and police. It also looks at the rollout of the new 988 crisis line and raises questions about whether Illinois’ newly established call centers are positioned to serve the state’s largest and most diverse city.

Today’s news roundup also includes stories on “normal marital hatred,” the link between high potency cannabis products and psychosis, and neighborhoods designed to heal trauma rather than enhance it. Plus: Can you trust mental health advice on Tik-Tok?


Illinois is Getting Better at Answering Calls to the Suicide Crisis Line. Will Chicago’s South Side Be Left Behind?

Around 10 p.m. on March 20, 2021, Marian Owens flipped on the rear light of her West Side Chicago home and was startled to find her 22-year-old grandson standing motionless on the second-floor porch, backed against a wall with his hoodie up. She spoke to him, but he didn’t respond, she said.  

She ran through the house in a panic, then knocked on the bedroom door of her grandson’s father. When she didn’t get a response, she began dialing for help. Paramedics and eight police officers rushed to the scene, some arriving within minutes. The officers lured him down the stairs by inviting him to shoot some hoops on the backyard basketball court, and then “pounced on him,” Owens said. Officers tased him multiple times before handcuffing him to a gurney and putting him in an ambulance, according to arrest reports.

This is the kind of clash between mental health needs and police response that a new national mental health emergency hotline — 988 — was set up to avoid. Is it helping to change the dynamic between Chicago police and people with a history of mental illness? Josh McGhee of MindSite News partners with Ola Giwa of WBEZ-Chicago for a story illustrated with photos from Colin Boyle of Block Club Chicago.

Continue reading…


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Researchers concerned that high potency cannabis may pose mental health risks

via Twitter

The growing production of “dabs,” or highly concentrated forms of cannabis, is causing some cannabis researchers to warn users that the increased potency of THC in the products may increase the risk of psychosis in users. A group of physicians and scientists in the Pacific Northwest told the Seattle Times that they believe the wider availability of these and other concentrated cannabis products is a growing threat to public health, especially for teens and young adults. 

“This is a case of product development trumping science and trumping policy,” said researcher Beatriz Carlini. “Nobody was aware we were legalizing this.” Carlini’s concern is dabs with concentrated THC levels significantly higher than the 20 percent found in a typical cannabis flower. Some producers are making products with potency as high as 65 percent and labeling them “low THC content.” In the seven years since cannabis was legalized in Washington State, extracted cannabis, which includes concentrates, has grown from 9 percent to 35 percent of the market.

Research on highly concentrated cannabis products has been limited thus far, largely due to the strict federal regulations surrounding cannabis research. But scientists say there is enough evidence to suggest that high potency THC products are linked to an increased risk of experiencing psychosis in adults and a risk of triggering psychosis earlier in others predisposed to the condition.

A call for redesigning neighborhoods to support healing from trauma

Philadelphia, like many cities, is packed with people who have been through trauma and may still be reeling from its lingering impacts. More than 80% of Philadelphia residents, in fact, suffered a traumatic experience before they reached adulthood, a 2012 study revealed. The city struggled with grief and loss during the pandemic and is grappling with high numbers of opioid-related overdoses and sprawling gun violence. Can the physical structure of the city’s neighborhoods be reimagined and redesigned in ways that mitigate – rather than add to – that trauma?

Temple University researchers Krista Schroeder and David Sarwer think so, and that Philadelphia is positioned to take the lead in this approach. In an op-ed published by The Philadelphia Inquirer, they argue that developing “trauma-informed” neighborhoods can promote healing from these kinds of  experiences. Their approach would apply the principles of trauma-informed care – a concept promoted by schools, service agencies and providers of health and mental health services – to communities.

“We know that many neighborhoods have disruptive traffic, poorly lit spaces, and loud noises from construction or police sirens. Those characteristics can be stressful or anxiety-provoking for many, particularly for those with a history of trauma,” they write. But research suggests that certain characteristics of neighborhoods ― such as green space — “are associated with physical and mental health.”

Creating more green spaces and public art while removing razorwire and police cameras, Schroeder and Sarwer say, “may help promote better health outcomes for those impacted by trauma, as well as for all neighborhood residents.”

In other news … 

Even marriages with “normal marital hatred” can be happy, according to author and family therapist Terrence Real, who frequently uses that phrase. (Or, as the great band The Pretenders put it, “It’s a thin line between love and hate.”) Apparently, such wild swings of emotion are pretty typical of marriages and other long-term couple-dom. The Washington Post’s Tara Parker-Pope spoke to a few experts, including Terrence Real, to help you sort out how to handle it. Family therapy can help couples understand their relationship as an ecosystem, he said, by teaching each individual that the health of the other is in their best interest. “Stop thinking like two individuals, and start thinking ecologically,” said Real. “Your relationship is your biosphere. You’re not above it. You’re in it. You breathe it.”

Can you trust mental health advice posted on Tik Tok? One in five videos on the platform contain false or misleading information, according to a recent study. But if you’re inclined to peruse online for direction, The Washington Post has published a list of tips on how to vet the info you come across to know whether it’s reliable or not.

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.