January 6, 2021

Good morning, MindSite News Daily readers. In this edition, you’ll learn how Rep. Jamie Raskin coped with the twin tragedies of his son’s suicide and the Jan. 6 insurrection. A Black psychiatrist reflects on systemic racism in the medical profession. And teens use multimedia, song and art to document the ways the pandemic affected them. 

How Jamie Raskin found his way back to life after his son’s suicide 

Rep. Jamie Raskin/Shutterstock

After his son, Tommy, died by suicide on New Year’s Eve in 2020, Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin felt his life was over. Tommy, a Harvard Law student, had deep empathy for others, an amazing sense of humor and a magnetic personality – but also struggled with crippling depression and anxiety. A few days later, a violent mob stormed the Capitol while Raskin, fellow lawmakers and his daughter and son-in-law were trapped inside. Then Nancy Pelosi “threw me a lifeline,” Raskin told NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross, by naming him one of the managers of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.

“She said, we need you. And the country needs you,” Raskin told Gross. “So I was forced to galvanize all of my love for Tommy” and his family to make the case “that Donald Trump had incited this violent insurrection and effort to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.” Raskin posted his son’s suicide note in his bedroom – “the first thing I look at every morning. And for me, it’s just — it’s like how-to instructions for how to live. Look after each other and the animals. Don’t forget the animals and the global poor. Don’t forget the global poor, which means the poor all over the world, including the poor in America.”

Raskin’s memoir, “Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth And The Trials Of American Democracy,” was published this week.

NY Times contest captures teens’ pandemic ups and downs

How does it feel to be a teenager in a pandemic? Some 4,000 teens used multimedia, art and words to respond to a query by the New York Times. Charlie Ballenger, 13, painted a self-portrait entitled “Conformity,” which shows his face surrounded by hands. “This painting represents that it is okay to acknowledge the things that control you. It’s not your fault that society manipulates its teens,” he told the Times

Fifteen-year-old Evan Run Li’s entry is a photo of her mother surrounded by shadows, her face covered by a white mask and a hand at her neck. The image was spurred by the rise in Anti-Asian hatred, racial justice protests around the country, and an awareness of how Asians internalize racism. Borrowing from Carl Jung’s archetype of the mask, she writes: “This facial mask represents the persona of whiteness that Asian Americans are forced to wear. The shadows everywhere else portray the heritage and homeland they are forced to discard and repress.” 

And Mimi Fallon, 16, writes about coming out with a song, “Outed,” performed with her friend Carrie Linde and her Dad on drums. She had thought about waiting until Pride to come out, but was spurred by the contest deadline. “Coming out for me was daunting,” she said. “But I did. Nothing’s really different. Who I am now is the same, but it’s one less thing that I think about, late at night when I cannot sleep.”


Black psychiatrist looks at the toll of racism on doctors and patients 

When Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu was a freshman in medical school, she realized her prestigious education had little to do with her own history and culture. A friend had invited her to attend a lecture of renowned African American philosopher Cornel West, and she didn’t know who he was. Now, as a columnist for STAT News, she regularly reflects on how systemic racism affects her patients and peers. “As a Black psychiatrist,” she wrote in a column this week, “I often feel haunted by the prescriptions I offer my patients to salve the anxiety they feel in the face of police brutality or the uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Yet agitation in the face of oppression is healthy. Racism is the disease.” 


Massachusetts bills would give students “mental health days”

Massachusetts legislators are considering new bills to give high school students a couple of days off for mental health needs without a doctor’s note, Boston’s WWLP TV reports. “It does more than just provide students with a legitimate way to call in sick if they’re not feeling mentally well,” student Aidan Scully testified. “It creates a culture where it’s OK to not be OK.” Utah and Oregon have also changed their laws to allow for such absences, according to the article.


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.


In states where it is legal, teachers can hit children as young as three with a wooden board. In a first-person article by MindSite News co-founding editor Diana Hembree, she shares some memories of school paddlings.


‘Boys Will Be Bugs’: Rx for Teen Boys’ Mental Health

The 2018 sleeper hit is the most important song about teen boys that most adults have never heard of.

Research Roundup: Multilingual learning good for the brain

Long-term study of child health and brain development shows big benefits to the brain from learning a second language.


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