May 11, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers! During the first year of the pandemic, hospitals visits for eating disorders doubled. In other news, Sesame Workshop kicks off a mental health initiative for young children. In a Seattle Times guest column, a Black mother recounts being reported to Child Protective Services for discontinuing what she considered an ineffective care team dismissive of her daughter’s mental illness. Plus: Dr. Barbara Greenberg on the fear of college rejection letters.

Eating disorders doubled among children and teens during the pandemic

The number of times that children and teens were treated for eating disorders doubled during the first year of the pandemic and remained elevated in 2022, according to a study published in Pediatrics that examined 38 U.S. pediatric hospitals. Even before the pandemic, emergency rooms were seeing more kids 10 and older with eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia.

“We see many individuals who got sick with an eating disorder during the pandemic who continue to struggle,” Carly Milliren, a biostatistician at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Denise-Marie Ordway of The Journalist’s Resource. “Because care was difficult to access, many patients who got sick during the pandemic had delayed care and presented with more severe illness.This sets them up for [a] more protracted course of illness.”

Some young patients with a normal weight can be among the most ill, she found, with “their vital organs weakened by starvation, malnutrition or dehydration” after being encouraged to lose weight by family or providers.

According to Sydney Hartman-Munick of UMass Chan Medical School, who discusses the eating disorders study in an article in The Conversation, “it can be beneficial to take a weight-neutral approach, which focuses more on overall health rather than weight or size” when talking with teens about eating and nutrition.  She added: “I unfortunately have had many patients with eating disorders who were scolded or teased about their weight by family members; this can be really harmful in the long run.”

Teen psychologist Barbara Greenberg on the fear of college rejection letters

A mother of three writes Dr. Greenberg at Psychology Today that her daughters are so frantic they will be rejected by their dream colleges that it is taking a toll on the whole family. Her 21-year-old daughter has applied to Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology, and her 18-year-old daughter is awaiting college acceptances. When talking with them about it, their mother says, “Everything I say seems to be wrong.”

Dr. Barbara Greenberg, clinical psychologist

Her daughters appear to feel their lives will be over if they are not accepted by their ideal schools, and she is beginning to dread the anguished calls she is fielding from them. Find out what Dr. Greenberg has to say in her column.

Sesame Workshop kicks off mental health initiative for young children

The Sesame Street muppets are teaching young children how to care for their mental health, Mashable reports. Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby Cadabby are the faces of a new YouTube special, Elmo’s Mindfulness Spectacular, in which children learn how to calm anxiety by watching Elmo work through his own worries ahead of a big performance. Parents and caregivers can also find resources on how to support young children through the Sesame Workshop website and in a special episode of the Happiness Lab podcast. In addition, they can expect help from season two of the Goodnight, World podcast in helping children transition peacefully to sleep.

“We at Sesame hold a vision of a world in which all children can flourish and feel the joyfulness of life,” said Sherrie Westin, president of Sesame Workshop. “Through the power of our beloved characters…we’re raising awareness about the importance of nurturing children’s emotional well-being and lessening the stigma associated with seeking support for children’s mental health.”

One Black mother’s devastating experience navigating the mental health system for her child

Writer Brittany Miles, who is Black, is a mother to Maya, who was clinically diagnosed with psychosis at age 11. In a guest column for the Seattle Times, Miles writes that advocating for her child is difficult, largely due to the racism she faces trying to secure the right help for her daughter. Miles’s worst fear was realized when, not long ago, a medical provider reported her to child protective services for discontinuing an agency’s care for Maya that Miles believed was ineffective. 

A hallmark of Maya’s psychosis is auditory hallucinations, and Miles says that when told that Maya was hearing bells no one else could hear ringing, the agency care team said she ought to be checked for an ear infection. “The final straw was when a nurse practitioner told Maya she didn’t need to continue with the medicine prescribed by her psychiatrist — a recommendation made without consulting me first. Even Maya found the suggestion strange,” Miles wrote. “I pulled her from the program that day and filed a grievance. But I believe that nurse reported me to the state at the same time.”

Though the CPS investigation proved to be without merit, Miles learned from the file that providers believe she made up her daughter’s diagnosis, despite records from Maya’s doctor. Now, Miles says she’s fearful when speaking to Maya’s current providers, though they are the very people she has to partner with for Maya’s care. “I’m worried that if I do ask too many questions or show I know too much, I’ll get reported,” Miles said. “No mother should experience this fear. We are more than our children’s guardians — we are their protectors. Black pain and vulnerability is criminalized at every turn; there’s no place for us to simply be.”

In other news….

The youth mental health crisis isn’t confined to the United States. A recent study published by Lancet Psychiatry found that the number of times children and teens who showed up in hospital emergency rooms after attempting suicide jumped 22% across 18 countries, including the U.S., during the first two years of the pandemic. Another study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, finds that kids in the U.S. and 11 other countries – especially girls and youth from higher-income households – experienced more symptoms of depression during the pandemic. Read the article from The Journalist’s Resource here.

What’s the number one secret to raising resilient kids? Teach them to worry well, says neuropsychologist and parenting expert Taryn Marie Stejskal. She offers five practical ways to do just that in this article on CNBC. My favorite? When stressed or worried, have kids talk through the worst case scenario. “This helps them feel more secure because they realize that the worst imagined outcome is not as bad as they thought. It also gives them perspective,” Stejskal said. “If they’re worried they won’t pass a test, tell them that if that happens, they can ask the teacher for help or get a tutor. Reminding our kids that they are capable of handling even the worst-case scenario helps them see that most problems can be managed.”

Are your kids always well-behaved around you? If so, this can be a problem, one parenting expert suggests: It may be time to check in with yourself and reevaluate your parenting strategy. In a video posted to TikTok and republished by the Daily Mail, parenting coach Rachel Rogers says children share their worst selves with adults they trust the most. “’That means that if a child is always very well-behaved and a good little girl or boy in front of you, they don’t fully trust you,” said Rogers. “They are afraid of what you will do to them if they do show their most authentic self or if they do show their most vulnerable emotions.”

Loreley Godfrey, 18, isn’t your typical teenager. Public policy is her idea of fun, reports the Globe New Hampshire in a news brief about her work to create legislation that adds mental health instruction to her state’s high school curriculum. Though her first efforts failed last month, she’s undeterred. As part of New Hampshire’s Governor’s Youth Advisory Council on Substance Misuse and Prevention, Godfrey will continue working to improve mental health education in schools until she has to pause to begin college at Wellesley this fall. Her major? Political science, of course. 

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:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...