Current Headlines in Mental Health News

Current headlines about mental health, in chronological order of their appearances. Click on each link to read pertinent articles.

I. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Jean M. Twenge, The Atlantic

Smartphones have certainly changed what the youth today do with their time and social interactions. An introductory excerpt:

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

II. Many Avoid End-of-Life Care Planning, Study Finds. Michelle Andrews, NPR

“Even though advance directives have been promoted by health professionals for nearly 50 years, only about a third of U.S. adults have them, according to a recent study.”

III. So Lonely I Could Die. American Psychological Association

“Loneliness and social isolation may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity, and their impact has been growing and will continue to grow, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.”

IV. Finding the Right Medication: Gene Test May Help Treat Depression. Shamard Charles, MD, and Lauren Dunn, NBC News

A promising new development: special genetic testing can help those whose bodies don’t respond well to antidepressant medications.

The Avera Institute for Human Genetics (AIHG) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is among several institutions exploring the role of pharmacogenomics — the science of how our inheritance and genetic makeup influences the way we metabolize medications.

AIHG’s pharmacogenomics research has led to the development of Genefolio, a genetic test that uses an individual’s unique DNA to predict how that individual will respond to medications. The test offered by Avera is $179 and is often covered by insurance.

V. Travel Addiction Is Real, Science Says. Paul Gaita, The Fix

Also known as “vagabond neurosis,” this dependency has “even earned mention in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which described it as an ‘impulse-control disorder’ characterized by ‘an abnormal impulse to travel [in which sufferers] are prepared to spend beyond their means, sacrifice jobs, lovers, and security in their lust for new experiences’.”

VI. Debunking Neuromyths: Eight Common Brain Myths Set Straight. Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today

Bergland highlights eight myths that recent research can debunk. For the facts that counter these myths, see the article.

  1. Some of us are ‘left-brained’ and some are ‘right-brained’ and this helps explain differences in how we learn.
  2. Brain development has finished by the time children reach puberty.
  3. Learning is due to the addition of new cells to the brain.
  4. A common sign of dyslexia is seeing letters backward.
  5. Mental capacity is hereditary and cannot be changed by the environment or experience.
  6. We only use 10 percent of our brain.
  7. When we sleep, the brain shuts down. 
  8. Listening to classical music increases children’s reasoning ability.

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