Dec 01

Mental Health News Straight Out of November

Mental health news from November touched on interesting statistics, men’s barriers to seeking mental health treatment, postpartum depression in men, holiday stress, and charitable giving.

I. Annual State of Mental Health Report (by Mental Health America

For the fourth year in a row, Mental Health America (MHA) released its annual State of Mental Health Report, which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on several mental health and access measures. This year, Massachusetts came out on top overall with Nevada coming in 51st…

For the full report click on the link above. Of perhaps the highest current concern is what’s happening to kids. An excerpt from MHA’s summary:

‘I wish I could say the mental health of our children is improving. Our report shows the opposite,’ said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO, Mental Health America. ‘Far too many young people are suffering –often in silence. They are not receiving the treatment they need to live healthy and productive lives – and too many simply don’t see a way out.’

II. Men Don’t Go To Therapy Nearly As Much As Women, & Researchers Are Trying To Figure Out Why. Brandi Neal, Bustle

Some of the barriers mentioned:

  • Therapy was originally created for women to get treated by men
  • Higher stigma against men seeking help
  • Lack of a specific approach geared to treating men’s issues
  • Lack of understanding the ways in which men respond optimally to therapy
  • Difficulty finding good therapist matches
  • Additional obstacles experienced by men of color

III.  ‘I’m Not a Good Enough Dad.’ Men Get Postpartum Depression Too. Amanda MacMillan, Time

An excerpt:

The new study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, cites a 2016 meta-analysis that identified just over 8% of men as suffering from postpartum depression within the first year of a child’s birth. Rates for women have been estimated at 13 to 19%, but according to the American Psychological Association, experts suspect the disease is still vastly underdiagnosed…

IV. How to keep holiday-induced stress under control. Wendy Rose Gould, NBC News

Holiday-related stress often shows up via such symptoms as irritability, withdrawal, disrupted sleep, lack of ability to focus, and/or various signs of physical distress.

Suggested measures include the following:

  • practicing mindfulness
  • having a “game plan” for your specific priorities
  • “savor(ing) the little moments”
  • keeping track of the positive things that happen leading up to the holidays
  • it may be time to “make new traditions”

Ultimately, finding joy in the holidays boils down to mindfully cherishing time spent with family and friends, only committing to the things that are most important to you and managing self-imposed expectations. By doing this, you’ll be on your way to overcoming the pressure of creating a ‘perfect holiday,’ and you may even learn to cherish the inevitable imperfections along the way.

V. Six Reasons Why People Give Their Money Away, or Not. Sara Konrath, PhD, Psychology Today 

In a study detailed in an article soon to be published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, we recruited 819 Americans who reported that they had given to charity in the past. They filled out a detailed online survey that included 54 statements about many different reasons that people give…

From most important to least, the top reasons were “altruism, trust, social, (financial) constraints, egoism, and taxes.”

Nov 29

PRIDE Study: YOU Can Aid LGBTQ Health Research

Join the first longitudinal health study of LGBTQ people today. The Pride Study

…And contribute to research that will hopefully “do for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) health, what the Framingham study did for heart health,” states UC San Francisco, the site of this landmark study (UCSF News).

After all, how can LGBTQ health and mental health needs get adequately addressed when there’s been a dearth of specific knowledge about our needs? PRIDE in the Pride Study, by the way, stands for The Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality.

Mitchell Lunn, MD, and Juno Obedin-Maliver, MD, MPH, “founded the PRIDE Study to engage the LGBTQ community, understand their health priorities, and frame research questions to address specific disease risks, outcomes, and resiliencies in this population.”

The PRIDE study is affiliated with PRIDEnet, a national network of over 40 LGBTQ-focused organizations. According to their site, “We are a patient powered research network (PPRN) funded by PCORI and staffed by Carolyn Hunt and Micah Lubensky.” PCORI stands for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

See a brief video below that features a variety of individuals explaining the importance to them of the PRIDE study:

One research participant is physician Daniel Summers, Slate, who in his recent article mentioned mental health issues as an element of the PRIDE study:

The wide range of questions asked by the survey could help health providers detect and lessen problems or risk factors they may have overlooked previously. To pick one area of inquiry that stood out to me when I completed the survey, it may be that growing up in a religious community that rejected gay and sexual-minority people is a significant risk factor for depression or anxiety in LGBTQ people—but joining an affirming religious community mitigates this risk later in life. By collecting very granular data points like those, the authors can provide physicians and counselors with a better idea about areas of their patients’ lives that might never have occurred to them before.

Also now a proud participant, one of thousands, is yours truly. I found the questionnaire informative, thorough, wide-ranging, and highly sensitive to all sexual minorities.

Although many have already joined the study, tons more are needed, say the researchers. That’s where you come in.

Get on your computer or any internet-connected device now and at this link answer just a few questions to see if you’re eligible. For starters, are you LGBTQ-identified and over 18?

If you are able to proceed with this confidential study, you’ll need at least a half hour, probably more, to complete the extensive questionnaire—a worthy chunk of your time and effort on behalf of LGBTQ people everywhere, don’t you think?

Nov 22

“Lady Bird”: Pre-College Teen Navigates Her Identity

A heartfelt coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the bittersweet transition from adolescence to dawning adulthood, [Greta] Gerwig’s directorial debut is a joy from start to finish, a warm, generous snapshot of teenage vulnerability and exuberance. Review of Lady Bird by Lara Zarum, Village Voice

Lady Bird isn’t a movie about any searing issue; it’s just a wonderful, rare character study of a young woman figuring out her identity, and all the pitfalls that follow. David Sims, The Atlantic

For what it’s worth, Lady Bird is the highest-ranking film ever on Rotten Tomatoes, with a perfect score.The 17-year-old lead character, as described by Sims:

Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) is someone cursed with that familiar, often painful, gift of youth—absolute certainty. She feels everything strongly, expresses her opinions loudly, and both wounds and charms the people around her without meaning to. On the brink of adulthood, she’s resolute enough about her desire to go to college on the East Coast (far from her home of Sacramento) that she tosses herself out of a moving car when her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) tries to dismiss her ambitions. Another movie might frame that moment as frightening or foolish, but Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird celebrates Christine’s teenage will, no matter how extreme it can sometimes be.

Sims emphasizes the importance of the connection between Lady Bird and her mom:

Lady Bird is a powerful illustration of the temporary tenuousness of the mother-daughter bond in the later teenage years, and the surprising strength of that connection even during times of total conflict. Gerwig knows how easily children can wound their parents and vice versa, and the film’s best moments spring from those (often accidental) blow-ups.

As does Zarum, who notes “it’s in many ways Marion’s story, too”:

Gerwig nails this dynamic, the subtle manner in which Marion’s little criticisms, small and sharp as a pin, poke into a daughter’s psyche the way only a mother can; or the way weeks’ worth of argument and hostility can drift off like mist when, on a shopping excursion, mother and daughter both spot the right dress at the same time.

In her article “Why the Mother-Daughter Relationship in Lady Bird Feels So Real” (The Cut), Anna Silman states, “Lady Bird is a story of personal growth, but it’s also a story of attachment: of a mother and daughter struggling to navigate their boundaries at a time when a mother’s fear of abandonment and a daughter’s desire for independence are particularly at war with one another.”

Silman points out that many of the mother-child issues have presumably emanated from Marion’s upbringing with an alcoholic, abusive mother. Although we viewers know this from a brief remark cast off by Marion, her behavior seems to indicate a major lack of insight into the ways she’s developed as a result.

Other of Lady Bird’s fraught relationships include those with her older brother Miguel, whose girlfriend also resides with their family, her best friends—both real and wannabe, and a couple of first boyfriends.

A more secure attachment, on the other hand, is what Lady Bird has with her father (Tracy Letts), who’s depressive and currently unemployed but a giving and loving dad.

Some other plot elements include her love/hate connection to her hometown of Sacramento, her shame over residing in a section of the city that’s not the coveted wealthier one, and her eagerness to leave her Catholic high school for a good college in the East despite her lackluster academic performance.

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Self-assured, fastidious, unusual, written with sass and directed with sensitivity and style, Lady Bird is a year-end surprise that lands in 2017’s pile of mediocrity like a stray emerald in a pile of discarded rhinestones.”

Watch the trailer below:

Nov 20

Friendsgiving: Not Just for Millennials

Friends become increasingly important to health and happiness as people age, according to new research in the journal Personal Relationships. They’re so crucial, in fact, that having supportive friendships in old age was found to be a stronger predictor of wellbeing than having strong family connections. Amanda MacMillan, Time, June 2017

All the more reason for we older folks to get in on the act of celebrating Friendsgiving, the now 10-year-old term that connotes the sharing of Thanksgiving, on or near the actual holiday, with our pals—not necessarily to the exclusion of also joining family at some point.

According to Brandi Neal, Bustle, Friendsgivings were first popularized in this country in relation to economic woes experienced by recent college grads living away from home who couldn’t afford to make it back to see their families. As a result, many people now associate Friendsgiving with Millennials only.

Or “Peanuts” characters.

Or old episodes of Friends.

But younger adults aren’t the only ones who can appreciate a good Friendsgiving. On the other hand, we older folks may sometimes lack the ready-made social resources of our less aged counterparts.

Julie Beck, The Atlantic: “As people enter middle age, they tend to have more demands on their time, many of them more pressing than friendship. After all, it’s easier to put off catching up with a friend than it is to skip your kid’s play or an important business trip. The ideal of people’s expectations for friendship is always in tension with the reality of their lives, [Professor William] Rawlins says.”

William Rawlins is the author of at least a couple academic books on friendship. Further explanation about his findings: “Rawlins says that any new friends people might make in middle age are likely to be grafted onto other kinds of relationships—as with co-workers, or parents of their children’s friends—because it’s easier for time-strapped adults to make friends when they already have an excuse to spend time together. As a result, the ‘making friends’ skill can atrophy.”

What about the friendships that do last throughout significant parts of our adulthood? Or why they don’t? More from Beck:

…seems to come down to dedication and communication. In Ledbetter’s longitudinal study of best friends, the number of months that friends reported being close in 1983 predicted whether they were still close in 2002, suggesting that the more you’ve invested in a friendship already, the more likely you are to keep it going. Other research has found that people need to feel like they are getting as much out of the friendship as they are putting in, and that that equity can predict a friendship’s continued success.

Notable Quotes About Friendship to Remember This Coming Friendsgiving

Friends are the family you choose. Jess C. Scott

Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can. Julie Beck

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything. Muhammad Ali

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over. Octavia Butler

We need old friends to help us grow old and new friends to help us stay young. Letty Cottin Pogrebin

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. Alice Walker

The friend who holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away. Barbara Kingsolver

Nov 17

“Wonder” Movie Furthers “Choose Kind” Movement

‘Wonder’ Makes A Case For The Classic Tear-Jerker. Leigh Blickley, HuffPost

Anti-Bullying Tale Is a Tasteful Tear-Jerker. Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

…A Lightly Affecting Weeper For All Ages. Will Ashton, The Playlist

...a tear-jerker that earns your tears. Chris Nashawaty, ew.com

…proves that a movie that sounds mawkish on paper can earn honest tears. Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Get the picture? Stephen Chbosky‘s new film Wonder is a wonder-ful weepie.

Its power cast includes Jacob Tremblay (the boy in the critically acclaimed 2015 Room) as well as Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents.

Description of the plot from Rotten Tomatoes:

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Gleiberman points out that the title of  R.J.Palacio’s novel (2012), on which the film is based, derived from Natalie Merchant‘s old song about a female overcoming a physical disability. I know it well: Doctors have come from distant cities, just to see me/Stand over my bed, disbelieving what they’re seeing…

And the book, notes Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter, actually “sparked a ‘Choose Kind’ movement — ‘kind’ as in ‘kindness,’or what the world needs now…” Click Choose Kind for more info.

As for the film’s style, apparently it follows the book’s lead. Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter:

The narrative is divided into chapters, each dedicated to the perspective of one of the young characters, and sometimes doubles back on events, lending new facets and dimension. First up is Auggie, who enters the fifth-grade fray with the slouch of someone who’d rather not face other people’s discomfort. His older sister, Via (sensitively played by Izabela Vidovic), gets a chapter, as do her former best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), and Auggie’s new school buddy Jack (Noah Jupe), a genial scholarship student with an unsteady sense of loyalty. With commendable concision and insight, the film sympathetically reveals the challenges they each face on the home front. Even the villainous Julian gets a redemptive aha moment.

The Trailer

Selected Reviews

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “…a celebration of empathy, a reminder that even the people who might be making us miserable have their own problems and their own people who are making them miserable.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “…a drama of disarmingly level-headed empathy that glides along with wit, assurance, and grace, and has something touching and resonant to say about the current climate of American bullying.”

Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction: “It’s probably not a shocker to learn [this] is gonna make you cry. What is a heartrending surprise is how gently it delivers its earnest profundity on the ripple effect of kindness.”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire: “It’s a how-to guide for kindness — a good lesson for kids, and a helpful reminder for adults. It’s not like the world couldn’t use one.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Despite all these people orbiting around him, Auggie remains ‘Wonder’s’ main event, and though its upbeat earnestness is ever-present, it has the integrity to understand that not even kindness can eliminate all problems.”