Boris Kodjoe on prioritizing his ‘spiritual, mental and physical health’: ‘I take time every single day to just be with myself’

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Boris Kodjoe sitting and smiling for the camera

By Erin Donnelly and Stacy Jackman, Yahoo! Life

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

On-screen, Boris Kodjoe is saving lives as a firefighter on the ABC action-drama Station 19. Off-screen, he’s hoping to do the same by amplifying a new Men’s Health Awareness Month campaign highlighting the risks of prostate cancer, particularly for Black men like him, who are 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and twice as likely to die from it.

In a video interview with Yahoo Life, the Austrian-born actor stresses the importance of looking after one’s physical and mental health. In terms of the former, he’s partnering with Depend and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) for the return of the Stand Strong for Men’s Health initiative to destigmatize male incontinence and offer support to those being treated for prostate cancer; Depend will donate up to $350,000 to the cause.

Kodjoe calls the cause a “very personal” one, as he saw a close friend and mentor undergo his own battle with prostate cancer.

“It reminded me that I needed to take care of myself,” he says. “And the first step to do that is to talk about health issues, to talk about everything that concerns us — spiritual, mental and physical health — to be vulnerable, to be open and not to consider it as a weakness to talk about these things. And as Black men, we are facing a lot of things every single day. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders, but in order to take care of others, we’ve got to take care of ourselves first.”

The Soul Food actor hopes the initiative and breakthrough in cancer research will help draw attention and find solutions to the racial disparities present in access to quality health care. He also wants to spark conversations about other pressing health issues within the Black community, including obesity and the mental strain brought upon by the pandemic and social justice unrest.

Now 48 and a father of two — he and his actress wife Nicole Ari Parker share a daughter and son — Kodjoe is prioritizing his own health needs as he gets older.

“I’m getting to an age now where I’m the guy now holding the phone six feet away from my face so I can read what’s on the screen,” he jokes. “It’s undeniable that we’re all getting older and so we need just those constants… I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t do a great job always taking care of myself. I have a family and they depend on me, so I need to do that.”

That includes looking after his mental headspace, too.

“I practice what I preach and I take time every single day to just be with myself, whether it’s my morning prayer, meditation or laying down and stretching in my trailer when I have five or 10 minutes between shots,” he says. “There’s stuff that you can do that’s pretty simple to include in your daily routine that you could turn into a habit. And it’s important because we have so many habits that are detrimental to our health. We need to balance that out with habits that are actually good for ourselves — whether it’s mental health, spiritual health or our physical health — that will ensure that we’re here for a longer time.”

The Real Husbands of Hollywood star — who will soon make his directorial debut with the Lifetime movie Safe Space, in which he stars opposite his wife — says that his work can also be “therapeutic.”

“It’s a creative outlet,” he says. “It’s a way for me to represent who I am, to represent us [the Black community] in the most multi-dimensional way possible. Historically we’ve been sort of portrayed in one-dimensional ways. And I think that every role we take on, we try to make sure that you represent our culture in a way that shows how multi-dimensional we are. It’s an outlet that I’m really grateful to have.”

While that work is rewarding, Kodjoe is careful to maintain what he calls a “work-life list of priorities,” with his family at the top.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.

Mental Health Apps; do they actually work?

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Woman's Hands Working From Home on Computer while looking at her iPhone

By Samantha Kerrigan, CBS 12 News

Returning to the office is a reality a lot of us are getting used to, but after working from home for more than two years, that can be a little stressful.

These days there are tools to help you manage those feelings and they’re available right at your fingertips.

Mental health apps like Calm, Headspace, Moodfit and Simple Habit are becoming increasingly popular.

Sleep stories and guided meditations are just a couple of the resources most of these apps have in common. But do they actually help? According to licensed psychotherapist Kristen Bomas, the answer is yes.

“There’s more harm in not trying because the fear stays alive.”

Kristen says the anxiety many people are feeling about transitioning back to the office environment is normal and the first thing to do is accept those feelings.

“Life is vague. Work is structured and so that’s the difficulty, but if you can get used to that, you really do separate work and life,” Kristen says.

The starting point could be as easy as taking a deep breath because according to Kristen, we’re all forgetting to breathe.

“We are breathing so unconsciously and we’re just letting our body breathe as it has to, but conscious breathing when we become aware of our breath, it is by far the most healing modality,” Kristen explains.

Focusing on your breath is the first step to all the guided meditations offered on the apps.

“Some lead up to full mediation and some keep it short and sweet which a lot of people need,” Kristen says.

It might not be for everyone, but Kristen says meditation is proven to calm your mind.

Even just a one-minute meditation sitting at your desk can help clear out anxious thoughts.

“You start to think on your own which is important when we talk about fear, which is at the basis of stress and anxiety.”

Another way to clear your mind is to dump your thoughts into a journal.

Some of these apps have space for journaling, or you can just use old fashioned pen and paper.

You can even find a gratitude journal on Moodfit which is one of Kristen’s recommendations for starting your day right.

“I always tell people once you get rid of all the space taken up with all of this, you have space for more to come in and I tell them to fill it with gratitude,’ Kristen says.

And how you end your day is just as important to your mental health, so before you pick up the remote control at bedtime, think about this Kristen says the worst thing we can do if we’re having trouble sleeping is turn on the TV.

“Those apps with sound sometimes bridge that gap, so for them its giving them a sound that’s proven to match the neurological waves in your mind,” Kristen says. “That gets your mind in alignment with your body so that the mind is also falling asleep and getting restful as the body is,” she goes on.

While these apps are realistic for managing your stress anxiety long term, Kristen says they won’t be your sole healer.

Its key to remember that what works for one person, doesn’t work for everyone.

So, it’s important to find what feels right for you and then just take it one day at a time.

Click here to read the full article on CBS 12 News.

Psilocybin Spurs Brain Activity in Patients With Depression, Small Study Shows

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Person sad in their bedroom

Psychedelic compounds like LSD, Ecstasy and psilocybin mushrooms have shown significant promise in treating a range of mental health disorders, with participants in clinical studies often describing tremendous progress taming the demons of post-traumatic stress disorder, or finding unexpected calm and clarity as they face a terminal illness.

But exactly how psychedelics might therapeutically rewire the mind remains an enigma.

A group of neuroscientists in London thought advanced neuroimaging technology that peered deep into the brain might provide some answers. They included 43 people with severe depression in a study sponsored by Imperial College London, and gave them either psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, or a conventional antidepressant; the participants were not told which one they would receive. Functional magnetic resonance imaging, which captures metabolic function, took two snapshots of their brain activity — the day before receiving the first dose and then roughly three weeks after the final one.

What they found, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine, was illuminating, both figuratively and literally. Over the course of three weeks, participants who had been given the antidepressant escitalopram reported mild improvement in their symptoms, and the scans continued to suggest the stubborn, telltale signs of a mind hobbled by major depressive disorder. Neural activity was constrained within certain regions of the brain, a reflection of the rigid thought patterns that can trap those with depression in a negative feedback loop of pessimism and despair.

By contrast, the participants given psilocybin therapy reported a rapid and sustained improvement in their depression, and the scans showed flourishes of neural activity across large swaths of the brain that persisted for the three weeks. That heightened connectivity, they said, resembled the cognitive agility of a healthy brain that, for example, can toggle between a morning bout of melancholia, a stressful day at work and an evening of unencumbered revelry with friends.

Although the authors acknowledged the limitations of the study, including its small size and short time frame, they said psilocybin appeared to have a “liberating” effect on the brains of people with severe depression.

“Psilocybin, it would seem, allows you to see things in an entirely new light, particularly when you have a psychotherapist who can help guide you through that experience,” said Richard Daws, a cognitive neuroscientist and a lead author of the study. “You can unpack difficult experiences that might define how you see the world, which is interesting because that’s exactly what traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is trying to do.”

Experts not involved with the study said that the results were not entirely surprising but that they provided a possible biologic explanation for the anecdotal accounts about therapeutic breakthroughs with psychedelic medicine.

Patrick M. Fisher, a neuroscientist at the Neurobiology Research Unit in Copenhagen who studies psilocybin’s effects on the brain, said the findings could help explain why study subjects in psychedelic research often report long-term relief from psychological ailments. “One or two doses of psychedelic drugs seem to impart lasting clinical benefits and changes in personality and mood, and that’s an unusual characteristic of drugs,” he said. “Although these brain imaging data are important for resolving the brain mechanisms that support these lasting changes, this study leaves prominent questions unanswered.”

Other researchers agreed, saying the results highlighted the need for further study. Dr. Stephen Ross, associate director of the N.Y.U. Langone Center for Psychedelic Medicine, who has been studying the antidepressant effects of psilocybin on cancer patients, cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions given the relatively brief monitoring period of participants’ brain activity. “It’s a little bit like looking out into the universe with a telescope and seeing interesting things and then starting to build theories based on that,” he said. “This is an important contribution though I’m more interested in what happens in three months or six months.”

A separate, smaller experiment that was included in the Nature Medicine paper appeared to support the notion that psilocybin therapy could provide enduring benefits. In that trial, 16 patients were recruited with the knowledge that they would receive psilocybin for their treatment-resistant depression. Brain scans taken a day after the final doses were administered showed similar results to the other study. And when the researchers followed up six months later, many participants reported that the improvements to their depression had not subsided.

“These results are very promising, but obviously no one should go out and try and procure psychedelics without speaking to a doctor or a therapist,” Dr. Daws said.

The field of psychedelic medicine is still in its infancy following a decades-long gap in research, a direct result of antidrug policies that prevented most scientists in the United States from investigating mind-altering compounds. But as the stigma has faded and research funding has begun to flow more freely, a growing number of scientists have begun exploring whether such drugs can help patients suffering from a wide range of mental health conditions, including anorexia, substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Along with psilocybin, MDMA, popularly known as Ecstasy, has been especially promising. A study last May in Nature Medicine found that the drug paired with talk therapy could significantly lessen or even eliminate symptoms of PTSD. Phase 3 clinical trials are now underway, and some experts believe the Food and Drug Administration could approve MDMA therapy for PTSD as soon as next year.

Depression remains one of most common and intractable mental health challenges in the United States, with an estimated 21 million adults reporting a major depressive episode in 2020, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Although Prozac and other antidepressants known as S.S.R.I.s have been effective for many, they have significant side effects and the drugs do not work for everyone.

Click here to read the full article on the New York Times.

Selena Gomez Says Being Diagnosed As Bipolar Was ‘Freeing’

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Selena Gomez smiling at the camera at a red carpet event

By , The Cut

Since Selena Gomez revealed her bipolar diagnosis in 2020, she’s been selective about what she makes public and what she keeps to herself. In fact, she’s been much more selective with her press appearances in general. She even skipped the Grammys on Sunday, despite earning her very first nomination. But on Monday, April 4, Gomez spoke about being diagnosed as bipolar and how she’s been taking care of her mental health since. (Hint: It involves the World Wide Web and a brand-new company.)

Gomez gave a rare interview on Monday to announce the launch of Wondermind, her new multimedia company focused on mental health. “I really want people to be understood and seen and heard,” she told Good Morning America of her goals for the company. Co-founded by her mother, Mandy Teefey, and Daniella Pierson, the group aims to create an “inclusive, fun, and easy place where people can come together.” Wondermind is meant to provide people with tools to work on their “mental fitness,” which will include journaling exercises, podcasts, and resources. For the singer and actor, one of those tools has been stepping away from the spotlight a bit, which included taking a four-year break from the internet. “I haven’t been on the internet in four and a half years,” she admitted. (Shout out to her social-media people keeping her Instagram alive!) Another tool: knowing her diagnosis. “It was really freeing to have the information,” she said. “It made me really happy because I started to have a relationship with myself, and I think that’s the best part.”

The actor went public with her diagnosis after years of speaking out about her depression and anxiety. “After years of going through a lot of different things, I realized that I was bipolar,” she said during an appearance on Miley Cyrus’ former Instagram Live show, Bright Minded. One year later, she told Elle that finally receiving a diagnosis felt like “a huge weight lifted off me.” She explained, “I could take a deep breath and go, ‘Okay, that explains so much.’”

Click here to read the full article on The Cut.

Music Is Just as Powerful at Improving Mental Health as Exercise, Review Suggests

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Woman wearing a green top and orange blazer listening to music

By DAVID NIELD, Science Alert

The next time you’re not able to get out to the gym, maybe spin some records instead: new research suggests the positive impact on mental health from singing, playing, or listening to music is around the same impact experienced with exercise or weight loss.

That’s based on a meta-analysis covering 26 previous studies and a total of 779 people. The earlier research covered everything from using gospel music as a preventative measure against heart disease to how joining a choir can help people recovering from cancer.

A growing number of studies are finding links between music and wellbeing. However, the level of the potential boost and exactly why it works are areas that scientists are still looking into – and that’s where this particular piece of research can be helpful.

“Increasing evidence supports the ability of music to broadly promote wellbeing and health-related quality of life (HRQOL),” write the researchers in their published paper.

“However, the magnitude of music’s positive association with HRQOL is still unclear, particularly relative to established interventions, limiting inclusion of music interventions in health policy and care.”

All of the 26 studies included in the new research used the widely adopted and well regarded 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36) on physical and mental health, or the shorter alternative with 12 questions (SF-12), making it easier to collate and synthesize the data.

The results of the studies were then compared against other research looking at the benefits of “non-pharmaceutical and medical interventions (e.g., exercise, weight loss)” on wellbeing and against research where medical treatments for health issues didn’t include a music therapy component.

According to the study authors, the mental health boost from music is “within the range, albeit on the low end” of the same sort of impact seen in people who commit to physical exercise or weight loss programs.

“This meta-analysis of 26 studies of music interventions provided clear and quantitative moderate-quality evidence that music interventions are associated with clinically significant changes in mental HRQOL,” write the researchers.

“Additionally, a subset of 8 studies demonstrated that adding music interventions to usual treatment was associated with clinically significant changes to mental HRQOL in a range of conditions.”

At the same time, the researchers point out that there was substantial variation between individuals in the studies regarding how well the various musical interventions worked – even if the overall picture was a positive one. This isn’t necessarily something that’s going to work for everyone.

Click here to read the full article on Science Alert.

Mental Health Providers Are Busier Than Ever. Here’s How to Find One.

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person in front of a computer looking up mental health providers

By 

Finding a therapist — let alone one who is a good fit — can take time and determination, especially during the pandemic, when many therapists report they cannot keep up with demand and must turn away patients.

When The New York Times surveyed 1,320 mental health professionals in November, nine out of 10 therapists said the number of people seeking care was on the rise. During a Senate committee hearing in February to address the nation’s growing mental health and substance abuse problem, Senator Patty Murray of Washington noted that nearly 130 million Americans live in places with less than one mental health care provider per 30,000 people.

Even therapists can have trouble finding help. Thomas Armstrong, a clinical psychologist in eastern Washington, waited more than a year to get treatment for his youngest child, who was 2 when they started searching. And it took more than two years to get the treatment that proved most beneficial, found only after he tapped into his academic network through Twitter.

“All the stars had to align for me,” he said.

If you are looking for a mental health care provider, don’t give up — there are several strategies that can help.

Phone a friend.
For some people — like those suffering from a debilitating bout of depression — the thought of spending weeks or months searching for a therapist can seem overwhelming.

“It’s not something you’re doing wrong — it’s that the system is inherently broken and it needs fixing,” Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis, said.

If you don’t have the energy to get started, ask a friend or family member to help you contact providers and set up an appointment, Dr. Gold suggested. It is “one of the best ways that people who care about you can help with your mental heath,” she added.

You can also try getting referrals directly from your personal network — whether it is someone from your local parenting group, your friend’s therapist, an obstetrician, your primary care doctor or a trusted colleague. For students, referrals can also come from on-campus counseling centers, health centers or a guidance counselor.

Jeanie W. Shiau, a licensed clinical social worker in Georgia whose practice is usually about 90 percent full, often helps find providers for patients she cannot see individually.

Take a chance on a provider who is new to the field.
One of the best places to call is your local university’s psychology clinic, which trains graduate students, said Margaret E. Crane, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Temple University whose dissertation compares strategies to help caregivers seek therapy for youth anxiety.

These clinics offer evidence-based treatments to both children and adults, she added, and they often have shorter wait lists than community clinics or therapists in private practice. “They also can provide you with high-quality referrals in the area,” she said.

You might also consider working with someone who has obtained a degree but is still gathering the supervised experience needed to earn a professional license. These clinicians are usually less expensive, and their work is continually being reviewed by a more experienced therapist.

Finally, when looking for a provider, don’t assume that a higher degree equates to better therapy. Keep in mind that most licensed therapists in the United States — like licensed clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors — have master’s degrees, not doctoral degrees.

“Rather than looking for a specific degree, look for therapists who have been trained in evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy,” Ms. Crane said.

Check your employee benefits.
Arniece Stevenson, 34, a graduate student in Philadelphia who works for the Girl Scouts, used her Employee Assistance Program, or E.A.P., to locate a therapist faster than she ever expected.

An E.A.P. is a free intervention program that can help employees resolve personal problems by connecting them with the right resources, and may also provide a small number of free therapy sessions.

E.A.P.s are billed as confidential, but some employees feel wary of contacting them because of privacy concerns. Ms. Stevenson was hesitant, but she finally reached out one evening around midnight. “I just had to muster up the courage,” she said.

The person she spoke with said someone would be calling her back soon. The following day she heard from a therapist who could begin seeing her right away.

“I was shocked — I was like, ‘Wait, already?’” she said.

The therapist she sees is white, and Ms. Stevenson, who is Black, said she would have preferred a provider who was African American. But the two of them “happened to click,” Ms. Stevenson added.

Explore digital directories and virtual options.
Many people start searching for a provider by scrolling through their insurance company’s list of providers, then cross-referencing those against another database like Psychology Today to learn more about each practitioner.

The insurance company’s list may not be up to date, however, and some providers may not respond to your queries because they are already full.

It may be more efficient in some cases to look at free online directories where you can filter results by who is currently taking new clients. Options include Alma, ZocDoc, Monarch and Headway.

Companies like BetterHelp, 7 Cups of Tea and Talkspace offer online therapy and messaging with a licensed practitioner for a weekly or monthly membership fee.

And if you’re specifically looking for a provider of color, a variety of websites have popped up in recent years to help make those connections, including Therapy for Black Girls, LatinxTherapy and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network.

Look to nonprofits.
Nonprofits focused on helping specific groups can also aid people in finding a therapist.

Examples include the Beacon Tree Foundation, which assists parents in Virginia who have children with mental illness; the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Postpartum Support International took just two days to connect Melanie Vega, 39, with a provider on her insurance panel when she developed postpartum depression after the birth of her first child.

“I knew that something was wrong when I kept saying to myself my family would be better off without me,” said Ms. Vega, who has now been seeing that therapist for four years. “She has helped me tremendously.”

Other helpful nonprofits include The Trevor Project, which offers trained counselors to L.G.B.T.Q. youth; the Trans Lifeline; Black Men Heal; and the Asian Mental Health Collective.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Times.

Mental health can be impacted by daylight exposure, researchers say

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Electric Time technician Dan LaMoore lights up a two-dial Howard Post Clock, March 9, 2021, in Medfield, Mass. Clocks are set ahead an hour during daylight saving time. (Elise Amendola, Associated Press)

By Jacob Rueda, KSL NewsRadio

Daylight saving time in the summer means a maximum of 15 hours of daily sunlight in Utah, with the sun setting around 9 p.m. If the federally backed Sunshine Protection Act becomes law, people can expect those late sunsets even in the winter.

Late sunsets in the winter also mean even later sunrises if daylight saving time becomes permanent.

“A sunrise on Christmas day will be 8:50 in the morning and the sunset will be 6:05 at night,” KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank told Dave and Dujanovic on KSL NewsRadio on Tuesday “Where you’re really going to see this impact is going to be in the morning hours during the months of November, December, January (and) February.”

Daylight saving time in the summer means a maximum of 15 hours of daily sunlight in Utah, with the sun setting around 9 p.m. If the federally backed Sunshine Protection Act becomes law, people can expect those late sunsets even in the winter.

Late sunsets in the winter also mean even later sunrises if daylight saving time becomes permanent.

“A sunrise on Christmas day will be 8:50 in the morning and the sunset will be 6:05 at night,” KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank told Dave and Dujanovic on KSL NewsRadio on Tuesday “Where you’re really going to see this impact is going to be in the morning hours during the months of November, December, January (and) February.”

Click here to read the full article on KLS NewsRadio.

Black therapists are struggling to be seen on TikTok. They’re forming their own communities instead

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Black therapists on TikTok are creating safe spaces for people of color.

From a well-lighted room, the plants blurred in the background, their face framed by closed captioning, Shahem Mclaurin speaks directly into the camera. The lesson: “Ten ways to start healing.”

But this is not a classroom, nor is it a therapist’s office. This is TikTok.

“We all have our own things to carry, and those burdens shouldn’t be carried with us for the rest of our lives,” says Mclaurin, a licensed social worker.

Through videos — some on topics like grief, “race/race-ism,” trauma and healing, others raw reactions or trending sounds, like this call to action to amplify people of color on TikTok — Mclaurin advocates for better representation in the mental health field. Mclaurin speaks to viewers who haven’t found caregivers they connect with because of stigmas surrounding therapy and acknowledges that few practitioners look like them.

“I am a Black, queer therapist, and I want to showcase myself being fully that,” Mclaurin said. “I always say, ‘My durag is part of my uniform.'”

Mental health professionals have soared in popularity on TikTok, addressing a wide swath of mental health conditions, reacting to the racial trauma from charged events like the trial of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder and the January 6 insurrection, and bringing humor to sensitive issues like depression that for some communities remain hushed. On TikTok, Black therapists talk openly about working in a predominantly White field, while at the same time making mental health care more accessible for people who might be shut out of the health care system.

The Chinese-owned video app, with its U.S. headquarters in Culver City, California, provides a massive platform and even the potential for fame, with more than 1 billion monthly users. The hashtag #mentalhealth has racked up more than 28 billion views, alongside others like #blacktherapist and #blackmentalhealth that attract audiences of millions.

Video production has ballooned into a main job for Kojo Sarfo, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner living in Los Angeles, who has pulled in 2 million followers. Sarfo dances and acts out short skits about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders and other mental health conditions.

“I try to lighten topics that are very difficult for people to talk about,” he said. “And to let people know that it’s not as scary as you would think to go get help.”

Mental health professionals can run the gamut of medically trained psychiatrists to psychologists with doctorates to mental health counselors with master’s degrees. Although diversity is improving in the field — Black professionals make up 11% of psychologists younger than 36 — just 4% of the overall US psychologist workforce are Black, according to the American Psychological Association’s most recent data. More than three-quarters of mental health counselors are White.

Patrice Berry, a psychologist from Virginia, mostly uses TikTok to respond to people’s questions about things like tips for new therapists and setting boundaries with teens. Berry isn’t there to find clients. She has a waitlist at her private practice. She said TikTok is a way to give back.

Her comments sections are an outpouring of largely appreciative notes and follow-up questions, with some videos getting more than a thousand replies.

In one TikTok, Berry jokes about abruptly leaving a church when “they say you don’t need therapy or medication.” One user commented that was how she was raised in her Black Baptist church and that “we have so much unlearning and relearning to do.” Another wrote, “As a therapist I love this. Preach!”

A tightknit TikTok community has formed, and Berry spearheaded a Facebook group dedicated to Black, Indigenous and other people of color focused on mental health.
“I wanted to create a safe space for us to be able to have real conversations about our experiences on the app and to share tips and resources,” she said.

Therapist Janel Cubbage’s video topics range from evidence-based strategies for preventing suicides on bridges to collective trauma, sometimes addressing her Black audience directly.

Like other TikTokers, she is quick to note that watching videos is not a substitute for seeking professional help and that important concepts can get lost in the scrolling. Plus, even as TikTok works to identify and remove inaccurate information, creators without mental health degrees are going viral discussing similar issues without the expertise or training to back up their advice.

When dealing with trolls, Cubbage said, the emotional support from creators she’s met on TikTok is indispensable. “That’s been one of the really neat things about the app is finding this community of Black therapists that have become like friends to me,” she said.

Unlike Facebook, which relies largely on a user’s friends and followers to populate the feed, TikTok’s algorithm, or “recommendation system,” has a heavy hand in what people see. When a user engages with certain hashtags, the algorithm pushes similar content, said Kinnon MacKinnon, an assistant professor at York University in Toronto who has researched the app. At the same time, TikTok does heavily moderate content that does not abide by its community guidelines, suppressing pro-eating disorder hashtags like #skinnycheck, for instance.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Schools turn to dogs to help ease Michigan’s student mental health crisis

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dogs from michigan school help with student mental health crisis

By Koby Levin,  Detroit Freep

There are many ways to address a youth mental health crisis, including throwing a massive birthday party for a dog named Gravy.

A sweet-natured chocolate Lab, Gravy quickly became a celebrity to students at Grand Ledge High School after she started working there as a therapy dog in September. She showed off tricks in the hallways with her handler, Dean of Students Maria Capra. When students knelt to pet Gravy, she crawled onto their laps.

So when students learned that Gravy’s first birthday fell just before Thanksgiving break, they asked Capra whether they could throw a party.

She said sure, thinking it wouldn’t amount to much. Then the student council put up posters around the school, inviting all of the school’s 1,600 students to attend. Students made a crown and a skirt for Gravy, while others set up a donation drive for the local animal shelter in her honor.

On the big day, “I really didn’t know what to expect,” Capra recalled. “I thought it might be a classroom of 30 kids.

“There were several hundred students in this gymnasium.”

The pandemic has been hard on students in Grand Ledge and across the U.S. Many young people experienced isolation, disruption and the loss of loved ones, leading to an alarming rise in suicide rates and prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics to declare a national emergency in children’s mental health.

Schools have responded by hiring social workers, expanding their social-emotional learning curricula and, in some cases, purchasing dogs.

Gravy is one of at least a dozen dogs who have been introduced to students during the pandemic in schools across Michigan.

Districts are buying dogs and covering the costs of their training with their share of Michigan’s $6 billion in federal COVID-19 funds for education.

One reason: The dogs make kids happy.

“He’s kind of like a rock star; when the kids see him coming, they smile,” said Traci Souva, an art teacher at North Huron Schools who handles Chipper, the district’s new golden mountain doodle. “A lot of times the kids will tell Chipper what’s wrong rather than adults, and that’s pretty magical.”

Another reason: The dogs appeal to administrators wary of using one-time federal funds to incur recurring costs like hiring new people.

“We wanted to ensure that we were using the funds in a way that was going to make a lasting impact,” said Bill Barnes, assistant superintendent for Academic Services at Grand Ledge Public Schools.

And one more: Research suggests that the presence of a trained dog lowers children’s stress, fosters a positive attitude toward learning, and smooths interactions between students and other children.

Click here to read the full article on Detroit Freep.

The mental health crisis among children and teens: How parents can help

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illustration of four people sitting in their depression to show the mental health crisis

By Claire McCarthy, MD, Harvard Health

We are in the midst of a pediatric mental health crisis — and parents need to take action.

Over the past couple of years, the pandemic has not only killed hundreds of thousands; it has also shut us inside, cut off social contacts, taken parents out of work and children out of school. The consequences have been tremendous. And one of those consequences is that we are seeing alarming amounts of anxiety and depression in our children and teens.

A national emergency among children and teens
In the fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. They called for increased funding for mental health resources, as well as other actions, including more integration of mental health care into schools and primary care, more community-based systems to connect people to mental health programs, strategies to increase the number of mental health providers, and ensuring that there is insurance coverage of mental health care.

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These are all necessary, and efforts to ensure them are ongoing. But while we work to build mental health care systems, there are things that parents can do to help their children through this crisis.

Mental health is just as important as physical health
First and foremost, we must understand that. If a child has a fever or a persistent cough, parents react — they pay attention and reach out for help. But if a child seems sad or irritable, or less interested in activities they used to enjoy, they tend to think of it as a phase, or teen angst, or something else that can be ignored. The mental health of our children is crucial. Not only does mental health affect physical health, but untreated mental health problems interfere with learning, socialization, self-esteem, and other important aspects of child development that can have lifelong repercussions. And for some children, untreated mental health problems lead to suicide.

So pay attention, and take what you see seriously. If your child is showing signs of anxiety or depression, call your doctor. Don’t put it off. If your child talks about harming themself or others, get help immediately, such as by going to your local emergency room. In this situation, it’s better to overreact than underreact.

Create rituals of communication and safe spaces to talk
It’s easy to lose connection with our children, especially our teens. Whether it’s family dinner, family game night, talking on the ride to school, or a nightly check-in before bed, having regular times to ask open-ended questions and to listen to your children is important.

Make sure your child has downtime
We all need this, and children particularly need it. Be sure they aren’t overscheduled; make sure that there is time for them to do things they enjoy.

Encourage healthy media habits
One of the things kids enjoy these days is being on their devices, which can be fun and connect them to friends, but can also contribute to problems with mental health. Talk to your child about how they use media. Common Sense Media has a wealth of useful information.

Make sure your child is getting enough sleep — and some exercise
Both are very important for mental health as well as physical health. Here are tips to help your child get the sleep they need. And even short bursts of exercise can lessen anxiety.

Keep in touch with teachers, coaches, and other adults in your child’s life
Not only may they have information about your child that you need, but they can also play an important supportive role. Open lines of communication with them can make a difference — and help to create community, which we all need, especially now.

Click here to read the full article on Harvard Health.

Ben Simmons’s Mental Health Is Not a Joke

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By , SI | NBA

New Nets guard Ben Simmons spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time in months after he was traded from the Sixers for James Harden and Paul Millsap, along with Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and two first-round picks. Simmons reported to the slumping team Monday after sitting out the start of the 2021–22 campaign, having cited mental health concerns. Not everyone took well to the positive development in Brooklyn this week.

“So much for Ben Simmons mental illness,” tweeted Philadelphia radio personality Howard Eskin. “Amazing how that was just fine once he got traded. Insulting to those that really suffer.”

“If Ben Simmons is suddenly ready to play for Brooklyn after weaponizing his mental health as an excuse to stay away from the Sixers, I’m going to have some thoughts,” tweeted Matt Mullin, a soon-to-be Philadelphia Inquirer editor. “Some very angry thoughts that will be hard to keep to myself.”

Simmons’s situation is somewhat of a test: How closely have we been paying attention to the underlying messages of athletes who speak out about their mental health? Did previous public discussion, particularly over the past year by Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, not show us that sometimes people just need a break or a change of scenery? Not everyone—in sports or not—can afford those opportunities, but those who can should. And if those at the peak of their professions take a break, then maybe the rest of us can eventually follow their lead and work to set boundaries for ourselves, too.

“I feel physically pretty good,” Simmons told reporters in his introductory press conference. “Mentally, I’m getting there, so it’s an ongoing thing to stay on top of that. But I think I’m heading in the right direction.”

Simmons hasn’t played yet this year, citing mental health concerns after sitting out training camp and the regular season thus far. Some argued that tying this to his mental health—as his agent, Rich Paul, did—was a financial play, Simmons’s exploitation of a loophole so he could still earn money while hanging tight for a ticket out of town.

Simmons denied that perception Tuesday. “A bunch of things that were going on over the years, I wasn’t myself. Being happy, taking care of my well-being. It wasn’t about the basketball, it wasn’t about the money.”

Simmons was said to be receiving assistance with his mental health from outside the franchise, which started during the offseason. He reportedly turned down the Sixers’ internal help. (“Philadelphia does not have a mental health doctor on its staff with whom Simmons is comfortable,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported in early November.)

Many athletes have said, including to me, that they prefer seeing licensed mental health practitioners outside of team settings, where there’s less pressure to focus on performance and getting back to work immediately. Most workplaces don’t even have in-house doctors, for partially this reason. There’s also a greater sense of privacy in seeking out mental health care outside of the team. It’s a move that comes at the athlete’s own expense, which can be pricy, but it’s a trade-off well worth it for some.

It is easy to make jokes about Simmons. He’s a star NBA player who can’t seem to shoot a two at times, let alone a three. But his mental health, just like anyone else’s, is not a laughing matter, despite all the quips about a move to Brooklyn never improving a 20-something’s well-being.

Sure, the fit in Philly may not have been right for Simmons, but that doesn’t mean he was faking something like anxiety or depression just to get a trade. Who among us hasn’t had a workplace situation that weighed on our mood or even exacerbated a preexisting mental illness? A change of setting can’t fix everything, but it’s entirely possible that a new team, a new city and a new boss really are helping Simmons feel better.

We can’t selectively decide which athletes get the benefit of the doubt based on whose stories sound more credible to strangers. If you want to believe Osaka and Biles and all the rest, believe Simmons. If you’re having a hard time extending him the grace, remember that there’s not much to be gained by athletes who disclose mental health issues. While there is increasingly positive media coverage and good branding opportunities for athletes who speak up, for those inside the world of sports, disclosure mostly raises red flags, making them—especially Black men—look weak and vulnerable in the eyes of many on the court and off.

Click here to read the full article on SI | NBA.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. 2022 Academic Careers Workshop Apply Today!
    June 9, 2022 - June 12, 2022
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    June 14, 2022
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    June 22, 2022