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.

The Facts, Stats and Impacts of Diabetes

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man holding diabetes app on his smartphone

Chances are, you know someone with diabetes. It may be a friend, a family member or even you, so learn about the facts, stats and impacts of diabetes.

Today, the number of people with diabetes is higher than it has ever been. And it’s not just your grandparents you have to worry about. People are developing diabetes at younger ages and higher rates. But the more you know, the more you can do about preventing, delaying or lessening the harmful effects of diabetes.

The Facts

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most people’s bodies naturally produce the hormone insulin, which helps convert sugars into energy. Diabetes causes the body to either not make insulin or not use it well, causing blood sugar to rise. High blood sugar levels can cause serious health problems.

With type 1 diabetes, the body can’t make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t use insulin well. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes.

With prediabetes, the body may not be able to fully use insulin, or it may not make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range, so levels are higher than normal — but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

The Stats

The National Diabetes Statistics Report provides information on the prevalence (existing cases) and incidence (new cases) of diabetes and prediabetes, risk factors for health complications from diabetes and diabetes-related deaths and costs.

Key findings include:

  • 37.3 million Americans — about 1 in 10 — have diabetes.
    • About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it.
  • 96 million American adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes.
    • More than 8 in 10 adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it.
  • In 2019, about 1.4 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed.
  • For people aged 10 to 19 years, new cases of type 2 diabetes increased for all racial and ethnic minority groups, especially Black teens.
  • For adults with diagnosed diabetes:
    • 69% had high blood pressure, and 44% had high cholesterol.
    • 39% had chronic kidney disease, and 12% reported having vision impairment or blindness.
    • Diabetes was highest among Black and Hispanic/Latino adults, in both men and women.

The Impacts

Diabetes and diabetes-related health complications can be serious and costly. The seventh leading cause of death in the United States, diabetes costs a total estimated $327 billion in medical costs and lost work and wages. In fact, people with diagnosed diabetes have more than twice the average medical costs.

Though there is no cure for diabetes, there are things you can do to manage it and its health complications. And if you have prediabetes, there are things you can do to help prevent it from becoming type 2 diabetes.

Source: CDC

Cracking the code: Working together to engage and empower female technologists at Bloomberg

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diverse women working on laptop

To create products that serve increasingly diverse customers and solve a wider range of social problems, technology companies need women engineers. However, only 25 percent of math and computer science jobs in the United States are filled by women, and one-third of women in the U.S. and China quit these jobs mid-career due to factors like social isolation, a lack of access to creative technical roles and difficulty advancing to leadership positions.

At Bloomberg, we’ve established a company culture that supports gender equality in a multitude of ways – from company-wide Diversity & Inclusion business plans to a newly expanded family leave policy. But we know that’s not enough. In recent years, we’ve adopted a system-wide approach to increasing the number of women in technical roles, taking steps to remove barriers to advancement both inside our organization and beyond Bloomberg, supporting female talent from middle school through mid-career.

While the number of women in technical jobs at Bloomberg is growing, we’re committed to making progress faster and completing all the steps needed to solve the equation. Here are some of the ways we’re tackling this important deficit – and making quantifiable change.

Early engagement

Bloomberg supports organizations that help increase women’s participation in STEM and financial technology, exposing students to various career options through Bloomberg Startup and encouraging our female engineers to engage with the next generation of talent.

Collaboration, creativity, and a love of problem-solving drew Chelsea Ohh to the field of engineering. Now she works at Bloomberg as a software engineer team lead, helping to provide critical information to financial decision makers across the globe.

Recruitment

We target our entry-level engineering recruiting efforts at colleges that have achieved or are focused on gender parity in their STEM classes. And because not all the best talent come from the same schools or have the same experiences, Bloomberg actively seeks women engineers with non-traditional backgrounds or career paths.

Talent development

Women engineers can sharpen their technical skills through open courses, on-site training sessions, and business hackathons held throughout the year. Bloomberg is committed to inspiring our female employees, eliminating barriers like impostor syndrome, and encouraging them to pursue opportunities in engineering.

Community & allies

To strengthen its network of female engineers, global BWIT (Bloomberg Women in Technology) chapters organize more than 150 events, mentoring sessions, and meet-ups a year. The community also engages male allies and advocates, sharing strategies to help them support their female colleagues.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg.

Strength Training May Benefit Gross Motor Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

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Strength Training May Benefit Gross Motor Function in Children With Cerebral Palsy

By Brandon May, Neurology Advisor

Strength training is associated with improvements in muscle strength, gait speed, balance, and gross motor function in children and adolescents with spastic cerebral palsy, according to study results published in Clinical Rehabilitation.

Prior research on the effects of physical training on improving functional mobility and gross motor skills has been mixed. For example, some studies have found that with muscle strengthening, muscle strength improves but not function. Other studies have reported improvement in motor activity and functions such as gait. The objective of the current study was to review the most recent data on the effect of strength training on function, activity, and participation in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy.

The meta-analysis included 27 randomized controlled trials which evaluated muscle strength training in children, adolescents, and young adults (age range, 3-22 years) with spastic cerebral palsy. In the pooled cohort of 873 patients, a total of 452 patients underwent strength training, while the remaining patients participated in a different physical therapy technique or were assigned to a control group with no physical therapy.

Researchers excluded 3 studies, yielding 24 studies in the meta-analysis. According to the researchers, there were significant standardized mean differences that were in favor of the strength training techniques vs other physical therapy techniques or control in terms of improvements in muscle strength at the knee flexors, muscle strength at the knee extensor, muscle strength at the plantar flexors, maximum resistance, balance, gait speed, Gross Motor Function Measure (global, D and E dimension), as well as spasticity.

A limitation of this meta-analysis, according to the researchers, was the high levels of moderate risk and high risk of bias among analyzed studies. Additionally, the studies in the meta-analysis did not assess the long-term effect of muscle strength training in this population. Given this limitation, the investigators noted that children with cerebral palsy should perform “high-intensity strength training regularly to maintain and ideally accumulate benefits over time.”

Click here to read the full article on Neurology Advisor.

How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?

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two phones linking social media accounts

, The New York Times

What is your relationship with social media like? Which platforms do you spend the most time on? Which do you stay away from? How often do you log on?

What do you notice about your mental health and well-being when spending time on social networks?

In “Facebook Delays Instagram App for Users 13 and Younger,” Adam Satariano and Ryan Mac write about the findings of an internal study conducted by Facebook and what they mean for the Instagram Kids app that the company was developing:

Facebook said on Monday that it had paused development of an Instagram Kids service that would be tailored for children 13 years old or younger, as the social network increasingly faces questions about the app’s effect on young people’s mental health.

The pullback preceded a congressional hearing this week about internal research conducted by Facebook, and reported in The Wall Street Journal, that showed the company knew of the harmful mental health effects that Instagram was having on teenage girls. The revelations have set off a public relations crisis for the Silicon Valley company and led to a fresh round of calls for new regulation.

Facebook said it still wanted to build an Instagram product intended for children that would have a more “age appropriate experience,” but was postponing the plans in the face of criticism.

The article continues:

With Instagram Kids, Facebook had argued that young people were using the photo-sharing app anyway, despite age-requirement rules, so it would be better to develop a version more suitable for them. Facebook said the “kids” app was intended for ages 10 to 12 and would require parental permission to join, forgo ads and carry more age-appropriate content and features. Parents would be able to control what accounts their child followed. YouTube, which Google owns, has released a children’s version of its app.

But since BuzzFeed broke the news this year that Facebook was working on the app, the company has faced scrutiny. Policymakers, regulators, child safety groups and consumer rights groups have argued that it hooks children on the app at a younger age rather than protecting them from problems with the service, including child predatory grooming, bullying and body shaming.

The article goes on to quote Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram:

Mr. Mosseri said on Monday that the “the project leaked way before we knew what it would be” and that the company had “few answers” for the public at the time.

Opposition to Facebook’s plans gained momentum this month when The Journal published articles based on leaked internal documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing. Facebook’s internal research showed that Instagram, in particular, had caused teen girls to feel worse about their bodies and led to increased rates of anxiety and depression, even while company executives publicly tried to minimize the app’s downsides.

But concerns about the effect of social media on young people go beyond Instagram Kids, the article notes:

A children’s version of Instagram would not fix more systemic problems, said Al Mik, a spokesman for 5Rights Foundation, a London group focused on digital rights issues for children. The group published a report in July showing that children as young as 13 were targeted within 24 hours of creating an account with harmful content, including material related to eating disorders, extreme diets, sexualized imagery, body shaming, self-harm and suicide.

“Big Tobacco understood that the younger you got to someone, the easier you could get them addicted to become a lifelong user,” Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s attorney general, said in an interview. “I see some comparisons to social media platforms.”

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

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain

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Animated photo of the human brain. meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ.

By Alice G. Walton, Forbes

The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.

Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”

One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, through its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.

Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well.

Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing – it affects millions of grown-ups as well, with an ADD diagnosis or not. Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job, too – but it’s nice to have science confirm it. And everyone can use a little extra assistance on standardized tests.

Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

A lot of people start meditating for its benefits in stress reduction, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this rationale. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (now available all over the country), that aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have shown its benefits in reducing anxiety, even years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

The Most Common Types of Learning Disabilities Found in Kids and Adults, According to Experts

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having learning disabilities just means your brain operates a bit differently.

By Madeleine Burry, Explore Health

If you have a learning disability, your brain operates a bit differently. Learning disabilities occur “when someone has an impairment in learning or processing new information or skills,” Ami Baxi, MD, psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital, tells Health.

This can lead to difficulty with language, speech, reading, writing, or math.

Defining a learning disability is important—as is understanding what a learning disability isn’t.

A learning disability, or a learning disorder, is not associated with low intelligence or cognitive abilities, Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, tells Health. Nor is linked to a negative home or school environment, she adds. Instead, learning disabilities can be hereditary, or they may be brought on or exacerbated by psychological or physical trauma, environmental exposure (think: lead paint), or prenatal risks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Learning disabilities are often diagnosed in childhood, but not always, Romanoff says. Sometimes the disability is mild and goes unnoticed by parents or teachers. Other times it’s mistaken for a lack of motivation or work ethic. In some cases it isn’t diagnosed because kids grow adept at adapting, compensating, and seeking out situations to suit their strengths, Romanoff says.

Without a diagnosis, Romanoff notes, people will lack “answers as to why they have difficulties in certain areas academically or in their daily lives as they pertain to their relationships or general functioning.” That’s unfortunate, since there are ways to overcome the differences in how people with learning disorders organize and manage information, she says.

Here’s a look at some of the most common learning disorders, some of which you’ve likely heard of and others that don’t get as much attention.

Dyslexia
This learning disability “impairs reading and spelling ability,” Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Connecticut with Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, tells Health. Estimates vary, but as many as 20% of people may have dyslexia, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, which notes that it’s the most common neurocognitive disorder.

People with dyslexia struggle to read “because they have problems identifying speech sounds and learning how these relate to letters and words (known as decoding),” Schiff says. As adults, people with dyslexia will tend to avoid reading-related activities, she says. “They may also have trouble understanding jokes or expressions like idioms—where they cannot derive the meaning from the specific words used.”

Dyscalculia
For people with dyscalculia, all sorts of math-related skills—number sense, memorizing arithmetic facts, and accurate calculations—are impaired, Romanoff says.

“Dyscalculia generally refers to problems acquiring basic math skills, but not to problems with reasoning,” Romanoff says.

Tasks that require working with numbers will take longer for people with this learning disorder, Dr. Baxi says. From calculating the tip to writing down someone’s digits, numbers and math-related tasks are ever-present in life, and adults with this disorder may see the impact in many areas of life.

A 2019 study estimates that between 3-7% of people have dyscalculia.

Dysgraphia
People with this writing disability have impaired writing ability and fine motor skills, Schiff says. They find it difficult to organize letters, numbers, or words on page or other defined space, she says.

Anything letter-related is a struggle for people with dysgraphia, Dr. Baxi says. Poor handwriting is common for people with this learning disorder, she notes.

“Dysgraphia in adults manifests as difficulties with syntax, grammar, comprehension, and being able to generally put one’s thoughts on paper,” Schiff says.

Other learning conditions to know
Some conditions are not classified as learning disorders or aren’t formally recognized in the DSM-V, the diagnostic guide used by mental health professionals. But they are still worth noting, since they may overlap or come up frequently for people with learning disorders.

Nonverbal learning disorders
With this kind of disorder, visual-spatial and visual-motor skills are affected, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nonverbal learning disorders (NLVD) can affect social skills and play out as a struggle to decode body language and understand humor, Schiff says.

“Non-verbal learning disabilities are not considered learning disabilities. They are often signs of other disorders,” Dr. Baxi notes. While NLVD isn’t officially recognized, this cluster of symptoms is “recognized by neuropsychologists and in educational settings when it presents itself,” Schiff says.

Click here to read the full article on Explore Health.

The Latinx Community’s Growing Influence

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Latina reading magazine

The United States is currently experiencing a massive demographic shift, led in large part by the nation’s Latinx population. This group is growing rapidly, quickly becoming the most culturally and economically influential community in the country.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the country’s Hispanic or Latinx population grew from 50.5 million in 2010 (16.3% of the U.S. population)  to 62.1 million in 2020 (18.7%). That’s an increase of 23 percent. In fact, slightly more than half (51.1%) of the total U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020 came from growth in the country’s Latinx population.

It is no surprise then, that Latinx people have a massive effect on the U.S. economy. Their buying power is expected to reach $1.9 trillion by 2023, according to a report from Nielsen. This is up from $213 billion in 1990, marking an over 200% growth rate, more than double the growth in buying power of non-Latinx consumers.

This community’s economic influence reaches all industries, and it is critical that businesses gain a deeper understanding of Latinx culture. Doing so will allow business leadership to both better support employees and more effectively appeal to customers.

Understanding the Hypercultural Latinx individual

Among young Latinx people, there has been a rise in what is known as the “Hypercultural Latinx.”

Hypercultural Latinx people are often first-generation Americans who straddle both U.S. culture and their parents’ native Hispanic cultures. This group feels deeply connected to both aspects of their identities and has, in a sense, created their own blended, hybrid culture. As Ilse Calderon, an investor at OVO Fund, wrote on TechCrunch, a Hypercultural Latinx person is “100% Hispanic and 100% American.”

So, what do they want to buy? While Latinx people are clearly not a monolith, there are a few key trends across the community. According to research in the PwC Consumer

Intelligence Series, the Latinx population is especially enticed by new tech products. They are active on TikTok and exceedingly more likely to use WhatsApp and other social media platforms than other groups.

Nielsen also found that 45% of Latinx consumers buy from brands whose social values and causes align with theirs. This is 17% higher than the general population. Latinx people also share strong family values, as well as pride in their distinct cultural heritages. That is why organizations must engage the Latinx community and invite Latinx people to share their experiences.

It is pivotal that business leaders understand that “Latinx” is not a single streamlined culture. Rather, it is a diverse mix of traditions, nationalities, and values.

Embracing these cultural nuances is a key to understanding Latinx audiences. Organizations must consider methods to appeal to distinct Latinx groups, rather than marketing to the group as a whole.

Cultivating and advancing Latinx talent in the workplace

It isn’t only consumers that businesses should be thinking about. Latinx talent has also accounted for a massive 75% of U.S. labor force growth over the past six years, according to Nielsen. Nevertheless, only 3.8% of executive positions are held by Latinx men, and only 1.5% of are held by Latinx women.

Clearly, companies have a lot of work to do to attract and cultivate Latinx talent—and it all starts with recruitment. To ensure a diverse work force, companies must utilize culturally competent recruitment strategies that not only make new positions appealing to a variety of job seekers, but also give every applicant a fair chance.

According to an article in Hispanic Executive, understanding cultural differences can help recruiters create job descriptions that more effectively appeal to different communities. For example, the Latinx community feels a more communal sense of identity, compared to the more individualistic sense of identity in European-American culture. Recruiters should keep this in mind when thinking about what necessary skills they are highlighting for available roles.

Click here to read the complete article on Bloomberg.

When Work Weighs You Down, Take a ‘Sad Day’

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need a sad day? Man sitting at desk with hands over face

Have you ever felt nervous or afraid to take time off from work to look after your mental health?

Marisa Kabas, a writer and political strategist who lives in New York City, recently posed a similar question on Twitter, inspired by Simone Biles, who bowed out of Olympic events this week to protect her mental health.

“It was so shocking to so many people,” Ms. Kabas said on Wednesday in an interview. “Because the whole mentality is be strong, and push through the pain.”

The tweet drew thousands of responses, many from employees who said they do not disclose the real reason they need time away from work, or feel pressured to lie about it because they are embarrassed. Others said they had never taken a mental health day.

As a freelancer who has written prolifically about her health problems, including anxiety and depression, Ms. Kabas said she sometimes wakes up and decides, “I can’t do it today,” and takes the day off, a luxury she didn’t feel she had as an employee.

About three-quarters of people in the United States who work for private industry, state or local government have paid sick leave, but surveys suggest that a number of these employees are unlikely to use sick days for mental health reasons or are scared of being punished for doing so.

If you’re among the hesitant, experts say it’s time to start thinking about how to protect and prioritize your mental well-being, especially as millions of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic start returning to the office.

“You wouldn’t feel bad about taking time off when sick. You shouldn’t feel bad about taking some time off when you’re sad,” said Natalie C. Dattilo, a clinical health psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Your body needs a rest, your brain needs a break.”

How do you know if you need a ‘sad day’?
There’s no official definition for a “sad day,” also known as a mental health day. Typically, it is paid time off drawn from sick days (or personal days) to help employees who aren’t feeling like their usual selves, offering an opportunity to refresh their minds; do something meaningful; or simply take a break from daily stressors. The “sad day” is only a temporary fix, and not meant to address deeper problems, but sometimes a little time away can make a big difference.

Your company may not specify that sick days can be used for this purpose, but “mental health is health,” said Schroeder Stribling, the president and chief executive of the advocacy group Mental Health America. “The two are inseparable.”

The signs that you need to take time away from work may not necessarily be obvious, Ms. Stribling said. Indicators include changes in your mood, productivity or ability to concentrate. You may also notice that you are less patient and more irritable than usual, or are having trouble sleeping.

You might also have physical symptoms. For example, “if I start getting headaches, that’s a sign of stress for me, and I need to address that with a mental heath day,” Ms. Stribling said.

The bottom line: Given the extraordinary stressors of the last year and a half, regardless of your specific symptoms, “if you feel like you might benefit from a mental health day, you have earned one,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school, whose recent podcast explored the benefits of the “sad day” and the importance of building a culture of compassion within the workplace.

Some companies may require employees to provide documentation, such as a doctor’s note, when they use sick days, so make sure you understand what the law says in your region. In New York City, for example, an employee is not required to provide documentation unless more than three consecutive days of sick leave have been used.

How do you ask for a mental health day?
Your workplace culture and your relationship with your manager will dictate how open you choose to be about why you’re taking time off. You should not feel compelled to divulge more than necessary.

“I think sometimes we over-share when we’re anxious or perhaps feel a little bad about having to take time,” Dr. Dattilo said.

In most situations, just say that you need to take a sick day, and leave it at that, the experts advised.

“I think the safe advice is not to be upfront,” said Andrew Kuller, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. Not everybody values mental health, he added, and “unless you’re close with your supervisor, it is a risk.”

But say you work at the type of organization where you can tell the truth without fear of being punished. In that case, you are still under no obligation to reveal why you want to take a sick day. However, if you want to share (or are interested in reducing some of the stigma around mental health) you might approach your manager and say, “I think I would really benefit from taking a day just to recharge a little bit,” Dr. Grant said. “I would like to come back to work with all of my energy.”

When employees are mentally and physically exhausted, it affects the quality of their work, their productivity and the people around them, Dr. Grant added.

“I think it’s easier to have a conversation about burnout than it is about feeling sad or depressed or anxious, so I would probably play it safe there, and highlight why this is good for the organization, not just good for you,” he said.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can also try to assemble a coalition of people within your department who are concerned about mental health fatigue, said Dr. Grant, whose latest book, “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know,” challenges readers to shift long-held thought patterns. As a group, you can discuss concerns like missed deadlines or errors that might be compounded by burnout, then bring these issues to your manager, who may be motivated to find a solution. That way, you can try to change the system for everyone, including yourself.

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

FDA Approves Device To Help Detect Autism

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FDA sign in front of building

By Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop

Federal regulators authorized a first-of-its-kind device to help primary care doctors determine whether or not a child has autism, potentially allowing kids to be diagnosed far sooner by avoiding lengthy waits for specialists.

The Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to market the Cognoa ASD Diagnosis Aid this month, which will be branded Canvas Dx.

The machine learning-based software uses an algorithm to analyze data submitted by parents and health care providers in order to return a “positive for ASD” or “negative for ASD” response for a child.

To use the device, parents and caregivers answer questions about behavior and submit videos of the child through a mobile app while the health care provider answers questions through a special portal. The videos are reviewed by certified specialists and the algorithm makes a determination so long as there is sufficient information provided.

It is the first device authorized by the FDA to help primary care physicians diagnose autism, according to Cognoa, which makes the product.

Since autism symptoms vary, the condition can be difficult to diagnose, the FDA said. As a result, the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the median age for autism diagnosis is older than 4 even though the developmental disability can be reliably detected by age 2. Part of the problem is that families often encounter long waits in order to see a clinician skilled in evaluating children for autism.

The Cognoa aid is intended to help solve that problem by giving primary care physicians with less specialized training the tools to make a diagnosis themselves. That can happen with the device within a few weeks, the company said, as opposed to taking months or years, allowing children who are on the spectrum to start early intervention sooner.

“Autism spectrum disorder can delay a child’s physical, cognitive and social development, including motor skill development, learning, communication and interacting with others. The earlier ASD can be diagnosed, the more quickly intervention strategies and appropriate therapies can begin,” said Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Today’s marketing authorization provides a new tool for helping diagnose children with ASD.”

In a study of the Cognoa ASD Diagnosis Aid that involved 425 children ages 18 months to 5 years, the device returned a result for about a third of the kids. Of those who were “positive for ASD,” a panel of clinical experts found that 81% were on the spectrum. The clinical panel agreed with the aid’s findings in 98% of the children who got a “negative for ASD” result.

The FDA has approved the device for use with children ages 18 months through 5 years who are considered to be at risk of developmental delay due to concerns raised by their parent, caregiver or health care provider. It is not meant to be a stand-alone diagnostic device, but should be used in addition to the traditional diagnostic process, regulators said.

Cognoa indicated that it expects to start making Canvas Dx available later this year.

Click here to read the full article on Disability Scoop.

Why Nike and its CEO are focusing on mental health

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John Donahoe, CEO of Nike wearing a gray hoodie while seated in an interview

By John Donahoe, Yahoo! News.

John Donahoe is the CEO of Nike. When I was 28 years old, I got some advice that changed my life. It was 1988, and I was a consultant at Bain. These were intense years-long hours, little sleep, lots of travel, constant work, and trying to balance family life with a spouse and two young children. I was glad to be learning as much as I was, but I also remember feeling like I was barely staying afloat.

One day, during a training program for young consultants, a speaker came to impart some wisdom. I was half-listening at first, my mind drifting back to the office, when he asked us a question: How many of us wanted to be world-class at what we did?

Naturally we all raised our hands. The speaker laughed and said, well, that’s the intelligence test.

Then he explained. He said he spent years studying world-class athletes. (I’d always looked up to athletes and my ears perked up at this.) And he said that these top athletes all shared a unique trait: They take care of themselves.

He said for every hour they’re on the playing field, they train for 20 hours. They work out, they sleep well, they eat right. They look inward to learn their own strengths and weaknesses. And importantly, they are not afraid to ask for help — in fact, they view asking for help as a sign of strength.

“Michael Jordan has a bench coach, a personal trainer, a chef, and a mental coach. He wants to get help so he can get better,” the speaker told us. “But you businesspeople don’t take care of yourselves. You think not getting sleep is a badge of honor! And you want to be world-class? You think asking for help is a sign of weakness, not strength. I don’t get it!”

‘I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work’
I was rocked back. My eyes were opened. He was right. Like so many others, I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work, simply because I thought that was the only way.

As my career continued, I took his advice to heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some high-impact, challenging jobs over the years. And despite these leadership positions, I have always tried to keep perspective by taking care of myself and by asking for help.

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

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Upcoming Events

  1. The Arc National Convention – 2022
    November 10, 2022 - December 12, 2022
  2. Elder Customers –Treating Customers with Empathy–Virtual Event
    December 14, 2022
  3. CSUN 38th Annual Assistive Technology Conference
    March 13, 2023 - March 17, 2023
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    March 13, 2023 - March 17, 2023
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    March 20, 2023 - May 22, 2023