Empty Nests Are Overrated

My younger foster daughter stormed out of the living room where we’d been doing battle.

“You knew what you were getting into when you signed up for me!” she screamed, the crash of the front door shattering my heart.

But the truth was I didn’t know what I was getting into when I became a foster parent. My husband, Saul, and I had had Janine and her sister Mariah as foster children for almost four years by then. I had known the girls since they were small. I was their pediatrician. I met them on the day their mother, Linda, dragged them into my office with no appointment — they were not even my patients yet — and announced that Mariah was sick.

“She’s not well!” Linda bawled. “You have to help her!”

Full story at the New York Times

How our brain and personality provide protection against emotional distress

If you feel anxious prior to exams, take note: studies suggest that you can learn how to be resilient and manage your stress and anxiety.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois recently examined a sample of 85 healthy college students to see how a number of personality traits can protect an individual’s brain against symptoms of emotional distress, namely depression and anxiety.

“In this study, we wanted to look at commonalities across brain regions and across personality traits that contribute to protective factors,” said Matt Moore, a Beckman Institute Graduate Fellow and co-author of the study. “We targeted a number of regions in the prefrontal cortex, looking specifically at the volume of those regions using structural magnetic resonance imaging. We did a confirmatory factor analysis, which is basically a statistical approach for testing whether there is a common factor underlying the observed measurements.”

Full story at Science Daily

Nerve stimulator may help depressed patients feel normal

An implanted nerve stimulator may help patients with the most severe depression get some of their day-to-day lives back, even if it doesn’t fully relieve their symptoms, doctors reported Tuesday.

Patients who have been using the vagus nerve stimulator say they have regained significant quality of life, and the improvements have lasted for as long as five years, the team reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

They hope that their findings will help encourage health insurance companies to pay for the pacemaker-like devices and the surgery needed to implant them. Although the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the devices for depression in 2005, health insurance companies, including Medicare, rarely pay for them.

Full story at NBC News

Kids stress over public acts of discrimination

In a sign of the times, new USC research shows that some kids stressed out over recent public acts of discrimination show increased behavioral problems.

The study focused on Los Angeles-area teens from communities of color or families with limited education. Many of the youths reported concern that discrimination is a growing societal problem. The more worried the teens were, the worse their substance use, depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms became, the study shows.

The findings are a snapshot into the adolescent mind during a time of rising U.S. political tensions and concern about increasing discrimination in society. It also coincides with the beginning of new social policies proposed by the Trump administration, which the scientists note might affect mental health for the youngsters.

Full story at Science Daily

Treating Teen Depression Might Improve Mental Health Of Parents, Too

An estimated 12.8 percent of adolescents in the U.S. experience at least one episode of major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to previous studies, many of those teens’ mental health is linked to depression in their parents.

But new research suggests there’s a flipside to that parental effect: When teens are treated for depression, their parents’ mental health improves, too.

We tend to think of depression as affecting individuals. But Myrna Weissman, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University, says, “Depression is a family affair.”

Weissman has studied depression in families for years. “We know that there’s high rates of depression in the offspring of depressed mothers,” she says.

Full story at NPR

Getting Honest About Mental Health In The World Of Tech Startups

The tech sector is built on bright minds developing new solutions to create economic or social impact. This fast-paced industry has high stakes, which require people to meet even higher expectations. Many individuals within the sector — especially startup founders — have small teams (meaning each person serves in multiple roles), work long hours, second jobs or are still in school and constantly worry about “making it.”

At the DMZ, we see that many entrepreneurs are still not talking openly about their mental well-being. And these challenges aren’t special to our organization. Mental health concerns in tech entrepreneurship are often referred to as “founder’s blues.” Between 2011 and 2017, founder’s blues has contributed to a number of high-profile suicides in the startup world, including Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit.

Researchers from the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs surveyed self-reported mental health concerns. And about 49% disclosed they deal with ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, depression or anxiety. These figures were described as “significantly higher” than non-entrepreneurs.

Full story at Forbes

The tipping point: Service sector employees are more susceptible to mental health issues

Approximately 102 million Americans work in the service industry, according to the Pew Research Center, filling critical positions in restaurants, salons and transportation. In many cases, these jobs offer base pay at rates up to 71 percent lower than federal minimum wage, with the expectation that tips, which are highly unpredictable, will make up the difference.

However, service workers who rely on tips are at greater risk for depression, sleep problems and stress compared with employees who work in non-tipped positions, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The analysis is based on data from a nationwide health study that followed thousands of participants from adolescence into adulthood.

“The higher prevalence of mental health problems may be linked to the precarious nature of service work, including lower and unpredictable wages, insufficient benefits, and a lack of control over work hours and assigned shifts,” said lead author Sarah Andrea, M.P.H., a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. “On average, tipped workers are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty relative to untipped workers.”

Full story at Science Daily

Inflammation in Pregnant Moms Linked to Child’s Brain Development

NIMH-funded researchers are connecting the dots between inflammation in a pregnant human mother and possible effects on her young child’s developing brain. So far, they have linked high levels of maternal inflammation during pregnancy to reduced brain circuit communications and altered long-distance brain wiring at birth, poorer cognitive function at one year – and to reduced impulse control and working memory at two years.

Inflammation and mental illness

Inflammation is part of the body’s normal defense against environmental insults, such as infections. In addition, the body can mount inflammatory responses to a host of factors, including obesity, diet, drugs (e.g., smoking), maternal depression, poverty, and stress.

Full story at NIMH

80% of teenage girls suffer serious mental illness after sexual assault

Four out of five teenage girls who have been sexually assaulted are suffering from crippling mental health problems months after their attack, new research has found.

Victims were found to have anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious conditions four to five months after being assaulted.

Experts said the findings confirmed that becoming a victim of abuse in childhood can lead to mental health issues that can persist into adulthood and last a lifetime.

The study involved 137 girls aged between 13 and 17 – average age 15.6 years – who were assaulted between April 2013 and April 2015. It was undertaken by academics from University College London (UCL) and specialist staff from King’s College hospital NHS trust who work in three sexual assault referral centres around the capital, where the victims were treated.

Full story at The Guardian

App, brief intervention may be lifesaver for suicidal teens

A troubled teenager is hospitalized with suicidal thoughts. The patient is diagnosed, medicated, and counseled by a team of experts.

The teen is sent home a few days later, and the following week the parent finds the child’s bedsheets fashioned into a noose.

The scenario is tragically common in the field of psychiatry, which has long struggled to develop strategies to help adolescents cope with recurring thoughts of suicide in the weeks after leaving the hospital.

A preliminary study from UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute shows an intervention program that includes a personalized app could make a difference: Researchers found the rate of attempted suicides by teenagers who received the intervention was halved compared to those who received the standard care during their hospitalization.

Full story at Science Daily