Your mental health app’s diagnosis could be way off

Apps that help us deal with our well-being can often be helpful and comforting, but how much should we rely on a mobile application to tell us how to cope with our mental health struggles?

According to new research conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia, there may be some major problems in the way mental health apps are framing mental illness and diagnosing users.

The research, which was recently published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, consisted of a qualitative content analysis of 61 mental health apps across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Full story at Medical News Today

Bipolar in the workplace: ‘I was asked whether I was taking crazy people’s meds’

Michelle Lewis* has experienced a great deal of discrimination against her in the workplace for having a mental illness. In 2016, she suffered suicidal thoughts and knew she needed help. She was diagnosed with bipolar and admitted to a clinic.

“When I was discharged from the clinic, I returned to work as normal. Before my official diagnosis, there were no complaints about my quality of work,” Lewis says. But when she returned to the office she realised something wasn’t right.

She was called into a meeting and asked what was wrong. She believed that because she had worked for the company for six months, she assumed she could be honest.

Full story at Health 24

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

Stress affects people with schizophrenia differently

Stressful situations affect the brain and body differently in people with schizophrenia compared to people without the mental illness or individuals at high risk for developing psychosis, a new CAMH study shows. The relationship between two chemicals released when people experienced stress — one released in the brain and the other in saliva — differs in people with schizophrenia. The discovery, recently published in the journal Brain, may provide clues into how to act early to prevent schizophrenia.

“We found a disrupted stress response in people with schizophrenia, which did not occur in either healthy individuals or people at clinical high risk for developing psychosis,” says Dr. Christin Schifani, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Research Imaging Centre in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, and lead author of the study.

As most people with schizophrenia experience psychosis, identifying differences between people at high risk for psychosis and those with schizophrenia may shed light on how schizophrenia develops and ways to prevent its onset.

Full story at Science Daily

Brain abnormality indicates general risk for mental illness

A new study by researchers at Duke University reports an abnormality in visual regions of the brain that is associated with a person’s general risk for mental illness. The findings, published in Biological Psychiatry, indicate a signature abnormality shared between common forms of mental illness, which could help clinicians assess a patient’s general risk for developing a mental illness. The signature abnormality was present in participants involved in the study who already had a higher risk of mental illness. This was characterized by a reduced efficiency between visual areas and brain networks important for integrating sensory information and suppressing distracting information.

Researchers have long thought that some aspects of the biology of the risk for psychiatric disorders were specific to particular disorders, and by studying specific groups of patients, may have mistaken general risk factors as specific risk factors. Newer research suggests that a person’s risk for developing mental illness is not specific to one form of disorder, but is instead shared across many different disorders. “In other words, there may be a single risk factor that predicts whether an individual develops any form of psychiatric disorder, be it depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or even schizophrenia,” said first author Maxwell Elliott, a doctoral student in the laboratory of Ahmad Hariri, PhD.

Full story at Science Daily

New Processing Technique Helps Researchers Use Electronic Health Records to Study Biological Contributors to Mental Illnesses

Researchers have found a way to scan electronic health records (EHRs) that helps identify associations between broad dimensions of behavioral function and genes relevant to mental disorders. Use of the technique opens an enormous source of data to researchers who are interested in taking a dimensional approach to the study of mental illnesses instead of using traditional diagnostic categories. The study, funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), was published online February 26, 2018 in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

As medicine has entered the digital age, the use of electronic systems for managing health data has skyrocketed. These electronic health records provide a trove of information for researchers who want to understand factors that contribute to health and illness.

Full story at NIMH

Mental Health Expert Talks Hollywood’s Battle with Depression

Mental illness has long had a stigma associated it, and Hollywood is working to shine a light on the problem, both for those in and out of the entertainment industry.

Kita S. Curry has made a career of studying mental health as president and CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, the nation’s leading provider of community health and substance use programs. Curry spoke to Variety about the struggle many actors and musicians have with depression and substance abuse, due both to their hectic schedules and dealings with fame.

“I think that when you become well known, it’s hard to know if people like you or like your halo,” she said. “If you are depressed and already feel like you’re a failure, you never live up, it’s hard for people to understand the dark voices that can tell us what losers we are when people seem to successful.”

Full story at Variety

Stopping exercise can increase symptoms of depression

Stopping exercise can result in increased depressive symptoms, according to new mental health research from the University of Adelaide.

PhD student Julie Morgan from the University of Adelaide’s Discipline of Psychiatry has reviewed the results of earlier studies that examined the effects of stopping exercise in regularly active adults.

The results of her review are now published online ahead of print in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“Adequate physical activity and exercise are important for both physical and mental health,” says Ms Morgan.

Full story at Science Daily