NIH to Study Brain, Schools Prep For Fall

Science: The national suicide rate had been steadily increasing over the past 2 decades and has increased during the pandemic, but scientists are looking into how primary and specialty care settings can identify early signs to help doctors, nurses, teachers, families and others. The National Institute of Mental Health has a 5-year plan to try and define what’s happening in the brain that might be triggering suicide thoughts.

Sports: The 137th edition of Harvard-Yale will have to wait until 2021 because the Ivy League cancelled fall competitions. Due to the COVID pandemic, team sports activities are being cancelled at all levels and student-athletes are experiencing mental health issues at 3x the typical level. A recent report from researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health found that 68% of student-athletes reported symptoms of depression in May 2020.

Policy:   Lawmakers in North Carolina are pushing legislation that would increase the number of social workers, counselors and psychologists in schools starting in the fall. Another bill would require every school to have a permanent, full-time nurse on duty. School mental health officials expect a greater number of students, teachers and other staff members will return to campuses needing their services. One potential solution to fill the gap if hiring is difficult is using telepsych companies to provide remote interaction for students. One secondary school principal in Carolina, Martin Flanders, said, “It’s not ideal but it’s not going to be easy to hire therapists…we are looking at all options, including a virtual solution”

Perspective: There are some common misconceptions about people with mental illness. I know in my own family we struggled with that with a grandmother with Alzheimer’s and my own mom who battled depression – the path from figuring out why and then how to help can be long and painful, but taking time to talk to youngsters in particular about what mental illness is and isn’t can be impactful. According to research poll we did of physicians, therapists and consumers, the 6 most common misconceptions are (1)  people with mental illness want attention, (2) medications for mental illness are dangerous, (3) mental health is only an issue for people who sick from something else, (4) getting help for mental illness is easy, (5) mental illness can be cured with food and fitness alone and (6) therapy traumatizes people more than it is helpful.

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