Category: Mental Health

Teens for Gun Reform Make Their White House Appearance

The events that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkside, Florida last week have sparked the gun control debate yet again in the United States. To me the past week has felt a little like déjà vu: Sandy Hook, Route 91 Festival and Pulse nightclub shootings. Thinking even farther back to Columbine shooting in 1997 when a school shooting seemed unthinkable and how that has changed to be almost a predictable occurrence today. Each shooting seems to spark the same cycle of outcry among our nation with folks pressuring change from policymakers. Yet each time there is no change from the people in power. A few weeks go by and there is another story that captives our attention and it is pushed to the back of our minds until the next shooting occurs and the cycle begins again. However one group is attempting to stop this hopeless cycle: Teens for Gun Reform.

Teens for Gun Reform is a student run group that appeared in front of the White House on Monday. They prepared a “silent lie-in” demonstration of 17 members lying down for three minutes in the streets in front of the White House (the amount of time it took the gunman to take the lives of the students and teachers). Around a hundred students and other advocates rallied and protested following the demonstration. These students are standing up for what they believe needs to be changed since policymakers aren’t listening to anyone else. It’s their lives that are in danger and hopefully protests and pressures from this group will lead to change regarding gun control.

To learn more about this group and the protest visit the following sites:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/gun-control-lie-in-white-house-parkland-florida-shooting-donald-trump-protest-students-a8218686.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/19/587089773/teens-lie-in-at-white-house-to-protest-for-stronger-gun-control

Are Mobile Mental Health Apps User-Friendly?

by Kat Caskey

Currently, only about half of those affected by mental illness in the United States will receive any kind of treatment[1]. In the past few years, however, experts have begun to look to remote healthcare options that could improve access to mental health treatment. Perhaps most promising is the growing consensus that mental health apps, or mHealth apps, “have unprecedented potential for improving quality of life and public health outcomes” for the tens of millions of people affected by mental health conditions in the U.S. each year.[2]

Mobile apps have the unique potential to reduce many of the traditional barriers to mental health treatment. For example, mHealth apps can be significantly less expensive than traditional treatment and may be accessed anytime, including during times of crisis, without an appointment. In addition, apps can reduce cultural barriers to care as they provide a “discrete mobile environment” free from social stigma.[3]

Evidence-based mHealth apps have been proven effective at treating a variety of mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder[4], anxiety[5], depression[6], obsessive compulsive disorder[7], bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse[8]. Unfortunately, however, although patients frequently download any of the myriad of mental health apps available in the App store, many are deleted after only a few uses, and a staggering 26% are used only once. One study that surveyed mental health app users found that among the most common reasons for deleting mental health apps included “not engaging” and “not user friendly,” with “ease of navigation” being the top feature that makes eHealth apps for mental health favorable.[9]

What good are evidence-based mental health apps if people won’t use them? These results indicate trouble in the realm of user experience, which considers “user emotions, affects, motivations, and values” as well as “ease of use, ease of learning and basic subjective satisfaction.”[10] Understanding user experience has been identified as “a key step in realizing the role of mental health apps”[11] and reminds us that it is not enough to understand the clinical basis of new health technologies; equally significant is consideration of the best ways to design and implement apps for people with mental health conditions. Ideally, user experience and usability testing evaluations should involve all relevant stakeholders, including patients and providers.[12]

Especially considering the wide reach of mHealth apps, “even minor efforts to further refine the usability and utility of the app” have the potential to decrease app attrition rates and increase user exposure to evidence-based treatment recommendations.[13] As apps designed to improve mental health continue to proliferate, app designers and researchers should continue to investigate how an emphasis on user experience can improve mHealth tools for mental health.

[1] National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml.  Accessed February 4, 2018.

[2] Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

[3] Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

[4]Rodriguez-Paras, C., Tippey, K., Brown, E., Sasangohar, F., Creech, S., Kum, H. C., … & Benzer, J. K. (2017). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Mobile Health: App Investigation and Scoping Literature Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth5(10).;
Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

[5] Sucala, M., Cuijpers, P., Muench, F., Cardoș, R., Soflau, R., Dobrean, A., … & David, D. (2017). Anxiety: There is an app for that. A systematic review of anxiety apps. Depression and anxiety.

[6] Lattie, E. G., Schueller, S. M., Sargent, E., Stiles-Shields, C., Tomasino, K. N., Corden, M. E., … & Mohr, D. C. (2016). Uptake and usage of IntelliCare: a publicly available suite of mental health and well-being apps. Internet interventions4, 152-158.

[7] Ameringen, M., Turna, J., Khalesi, Z., Pullia, K., & Patterson, B. (2017). There is an app for that! The current state of mobile applications (apps) for DSM‐5 obsessive‐compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and mood disorders. Depression and anxiety.

[8] Rizvi, S. L., Dimeff, L. A., Skutch, J., Carroll, D., & Linehan, M. M. (2011). A pilot study of the DBT coach: an interactive mobile phone application for individuals with borderline personality disorder and substance use disorder. Behavior therapy42(4), 589-600.

[9] Smith, D. Motivating Patients to use Smartphone Health Apps. Consumer Health Information Corporation. http://www.consumer-health.com/motivating-patients-to-use-smartphone-health-apps/. Published 2014. Accessed February 4, 2018.

[10] Abrahão, S., Bordeleau, F., Cheng, B., Kokaly, S., Paige, R. F., Störrle, H., & Whittle, J. (2017, September). User Experience for Model-Driven Engineering: Challenges and Future Directions. In 2017 ACM/IEEE 20th International Conference on Model Driven Engineering Languages and Systems (MODELS) (pp. 229-236). IEEE.

[11] Lemon, Christopher. “The User Experience: A Key Step in Realizing the Role of Mental Health Apps.” Psychiatric Times, 7 Feb. 2018, www.psychiatrictimes.com/telepsychiatry/user-experience-key-step-realizing-role-mental-health-apps.

[12] Price, M., Yuen, E. K., Goetter, E. M., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., Acierno, R., & Ruggiero, K. J. (2014). mHealth: a mechanism to deliver more accessible, more effective mental health care. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy21(5), 427-436.

[13] Owen, J. E., Jaworski, B. K., Kuhn, E., Makin-Byrd, K. N., Ramsey, K. M., & Hoffman, J. E. (2015). mHealth in the wild: using novel data to examine the reach, use, and impact of PTSD coach. JMIR mental health2(1).

Love is all you need (that, and chocolate)

Hypothetically speaking of course, if one had no plans at all for this Wednesday and/or if that same someone muttered, “What’s this Wednesday,” one might recommend a day of self-care. Hallmark be darned! Regardless of plan status (or, you know, relationship status), self-love can be every day. I’m talking about healthy, happy choices.

Take a soak in the tub of love

Sprinkle some rose petals and rose water in there for some antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and moisturizing action. Or pour in a glass of red wine! The polyphenols soften skin and antioxidants give you a boost.

Flavonoids

Get you some dark chocolate. It’s high in iron, magnesium, and feel-good phenylethylamine. One to two ounces should do the trick.

Hit some zzz’s right in the bullseye with Cupid’s arrow

Pro tip: Sleeping naked helps the body regulate its temperature, which in turn helps decrease the stress hormone cortisol and balance melatonin.

 

If that’s not a romantic evening of self-care, I don’t know what is. Enjoy!

From Ke$ha to Kesha: A Glitter Queen’s Ascension to Self-Care Goddess

Last week, pop-artist Kesha authored a piece for Time on the added pressure of the Holiday season for those living with Mental Illness. In the piece, she discusses the added pressures that this time of year can add, but you might be asking yourself, who is Kesha to give me life advice?

Following a year that included a highly publicized comeback single, accompanied by her second Number One album, a critically proclaimed tour, and her first Grammy nominations, one could say things are going well for the artist who’s early career was built on electro-pop and a quirky party girl aesthetic. While her new album highlights overcoming personal struggles and finding self-acceptance, it has not been all Rainbows for Kesha.

While promoting her albums upcoming release over the summer, Kesha released a series of letters to fans regarding each single that dropped, sharing an intimate and personal look into the process of how she turned her pain into art. She touched on her time in rehab for an eating disorder, her struggles with mental illness, and her decision to drop the $ from her name. Starting with a piece published in Lenny Letter opening up about depression, finding empathy, and the process of turning pain into art through Praying, to a piece from Rolling Stone where she shared about her idols and Female Empowerment in Woman, to Learning to Let Go and defining her own mantras in Huffington Post, to sharing in Mic on feeling like an outcast and her passion for equality on Hymn, and finishing with a piece in Refinery29 regarding the album’s title track, Kesha provided fans with a detailed look into her songwriting process and personal life.

In being vulnerable, Kesha not only reminds us that there is a reason to keep fighting when things are not going well, but also continues an ongoing effort to destigmatize mental health. Through her songs and her form of blogging, Kesha showed the world the destruction of perfectionism and the benefits of radical self-love.

But rest assured: I can speak from seeing her in concert this fall that our girl still loves her glitter. Here’s to continue to rooting for her to continue reaching for the stars and shining bright for her fans in years to come.

Sources:

Kesha: The Holidays Are Hard If You Struggle With Mental Illness. Don’t Blame Yourself: http://time.com/5041017/kesha-self-care-holidays/

Kesha Fights Back in Her New Single, “Praying”: http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/a904/kesha-is-back-with-a-new-single-praying/

Read Kesha’s Poignant Essay About Celebratory New Song ‘Woman”: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/read-keshas-poignant-essay-about-celebratory-new-song-woman-w491950

Learn to Let Go: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kesha-learn-to-let-go_us_59790480e4b02a8434b3841f

Read Kesha’s essay on her new single “Hymn” – a song for “people who feel like outcasts”: https://mic.com/articles/183195/kesha-essay-new-single-hymn-for-people-who-feel-like-outcasts#.D1hhvBGGM

Kesha: “What’s Left Of My Heart Is Fucking Pure Gold & No One Can Touch That”: http://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/167127/kesha-rainbow-lyrics-meaning-album-inspiration

You can do it

Here we are, winding down the semester.  I want to take my last blog post of the year 2017 and share with y’all this little list-ish reminder I wrote to help me through this push before the holidays.

Okay,

Stop watching so much Netflix and do something fun yet productive. 🙂

Do what you’re passionate about!

Love yourself and be kind!

Post too many exclamation points if ya feel like it!!!!

Listen to music that makes you feel like how you want to feel

Find what works for you and it’s okay if that changes.

Appreciate the people around you!

These next two weeks may be stressful, but you can do it.  Remember to take care of your mind and body in addition to nurturing that intellect!

“I’ll have a blue christmas without you”

This time of the year is it hard not to get swept up in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, extravagant amount of food and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As we move through these next few weeks, it’s important to consider this time is not always merry for those around this. The holiday blues is a term coined to those who have feelings of anxiety and depression around the holidays due to the extra stress and expectations from this time of year. It differs from clinical anxiety and depression due to its temporary state. Holiday blues can look like fatigue, tension, loneliness, isolation and sadness. There are many triggers associated with them as such as less exposure to sunlight, changes in your diet and exercise routine, or inability to be with loved ones during the holiday season. Particularly those with pre-existing mental health conditions are at risk for the holiday blues.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has provided suggestions on how to avoid the holiday blues

  • Stick to normal routines
  • Sleep
  • Eat and drink in moderation
  • Exercise
  • Set goals and reasonable expectations for holiday shopping, cooking, entertaining etc.
  • Listen to music or other outlets for relaxation

To those experiencing the holiday blues, remember that this time of year is temporary and these feelings are short term. Happy Holidays!

A Different Type of Stress Eating

Exercise has long been prescribed as a remedy to anxiety and stress. Are there certain nutrients that may help as well?

Vitamin B1: Prevents the production of excess lactic acid (often recognized as a biochemical factor in triggering anxiety).

Vitamin B6: Helps make mood-influencing neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Vitamin B9: Maintains homocysteine levels (high levels linked to anxiety) by converting into mood-stabilizing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and antioxidant glutathione.

Vitamin B12: Serves in production of methionine, precursor of SAMe, necessary for myelin sheath and nerve function.

Magnesium: Reduces lactic acid levels, binds to and stimulates GABA receptors, and can regulate the stress response by suppressing stress hormones.

Zinc: Stimulates enzymes necessary in the synthesis of serotonin and GABA.

Tryptophan: Acts as the amino acid precursor to serotonin.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Decreases proinflammatory cytokins, small proteins that interfere with the regulation of glutamate (a neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety).

Vitamin C: Moderates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Check back next week for a post on what foods are a good source of these nutrients!

Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441

#MeToo: Personal Stories of Assault Flood Social Media

As I scrolled through my phone through my various social media applications (as part of my slow Monday morning routine) I noticed the phrase “Me Too” flooding my streams. At first I was puzzled by this reoccurring status, but did a quick google search and came to astonishing realization: all of these people have experienced some sort of harassment or assault. It took a second to fully comprehend how many of my friends and followers have had this traumatic experience. As I continued scrolling through my feeds, I discovered that this campaign was kick started by a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. Soon after many public figures came out responding with a “Me Too” including Viola Davis, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson, Lady Gaga and Sheryl Crow just to name a few. By Monday afternoon, Twitter announced that the “Me Too” had been used in half million tweets and Facebook released “Me Too” was referenced by 8.7 million users.

This campaign comes out shortly after the New York times published a tell-all article about the alleged sexual harassment incidents by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. In the wrath of the article, Weinstein has been fired from his own company and the company will formally change their name. Let’s hope that that these events will ignite the conversation about harassment and assault and that social media will release these numbers to help change societal norms around harassment and assault!

Sources:

http://people.com/movies/me-too-alyssa-milano-heads-twitter-campaign-against-sexual-harassment-assault/

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/harvey-weinstein-what-you-need-to-know-w508162

 

https://www.recode.net/2017/10/16/16482410/me-too-social-media-protest-facebook-twitter-instagram

 

Normalization and Solidarity in Mass Communication–what are the impacts of the #MeToo posts?

As a student in health communication, I cannot help but be curious of the health impacts of the massive sharing of #MeToo stories on social media this past week. It’s rapid and broad spread globally is significant. The Hindustan Times reports that within 24 hours, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times and on Facebook an additional 12 million (the linked article is also an interesting take from a global perspective) . A few days later, this number was much closer to 10 million.

Here are some questions that have been floating around since last Sunday:

  • What is the impact for victims/survivors (source: CNN)?

For some, this may be therapeutic–it may create a safe space and a sense of solidarity that encourages catharsis and reflection on an often stigmatized and complicated issue. However, it can also be an emotional trigger for those who are not prepared to speak publicly or feel compelled to share a personal and traumatic experience.

  • How does this sentiment translate into action?

A Washington Post contributor discusses that while speaking out on social media is encouraging, it remains to be seen whether the dialogue initiated will lead to actual actions. It’s hard to  measure the how and if such a socially embedded problem changes. It is also worth considering social circles–the fact that while our friend groups on social media are supportive, in some cases they may not be the ones that need to hear the message most. As the Hindustan Times article linked above asked, what do we need to do to make sure there is no reason to tweet MeToo years from now?

  • What makes a movement viral, and how can this be harnessed to improve health outcomes?

This is non-specific to the topic of sexual abuse, but in general, what are the factors that made the MeToo hashtag catch on so quickly? It’s personal nature? It’s ubiquity? Recent news? Media studies say most hashtags are created ad hoc, perhaps that is more genuine and reflective of users’ needs, though efforts have been made to generate disease specific discussions…but I wonder what the role of these hashtags and surrounding dialogue will be in a few years. As people rely increasingly on social media for information in addition to sharing content, how will this be leveraged by those who wish to propagate information?

Interested to hear your thoughts about social media and health-related campaigns/movements–this one in particular, or others.

Impostor Experience: The Advice I Keep Giving Myself in Graduate School

Impostor experience is characterized as having an inability to internalize one’s accomplishments, where those who experience it feel that they are a fraud, that they have somehow deceived others to believe that they are smarter than they actually are. These feelings occur even when contradicted by success, often crediting luck or good timing over their own hard work and effort. And it is quite prevalent in academic spaces.

When I started my graduate career, I was lucky enough to have professors who were well aware of this topic, encouraging students to reach out when they needed to, reminding us that we all have expertise to contribute to the classroom, we all have a space.

As a first generation college student, I still have moments almost daily where I feel like I don’t belong, that this isn’t really the place for me. Sometimes it’s a simple comment, someone in class sharing an experience, like “Oh my dad’s a doctor”. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are two of the hardest working people I know. But there are constantly reminders for me that in pursuing a graduate degree, I’m taking a career path that not many people who knew me as a child could even imagine.

Below I’ve attached some resources that I have found particularly helpful at some low points in my academic career. But what has helped the most for me is opening up to my friends and classmates, and realizing that I am not the only one having these feelings. I’m writing this because I’m not perfect at taking my own advice, I still need to step back and use some of these strategies, and I still need to practice opening up when I’m struggling.

Sources:

APA Cover Story: Feel like a fraud? http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud.aspx

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Impostor Syndrome is Definitely a Thing: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Impostor-Syndrome-Is/238418