Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

Post by trader32176 »

Pandemic has triggered changes in mental health and physical activity

4/13/21 ... ivity.aspx

New research from McMaster University suggests the pandemic has created a paradox where mental health has become both a motivator for and a barrier to physical activity.

People want to be active to improve their mental health but find it difficult to exercise due to stress and anxiety, say the researchers who surveyed more than 1,600 subjects in an effort to understand how and why mental health, physical activity and sedentary behavior have changed throughout the course of the pandemic.

The results are outlined in the journal PLOS ONE.

" Maintaining a regular exercise program is difficult at the best of times and the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may be making it even more difficult."

- Jennifer Heisz, Study Lead Author and Associate Professor, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University

"Even though exercise comes with the promise of reducing anxiety, many respondents felt too anxious to exercise. Likewise, although exercise reduces depression, respondents who were more depressed were less motivated to get active, and lack of motivation is a symptom of depression," she says.

Respondents reported higher psychological stress and moderate levels of anxiety and depression triggered by the pandemic. At the same time, aerobic activity was down about 20 minutes per week, strength training down roughly 30 minutes per week, and sedentary time was up about 30 minutes per day compared to six months prior to the pandemic.

Those who reported the greatest declines in physical activity also experienced the worst mental health outcomes, the researchers reported, while respondents who maintained their physical activity levels fared much better mentally.

Researchers also found economic disparities played a role, particularly among younger adults.

"Just like other aspects of the pandemic, some demographics are hit harder than others and here it is people with lower income who are struggling to meet their physical activity goals," says Maryam Marashi, a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology and co-lead author of the study. "It is plausible that younger adults who typically work longer hours and earn less are lacking both time and space which is taking a toll."

After analysing the data, the researchers designed an evidence-based toolkit which includes the following advice to get active:

Adopt a mindset: Some exercise is better than none.
Lower exercise intensity if feeling anxious.
Move a little every day.
Break up sedentary time with standing or movement breaks.
Plan your workouts like appointments by blocking off the time in your calendar.

"Our results point to the need for additional psychological supports to help people maintain their physical activity levels during stressful times in order to minimize the burden of the pandemic and prevent the development of a mental health crisis," says Heisz.


McMaster University

Journal reference:

Marashi, M. Y., et al. (2021) A mental health paradox: Mental health was both a motivator and barrier to physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS ONE.
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

Post by trader32176 »

Mental health disorders increased sharply among Americans during first 9 months of COVID-19 pandemic

4/22/21 ... demic.aspx

Confirming anecdotal evidence that the spread of the coronavirus has strained Americans' mental health, Boston College researchers found reports of anxiety increased to 50 percent and depression to 44 percent by November, 2020 - rates six times higher than 2019 - according to a new report in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Among U.S. adults aged 18-29, the impact on mental health was even more severe. Rates of anxiety and depression increased to 65 percent and 61 percent, respectively, of the respondents in that age group, according to the report.

Use of prescription medication, counseling services, and unmet need for mental health services also rose significantly, according to the co-authors of the new study, Boston College developmental psychologist Rebekah Levine Coley and economist Christopher F. Baum, who reviewed survey data from nearly 1.5 million U.S. adults.

Rates of mental health disorders were highest among young, less-educated, single parent, female, Black and Hispanic respondents, Coley and Baum report. Disparities between young versus older and less educated versus more educated adults rose over time. Young, female, and moderately educated respondents also reported higher unmet needs for services.

" Disparities in estimates of mental health disorders and mental health treatment indicate a striking disequilibrium between the potential need for and the use of mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising mental health challenges are being borne largely by young, less advantaged people of color, and women, with the potential for expanded interruptions to optimal functioning and societal recovery from COVID-19."

- Rebekah Levine Coley, Professor, Lynch School of Education and Human Development

Despite extensive anecdotal evidence of rising mental health challenges posed by the pandemic, little prior evidence had systematically assessed rates of mental health disorders or use of mental health symptoms through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Coley.

"We discerned a need to track rates of depression and anxiety, as well as rates of use of mental health services and reports of unmet need for such services between April and November, 2020," she said. "We also sought to assess whether the rates of mental health disorders and service use varied across key demographic groups in the U.S."

The researchers analyzed data gathered between April and November 2020 as part of the U.S. Census' Household Pulse Survey, a series of cross-sectional surveys conducted weekly. Survey respondents self-reported their symptoms of anxiety and depression, use of medication, use of counseling services, and unmet need for services. Coley and Baum analyzed these surveys to track trends in mental health disorder symptoms and access to and use of mental health services.

While the researchers expected to see increases in the rates of depression and anxiety, they were surprised by the magnitude of the increases, Coley said.

"The fact that prevalence rates were six times higher than national norms from 2019 was striking, as was the fact that these increases were born primarily by younger adults, aged 18-29 years, whose rates of anxiety and depression were nearly twice as high as those of older adults, aged 70 and above," Coley said.

The analysis reveals a need for continued study of the pandemic's impact on mental health.

The findings suggest the need for increased access to mental health services and other supports to help adults face the economic, social, and psychological stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coley said. There is also a need to assess whether rising mental health challenges continue to grow as the pandemic rages on, and to delineate the longer-term effects of the social, economic, and psychological disruptions caused by COVID-19. For young adults particularly, the pandemic may have interrupted higher education plans and the initiation of careers and social and financial independence, with unknown long-term repercussions.

"The myriad stressors imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have impaired mental health and well-being," said Baum, who also holds an appointment at BC's School of Social Work. "Although evidence from early in the pandemic revealed elevated rates of mental health conditions, research had not documented whether psychological disorders have continued to rise as the pandemic has persisted, or for whom they have risen most dramatically."


Boston College

Journal reference:

Coley, R.L & Baum, C.F (2021) Trends in mental health symptoms, service use, and unmet need for services among U.S. adults through the first 9 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Translational Behavioral Medicine.
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

Post by trader32176 »

Pregnant and postpartum women at elevated risk of mental health problems during COVID-19 pandemic

4/22/21 ... demic.aspx

Substantial proportions of pregnant and postpartum women scored high for symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness and post-traumatic stress in relation to COVID-19 in a survey carried out in May and June 2020, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Karestan Koenen and Archana Basu of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, US, and colleagues.

Pregnant and postpartum women face unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic that may put them at elevated risk of mental health problems. These include concerns about greater severity of COVID-19 disease, potential infection of newborns and increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes. Perinatal mental health problems are a critical public health issue which can adversely impact not only women's own health but also infant outcomes, mother-infant bonding, and later offspring health.

In the new study, researchers carried out an anonymous, online, cross-sectional survey of pregnant and postpartum women in 64 countries between May 26, 2020 and June 13, 2020. The survey was available in twelve languages and was advertised in social media and online parenting forums. Participants gave information on demographics, COVID-19 exposure and worries, information seeking behavior, COVID-19 prevention behaviors, and mental health symptoms. The mental health symptoms reported in the study were based on modified screening questionnaires rather than a clinical diagnosis.

The study found that, of 6,894 participants, a substantial number scored at or above the cut-off for elevated anxiety/depression (2,138, or 31 percent), loneliness (3,691, or 53 percent), and post-traumatic stress in relation to COVID-19 (2,979, or 43 percent), despite the fact that only 117 women (2 percent) had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and only 510 (7 percent) had been in contact with someone with COVID-19. These numbers were higher than rates of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression previously reported for the general population during the pandemic, or for perinatal and postpartum women prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Information seeking from any source--including social media, news or word-of-mouth--five or more times a day was associated with more than twice the odds of elevated post-traumatic stress in relation to COVID-19 and anxiety/depression. For example, checking social media more than five times a day was associated with 2.25 times higher odds of elevated post-traumatic stress (95%CI 1.92-2.65) and 2.83 times higher odds of anxiety/depression (95%CI 2.39-3.34). In addition, being very worried about COVID-19 was strongly associated with elevated post-traumatic stress (OR 4.75, 95%CI 3.34-6.87) and anxiety/depression (OR 1.51, 95% CI 1.09-2.13).

The majority of participants reported engaging in COVID-19 prevention behaviors (e.g., 93.3 percent reported practicing hand hygiene and 84.5 percent reported wearing a face mask) but these behaviors were not associated with anxiety/ depression symptoms. The authors suggest that COVID-19 prevention behaviors are central to containing the viral spread and mitigating physical health risk, but public health campaigns and medical care systems also need to explicitly address the impact of COVID-19 related stressors on mental health in perinatal women.

The authors add: "Our results suggest that globally, pregnant women and new moms' mental health is still another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maternal mental health and wellbeing is critical for mothers and foundational for healthy child development. There is an urgent need for maternal mental health to be fully integrated into standard prenatal and postpartum care."



Journal reference:

Basu, A., et al. (2021) A cross-national study of factors associated with women’s perinatal mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS ONE.
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

Post by trader32176 »

Frequent internet usage may benefit older adults’ mental health during lockdown

4/22/21 ... kdown.aspx

A new study from the University of Surrey has found that among people aged 55 to 75 more frequent use of the internet was beneficial for mental health and quality of life under lockdown. Those who used the internet more, particularly for staying in touch with friends and family, were at lower risk of depression and reported a higher quality of life.

Loneliness and social isolation have been major problems for many under lockdown, and for older people in particular. Loneliness raises risk of depression and other negative health outcomes. In a paper published in the journal Healthcare, researchers from Surrey investigated whether more frequent internet use in older people helped reduce this risk.

Researchers studied 3,491 individual participants drawn from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing in Summer 2020, whilst social distancing measures were in place across the country. Participants were surveyed on the frequency and type of their internet usage - such as information searching or for communication purposes.

Those who reported using the internet frequently (once a day or more) had much lower levels of depression symptoms and reported higher quality of life compared to those who used the internet only once a week or less. Using the internet for communication was particularly linked to these beneficial effects, suggesting that going online to stay connected with friends and family helped combat the negative psychological effects of social distancing and lockdown in adults aged 55-75.

Conversely, the study found that people who mostly used the internet to search for health-related information reported higher levels of depression symptoms. This might be due to a greater degree of worry triggered by reading Covid-19 and other health-related internet sources.

" As social restrictions continue during the Covid-19 pandemic, older people are at greater risk of loneliness and mental health issues. We found that older adults who used the internet more frequently under lockdown, particularly to communicate with others, had lower depression scores and an enhanced quality of life. As the Covid-19 situation evolves, more frequent internet use could benefit the mental health of older people by reducing loneliness and risk of depression, particularly if further lockdowns are imposed in the future."

- Dr Simon Evans, Lecturer in Neuroscience, University of Surrey


University of Surrey

Journal reference:

Wallinheimo, A-S & Evans, S.L (2021) More Frequent Internet Use during the COVID-19 Pandemic Associates with Enhanced Quality of Life and Lower Depression Scores in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Healthcare.
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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Most faculty members deal with student mental health issues, but only a few have received training

4/27/21 ... ining.aspx

Nearly 80 percent of higher education faculty report dealing with student mental health issues--issues that more than 90 percent of faculty believe have worsened or significantly worsened during the pandemic, according to a new nationwide survey led by a Boston University mental health researcher.

" The vast majority of faculty members, myself included, are not trained mental health professionals, but we have a role to play in supporting student well-being. These data underscore a real opportunity to better equip faculty with knowledge and basic skills to support and refer students."

- Sarah Ketchen Lipson, Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy, and Management, Survey Principal Investigator, School of Public Health, Boston University

These findings, detailed in a first-of-its-kind report, underscore faculty's growing involvement in the health and well-being of students and their willingness to serve as mental health "gatekeepers"--a role that has become increasingly important as students continue to navigate online learning, social isolation, and other COVID-19-related stressors.

But the survey revealed that less than 30 percent of faculty have received training from their academic institutions to handle these issues, even though almost 70 percent say they would welcome this guidance and are eager to strengthen their support for students experiencing mental or emotional health challenges.

Another key survey finding: more than one in five faculty members said that students' mental health has taken a toll on their own mental health. Almost half of respondents said that their institution should invest more in supporting faculty mental health and well-being.

"I am hopeful that our new research in this area will raise awareness of the reality that many faculty members are struggling with their own mental and emotional health," Lipson says.

She says she leveraged BU's mental health resources to help her find a therapist. "I know that I am a better teacher, advisor, and colleague because I am able to prioritize my own mental health in a way that meets my needs," she says.

The pilot survey, which was funded by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and conducted in partnership with the Mary Christie Foundation and the Healthy Minds Network, was administered during the spring 2021 semester to almost 1,700 faculty members at 12 colleges and universities across the United States. The results indicate that more work needs to be done on campuses to enable faculty to identify and refer students in mental distress.

"These data make it clear that college and university faculty members are attuned to the mental health needs of their students," Lipson says.

Importantly, she says, while 75 percent of faculty reported that they would reach out to a student in mental or emotional distress, only 51 percent were confident that they could recognize signs of student mental distress. More than 60 percent of faculty believe that it should be mandatory for institutions to provide basic training on handling student mental health, and faculty want additional resources, such as a checklist of warning signs, guides for how to initiate conversations, and a list of available mental health resources.

The survey also found that while 55 percent of faculty believe their institutions are welcoming or somewhat welcoming towards students of color, 58 percent of Hispanic or Latinx faculty and 39 percent of Black or African American faculty believe their institution is hostile or somewhat hostile towards students of color. These results indicate that institutions should not only make campuses more inclusive for students, but also build the level of trust needed among faculty of color to refer students to campus resources, the report said.

"Data are powerful in creating change in higher education, and for so long, there has been a lack of national data on the mental health of college and university faculty," says Lipson. "I hope that investments in new resources to support faculty well-being will yield benefits not only to individual faculty members, but also to students and institutions writ large."


Boston University
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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Researchers set out overarching goals to speed up implementation of mental health research

5/10/21 ... earch.aspx

A group of UK academics are calling for targets for mental health in order to meet the healthcare challenges of the next decade.

Published today in Journal of Mental Health researchers set out four overarching goals that will speed up implementation of mental health research and give a clear direction for researchers and funders to focus their efforts when it comes to better understanding the treatment of mental health.

The treatment of mental illness currently brings substantial costs to not only the NHS, but also to the individual and wider society, and the need for innovation to promote good mental health has never been greater. In an effort to catalyze this innovation, the researchers have set out four ambitious targets:

1.Halve the number of children and young people experiencing persistent mental health problems

2.Improve our understanding of the links between physical and mental health, and eliminate the mortality gap

3.Increase the number of new and improved treatments, interventions and supports for mental health problems

4.Improve the availability of choices and access to mental health care, treatment and support in hospital and community settings

The number of goals was limited to four in an effort to easily promote cross-sector partnerships, and to track their impacts.

" While there is a wealth of research taking place to better understand the treatment of mental illness, we must have a clear idea in our heads where we are heading. Without clear targets and goals for mental health we will be amassing information without any clear trajectory, or worse, no clear understanding of achievements or the expected timescale."

- Dame Til Wykes, Professor and Study Corresponding Author, Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King's College London

"The four goals that we have set out are in response to this problem, providing a roadmap forwards for all researchers, funders, and policymakers. We have undoubtedly set ourselves a high bar, but they have been designed to give us all a clear sense of purpose."

The research comes at a particularly pertinent time. At least 1 in 6 adults in the UK are likely to experience mental health difficulties in any given week, and the British Medical Association has recently warned that the mental health consequences of covid will be "considerable". The research has been welcomed by several sector voices, including funders, researchers, and NHS Trusts.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and co-lead of the National Institute for Health Research, said: "Few could disagree that mental health research is crucial in driving innovation in current mental health care and in bringing hope for the future.

Working with clinicians, academics, major mental health research funders, mental health research charities and representatives from service users groups, as well as representatives from Public Health England and NHS England has been key to identifying those areas of most concern and transforming them into four distinct research goals which the mental health community can sign up to."

Professor Elaine Fox of the University of Oxford said that "National high-level goals that focus our research efforts are an important part of ensuring that good will and good intentions are translated into genuine innovations and impact."

Professor Peter Jones of the University of Cambridge said, "It's been a pleasure supporting the development of these important mental health research goals. Involving a wide range of stakeholders, they provide us all with focus, direction and challenge. The goals will galvanize mental health science while holding it to account."

Lea Milligan, CEO of MQ Mental Health Research said "MQ's vision is to create a world where mental illnesses are understood, effectively treated and one day preventable. The research goals that came from an extensive consultation are an opportunity for us bring the mental health research community together in a united and impactful way like never before."

Dr Nev Jones of One Mind, as US-based non-profit organization, said "the paper sets the stage for organizations to "all pull in the same direction". Collaboration has been a cornerstone of One Mind's strategy to accelerate research, and this framework will be helpful moving forward."

Professor Dame Til Wykes said, "The pandemic has and will produce a double whammy - the effects of lockdown and the effects of economic slowdown that exacerbate existing socio-economic inequalities.

"With so many people facing an increased risk, it's vital that we act now to proactively meet the challenges of the next 10 to 20 years head on."

"The spread of COVID-19 has demonstrated that widespread changes can be implemented rapidly when everyone is working to the same goal. If we can emulate our response to the pandemic in the care of mental illness, we would see positive impacts very quickly."

The four goals were produced following a consultation process that was organized by the Department of Health and Social Care and convened by the Chief Medical Officer. The views of service users and service user organizations supported this activity, as well as research support from the National Institute for Health Research's Clinical Research Network.


Taylor & Francis Group
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

Post by trader32176 »

Riding Herd on Mental Health in Colorado Ranching Country

5/11/21 ... al-crisis/

KIOWA, Colo. — The yellow-and-green facade of Patty Ann’s Cafe stands out on the main street of this ranching community just 25 miles from the Denver suburbs. Before the pandemic, the cafe was a place for ranchers to gather for meals and to swap stories.

“Some people would call it almost like a conference room,” said Lance Wheeler, a local rancher and regular at the cafe. “There are some guys that, if you drive by Patty Ann’s at a certain time of day, their car or truck will always be there on certain days.”

When covid-19 restrictions closed in-person dining across Colorado last year, Patty Ann’s opened a takeout window. Customers spread their food on the hoods of their trucks and ate there while sharing news and commiserating over the stresses of ranching during the pandemic.

Keeping that community hub operating has been vital for the ranchers around Kiowa as the pandemic takes its toll on mental health in agricultural communities where health providers are scarce and a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality is prevalent.

The pandemic over the past year has been a surprising boon for many farms and ranches as higher consumer demand amid food shortages has boosted business.

But coupled with everyday worries about weather and commodity prices, the pandemic also has led to mental health challenges, including serious stress, anxiety and depression among farmers and ranchers, health officials said. The American Farm Bureau Federation found that about 3 in 5 rural adults reported that the pandemic has affected mental health in their communities, while two-thirds of farmers and farmworkers said the pandemic has impacted their mental health.

Treatment for mental health problems caused or worsened by the stress and isolation of the pandemic has obstacles particular to ranching and farming country. The stigma of acknowledging the need for mental health care can prevent people from seeking it. For those who overcome that obstacle and look for help, they are likely to find underfunded, understaffed and underequipped health providers who often don’t have the bandwidth or expertise for sufficient mental health support.

“I guess my cows are my therapists,” joked Wheeler. The 54-year-old rancher said he has felt the stress of the added responsibility of providing meat to customers in a time of food shortages, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic. But he feels lucky to have a family that supports him.

Similar to other Rocky Mountain states, Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. The rates are often worse in the state’s rural communities, a factor consistent with rural Americans’ risks nationwide: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report examining 2001-15 data found the suicide rate in rural counties was more than 17 per 100,000 people, compared with about 15 per 100,000 in small and medium-sized metro counties and about 12 per 100,000 in large metro counties.

Kiowa is in Elbert County, whose 1,850 square miles of mostly dusty, flat plains start where the affluent bedroom communities of Denver end. The county has no urgent care center or hospital like its suburban neighbors, just four clinics to serve a population of 27,000.

Dwayne Smith, Elbert County’s public health director, said that to help solve the problem residents need to talk with their health providers as candidly about their mental health challenges as about skin cancer or heart disease.

“In a more conservative community, where historically mental health issues may not have been talked about as openly and as comfortably as in the [Denver] area, you have to work diligently to increase people’s comfort level,” Smith said. “Even saying the words ‘anxiety,’ ‘depression,’ ‘mental health’ — all those things that in prior generations were very much a taboo subject.”

The public health crisis is just an added burden to the already high stress on people in the agricultural industry. “Farmers and ranchers are absorbing a lot of the shocks to the system for us: hailstorms, pest outbreaks, drought, markets — they’re adjusting for all that to keep food production moving,” said Colorado’s agriculture commissioner, Kate Greenberg.

Unpredictable weather, a volatile commodity market and a 700-acre grass fire cost Laura Negley, a rancher in the southeastern town of Eads, a lot of income around 2012. Negley’s and her husband’s families have been in agriculture since the late 1600s and early 1700s, and they are now the third generation on the same Colorado land.

But she was devastated after those losses, followed by her youngest child’s departure for college. “That’s kind of when the wheels fell off for me. And then I kind of spiraled down,” Negley said.

Negley, now 59, said she initially didn’t recognize she needed help even though she was deep into her “dark place” of depression and anxiety, but her brother encouraged her to see a counselor near him in Greeley. So, when the cattle were done grazing for the season, Negley spent six winter weeks getting counseling 200 miles north. Those visits eventually transitioned to phone counseling and an anti-anxiety medication.

“I do think you have to have a support group,” said Negley, who said her faith has helped her, too.

Over the years, slashed budgets to local health departments have cut to the bone. In Elbert County, Smith is one of just three full-time employees in his department. About 15 years ago, it had at least six nurses. It now has none. It is trying to hire one.

“We have a lack of health providers” in rural America, Negley said. “The ones we do have are doing their best — but they’re trying to wear multiple hats.”

Agencies in Colorado recognize the need to improve mental health services offered to rural residents. Colorado Crisis Services has a hotline and text-messaging number to refer people to free, confidential support. And the state is working on tailored messaging campaigns to help farmers and ranchers understand those numbers are free and confidential to contact. These services can help: According to the CDC, for every adult death by suicide, about 230 people think seriously about suicide.

A bill introduced in Colorado’s legislature would boost funding for rural rehabilitation specialists and help provide vouchers for rural Coloradans to get behavioral health services.

“We have to be flexible: What works in Denver does not work in La Junta” or the rest of rural Colorado, said Robert Werthwein, director of the state’s Office of Behavioral Health.

But in tightknit small towns, ranchers say, even if the resources are there the stigma remains.

“These are normal people with normal problems. We’re just trying to, perhaps first and foremost, destigmatize mental health needs and resources,” Smith said.

Stigmas are something 26-year-old Jacob Walter and his family want to help tackle. As Walter was growing up, a friend’s father and another friend’s mother died by suicide. Before Walter left the family’s ranch in southeastern Colorado to start his sophomore year in college, he lost his own father, Rusty, to suicide in 2016. Walter said there were few local resources at the time to help people like his dad, and the nearest town was 45 minutes away.

Rusty was involved in many community service organizations and gave a lot of his time to others, Walter said, but he suffered from depression.

“The day before he committed suicide, we had been talking at the kitchen table, and he was just talking about [his depression], and he said: ‘You know, you can always get help and stuff.’”

That’s the message agricultural leaders like Ray Atkinson, communications director at the American Farm Bureau Federation, say should be conveyed most: It’s OK to acknowledge when you need help.

“If your tractor needed maintenance … you would stop what you’re doing and you’d get it working right before you go try and go out in the field,” Atkinson said. “You are the most important piece of equipment on your farm.”
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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Coronavirus Pandemic: Mental Health and Coping town hall

5/13/21 ... /10610496/
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on adolescent mental health, study finds

6/5/21 ... finds.aspx

A study of over 59,000 Icelandic adolescents by a team of Icelandic and North American behavioral and social scientists found that COVID-19 has had a significant, detrimental impact on adolescent mental health, especially in girls. The study is the first to investigate and document age- and gender-specific changes in adolescent mental health problems and substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic, while accounting for upward trends that were appearing before the pandemic. The findings are published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The study found that negative mental health outcomes were disproportionately reported by girls and older adolescents (13-18-year-olds), compared to same-age peers prior to the pandemic. At the same time, it revealed a decline in cigarette smoking, e-cigarette usage and alcohol intoxication among 15-18-year-old adolescents during the pandemic.

" The decrease observed in substance use during the pandemic may be an unintended benefit of the isolation that so many adolescents have endured during quarantine."

- John Allegrante, collaborating senior investigator, affiliated professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and applied behavioral scientist

Thorhildur Halldorsdottir, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Reykjavik University who is the study co-principal investigator, said the study represents a "landmark contribution to what we now know about just how psychologically devastating being socially isolated from peers and friends during the ongoing pandemic has been for young people."

According to the researchers, prior studies have not been designed to determine whether clinically relevant levels of depression--as opposed to self-reported depressive symptoms--and substance use have increased during the pandemic.

Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, professor of sociology at Reykjavik University, scientific director of the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, and research professor of health education at Teachers College, said the study "differs in methodology from previous studies in that it tracked population-based prevalence of mental health outcomes and substance use over several years in order to better understand the potential effects of COVID-19 from recent upward trends in adolescent mental health problems.

Previous studies of adolescents during COVID-19 found evidence of increased mental health problems and certain types of substance use that had been rising before the pandemic. This study, however, compares current data with several pre-pandemic time points, which enabled the researchers to separate the effect of COVID-19 from other recent, downward trends in adolescent mental health.

The implication of the new study is that interventions intended to lessen the negative impact of the pandemic on adolescent mental health might help improve the mental health outlook for young people around the world who have been caught up in the pandemic, observed Allegrante, who is also senior professor of health education at Columbia Teachers College.

"Isolation during the pandemic has been universal and it is global, and it is having a clinically important, negative impact on young people who have not been in school during the pandemic. Whether an adolescent was an Icelander in Reykjavik who had been at home for most of the last year or an American in New York City, living under the same circumstances - being at home, engaged in remote learning and separated from friends--the consequences of not going to school not only set back their learning but also negatively affected their mental health. What we don't know is by how much."

The study shows that population-level prevention efforts, especially for girls, are warranted," but that "more study is needed to determine the long-term effects of quarantine and being socially isolated from one's peers, including the effects on learning and academic achievement and relationships with parents, siblings, and peers," said Allegrante.

Ingibjorg Eva Thorisdottir, chief data analyst at the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) at Reykjavik University (who studied at Teachers College in 2009 as part of an exchange with Reykjavik University), was the principal investigator and lead author of the report.

Alfgeir L. Kristjansson, Senior Scientist at ICSRA and Associate Professor of Public Health at West Virginia University and a co-author of the study, said the "results underline the significance of social relationships in the health and well-being of youth and the importance of nurturing and maintaining strong social support mechanisms in their lives. The Lancet Psychiatry study report highlights these findings at population scale." Kristjansson was a postdoctoral fellow with Allegrante at Teachers College during 2010-2012.

In a commentary that accompanies the article's publication, Gertrud Sofie Hafstad and Else-Marie Augusti, both senior researchers at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies in Oslo, write that the study "clearly shows that gauging the mental health status of adolescents over time is of imminent importance."


Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Journal reference:

Thorisdottir, I.E., et al. (2021) Depressive symptoms, mental wellbeing, and substance use among adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iceland: a longitudinal, population-based study. Lancet Psychiatry.
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