A new national poll suggests parents are not confident that schools can appropriately care for students’ mental health problems or medical issues.
The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan discovered that only 38 percent of parents are very confident in schools’ ability to assist a student suspected of having a mental health problem.
Most parents (77 percent) are sure schools would be able to provide first aid for minor issues, such as bleeding from a cut. But parents are less confident about a school’s ability to respond to more complex health situations, such as an asthma attack or mental health issues.
“Parents feel schools can handle basic first aid, but are less sure about urgent health situations such as an asthma attack, epileptic seizure, or serious allergic reaction,” said Sarah Clark, M.P.H, co-director of the poll.
“And they have the most uncertainty around whether schools can identify and assist a student with a mental health problem.”
“One of the challenges of addressing mental health is that there are so many facets,” Clark said. “At the elementary level, this might include prolonged sadness, anger management problems, or undiagnosed ADHD. For older students, it may be anxiety about college entrance tests, a problem with drug use, or suicidal thoughts.”
Parents at the middle/high school level noted that school counselors would be most likely to assist with mental health issues. However, varying levels of training, competing demands, and large student caseloads may make it especially difficult for counselors to identify students who are struggling.
“Parents may want to learn more about how their child’s school works to identify and support students struggling with mental health issues, and advocate for increased resources if needed,” she said.
For basic first aid and urgent health conditions, parents name the school nurse as the staff with primary responsibility. Roughly three in five parents believe a school nurse is onsite at their child’s school five days a week (61 percent of elementary parents, 57 percent of junior/senior high parents).
Parents who believe a school nurse is onsite five days a week report higher levels of confidence in the school’s ability to handle health and safety situations.
However, recent data from the National Association of School Nurses suggests that parents may be overestimating the amount of time a nurse spends at their child’s school. Fewer than half of U.S. schools have full-time nurses, with substantial variation by region, according to the data.
Budget constraints have forced many school districts to cut nurse staffing at school sites. Some districts are attempting to use telemedicine to fill the void in on-site care, promising improved access, yet parents are often not pleased with this solution.
A distinct trend is the reduction in constant availability of a school nurse — a situation that may be particularly chancy for students with health conditions that may require an immediate response at school such as administering a medication or knowing when to call an ambulance.
“Parents of children with special health needs should work directly with school personnel to understand the onsite availability of school nurses, and to ensure non-medical staff are prepared to handle urgent health-related situations that may arise during the school day,” she said.
Source: University of Michigan
New research undercuts a widely held opinion that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is associated with a higher intelligence quotient (IQ).
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Texas State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill performed what is believed to be first analysis of existing data on the link between IQ and OCD sufferers verses the general population.
The authors tracked the origins of the myth to the French philosopher, physician and psychologist Pierre Janet in 1903, but it was Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, who popularized the hypothesis in 1909.
Study findings appear in the Neuropsychology Review.
“Although this myth was never studied empirically until now, it is still a widely held belief among mental-health professionals, OCD sufferers and the general public,” said Dr. Gideon Anholt, a senior lecturer in BGU’s Department of Psychology.
The investigators conducted a meta-analysis of all the available literature on IQ in OCD samples versus non-psychiatric controls (98 studies). They found that contrary to the prevailing myth, OCD is not associated with superior IQ, but with normative IQ that is slightly lower compared to control samples.
The authors suggested that the small reduction in IQ scores in OCD sufferers may be largely attributed to OCD-related slowness and not to intellectual ability.
The popular misconception about OCD has been further promoted by TV programs like “Monk,” which show an individual with OCD using his superior intelligence to solve challenging mysteries.
Yet, such beliefs about OCD may facilitate the misconception that there are advantages associated with the disorder, potentially decreasing one’s motivation to seek professional help.
“Future IQ assessments of individuals with OCD should focus on verbal and not performance IQ, a score heavily influenced by slowness,” the researchers say.
The research team also included Dr. Amitai Abromovich, Texas State University; Sagi Raveh-Gottfried, psychology department, BGU; Dr. Jonathan S. Abramowitz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Naama Hamo, Ruppin Academic Center, Israel.
By Anonymous Thank you all for your comments. I don’t really consider myself to be a writer, (neither did my school English teacher)! But writing…
Almost half of parents whose children were admitted to Children’s National Health System’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) experienced postpartum depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress when their newborns were discharged from the hospital.
Parents who were the most anxious also were the most depressed, according to research presented during the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) national conference.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that one in 10 infants born in the United States each year is born preterm, or before 37 weeks’ gestation. Because fetuses undergo dramatic growth in the final weeks of pregnancy, preemies often need help in the NICU with essentials such as breathing, eating, and regulating their body temperature. Some very sick newborns die.
Because their infants’ lives hang in the balance, NICU parents are at particular risk for poor emotional function, including mood disorders, anxiety, and distress.
Researchers led by Children’s National Neonatologist Lamia Soghier, M.D., set out to determine factors closely associated with poor emotional function to identify at-risk parents most in need of mental health support.
The research team enrolled 300 parents and infants in a randomized controlled clinical trial that explored the impact of providing peer-to-peer support to parents after their newborns are discharged from the NICU.
The researchers relied on a 10-item tool to assess depressive symptoms and a 46-question tool to describe the degree of parental stress. They used regression and partial correlation to characterize the relationship between depressive symptoms, stress, gender, and educational status with such factors as the infant’s gestational age at birth, birth weight, and length of stay.
About 58 percent of the infants in the study were male; 58 percent weighed less than 5.6 pounds at birth; and the average length of stay for 54 percent of infants was less than two weeks.
According to the researchers, 89 percent of parents who completed the surveys were mothers; 44 percent were African American; and 45 percent reported having attained at least a college degree. Additionally, 43 percent were first-time parents.
The researchers discovered that about 45 percent of NICU parents had elevated Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) scores.
“The baby’s gender, gestational age at birth and length of NICU stay were associated with the parents having more pronounced depressive symptoms,” Soghier says. “Paradoxically, parents whose newborns were close to full-term at delivery had 6.6-fold increased odds of having elevated CES-D scores compared with parents of preemies born prior to 28 weeks’ gestation. Stress levels were higher in mothers compared with fathers, but older parents had lower levels of stress than younger parents.”
The results presented at the conference are an interim analysis, according to Soghier. She noted the longer-term study continues, exploring the impact of providing peer support for parents after NICU discharge.
Photo: Almost half of parents whose children were admitted to Children’s National Health System’s neonatal intensive care unit experienced postpartum depressive symptoms, anxiety and stress when their newborns were discharged from the hospital. Credit: Children’s National Health System.
Paid sick leave is starting to gain momentum as a social justice issue with important implications for health and wellness. At the moment, only seven states in the United States have mandatory paid sick leave laws, and 15 states have passed preemptive legislation prohibiting localities from passing sick leave.
But how does a lack of paid sick leave affect Americans’ mental health? In a new study, researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Cleveland State University explore the link between psychological distress and paid sick leave among U.S. workers ages 18-64.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, shed light on the effects of exacerbated stress on Americans without paid sick leave who are unable to care for themselves or their loved ones without fear of losing wages or their jobs.
“For many Americans, daily life itself can be a source of stress as they struggle to manage numerous responsibilities including health related issues,” said Patricia Stoddard-Dare, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of social work at Cleveland State University.
“Making matters worse, for those who lack paid sick leave, a day away from work can mean lost wages or even fear of losing one’s job. These stressors combined with other sources of stress have the potential to interfere with workplace performance and impact overall mental health.”
The study shows that workers without paid sick leave benefits have a statistically significant higher level of psychological distress. They also are 1.45 times more likely to report that their distress symptoms interfere “a lot” with their daily life and activities compared to workers with paid sick leave. Those most vulnerable are young, Hispanic, low-income, and poorly educated populations.
“Given the disproportionate access to paid sick leave based on race, ethnicity, and income status, coupled with its relationship to health and mental health, paid sick leave must be viewed as a health disparity as well as a social justice issue,” said LeaAnne DeRigne, Ph.D., co-author of the study and an associate professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry.
“Even modest increases in psychological distress are noteworthy for both researchers and policy makers since we know that even small increases in stress can impact health.”
The study involved 17,897 participants from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), administered by the U.S. government since 1957 to examine a nationally representative sample of U.S. households about health and sociodemographic variables.
To assess psychological distress, the researchers used the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6). With a theoretical range of zero to 24, higher scores on the K6 represent increased psychological distress and scores above 13 are correlated with having a mental disorder of some type.
The findings show that those with paid sick leave had a lower mean distress score compared to those without paid sick leave, who had significantly higher K6 scores, indicating a higher level of psychological distress. Only 1.4 percent of those with paid sick leave had a K6 score above 12 compared to 3.1 percent of the respondents without paid sick leave.
The most significant control variables indicated an increase in the expected psychological distress score among those who were younger, female, in fair or poor personal health, had at least one chronic health condition, were current smokers or did not get an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
Around 40 percent of participants in the NHIS sample did not have paid sick leave; about half were female; more than half were married or cohabitating; three-quarters indicated that their highest level of education included at least some college; and 62 percent were non-Hispanic white.
The mean age was 41.2 years. Most of the respondents (79.1 percent) worked full-time and 82.7 percent had health insurance coverage. Participants were in families with a mean size of 2.6 persons and 39.3 percent reported having children in the family. Approximately 32 percent had an annual family income of $35,000 to $50,000, and more than one-quarter were below the poverty threshold.
The researchers warn that even though there is concern about the potential burden on employers if paid sick leave laws are passed, it is important to be mindful of the overall situation regarding productivity loss and workplace costs associated with mental health symptoms and psychological concerns among U.S. workers.
In addition, the personal health care consequences of delaying or forgoing needed medical care can lead to more complicated and expensive health conditions. Employees with paid sick leave are more likely to take time off work and self-quarantine when necessary, without the worries of losing their job or income while also not spreading illness to others.
“Results from our research will help employers as they think about strategies to reduce psychological stress in their employees such as implementing or expanding access to paid sick days,” said Stoddard-Dare.
“Clinicians also can use these findings to help their patients and clients as can legislators who are actively evaluating the value of mandating paid sick leave.”
Source: Florida Atlantic University
Some people worry more than others. Unfortunately, the concerns may detrimentally influence future performance of tasks. A new study using electroencephalographic feedback finds that the solution to this dilemma may easily accomplished.
In the study, Michigan State University researchers found that simply writing about your feelings may help you perform an upcoming stressful task more efficiently.
Investigators say the research provides the first neural evidence for the benefits of expressive writing.
“Worrying takes up cognitive resources; it’s kind of like people who struggle with worry are constantly multitasking — they are doing one task and trying to monitor and suppress their worries at the same time,” explains lead author Hans Schroder, an MSU doctoral student in psychology and a clinical intern at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital.
“Our findings show that if you get these worries out of your head through expressive writing, those cognitive resources are freed up to work toward the task you’re completing and you become more efficient.”
Schroder conducted the study at Michigan State with Jason Moser, associate professor of psychology and director of MSU’s Clinical Psychophysiology Lab, and Tim Moran, a research scientist at Emory University.
The findings appear online in the journal Psychophysiology.
For the study, college students identified as chronically anxious through a validated screening measure completed a computer-based “flanker task” that measured their response accuracy and reaction times.
Before the task, about half of the participants wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the upcoming task for eight minutes; the other half, in the control condition, wrote about what they did the day before.
While the two groups performed at about the same level for speed and accuracy, the expressive-writing group performed the flanker task more efficiently, meaning they used fewer brain resources, measured with electroencephalography, or EEG, in the process.
Moser uses a car analogy to describe the effect.
“Here, worried college students who wrote about their worries were able to offload these worries and run more like a brand new Prius,” he said, “whereas the worried students who didn’t offload their worries ran more like a ’74 Impala – guzzling more brain gas to achieve the same outcomes on the task.”
While much previous research has shown that expressive writing can help individuals process past traumas or stressful events, the current study suggests the same technique can help people — especially worriers — prepare for stressful tasks in the future.
“Expressive writing makes the mind work less hard on upcoming stressful tasks, which is what worriers often get “burned out” over, their worried minds working harder and hotter,” Moser said.
“This technique takes the edge off their brains so they can perform the task with a ‘cooler head.’”
Source: Michigan State University
Americans are using online dating sites more than ever before as nearly 50 percent of the American public knows someone who has used an online dating site.
Moreover, five percent of Americans who are married or in committed relationships today met their significant other online.
The success of dating sites has now lead to an abundance of options. A new study looks into this dilemma and provides suggestions to help users know which company is best for them.
Interestingly, researchers discovered your choice of which site to use should depend on your tolerance of rejection. If you can handle rejection, more choices may be best. However, if you do not want to go the volume route, the site you chose may be more expensive.
The study, “Competing by Restricting Choice: The Case of Search Platforms,” explains that most sites, such as Match.com, compete by building the largest user base possible, and provide users with access to unlimited profiles on the platform.
Others, such as eHarmony.com, pursue user growth with the same intensity, but allow users to only view and contact a limited number of others on the platform.
However, despite the limited choice, eHarmony’s customers are willing to pay an average of 25 percent more than Match’s customers.
The study authors, Drs. Hanna Halaburda of the Bank of Canada and New York University, Mikolaj Piskorksi of IMD Business School, and Pinar Yildirim of the University of Pennsylvania, created a stylized model of online, heterosexual dating.
They found that increasing the number of potential matches has a positive effect due to larger choice, but also a negative effect due to competition between users of the same sex.
This suggests that by offering its members access to a large number of profiles, Match’s users are also more likely to experience rejection, as each of their potential matches will have access to a larger number of options, increasing the competition among members.
With access to only a limited number of profiles, eHarmony users are more likely to successfully and more rapidly identify a match with another user, who because of limited choice, is less likely to reject them.
“Online dating platforms that restrict choice, like eHarmony, exist and prosper alongside platforms that offer more choice, like Match.com,” said Halaburda.
“On a platform that offers more choice, agents also face more competition as their candidates also enjoy a larger choice set.”
Ultimately, for online dating users who can tolerate rejection and aren’t bothered by a potentially longer timeframe to identify a match, Match.com provides much greater choice of options.
However, for users who are looking to more quickly identify a potential mutual match, eHarmony limits competition that may result in rejection.
Profound new research suggests the common strategy to not dwell on mistakes and to move on to the next experience, may be unproductive.
Ohio State investigators believe truly feeling the pain of failure helps you admit what went wrong and stimulates you to try harder the next time. They believe this approach is a better method to correct mistakes than simply thinking about what went wrong.
Researchers found that people who just thought about a failure tended to make excuses for why they were unsuccessful and didn’t try harder when faced with a similar situation. In contrast, people who focused on their emotions following a failure put forth more effort when they tried again.
“All the advice tells you not to dwell on your mistakes, to not feel bad,” said Dr. Selin Malkoc, co-author of the study and a professor of marketing.
“But we found the opposite. When faced with a failure, it is better to focus on one’s emotions — when people concentrate on how bad they feel and how they don’t want to experience these feelings again, they are more likely to try harder the next time.”
While thinking about how to improve from past mistakes might help — this study didn’t examine that — the researchers found that people who reflect on a failure do not tend to focus on ways to avoid a similar mistake.
When asked to think about their mistakes, most people focus on protecting their ego, Malkoc said. They think about how the failure wasn’t their fault, or how it wasn’t that big of a deal, anyway.
“If your thoughts are all about how to distance yourself from the failure, you’re not going to learn from your mistakes,” she said.
Malkoc conducted the study with Drs. Noelle Nelson of the University of Kansas and Baba Shiv of Stanford University. Their results appear online in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.
Researchers conducted several studies to come to their conclusion. In one, 98 college students were asked to price search online for a blender with specific characteristics, and with the possibility of winning a cash prize if they found the lowest price.
Before they found out if they won, half the participants were told to focus on their emotional response to winning or losing, while the other half were instructed to focus on their thoughts about how they did. They were told they would write about their response afterward.
The price search task was rigged, though, and all participants found out that the lowest price was $3.27 less than what they found. After writing about their failure, the students had a chance to redeem themselves.
The researchers wanted to find out if the effort put forth by participants in a new task would be related to whether they focused on their thoughts or emotions involving the previous failure. The researchers believed that a task similar to their failed job — in this case a search for the lowest price — would trigger participants into recalling their unsuccessful attempt, while an unrelated job would not.
So the participants were given another task. Half were asked to search for a gift book for a friend that was the best fit for their limited college-student budget. In other words, they were looking for the lowest price, as they were instructed in the first task.
The other half of the participants were given a non-similar task, which was to search for a book that would be the best choice as a gift for their friend.
The results showed emotional responses to failure motivated participants much more than cognitive ones when they were faced with a similar task.
Emotionally motivated participants spent nearly 25 percent more time searching for a low-priced book than did participants who had only thought about — rather than dwelled on the pain of — their earlier failure.
There was no significant difference in effort made by participants when the second task wasn’t like the first (when they were searching for the best gift, rather than the cheapest).
“When the participants focused on how bad they felt about failing the first time, they tried harder than others when they had another similar opportunity,” Malkoc said.
“But the situation has to be similar enough to trigger the pain of the initial failure.”
One reason why an emotional response to failure may be more effective than a cognitive one is the nature of people’s thoughts about their mistakes.
When the researchers analyzed what participants who thought about their failure wrote about, they found significantly more self-protective thoughts (“This wasn’t my fault,” “I could not have found it even if I tried”) than they did self-improvement thoughts (“I know how I can do better next time”).
Unfortunately, that may be the default mode for most people, at least in many everyday situations.
In another similar study, the researchers didn’t tell some participants how to respond to their failures. They found that these people tended to produce cognitive responses rather than emotional ones, and those cognitive responses were the kinds that protected themselves rather than focused on self-improvement.
Malkoc said that in most real-life situations, people probably have both cognitive and emotional responses to their failures. But the important thing to remember is not to avoid the emotional pain of failing, but to use that pain to fuel improvement.
“Emotional responses to failure can hurt. They make you feel bad. That’s why people often choose to think self-protective thoughts after they make mistakes,” she said.
“But if you focus on how bad you feel, you’re going to work harder to find a solution and make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.”
Source: Ohio State University
In the United States, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year. The diagnosis is the most common mental illness in the U.S.
Sadly, less than 37 percent of people with anxiety receive treatment.
For example, some individuals panic upon boarding an aircraft, others find it impossible to enter a room with a spider on the wall and again others prefer the staircase over the elevator — even to get to the 10th floor — because riding in elevators elevates their heart rate.
Therefore, what sounds like funny quirks is often debilitating for the sufferers. Sometimes their anxiety can affect them to a point that they are unable to follow a normal daily routine.
Care for the disorder has improved significantly with the introduction of cognitive behavioral therapy and the technique of deliberately exposing anxiety patients to the situations they feel threatened by — under the individual psychological supervision of an expert.
However, CBT appears to help some more than others.
A new German study led by Professor Martin J. Herrmann, a psychologist at the Center of Mental Health of the Würzburg University Hospital, explored strategies to improve patients’ response to cognitive behavioral therapy.
One supplemental method was the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation. During transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a magnetic coil is placed near the head of the person receiving the treatment.
The coil produces a rapidly changing magnetic field which sends magnetic pulses through the cranium into the brain. There it triggers an action potential in the neurons and the neuron transmits an impulse.
Although the technique has been around only for a few decades, it is routinely used in research and diagnostics. “We knew from previous studies that a specific region in the frontal lobe of the human brain is important for unlearning anxiety,” Herrmann said.
He said initial studies have shown that magnetically stimulating this brain region can improve the effectiveness of unlearning anxiety responses in the laboratory.
In the recently published study, the team investigated whether the technique would help to relieve anxiety associated with a fear of heights.
Researchers studied 39 participants with a pronounced fear of heights. Virtual reality was used to take the participants to dizzying heights during two sessions. “The people feel actual fear also in a virtual reality, although they know that they are not really in a dangerous situation,” Herrmann said.
The scientists stimulated the frontal lobe of some of the anxiety patients for about 20 minutes before entering the virtual world; the other group was only administered a pseudo stimulation.
“The findings demonstrate that all participants benefit considerably from the therapy in virtual reality and the positive effects of the intervention are still clearly visible even after three months,” Herrmann said.
What is more, by stimulating the frontal lobe, the therapy response was accelerated.
Next, the researchers want to study whether this method is also suitable to treat other forms of anxiety by conducting a further virtual reality therapy study for arachnophobic (fear of spiders) patients.
Source: University of Würzburg /EurekAlert
Photo: People suffering from a fear of heights experience the anxiety also in virtual reality — even though they are aware that they are not really in a dangerous situation. Credit: VTPlus.