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December 3, 2022

 

Key facts

  • There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
  • Mental disorders include: depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders including autism.
  • There are effective strategies for preventing mental disorders such as depression.
  • There are effective treatments for mental disorders and ways to alleviate the suffering caused by them.
  • Access to health care and social services capable of providing treatment and social support is key.

The burden of mental disorders continues to grow with significant impacts on health and major social, human rights and economic consequences in all countries of the world.

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This article is all about mental disorders and what they do to the brain. Written by the World Health Organization, it is a pretty reliable source of information on all of these. They don’t go into every single aspect in this article, they go even more in depth in their respective fact sheets (found on the side).

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health


What is Mental Health?

Whilst another simple explanation of mental health, this article does go more in depth as to why and how poor mental health happens. It is fairly broad, yes, but it still is able to give you a fairly good idea of what poor mental health looks like from an outside perspective. Having one or more of these possible, but there are also many other reasons and ways people experience mental health that aren’t listed in this article.

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health


Nature vs. Nurture Debate Continues

Though scientists don’t advocate for either nature or nurture, there are optimal methods in both that develop personality positively. As seen in a twin study, there can be separation at birth, but their genetics tell them that they are ‘twins’. When meeting their other twin they feel closer to them than anyone in their life. Genetics can influence development as they influence mental health. Diseases such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, etc. are hereditary diseases. Though these are hard to predict/prevent, there are methods to create an environment that works to prevent mental health issues. Environment seems to be the ‘umbrella’ of mental health.


Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.1 Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” (CDC)

Mental health is important not only for school, but sports and social life. If your mental health isn’t maintained then it would be harder to focus. Not maintaining your mental health can and will affect your emotions as well as your actions. You may start feeling sad and down, no concentration, you withdraw yourself from friends and family, etc. Mental health is a key component that you need to tend to on a daily/weekly basis.

To be able to maintain your mental health you need to value yourself and take care of yourself. To value yourself you need to treat yourself with kindness and respect and not self criticize. To take care of yourself you need to take care of my body and eat healthy and stay active. You should surround yourself with good people and family. Be surrounded by those who you love and those who love and support you. You should be able to maintain your stress and be able to talk things out when it is needed.


Mental Health

In the article… I learned about mental ilness among students.  The percent at which mental inless has increased in anxiety is only going up since 2003.  Schools try to spread awareness for mental health through talks at school and posters up to show the care and that students are not alone.  Either way, some students still take their lives because they don’t speak about their health.  As long as the awareness is spreading and everyone is becoming more aware it’s in everyone’s hope that the lives of others continue to live and get better because suicide is only a way to spread hurt rather than solve problems. 

I think it’s touching how now in some places, mental ilness is a valid excuse for the abcense of school.  I think this has to be something that is valid everywhere because health like that can take a very big toll on a person in more ways than just mental.  This is something happening within a variety of ages being 10-24.  That is a 14 year gap when it comes to a person’s life and even more because those are usually the best years because of the fun you can be having as a child, teen, and pre-adult.  Mental health is of big importance because of the amount of lives that are being taken.  As life goes on people should too, but sometimes a person is feeling something indescribable which is the cause for it.  That’s why being a good person to everyone is very important, you never know what someone is going through.  

When you feel like your mental health or an illness is consuming you, what do you do that you think can help other people as well? 


The Mighty Mushroom

Could Psilocybin Mushrooms help people treat their depression? This is a bit of a controversial issue for some people and for many, the whole thing just doesn’t make any sense. How could some hippy dippy stoner pot namaste illegal drug help people? Well, i’ll explain. King’s College London conducted a study where they gave 89 healthy adults a dose of Psilocybin. The study tested the effects of 10mg, 25mg, and a placebo. The study found that there were no negative effects nor serious events that happened to the patients that took Psilocybin. The study can be found here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/13/health/psilocybin-magic-mushrooms-depression-intl-hnk-scli-scn/index.html

The only drawback is that this type of treatment may not be for everyone and it takes a long period of time for the drug to be an effective type of treatment for depression. However, the study does not lie and there are several other studies and stories of personal experience that share the same positive results. Some even claim that Psilocybin Mushrooms can help treat those with addiction problems, anxiety, asperger’s syndrome, and even obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  A similar study was conducted in 2014 by Imperial College London and it helps explain the science of Psilocybin’s effects on the brain a little better. The study found that after the volunteers were injected with Psilocybin, the parts of the brain associated with emotional thinking became more active, while the self-conscious, introspective part of their brain became less active. 

I think the future of Psilocybin Mushrooms as medical treatment is in the hands of the youth. Many older generations will reject the idea of using this drug, no matter how much evidence you show them. Our generation must forget religious rules and stupid laws that punish innocent people. We must start looking towards the future with this wonderful, natural medicine we have, and have had for the past thousands of years.


Gun Violence

Gun violence and mass shootings have become a permanent part of American culture. In 1966, the most terrible mass murder in that time period occurred at the University of Texas at Austin. The “Texas Tower Sniper” murdered 16 people and wounded 31 over 96 minutes. He was using a bolt action rifle and semiautomatic weapons. These advanced weapons allowed him to achieve a casualty rate of one every two minutes. However, the deadliest current mass shooting in the United States took place in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2017. “Firing from a hotel into a country music festival, a shooter killed 58 people and wounded 546 over 10 minutes. By using assault rifles converted into automatic weapons, he achieved a casualty rate of one per second” (Gun Violence: a Brief Cultural History). 

People of all races, colors, and backgrounds are affected by gun violence, but the most affected population are children and teens. Gun violence shows itself in many different ways in American schools, therefore school shootings have created worries for the younger generation. “Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder; resort to aggressive and violent behavior, and engage in criminal activity. Exposure to community violence, including witnessing shootings and hearing gunshots, makes it harder for children to succeed in school” (The Impact of Gun Violence on Children and Teens).

Many solutions to solve gun violence have been thought of, including having abusers hand over their guns, background checks, not allowing people who have been accused of domestic violence to have guns, and law enforcement strategies. “Longtime gun violence researcher Garen Wintemute argues that background checks if implemented properly, could help stem shootings” (The Solutions to Gun Violence That Exist Despite Tragedies). I strongly agree with the last solution, background checks, because if people are checked on their background and a history of mental illness or violence shows, then they obviously should not be allowed to own a gun. 

The solution that I am proposing is to reduce the access to firearms for youth and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others, namely, those that are mentally ill or those that have a history of violence should not be allowed anywhere near a firearm. “Linking guns and mental illness arise in the aftermath of many US mass shootings in no small part because of the psychiatric histories of the assailants. Reports suggest that up to 60% of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States since 1970 displayed symptoms including acute paranoia, delusions, and depression before committing their crimes” (The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) from the American Public Health Association (APHA) publications). It is indisputable that individuals who have a history of violence and mental illness should not have access to weapons that can be used to harm themselves or others.


Feelings

Its like a day and night nightmare

I keep on trying to escape the darkness in my head

All the feelings

All the emotions

Start to become a blur

They are to intense

They start to become unclear

It’s an ongoing storm

I keep trying to escape

But there’s no way out

Because you see feeling something is a constant reminder that you’re alive

Feelings can bring you up

Can bring you down

Can teach you how to love

Or can completely make you not believe in love

Feelings hurt

But feelings help you grow

It isn’t as simple as saying bye bye feelings I’m done

You have to accept them

Truth is you can’t escape your feelings

And rather than thinking of escaping from them

Learn to accept them

 

 


Violent Media: A Convenient Cover-Up of Our Mental Health Problem

Image Credit: https://thetriangle.org/opinion/becoming-desensitized-to-violence/

Over the past few years we as nation have witnessed a series of mass killings that have appalled the general public. The horrific acts of Newtown, Orlando Pulse, Las Vegas and Texas killed hundreds of innocent lives and left the nation in a state of shock and grief. The seemingly endless journey of healing never seems to start, as we watch, sick and weary, as yet another tragedy unfolds on live television.

What triggers people to become cold blooded killers? I wondered after finishing the sandwich I had made during the CBS special report on the Texas shooting. Then came a more frightening idea: could I become a monster like the ones I see on TV?  Is it Genes? Access to guns? Stress? Substance abuse? There were so many potential biological, behavioral, and societal triggers. And with every killing, mass shooting, heavily publicized and politized, it is hard for one to find truth in the tangled mess of public bias and political maneuvering and newspeak. One caught my attention. After the Newtown shooting that killed young elementary age children, the FBI conducted a thorough search of Adam Lanza’s room revealing a sickening man cave filled with violent comic book and video games. The discovery led to a government backed study that examined the effects of exposure to violence through media has on people, particularly teenagers. Could we be influenced by the various forms of graphic entertainment we consume?  

Self conscious, I began to take note of the daily actives I do. Frighteningly, I spend a lot time absorbing violence through media. The music I prefer, heavy metal and rap, have an emphasis on aggression and rebelliousness; the video games I play, like Counter Strike, often involves guns and combat simulation; the authors I adore: King, Patterson, Lovecraft, all thrive off shock and gore; the movies I watch, Alien and Deadpool, have cartoonish violence as their main attraction. Am I a killer in the making? Is my daily dose of violence slowly shutting off my ability to emphasize and turning me into a psycho?

Luckily for me, recent studies have shown that most people are unaffected by violent forms of entertainment in the long term, and the short term effects are close to negligible. Dr. Christopher Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Texas A&M, through a meta analysis of earlier studies pointed out obvious flaws in the data produced. First, many of the studies were observational, meaning they show little proof of a cause and effect relationship. Second, the studies used measures of assessing aggression that does not correlate with real-world violence (Harvard, 2010). Further researched proved that mentally healthy people are capable of deciphering reality from fiction and know how to act accordingly. This is especially true for the Post-Millennial generation who grew up surrounded by the Internet and mass media. Boys that play Call of Duty know that Call of Duty is just a game.

So what is the root cause of violent behavior?  FBI Profilers, people that specialize in studying the mindset of serial killers, have reached a consensus that “there is no generic template for a serial killer” (NCAVC, 2010). This essentially means we cannot predict a person’s likelihood of committing mass murder based on their race, income, religion, or age. Instead there is a complex web of biological, social, and environmental factors that  trigger these types of killings. Experts in the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC, 2010) tie in scientific research into their forensic understanding allowing them to better understand the internal workings of serial killers. most notably the consensus among neurobiologists “that our nervous systems are environmentally sensitive, thereby allowing individual nervous systems to be shaped throughout a lifetime”, which means that trauma and stress can affect a person’s psyche. In fact even physical injuries, severe head trauma or concussion, can play a large role in our nervous system’s development. Using this knowledge NCAVC’s Behavioral Analysis Units (BAUs) have found the only real consistency among serial killers is childhood abuse and neglect.    

According to neuroscientist Robert James R. Blair (2013) of the National Institute of National Health, “[p]sychopathy is a developmental disorder marked by emotional deficits and an increased risk for antisocial behavior”. Characterized by the lack of guilt and empathy, beguiling charm, and manipulative behavior, psychopaths and their close relatives sociopaths seem to be the perfect serial killers in the making. Yet the NCAVC describes the relationship between the two as “interesting”, as not all serial killers are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are serial killers (NCAVC, 2010). Because of this, psychopathy poses a interesting question: how can some psychopaths lead completely normal lives? We know that psychopathy is genetic, passed down through genes. But the human genome is much more complicated than that. DNA has very few active genes, genes that create observable traits, the rest are a series on switches and levers capable of manipulating the active genes. Collectively the concept of changing genetic traits without changing DNA is called epigenetics. The epigenome is “made up of chemical compounds and proteins that can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off, controlling the production of proteins in particular cells”(“Epigenomics”, 2016). Imagine your cell as a construction worker, tasked with building an apartment complex (protein). DNA is the blueprint of the complex, the instructions per say. The epigenome would be the construction manager, modifying the blueprint in various ways. The end result could be vastly different depending on how the epigenome affects the DNA.  With this relatively new area of study, scientist are discovering that environmental pressure can change how our genes are expressed.

One of the biggest revelations in the field of epigenetics is that stress hormones cause epigenetic changes, something that was speculated since the concept of the epigenome was conceived. The duo of  Drs. James B. Potash and Gary S. Wand at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine led a study that tested the effects of increased levels of cortisone, a stress hormone released by the adrenal gland, on mice. The results showed clear behavioral changes, such as heightened anxiety. This is attributed to the higher levels of the FKBP5 protein, encoded by the DNA sequence of the same name, which can cause PTSD and mood disorders at abnormal levels (Wein, 2016).

This reveals the complex workings and interaction between biology and environment that could cause violent behavior. Genes and DNA create a foundation for our mental development. Some people have the genes that make them more predisposed to antisocial and violent behavior: psychopaths. Most of us are born with both empathy and a conscience. And at the center of everyone’s existence is our nervous systems, the brain and the various sensors it connects to. This byzantine array of neurons is responsible of a host of tasks. One of these tasks is the release of various chemicals, hormones, that regulate our bodies daily processes. Under stress and trauma our brain releases so-called stress hormones, like cortisone, a visage of our fight-or-flight instinct. Without a proper coping mechanism, some way to de-stress, these hormones build up and begin to change the structure of our epigenome, thus changing how our genes expressed. This in turn affects our volatile nervous system resulting in rewiring of neurons that increases our chances to develop mental disorders like PTSD and depression that increases our chance for violent behavior. This is the truth about the majority of killers: they are deeply sick people in desperate need of help.             

Obviously mental healthcare is a complex issue that requires serious coordination and money to be effective. I would like to point out our hopelessly derelict mental health program, which offer bare bones treatment through underfunded and understaffed institutions. Among developed nations the U.S. lags behind in providing even basic healthcare, like maternity services and birth control. So it is no surprise that our mental health programs are practically nonexistent. This is troubling for our society as a whole. Ignoring mental health as a serious issue with real life repercussions has led to the deaths of millions of innocent lives not only through the acts of lone gunmen, but also through suicide. Even within the military, a profession with high rates of trauma and PTSD, mental health is rarely, if ever, addressed. A strong mental health care system serves as a crucial safety net that can prevent future disasters. With adequate help many potential killers will stabilize enough to lead normal crime free life. And even in a worst case scenario, where the person is longer capable of reason, institutions can warn law enforcement preemptively and potentially save many lives in the process. In order for this to happen we need a massive retooling of public services, shifting focus away from the subsidizing of private “worker” prisons and military spending, and reallocating the money to public health and higher education.      

We also need to provide child service for needy families and improve child protection programs. Children and teens are most danger, as we grow older our epigenome changes less often and less readily, so early development is paramount to leading a stable life. Children from poorer families tend to suffer from substance, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse most. These children must be freed not only from their tormentors, but also from the cruel future they face as a serial criminal in the U.S.’s predatory prison system. Even children from lower income families with loving parents suffer from the effects of near constant stress. Across socio-economic divides teenagers that pose the most worrying problem. The sad truth is this: teens like me are more stressed and more depressed than ever. Suicide rate is at an all time high and so is mental health issues in teengaers across the U.S.. While adults might laugh it off as being part growing up, this is a serious problem. During puberty rapid hormonal changes in the body could can have a profound effect of the epigenome, especially if the process is hijacked by needless stress hormones. Increased stress and anxiety can have permanent effects on a person brain development. While they may not become serial killers, there might be serious mental health issues, like chronic depression, in the long run.      

Why are these crucial changes not being implemented? It is because the useless and needless crusade against harmless entertainment has distracted our society from serious issues. On the political spectrum both liberal and conservatives bash violent media in a strange love-to-hate affair. Conservatives hate the potential degeneration of society that these media elements promote. Liberals, much like the conservatives, also seem to despise the glorification violence, especially the glorification of violence against women. Both have aimed to curb supposed negative effects of graphic violence in media through censorship and propaganda. Censorship attempts have failed, thanks to high profile Supreme Court cases that protected creators’ freedom of expression (see Brown v. EMA). But the public muckraking of violent media, particularly video games, have been successful in creating hysteria, especially among parents. After the horrific Sandy Hook shooting and the discovery of the violent video games, Call of Duty and Starcraft, in Adam Lanza’s possession, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller began calling for a thorough scientific investigation on the effects that violent video games and movies could pose on children. It was essentially a witch hunt, an ill advised attempt to put the blame of the shooting onto the shoulders of entertainment media.

The scientific community has been quick to criticize the government’s attempts to divert attention away from the real issue. In a heated op-ed on TIME, Christopher Ferguson (2012) sharply criticized the government’s malicious intent in their attempts to target the video game industry after both Columbine and Sandy Hook, high profile mass shootings where video games were blamed for. Stating that Congress in “moral panic mode”, Ferguson (2010) states the whatever research that will result of this bill will be tarnished by bias (Ferguson, 2010). According a PEW poll 97% of teenagers play video games, and 66% of these “gamers” play violent action games (Harvard, 2010). If the impact of video games on a youth’s psyche is so profound, we should have a lot more school shootings and violent crime among teens. Yet according to Dr. Ferguson (2010), “during the years in which video games soared in popularity, youth violence has declined to 40-year lows”.     

What the older generation does not seem to comprehend is why chippin’ youngsters like me play video games. A 3 year study by Dr. Mizuko Ito shows the difference in perspective: “adults tend to view video games as isolating and antisocial, other studies found that most young respondents described the games as fun, exciting, something to counter boredom, and something to do with friends. For many youths, violent content is not the main draw” (Harvard, 2010). As stated much earlier in this paper, my generation has grown up with the the Internet our entire lives. We do not know of a world that is not filled with social media, movies, instant access to information, and video games. Because we spent our youth surrounded by these things, our brains are wired differently. In Dr. Ito’s words “the use of violent video games may be similar to the type of roughhousing play that boys engage in as part of normal development”(Harvard).    

The thorough forensic and scientific investigation of the Sandy Hook and Columbine shootings, where the influence of video games was perceived to have played a large role, revealed that Lanza, Harris, and Klebold all had the telling signs of a killer in the making. Harris’s website showcased widespread anger toward society and Lanza displayed early developmental problems from age three that were clearly neglected (“Columbine”, n.d.; “Sandy Hook”, n.d.). Video games played literally no role in triggering the cold blooded killers inside of them, Instead, as science shows, their actions are a result of years of hormonal stress caused by neglect and trauma. Their story is tragic, but even more sad is the fact that it has been repeated over and over again. From the infamous Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer, who have become pop culture icons, to Stephen Paddock and Devin Patrick Kelley, the most recent offenders, serial killers and mass shooters are borne of a cycle of trauma, neglect, and emotional isolation.      

So no, the video games I play, and the other media I consume daily does not inspire me to kill. I am lucky enough living in a rich, middle class suburbia, where the biggest emotional stressor I suffer from is school and applying for top-tier colleges, with loving parents that have, and will, support me and provide me emotional comfort. But others are not so lucky. Some children are stuck in abusive relationships, bullied at school, and have never known what it is to love. They suffer alone, and eventually inside the crucible of pain they harden into emotionless killers whose only instincts are to seek pleasure and to survive. Every cold blooded killer has a tragic backstory, but it is one that could be changed and avoided. We have the capabilities to reach out to those the desperate need of help. Science has shown the causes of violence and science has shown ways to prevent it. Even a small scale expansion of mental health care, such as including it on basic health insurance, could have a profound impact on our society. The hysteria created by politicians that targets not only violent media, but also race issues, religion, and access to guns, serve as a convenient cover up of the real problem: the lack of adequate care for our mentally ill citizens, friends, acquaintances, partners, sons, daughters, veterans, and perhaps the potential killer next door.

 

Works Referenced

Blair, Robert James R. (2013, June 15). Psychopathy: Cognitive and Neural Dysfunction. Retrieved from

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3811089/.

Columbine High School Massacre. (n.d.). Retrived December 16, 2017 from Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre.

Epigenomics Fact Sheet. (April 1. 2016) In National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Retrieved from

www.genome.gov/27532724/epigenomics-fact-sheet/.

Ferguson, Christopher J. (2012, December 20). Sandy Hook Shooting: Video Games Blamed, Again. Retrieved from

ideas.time.com/2012/12/20/sandy-hook-shooting-video-games-blamed-again.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2010, October). Violent Video Games and Young People. Retrieved from

www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/violent-video-games-and-young-people.

NCAVC. (2010, May 21). Serial Murder. Retrieved from www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. (n.d.). Retrieved Decmeber 16, 2017 from Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting.

Wein, Harrison. (2016, March 30). Stress Hormone Causes Epigenetic Changes. Retrieved from www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/stress-hormone-causes-epigenetic-changes.

 

        


What are the benefits of meditation?

Meditation is something that everyone should consider starting up. I wanted to research this  because I was looking for a new way to handle my stress. This seemed like an interesting and helpful way.

Starting meditation will immediately help you in everyday activities in life. Christina Rodenbeck, author of Meditation to Go says “meditation can improve confidence and self-control, inner certainty, and ability to focus and work efficiently” (Meditation to Go). This, of course, is something that everyone could use more of. People who consistently meditate are shown to have a higher ability to let go of negative emotions and have better personal relationships as well. Having these things in life is very highly coveted. Not everyone can achieve them, but those who do live better lives. If one can learn to meditate, their outlook and attitude will change, making them a better person all around.

Meditation not only has day-to-day benefits, but it is also full of health benefits also. A study done at the University of Utah found that people who practice meditation had “lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for….. future ability to manage stress” (Psychology Today). It is also shown to lower depression risks. Teens who practice the art of meditation experience less stress, anxiety, and depression. Not only that, but a study done at the University of California found that “cultivating mindfulness is an effective… technique for improving cognitive function” (Huffington Post). This is yet another bonus of meditation. All of these things are important to physical and mental health and can help a person in all aspects of life.

https://www.youthvoices.live/tag/mentalhealth/