Suicide rates skyrocketing

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suicide rates are up 30% since 1999. 30%. Isolation and drug abuse (think: alcohol, opioids) are considered among the leading causes. This is notable on the heels of recent high-profile suicides by designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. All age groups (except over 75), all US states (except Nevada, which was already very high) and all levels of urbanization have seen increases. Interestingly / sadly, more than half of suicides occurred in individuals with no mental health diagnosis, which seems to mean that people who need help aren’t reaching out or not receiving it. So, if you need help you can start with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-273-8255. #NoStigma

Major depression on the rise

The rates of major depression in the United States is increasing, especially among teens and young adults. Blue Cross Blue Shield examined its 41 million member records from 2016 and found 4.4% had received a major depression diagnosis, up 33% from 2013. At 2.6%, the raw number was lower among teens, but the percent increase was substantially larger at 63%. Dr. Laurel Williams, Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, believes this has something to do with the substantial time kids are spending in from of screens and the social isolation that results. Hopefully, at least a portion of the increase is coming from teens, parents, and healthcare workers simply being more aware of mental health issues, leading to increased rates of diagnosis. Fingers crossed. But just in case, here are 10 tips for minimizing kid’s screen time.

These teens’ hobby is to lobby

Ever tried doing your kid’s homework for a week like this dad? It might be worth a try to get a sense of the stresses affecting students these days, and it could make you more sympathetic towards getting some mental health legislation on the books. If you don’t want to, well those dang kids might just get it done themselves. Three high school students recently successfully lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to require mental health instruction for 9th and 10th graders. It’s not about kids just being bratty about too much schoolwork; the CDC estimates 1 in 5 US kids experience mental disorders and $247B is spent on these disorders each year. At least they’ll have a break soon—it’s about that time of year when School’s Out for summer.

Wild thoughts

Most people feel sleepy, grumpy, or dopey when they haven’t gotten enough hours of sleep. A new study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry puts forth a theory on why sometimes less sleep can also lead us to be more depression-y and anxious-y. Their research takes aim at a common symptom of those conditions known as repetitive negative thoughts (RNT), which is basically your mind being a jerk and not letting you stop thinking about bad things. Using eye-tracking technology, they showed volunteers positive, negative, and neutral images, and found that volunteers fixated on the negative images longer and more intensely than the neutral and positive ones. They blame a lack of cognitive resources caused by not enough sleep for their inability to filter negative thoughts.

Putting a face to the voice

Internet trolls are annoying, but at least you can log off and ignore what they’re saying. But if you’re part of the 65% of schizophrenia patients who experience auditory hallucinations, it’s like the trolls are in your head (YouTube simulation of schizophrenia.) A promising new therapy will hopefully be able to help shut them up. AVATAR therapy has patients create a visual and audio representation of the voices bothering them, which is then controlled by their therapist. The therapist embodies the personality of the voice for a bit, but then winds down the jerkish aspects as time goes on. A whopping 83% of patients who received the therapy experienced a reduction in auditory hallucinations in 12 weeks. It’s nice to hear some good news.