The first of four briefs Mental Health America will release in 2021 has concluded that 38% of 725,949 people who completed the organization’s clinically validated mental health screening had suicidal thoughts in 2020.
The “Suicide and COVID-19: Communities in Need Across America” brief is based on an analysis of those individuals’ answers to questions in the organization’s online screening tool. In total, 2.6 million users did that voluntary screening in 2020, the highest number since Mental Health America in 2014 launched the screening, which allows deep analysis zip code by zip code of who’s in mental distress. Continue reading
Coming up in my particular neighborhood in Little Rock, Ark., one of my dearest childhood friends was a boy we nicknamed something unflattering but — except for the meanest among us kids — treated with great kindness. He was “just slow,” we said, and left it at that.
The armchair analyst in me concluded, when we were teens, that my friend was mildly retarded (in the vernacular of that time). He also suffered sometimes-paralyzing bouts of depression. All these decades later, he remains a beloved treasure. I call him brother. He’s still a fixture in our hometown neighborhood, self-medicating with weed and, sometimes, crack. He’s snaggle-toothed, his skin an ashen gray. He looks way older than the rest of us. People with chronic, severe mental illness tend to die earlier than the rest of us. Continue reading
Covering mental health issues among older adults first means understanding the differences between issues of social isolation, loneliness, depression, and the effect of cognitive decline. Each issue may affect a person or several may be occurring simultaneously. Don’t interchange the terms however, because they’re not the same condition.
At last week’s Journalism Workshop on Aging and Health in Los Angeles, panelists stressed the importance of getting it right. You can be alone, but not lonely, or socially isolated. You can be socially isolated but not lonely. You can be either, or both. Continue reading
We know social isolation and loneliness are detrimental to health, particularly among the older adult population. It’s a problem that seems to be getting worse, according to this recent report from Pew Research.
It found that, on average, U.S. adults over age 60 spend more than half of their waking hours alone and for those who live by themselves, that’s as much as 10 hours a day, compared with about half that rate for people in their 40s and 50s. Continue reading
I wrote in a previous blog about the importance of understanding confounding by indication and being sure to ask researchers about it when covering observational studies that appear to suggest a particular treatment or intervention might contribute to a specific effect. I’m passionate about this type of study bias because not considering it — which happens a LOT — can lead people to decline otherwise helpful treatments or leave them experiencing more harm and pain because of unfounded fears. Continue reading