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Unemployment Rises Among Those with Serious Mental Health Problems

According to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), adults with serious mental health problems face an 80 percent unemployment rate, a rate that continues to become more dire over time.

In 2003, 23 percent of those receiving public mental health services had jobs; by 2012, only 17.8 percent did.

The survey reports that most adults with mental illness want to work, and 60 percent can be successful if they have the right support. However, only 1.7 percent of those surveyed received supportive employment services. Study author Sita Diehl says the employment problem has less to do with the workers themselves and more to do with the lack of organizations providing supportive services for individuals with serious mental illnesses. Due to decreases in funding, services have not been as available.

On a related note, people with mental illnesses are now the largest and fastest-growing group to receive Supplemental Social Security Income and Social Security Disability Income.

Unemployment rates varied greatly by state, with 92.6 percent of those receiving public mental health services in Maine being without jobs to 56 percent of those in Wyoming reporting they are without employment.

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Being Cool… Not So Cool in the Long Run?

As every adolescent knows, trying to “be cool” is the utmost priority. Whether you want to be a rebel without a cause or a mean girl, certain things never change. However, new research out of the University of Virginia claims that the effect of being cool is short-lived. In fact, “cool” teens were more likely than their peers to face certain issues as early adults.

Following teens from age 13 to age 23, researchers collected information from the teenagers themselves, as well as their parents and teachers. Many of the behaviors that led individuals to think others were cool were socially mature behaviors. Teens who were involved in dating relationships, those who engaged in delinquent activity, and those who hung out with physically attractive people were considered popular by their peers at age 13. However, by age 22, those same individuals were rated by their peers as being less competent at managing social relationships.

Those who were cool at 13 were also more likely to have addiction issues and engage in criminal activity as they aged. According to researcher Joseph P. Allen, PhD, the behaviors that made teens appear cool in early adolescence had to become more and more extreme in order to be seen as cool as they aged, leading to more serious criminal behavior and alcohol and drug abuse. By the time cool teens reached adulthood, their more extreme behaviors were no longer seen as cool, but instead led others to think they were less competent and, thus, less cool.

The full study appears online in Child Development.

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Bullying Declines Among American Teens

A recent study from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shows a significant decline in the rates of both physical and verbal bullying reported by American teenagers since 1998.

Study author Jessamyn Perlus and her colleagues conducted a series of four surveys of a nationally representative sample of students in grades 6 through 10 (averaging approximately 12,500 students per survey) over a 12-year period beginning in 1998. Students were asked about the frequency with which they had been either the perpetrator or the victim of bullying behaviors in school, such as teasing, insulting, or excluding classmates; spreading negative rumors; sexual harassment; and physical abuse. The study did not include bullying activities outside of school, such as cyberbullying.

The results of the study, published in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), suggest that bullying declined steadily from nearly 14 percent of students reporting incidents in 1998 to just over 10 percent in 2010. Declines were especially strong among boys and among middle school students; smaller but still significant declines were seen among girls and high school students.

Perlus is encouraged by the findings, according to an interview with U.S. News and World Report.  “In recent years, there has been more attention to anti-bullying efforts, such as prevention programs, and responses to bullying have been incorporated into school policies,” Perlus says. “We hope that these prevention efforts, and the additional attention and awareness of the problem of bullying, may be the reason for the decline.”

To read the abstract or download the full text of the study (American Public Health Association membership required for full text), visit the AJPH Web site.

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Students Speak Out about Mental Illness

As those who work in the mental health arena know all too well, the stigma associated with mental illness often prevents people from seeking the help they need. Students at the University of Leeds in the U.K. chose to confront that stigma by sharing their personal struggles with mental illness in a powerful video. Directed by the university union’s welfare officer Harriet Rankin and featuring members of the Leeds “Mind Matters” mental health support group, the video has gone viral and is now being shared by major internet news outlets in the U.K. and the U.S.

The students’ message is very simple: You are not alone, and help is available. Please take a moment to view the video now!

 

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Learning Baby’s Sex Before Birth May Say More About Mom…

Parents’ choice to find out baby’s sex before birth reveals more than the gender of their offspring. According to a recent study from Ohio State University, a woman’s decision to learn her baby’s sex before birth may be an indicator of her child-rearing beliefs.

According to the researchers, mothers who are more open to new experiences, have higher levels of conscientiousness, and have more egalitarian views about the roles of men and women in society tend to wait until delivery to learn their baby’s sex. Mothers who scored higher on a test of parenting perfectionism, meaning they had unrealistically high expectations, were slightly more likely to learn their baby’s sex in utero. Furthermore, mothers who reported higher levels of curiosity and independence were less likely to learn their baby’s sex before birth.

The research focused on 182 expectant mothers in Columbus, Ohio who participated in a study to track behaviors across the transition to parenthood. The research team administered a variety of tests to pregnant women to measure personality, gender role beliefs, and expectations regarding parenting perfectionism. Approximately two out of three of the expectant mothers in the study knew their baby’s sex before birth.

Mothers who knew the sex of their child before birth tended to have lower levels of education and lower household incomes, and were less likely to be married than mothers who waited for a delivery-room surprise.

Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, one of the members of the research team, believes this study is a starting point to address questions about the implications that this knowledge may have for future parenting.

The study will appear in an upcoming edition of Personality and Individual Differences.

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Pet Project: Are There Personality Differences Between Cat and Dog Lovers?

Cat lovers and dog lovers may have more differences than just the type of pet they prefer, according to new research from Denise Guastello, PhD, of Carroll University. The findings, which were presented at the annual Association for Psychological Science meeting, suggest that there are both personality and intelligence differences between the two types of animal lovers.

After surveying 600 college students, researchers determined that dog lovers tend to be more outgoing and extroverted; cat lovers are more inclined to be open-minded, sensitive, and introverted. Dog people prefer following rules closely, while cat people preferred being expedient to being a rule-follower.

“One explanation for these personality differences could be due to each owner’s choice of environment,” said Guastello. “It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog. Whereas, if you’re more introverted and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.”

Beyond personality, though, cat lovers scored higher on intelligence tests than their dog-owning counterparts.

Furthermore, fewer people identified as cat fans. Just 11% of the surveyed group chose cats as their pet of choice, while 60% of those surveyed preferred dogs. The remaining members of the survey group either responded that they liked both animals equally or they didn’t identify with either type of pet. Though this study focused on college students, a 2010 study of more than 4,500 people came to similar conclusions.

Guastello believes this study’s results could be used to improve pet therapy, helping to create better owner-pet matches.

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Are Elementary School Classrooms Getting in the Way of Learning?

Can a student’s classroom have an impact on their ability to learn effectively? According to a new study out of Carnegie Mellon University, there seems to be evidence that highly decorated classrooms may be a distraction for students.

Researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin, and Howard Seltman focused their research on how classroom displays affect a child’s ability to maintain focus and learn lesson content. Their results, published in Psychological Science, found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, were off task more often, and demonstrated smaller learning gains than their counterparts in a classroom where the decorations had been removed.

The study placed 24 kindergarten students in laboratory classrooms for six science lessons on topics that were unfamiliar to the students. Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom. Three lessons took place in a classroom without decorations. Although results showed the children learned in both environments, they reported more educational gains in the sparsely decorated classroom. In the undecorated room, children responded to test questions correctly about 55% of the time as opposed to 42% of the time in the decorated classroom.

Furthermore, the time students spent off-task was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6% of time spent off-task in the decorated room, 28.4% of time spent off-task in the undecorated room).

Although researchers do not suggest that teachers remove decorations from their classrooms, they believe more research needs to be done to understand the effect visual environment has on learning and attention.

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Schizophrenia May Begin in the Womb

Researchers at the Salk Institute may have new clues about schizophrenia after studying skin cells of individuals diagnosed with the disorder.

Using neurons generated from a patient’s skin cells, scientists were able to use new technology to regress those cells back to an earlier stem cell form. Those stem cells were then grown into very early stage neurons, called neural progenitor cells (NPCs). NPCs are similar to the cells in the brain of a developing fetus. Researchers documented these NPCs behaved strangely in the early stages of development, offering clues that may aid in earlier detection and treatment of schizophrenia. Until now, scientists have only been able to study the brains of cadavers, making it difficult to determine when in the developmental process changes began to occur to the brain.

The cells taken from people with schizophrenia differed in two ways: They had abnormal migration patterns and greater levels of oxidative stress. Researchers found that current antipsychotic medications, however, did not improve the migration patterns.

The study supports the idea that neurological dysfunctions that lead to schizophrenia may begin in the brain of a fetus.

The full results of the study are available in the April issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

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Introducing the Self-Directed Search® (SDS®), 5th Edition Spanish Version

One of the most respected and widely used career interest inventories in the world has been revised and updated to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking clients.

Developed concurrently with the English version, the Self-Directed Search (SDS), 5th Edition Spanish Version by John L. Holland, PhD and Melissa A. Messer, MHS is a self-administered, self-scored, and self-interpreted career counseling tool designed specifically for use with Spanish speakers living in the U.S. Translated by experts and reviewed by practicing bilingual counselors, the SDS Spanish components include the Assessment Booklet, the Occupations Finder, and the You and Your Career booklet; the complete SDS Spanish Kit also includes the 5th Edition Professional Manual (in English) along with a Manual Supplement for the Spanish Version.

An online Spanish Version is also available at www.self-directed-search.com, where clients can not only take the SDS online but also receive their client reports in Spanish, as well. Visit the SDS Web site to take the SDS in Spanish or to see the new Spanish language features and resources.

 

 

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Concussion, TBI, and Suicide Risk: Separating the Research from the Media Hype

Last month, major news outlets reported that a new study had linked concussions to a higher suicide risk among adolescents—but did the media get the story right?

In April, headlines such as “Concussions make young people more likely to attempt suicide” (U.S. News and World Report) and “Once-concussed teenagers found to be at higher risk for bullying, suicide” (Education Week) began to appear. Each source referenced a study by Dr. Gabriela Ilie, a post-doctoral fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Ilie’s study, which was published on April 15 in the science journal Plos One, looked at data from 4,685 surveys administered to adolescents in grades 7 through 12 as part of a 2011 drug use and health survey in Ontario.

In the weeks since, however, there has been some criticism, not of the study itself but of the way it was covered by the media. In her April 22 article “The press release that fell and hit its head,” Brenda Goodman, a health writer for the Association of Healthcare Journalists, followed up with Ilie about the study. One of Goodman’s criticisms is that the media coverage—including St. Michael’s own press release—used the word “concussion” to describe the brain injuries that were associated with suicide risk, even though the study itself does not use that word. Instead, the study refers to a narrower band of more traumatic brain injuries, defined as “head injury that resulted in being unconscious for at least 5 minutes or being retained in the hospital for at least one night.”

Why is that distinction so important? Goodman points out that more serious brain injuries are likely to be the result of car accidents or assaults; sports-related concussions, while still serious, result in loss of consciousness only about 10 percent of the time.

So what did the study actually say about TBI and suicide risk? “When holding constant sex, grade, and complex sample design,” according to Ilie’s findings, “students with TBI had significantly greater odds of reporting elevated psychological distress (AOR = 1.52), attempting suicide (AOR = 3.39), seeking counselling through a crisis help-line (AOR = 2.10), and being prescribed medication for anxiety, depression, or both (AOR = 2.45).” The study goes on to say that students with TBI had higher odds of being bullied or threatened with a weapon at school, compared with students who did not report a TBI. Ilie recommends that physicians screen for potential mental health and behavioral problems in adolescent patients with TBI.

This study demonstrated a correlation between some types of TBI and suicide risk in adolescents; it did not, however, show a causal relationship between concussion and suicide. Brenda Goodman and health writers like her remind us that when it comes to psychology news, it’s important to go beyond the headlines and look at the original research.

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