Minding the Media Articles

Can Laypeople Replace Psychologists, Psychiatrists in the Treatment of Depression?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Can Laypeople Replace Psychologists, Psychiatrists in the Treatment of Depression?I was recently intrigued by the claims made — and that went completely unchallenged — by Vikram Patel, a psychiatrist who was interviewed by Wired Science’s Greg Miller. I guess my expectations for something appearing on Wired should be readjusted.

Patel claimed that specially-trained health professionals could provide enough care to people that they may be able to treat clinical depression successfully. (The article suggests these are the same as “laypeople,” but really, they’re not.) With skills learned in as little as 2 days.

An amazing claim? You bet. One based in reality? Let’s find out…

Should a Guardian Science Blog be Recommending an App Based Upon a Single Pilot Study?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Should a Guardian Science Blog be Recommending an App Based Upon a Single Pilot Study?Suzi Gage, over in her Guardian science blog Sifting the Evidence, suggests that based upon a single pilot study (that didn’t even use the app she’s recommending), you should purchase an app for your phone that purports to treat depression. It’s a glorious 771 word advertisement for a for-profit company’s app.

Now Gage, a PhD student, I’m sure is well-intentioned with her recommendation. Even if she has an undisclosed conflict of interest in writing about this app.

But if you’re going to write a blog called “Sifting the Evidence,” one would hope you’d dig a little deeper into “the evidence” before recommending an unproven treatment for something as serious as depression.

Especially when the research shows, in my opinion, that the app doesn’t work.

10 Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

10 Ways Parents Can Help Prevent CyberbullyingThe brave new world of technology has spawned a monster: the cyberbully. According to the website stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is bullying that uses electronic methods such as cell phones and computers. It can include hurtful text messages and photos, among others. Most children are aware of cyberbullying. Thanks to the efforts of many school districts in America, most parents are as well.

In just one example of the pain it can cause, a 12-year-old girl in Florida leapt to her death in September 2013 after having been cyberbullied by two girls, one 12 and the other 14.

Despite the conveniences of modern technology, it seems also to have a sinister side. The statistics on cyberbullying are increasingly alarming.

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed? It’s Complicated, Part 2

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed? It's Complicated, Part 2Earlier this year, the CDC released data that showed that diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) went up over the past few years. But the CDC data also showed that diagnoses went up across the board for multiple mental disorders.

Some media outlets at the time, however, only focused on the increase in the diagnosis of ADHD. This two-part article (part 1 is here) examines whether there really is an “over”-diagnosis of ADHD — or whether it’s more complicated than answering with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed? Yes & No

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed? Yes & NoThe widespread perception among many Americans is that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is overdiagnosed. This was fueled by a regular update to a dataset the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases every few years called the National Survey of Children’s Health. The recent data showed — not surprising to anyone — that diagnoses of ADHD in children 2-17 years old increased since the last survey.

This release caused the New York Times to blare in a headline that 1 in 5 of all boys in the U.S. had ADHD. (Which turned out not to be true, but you wouldn’t know it unless you scrolled all the way to the bottom of the article and read the “correction.”)

In fact, if you looked at all the data the CDC released, you’d notice similar increases across the board of childhood diagnoses — increases in the rate of diagnosis of autism (up 37 percent from 2007), depression (up three percent from 2007), and anxiety (up 11 percent from 2007). But for some reason, the New York Times only covered the changes to ADHD diagnosis rates.

So is there an actual overdiagnosis in ADHD? Or is it more complicated than that? Let’s find out.

OCD & Trying to Catch Every Last Detail

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

OCD & Trying to Catch Every Last DetailLast Christmas, I received as a gift Deepak Chopra’s book, Super Brain. As a person with a mental illness, I wasn’t sure if this was good news or bad news.

A majority of my prior Christmases have been lackluster because I relive the same year, in and out, without seeming to make the progress I desire in my life. It’s kind of like the movie Groundhog Day , only for years and years. I wasn’t sure if analyzing my brain any further would be a good idea.

So how does OCD relate to all the books, paintings, and movies that a society produces? Essentially, these supposedly give us hope that our lives will get better. My real question is: Does art really achieve any more than false hope for those of us with mental illness?

What’s Behind the Popularity of Duck Dynasty?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

What's Behind the Popularity of Duck Dynasty?I never would have thought that a redneck family from West Monroe, Louisiana would be involved in one of the highest-rated reality shows on television, but I’ve clearly been proven wrong.

“Duck Dynasty,” which follows a family who manufactures duck calls for hunting season, has created a ‘duck nation’ of followers. Many may relate to the Robertson clan one way or another — whether it’s through their humorous antics, or Uncle Si’s endless array of hilariously entertaining shenanigans or one-liners (Si-isms).

And while I personally laugh with the utmost enthusiasm during each 30-minute episode (laughing with them, not at them; I think the gang is acutely aware of their comic relief), I’m honing in on their primal love for family and togetherness.

Final Rules for U.S. Mental Health Parity Released: No Surprises But Also No Silver Bullet

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Final Rules for U.S. Mental Health Parity Released: No Surprises But Also No Silver BulletMuch was made this past week about the Obama administration’s publication of the final rules that put into place the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Some media reports are suggesting that this will take down all barriers to mental health treatment.

However, the reality is a little bit more complicated, as I last noted in this article.

The release of the final rules will have little impact to most Americans, because most insurance companies already were complying with the interim final rules. But you wouldn’t know that from the media coverage, which glossed over this, umm, important point.

10 Movies to Uplift You from Depression

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

10 Movies to Uplift You from DepressionAmong my strongest tools to combat depression is distraction. And one of the best distractions is watching a movie.

Watching the right movie has an antidepressant effect, as it relieves the brain of the obsessive, ruminating, self-defeating loop for two consecutive hours. The brain can readjust a little during those 120 minutes and is a bit kinder when the film is over.

The list of uplifting movies is as long and comprehensive as the negative thoughts going through a depressive’s head, but here is a list of my 10 picks.

3 Reality-Based Tips for Raising Your Digital Native Children

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

3 Reality-Based Tips for Raising Your Digital Native ChildrenA lot has been written about the effects of screen time and a child’s healthy development.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional guild association of pediatricians who like to promote fears about Facebook usage and suggest kids’ violence comes from too much TV watching, has updated its guidelines for how children and teens should consume digital media.

But here’s the thing — guess how many teenagers and children they talked to in the creation of these guidelines?

If you guessed “zero,” you would be right. In this day and age where our children and teens know more about living online than most adults, this seems like a gross oversight. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg with the guidelines’ problems.

The Challenges of Accurate Reporting on Video Game Research

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

The Challenges of Accurate Reporting on Video Game ResearchRecently, a group of approximately 230 media scholars, psychologists and criminologists sent an open letter to the American psychological community asking them to retire their flawed policy statements on media and video game violence, and refrain from similar statements in the future.

This effort is an expression of concern with the way in which research in this field has been communicated by professional advocacy groups such as the APA to the general public.

In short, previous policy statements have exaggerated the strength and consistency of media effects, implied scientific consensus where there was none, and arguably done much damage to the credibility of our field in the process.

60 Minutes: Connecting Mental Illness to Violence with Little Data, Facts

Monday, September 30th, 2013

connecting-mental-illness-violence-dataLast night, a poorly researched piece by Steve Kroft appeared on the television news program, 60 Minutes. I say “poorly researched” because it took me all of five minutes to find problems in what some of those interviewed on the program said. While truthy, it wasn’t exactly the whole truth.

The core problem this program displayed is making a post hoc logical fallacy of connecting two seemingly-related things and suggesting a causal relationship exists. Because some of the people who commit mass killings have mental health issues, this is a sign of “a failed mental health system that’s prohibited from intervening until a judge determines that someone presents an “imminent danger to themself or others.”" The two may have little to do with each other (and in fact, according to real research, don’t).

No, the sign your mental health system has failed is when you’re locking up tens of thousands of people with serious mental illness in prison for petty crimes, rather than simply treating them in less restrictive settings.

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