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Top 5 Mental Health News Stories | Week of December 13

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Table of Contents

Summary

▪️ New Research Shows That ‘Hypersensitive’ People May Be Better At Handling Stress ▪️ There's a growing interest from C-suite executives in mental health ▪️ Facebook activity can help identify people with mental illnesses ▪️ Albert Einstein College of Medicine Receives $4 Million Grant to Search for Biomarkers for Severe Depression ▪️ How What We Eat Affects Our Mental Health

New Research Shows That ‘Hypersensitive’ People May Be Better At Handling Stress

In good news for those who have been called hypersensitive, researchers have found that people who showed a more intense response to stress before the Covid-19 pandemic were less likely to experience PTSD after it started.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, researchers measured heart rate and blood pressure in 120 college students undergoing a standard psychological stress test.

A few months into the pandemic, the study team sent participants a questionnaire about their experiences with Covid-19.

The researchers expected to find that those who had shown stronger initial heart rate responses to the psychological stress test would be more likely to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on their questionnaires. However, They found exactly the opposite. Those who showed more biological sensitivity and reaction to the stress test were less likely to develop PTSD due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This means that people with lower responses to stress, those who can stay cool under pressure, may actually be at higher risk when something potentially traumatic occurs.

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There’s a growing interest from C-suite executives in mental health

Thrive CEO, Arianna Huffington, says Corporate America is facing a major mental health crisis as the pandemic accelerates worker burnout.

“Now months into the pandemic, with a dark winter ahead of us, we are seeing the evidence of an increase in depression, anxiety, and worker burnout everywhere, both among those of us who have the luxury of being able to work from home and the frontline workers.”

“The recognition is now clear, that the well-being and mental resilience of your employees is going to be crucial to productivity and the bottom line.”

Huffington also said that she would like to see the incoming Biden administration make our health care system more proactive by prioritizing prevention, rather than just treating the disease. 

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Facebook activity can help identify people with mental illnesses

A new study claims that Facebook and other social media data can help medical experts and other researchers identify people suffering from mental illnesses. The research explained that users’ Facebook activity can be used to find people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and mood disorders more than a year before their first psychiatric hospitalization

The study collected 142,390 Facebook images, 3,404,959 messages, and 223 people to participate in the study.

The machine-learning algorithms used in the study were able to provide 52% accuracy when it comes to identifying people with schizophrenia illness. The technology also showed an accuracy of 56% for participants without a psychiatric disorder and an accuracy of 57% for participants with mood disorders.

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Albert Einstein College of Medicine Receives $4 Million Grant to Search for Biomarkers for Severe Depression

Over 3 million teens had at least one major episode of depression in 2017. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify teens who are at higher risk for serious problems and may benefit from aggressive treatment.

In an important step toward that goal, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System have received a five-year, $4 million grant from the NIMH to search for the biological factors that predict duration and severity of depression in adolescents, with the goal of improving clinical care.

In the new study, researchers enroll a diverse group of 120 adolescents with depressive symptoms and follow them over two years.

The teens will undergo a comprehensive clinical evaluation, and those diagnosed with depression will take computerized tests designed to engage and measure the reward circuitry. Researchers will look for known biomarkers of inflammation and measure participants’ ACC GABA levels. They also will conduct functional MRIs on the teens during the reward testing to evaluate their ability to feel pleasure, along with depression severity, functioning, anxiety, and their risk of suicide.

Ideally, this project will not only identify the teens who need more significant help with their depression but may also point the way toward new drugs to treat the disease

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How What We Eat Affects Our Mental Health

The Food-Mood Connection, written by Harvard nutritional psychiatrist, Dr. Uma Naidoo, charts the effect that what we put in our mouths can have on how our brains work, and the direct influence it may have on our mental health.

Naidoo says that food is an important source of comfort, especially in people who have suffered from trauma. However, carbs and sugar aren’t always the best way to comfort ourselves and we can approach food more mindfully while still enjoying what we eat.Furthermore, Naidoo says that our gut bacteria are responsible for making many of our brain chemicals, which is why what we eat greatly influences our mood. Put simply, a happy gut is a happy mood.

To nurture friendly gut bacteria reach for probiotic fermented foods such as live yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi and also prebiotics such as beans, bananas, oats, berries, and garlic, plus good fats and oily fish.

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