Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Inter, Salem State University
The goal of any healthy and well functioning family is to be together, to grow together, and to experience life with one another. Immigration policies that have led to the separation of children and their parents at the US and Mexican border are creating lifelong detrimental impacts on these young children. This separation policy openly violates two UN Conventions; the Convention against Torture and the Convention on Rights of the Child. An executive order has since been signed by Trump that prohibits the separation of families during detainment, but this order does not undo the damage that has already been inflicted upon both the children and parents involved. Psychological, biological and emotional changes have been ignited in these children that can prove to be lifelong and irreversible.
High levels of stress, induced by any traumatic or crisis situation, can ignite changes in the body that would not have previously been activated. It has been know that sparking the stress dysregulation system at a young age can rewire a child’s brain in terms of dealing and coping with any form of stress, no matter the source. Activating change in the stress dysregulation mechanism can cause children (or anyone) to be hypervigilant, can pump extra cortisol (the stress hormone) into the brain and body, and can even lead to adrenal burn out due to constantly being in “fight or flight” mode. Our body’s mechanism for facing danger is still very primal, and is directly associated with anxiety and panic disorders. This “toxic stress” can also inhibit children from developing social skills, language skills, and gross motor skills.
Extensive stress on the body is not only related to psychological disorders, but biological health disorders. These include diabetes, heart disease, and even put someone at risk for substance and alcohol abuse. The separation of these families is causing unnecessary stress and trauma that is not only inhumane but totally preventable and avoidable. To put these children at an emotional and psychological disadvantage early in life is morally unacceptable. This act against humanity goes against everything psychologists and parents know about fostering a healthy environment for children to develop and prosper.
If left untreated, these children are at higher risk for developing major depressive disorder, PTSD, substance abuse disorders and possible suicidal ideation or behaviors. This not only goes for children being separated from parents at the border, but for children wrongly separated from their parents and placed into foster care. Even children who should be removed from a toxic home situation are having their entire world dismantled, and can experience toxic stress. A healthy, productive and nurturing family unit is the best way to set a child up for success in life. The only way to prevent this from happening, and to stunt further damage, is to reunite these children with their parents.
Keating, D. P., Ph.D. (2018, June 24). The Torture of Forced Family Separation: The Lifelong Impact. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stressful-lives/201806/the-torture-forced-family-separation-the-lifelong-impact
Roberts, J., & Lloyd, R. (2018, June 22). This Week in Science. Retrieved from https://undark.org/2018/06/22/children-separated-border-trauma/
Impact of Digital Addiction
Written by: Rachel Johansson, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Curry College
Neural pathways in the brain are activated when we respond to stimulus on our digital devices. When we click and scroll through videos, text messages and pictures we experience reward sensations. These intermittent rewards activate reward circuits in the brain, which leads to behaviors that would be categorized as Internet addiction. The behavioral addiction starts to form neurological connections; similar to how opioid addiction is experienced. Internet and smartphone addiction can lead to decreases in social connections and cause issues with emotional regulation. Internet addiction has also shown to increase attention-deficit disorders and distractibility as well as decreasing self-initiative.
Social isolation and perceived loneliness, due to smartphone addiction, impact physical health due to the neuroendocrine affects that are associated with social isolation and loneliness. Being connected to the Internet or a smartphone constantly limits reflection time as well as regeneration. Disconnected time allows for new ideas to develop and provides time for understanding your actions along with the actions of others. A key component of disconnected time is neural regeneration. Being constantly exposed to stress or stimulation with no time for regeneration can lead to illness and neural death. Being exposed to excessive stimulation during development may be harmful to the brain; increased television viewing hours is associated with attentional difficulties.
There are steps that can be taken to address digital addiction. Limiting interruptions throughout your entire day. This includes during work, relaxation, and fun. Turn off notifications and schedule times for checking notifications. Schedule uninterrupted time as well, especially during hours where you are most alert. Turn off all devices when attending social events to help you remain active, present and engaged during the event. Turning limited digital use into a game during social events can be beneficial as well. When out to dinner, stack all digital devices in the middle of the table and the first person to look at their device has to pay for dinner. It is important to give yourself unstructured and disconnected time to allow regeneration and self-reflection to occur (Peper & Harvey, 2018).
Peper, E., & Harvey, R. (2018). Digital addiction: Increased loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
NeuroRegulation, 5(1), 3-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.15540/nr.5.1.3
Written by: Rachel Johansson, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Curry College
A positive school social climate is most often viewed as a climate where students feel respected, listened to, and valued within the school community. When a positive school social climate is achieved student crime, including violence, can be effectively prevented. In a positive school environment, encouraging learning conditions can be established. The encouraging atmosphere helps promote pro-social bonds, improve levels of self-control, provide students with positive motivation, and support youth social development. Improved school climate increases overall school safety through better communication and cooperation.
A large aspect of improving school climate involves assisting students with mental health support. When a school is able to identify students who are in need of support, provide students with tools for coping with traumatic experiences, and offer students emotional support or guidance improvements in school social climate are made. Increasing the school social climate would provide effective prevention for tragedies in school. Researchers have discovered a large amount of evidence supporting that student misbehavior decreases in positive social climates as well as evidence that shows it would be unlikely that a student would cause a mass act of violence in a school where they feel valued and respected.
Increasing student access to disciplinary and counseling services as well as increasing funding for more full-time school resource officers and mental health agents is a substantially more effective prevention measure than criminal justice-oriented security. More invasive and intense the security is correlated with increased reports of student victimization and fear. The invasive security also impacts school involvement for parents and community members. The cost of increased security could indirectly cause a less secure school environment by taking the needed resources away from educational and behavioral therapy. The most important key to prevention is being able to recognize warnings and cries for help; a positive school social climate supports prevention effectively (Kupchik et al., 2015).
Kupchik, A., Brent, J. J., & Mowen, T. J. (2015). The aftermath of Newtown: More of the
same. British Journal Of Criminology, 55(6), 1115-1130. doi:10.1093/bjc/azv049
Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Salem State University
Designer and entrepreneur Kate Spade was found dead in her New York home on Tuesday, June 5th due to an apparent suicide. A note was left at the scene that addressed her daughter and husband. Family members are shocked and heartbroken, just as is much of the fashion industry and fans of her billion dollar brand. Kate’s husband, Andy Spade, said he had no indication that his wife had planned to take her life. They had been living apart for the last 10 months, but there were no talks of getting divorced. One of Spade’s close friends, Elyce Arons, states how “Katy was very happy most of the time, the funniest person in the world, and sometimes she would get really sad”. Arons also reported to the New York times that Spade had made it clear very times that “[she] would never do that”, in regards to taking her own life.
Kate Spade choosing to end her life embodies the misconception that if you have money and fame, you are supposed to be happy. This misconception is just one of the many stigmas regarding mental health and mental illness that have become popular in our society. Unfortunately, money and fame do not immunize a person from suffering from a mental illness. Depression is not discriminatory.
Spade's sister, Rita Saffo, told New York Times that Kate was afraid of getting help because she felt it would damage her brand and reputation. The fact that Kate recognized she needed help but refused to seek it due to societal stigma and industry expectations is why we need to change the conversation about mental health. Guilt and embarrassment should not be the feelings someone experiences when they are thinking of seeking mental health services. Having a mental illness and admitting that you are struggling should not be associated with weakness. Tragedies like this can be avoided, but this means changing the negative connotation our culture has around mental illness and self care.
Kate was not weak and she was not broken. She was a beautiful, intelligent and innovative business woman that was internally struggling. People often fail to reach out when they need help the most, especially if they feel they will be shamed because of it. Changing the conversation begins with you. Think about what you share on social media regarding mental illness, how you talk about mental illness with your friends and family, and challenge your biases about what it means when someone is mentally ill.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the free 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency services provider. You are worth helping. Your life is worth living
Friedman, V. (2018, June 06). Kate Spade's Death: 'There Was No Indication and No Warning,' Says Her Husband. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/style/kate-spade-husband-andy-spade.html
Levenson, E., & Gingras, B. (2018, June 05). Designer Kate Spade found dead in apparent suicide. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/05/us/kate-spade-dead/index.html
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Salem State University
Have you ever wondered why you or others around you feel sad and tired during the winter months? Have you noticed you feel happier in the spring and summer when the weather is warm and the sun is shining? Do these feelings come and go yearly with the changing of seasons? You may be experiencing SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that can occur due to the change of yearly seasons. It is a type of depressive mood disorder that has many of the same symptoms of a classic depressive disorder. Generally, the onset begins in the fall or the winter and last until spring or summer season (when there is more sunshine). A rare form of seasonal depression is “summer” depression, which begins in the spring or summer and lasts until fall or winter. Symptoms of winter SAD include, but are not limited to:
What are the causes?
The specific causes of SAD are unknown. However, there are several biological and chemical indicators that may offer an explanation. People with SAD may have trouble producing or maintaining adequate serotonin levels in the brain, which is known as the “happiness” neurotransmitter. People diagnosed with SAD may also produce too much melatonin, which is the neurotransmitter associated with sleep and your circadian cycle. Lastly, and probably the most obvious is that people with serotonin lack an adequate amount of vitamin D, which plays a role in serotonin production.
Who does it affect?
SAD can affect anyone, of any age. For example, many individuals in the Northeastern United States experience winter SAD because of the lack of sunlight and vitamin D. The farther north or south you live from the equator (the sunniest place on earth year round), the higher your chances of developing SAD. Women are also 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men. If you have a family history of depression, or have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, this also increases your chances of developing SAD. 5% of adults in the U.S experience SAD. Their symptoms generally persist for about 40% of the calendar year. The most difficult months for SAD prove to be January and February; in the dead of winter.
How do you treat SAD?
Just like any mood disorder, SAD can be treated in multiple ways. These treatments involve light therapy, medication, psychotherapy and intake of vitamin D. SSRI’s, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, help stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain. Light therapy through the use of light boxes is a very common treatment for SAD. This involves exposure to cool fluorescent lighting for 20 minutes to an hour by sitting in front of a light box from the fall until early spring. People typically do this first thing in the morning before they start their day. According to the Seasonal Affective Disorder associate (SADA), light therapy is effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases of SAD. Traditional psychotherapy can help combat the negative self thoughts and help with mood regulation that is disrupted by SAD. Promotion of engaging in indoor and outdoor activities during the winter is a common piece of psychotherapy as a treatment for SAD. Lastly, the addition of a vitamin D supplement to one’s routine may help improve serotonin production and improve mood and energy levels. Vitamin D supplements can be purchased at your local drug store or pharmacy. Any of these treatments alone or in combination can be used to combat SAD. Going on vacation, spending time outdoors, maintaining a healthy diet and maintaining a set sleep schedule are also alternative options in treating SAD. It is important to consult a doctor for a diagnosis, and to make sure your symptoms are not related to a possible medical condition.
A. (2017, January). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder
N. (2016, March). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml
Whiteman, H. (2015, December 28). Seasonal affective disorder: Could you spot the signs? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270059.php
Winch, G., Ph.D. (2015, October 26). 10 Signs of Seasonal Depression (and 6 Ways to Fight It). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201510/10-signs-seasonal-depression-and-6-ways-fight-it
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