These times are unprecedented, and so is this mental health crisis

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Photo: Bundit Binsuk/EyeEm/Getty Images

If you or someone you know need help, consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255) for English, 1–888–628–9454 for Spanish.

Covid-19 cases aren’t the only stats that have climbed since March. As the pandemic has progressed, so have rates of depression — and it’s not just a tiny jump. A new study estimates that depression rates have likely tripled due to the pandemic. Tripled.

The study, conducted by Boston University School of Public Health and published in JAMA Network Open, found that 27.8% of people were experiencing depression symptoms mid-pandemic, versus 8.5% before the pandemic. …

Should consumers be concerned about weed in the age of Covid-19?

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Photo: Gabriella Giannini/EyeEm/Getty Images

During this time of national lockdown, some states have deemed medical and/or recreational cannabis dispensaries to be essential businesses, keeping them open while following new safety precautions, such as allowing for curbside pickup so customers don’t have to come in contact with other shoppers and dispensary employees and delivery people wearing gloves and masks while working. (Rules are changing every day, but as of March 30, 21 states had dispensaries open to some extent.)

But should consumers be concerned about using cannabis — particularly inhaling it — considering Covid-19 attacks the respiratory system, especially your lungs?

While research on the effects of smoking cannabis on the novel coronavirus is scarce, experts warn that smoking or vaping anything is certainly not great for the lungs, no matter if it’s during a pandemic or not. “[Whether you’re] smoking tobacco, smoking cannabis, or vaping, you’re introducing foreign elements down deep into the lungs,” says Richard Castriotta, MD, a pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine specialist at Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California. “If you do a lot of it, you have more risk of a sustained injury with less of a chance for the lungs to recuperate and heal themselves over.” …

It’s a common dream theme and not just for teeth-obsessed Americans

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Illustration: Shuhua Xiong

It happens all the time.

I’m eating and all of a sudden something doesn’t feel right. While I’m chewing, a tooth falls out. Sometimes, even a few teeth are gone. I run to the nearest mirror, and when I see my reflection, I’m horrified by the semi-toothless version of myself staring back at me. And then I wake up.

Every time I have this dream, my heart races and I have to run my tongue along the surfaces of my teeth, top and bottom, making sure they’re all there. …

I didn’t just lose a tiny, seven-pound chihuahua. I lost a family member.

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Credit: Jamie Garbutt/Getty Images

“Hi, my dog died. Could I possibly have an extension on this assignment?”

Sending several variations of this email to editors I was working with felt like a version of “my dog ate my homework.” It felt weird, silly even, typing out the words, but I couldn’t craft any other sentences, let alone full articles. I wished it was a made-up excuse.

As badly as I wanted to get my mind off my dog’s death, I couldn’t. It was impossible to work. I stared at blank Google Doc sheets while nothing (usable) came up. All I could picture was replaying the exact moment I learned she died — the way it didn’t feel real, the way I couldn’t breathe, the way I felt so guilty for not being there with her that night. …

Heavy thinking burns calories — go ahead, give your brain that bag of chips

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Credit: Victor Cardoner/Getty Images

It’s 4:45 p.m. at the office and you’re feeling mentally drained. You can barely get yourself to open — let alone answer — one more email. You open your file drawer which contains zero files, but does contain multiple snacks. Ah, yes: Chips!

There’s a scientific explanation for this late-afternoon work-snack phenomenon. Research shows that the brain burns calories with heavy thinking. Demanding mental work, even done sitting stationary at a desk, requires physical energy, and eventually the brain wants you to replenish it. …

It’s one of the best ways to stay functional

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Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

It’s Tuesday morning. It feels like you’ve dealt with an entire workweek and you’re already drained. You’re on your third coffee which is giving you heart palpitations and by 10 a.m. you feel like crying at your desk. You can’t concentrate on a single thing because you’re distracted by how miserable you feel.

Sound familiar? You’re not sick, but you need a day off.

Regardless if someone has a mental health condition or not, everyone deserves mental health days to take time to relax and recharge. While allotted mental health days aren’t universally offered, society is making strides, at least when it comes to students: This year, Oregon passed a bill allowing students to take five mental health days in a three month period. …

Seasonal affective disorder is more than just the winter blues

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Camilo Fuentes Beals / EyeEm / Getty Images

Not only is mid-fall the start of flu season, it’s also the unofficial start of seasonal affective disorder (aptly abbreviated as SAD) season, which lasts throughout the fall and winter months. Most wonderful time of the year? The 5% of U.S. adults with SAD think not.

A lot of people who are bummed out about shorter, colder days approaching joke that they’re experiencing “seasonal depression,” but in reality, seasonal affective disorder is a potentially serious mental health condition, much more than bits of fleeting sadness.

It’s completely normal to feel down about the seasons changing. After all, who wants the sun to set before they even get out of work? Plus, it’s often when the weather gets colder that people aren’t able to be as active in the outdoors as they’d like and start to feel all cooped up. …

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Illustrations: Nejc Prah

Everybody talks about the opioid epidemic — rightfully so. But what about benzos?

Ever since benzodiazepines, a.k.a. “benzos,” were introduced in the ’50s and ’60s, primary care physicians and psychiatrists have been handing them out like candy. By the mid to late ’70s, benzos were already some of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the country.

Feeling stressed at work? Here, have some Xanax. Having trouble sleeping? Take a Valium. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets addicted.

Benzos are a class of fast-acting medications usually prescribed for anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. The most common ones you’ve probably heard of (and maybe taken yourself) are Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and Valium. …

Neurotransmitter testing kits promise insights into mental health based on a simple urine analysis

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Credit: bogdandreava/Getty Images

Today, from the comfort of my own home, I can spit in a tube to see where my ancestors are from, take a blood sample by pricking my finger to see how fertile I am, and, apparently, pee in a cup to see exactly why I’m depressed and anxious.

But wait a minute. Is it really possible that there’s finally a way to get insights into your mental health — something that doctors have long said you can’t really test for — by taking a simple test at home?

According to testing companies such as Labrix or ZRT Laboratory, it is. They say home testing can provide answers and insights into why an individual experiences a mental health condition — be it anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, or addiction — by testing neurotransmitter levels that pass into urine. …

Young adults are experiencing hearing loss and experts say earbuds are to blame. But there are ways to jam out safely.

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Photo: Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Hearing loss isn’t just the stuff of senior citizens: 1 in 5 teens will experience hearing loss — a rate that’s 30% higher than it was 20 years ago. You know what wasn’t around 20 years ago? Earbuds.

At maximum volume, earbuds and AirPods can be as loud as 110 decibels, which is the equivalent of someone shouting directly into your ear. According to the CDC, being exposed to 85 decibels over a prolonged period, or repeatedly, puts you at risk of hearing damage. …


Ashley Laderer

writer aiming to make people with mental health conditions feel less alone 🦄 it’s okay to be not okay. instagram + twitter @ashley_unicorn

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