Psychology Round-Up

The Changing Vocabulary of Mental Illness

Like our understanding of mental health, the vocabulary used to describe it is fluid, with certain terms falling in and out of favor as we discover new ways to diagnose, treat, and think about the various conditions that can arise in the human mind.

Cari Romm discusses a new report from research firm Fractl on how the usage of words describing mental health have changed over the last 200 years, from the catch-all madness to neurosis, which has evolved from its singular form to the now more prevalent plural neuroses.

New York City finds one in five adults has mental health problems

Reuters looks at a recent report about the mental health of residents of New York City:

At least one in five adult New Yorkers suffer from depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or other psychological disorders every year, according to a report released on Thursday ahead of Mayor Bill de Blaiso’s new mental-health initiative.

According to the report, poor and minority residents are disproportionately affected by mental illnesses and are more likely than white residents to be misdiagnosed or untreated. The number of residents experiencing disorders such as depression has remained about the same in recent years, while mental health issues from drug and alcohol abuse have risen.

One of the goals of the new NYC mental health initiative, known as Thrive, is to better track the mental health of both adults and children.

Take a hike for health: small doses of the outdoors make a big difference

Scientists are beginning to talk about nature deprivation as a mental health issue. Recent research suggests that as little as 10 minutes of exposure to nature two to three times a week produces “mental-restoration benefits.”

The research was conducted by MaryCarol Hunter, a professor at the University of Michigan, and Dr. Marc Berman of the University of Chicago for the TKF Foundation, which has awarded grants for studying the benefits of incorporating green spaces in urban areas.

forest pathHunter’s study had participants “immerse themselves in nature at least 2½ times a week for a minimum 10 minutes,” then answer questions about their mental well-being. Participants reported significantly less stress, improved ability to focus, and increased satisfaction with their mood and energy levels.

Berman’s study had participants take a 2.5-mile walk through either an arboretum or a dense urban environment. They were then given memory tests to measure their ability toconcentrate. Participants who had walked through the arboretum showed 20% improvement in working memory over those who had walked through the city. Another study found similar results using photos of urban or nature scenes rather than the walks.

Both researchers’ work raises several further areas that must be studied, such as how senses other than sight contribute of health benefits and what specific features of nature produce benefits.