Autism Linked to Air Pollutants, and Other News

Car pollution during a traffic jamA researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has found evidence of a connection between a rise in autism rates and an increase in air pollution levels. Amy Kalkbrenner, a public health researcher, examined health records for children born in the mid-1990s in California and North Carolina. The records follow the children from before they were conceived through their first birthdays. The study examined the records of nearly 1,000 children with autism and compared them with records from a random sampling of children from the same regions.

The research focused on a type of particulate matter called PM10, which is partially the result of air pollution from cars. Using tools to help them measure the levels of pollution near the family’s home at the time of a child’s birth, researchers were able to get a clear idea of how much pollution a child was exposed to. They found that children exposed to more pollution were more likely to develop autism. The third trimester of pregnancy was the most risky time for developing autism, a result that previous studies also support. 

Cancer Patient Brittany Maynard, 29, Has Scheduled Her Death for Nov. 1

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old former teacher with terminal cancer, has scheduled her death for November 1. In an interview with People magazine, Maynard explained that after learning that their were no treatments available to save her life or improve her quality of life, and facing the inevitable loss of the ability to use her body and communicate, she and her family decided to look at physician-assisted suicide. She and her family moved to Oregon four months ago, because the state permits the terminally ill to choose to end their lives. Maynard explains, “I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.” She looks forward to spending her remaining time with loved ones, in the outdoors as much as possible.

Calm, Positive Family Meals May Help Keep Kids Slim

Family meals that feature pleasant conversation and a calm, unchaotic atmosphere may help kids avoid obesity. The study followed 120 families’ meals using iPad recordings. Children who maintained healthy weights were more likely to have calm meals free of distractions, television, and other sources of chaos, while overweight children more typically had chaotic meals in rooms other than the kitchen or dining room. 

Why Schools Should Screen Their Students’ Mental Health

A new editorial published in The Lancet argues that schools are the front lines for mental health screening, and that more students will get proper mental health care if schools institute mental health screenings. The report recommends that teachers refer at-risk kids for further evaluation. It also advises that school counselors learn to spot physical signs of both mental and physical health problems, as well as common school issues such as bullying. The piece’s authors argue that making mental health a part of the discussion at school could reduce stigma and improve care. 

How Teleconferencing Could Help Urban Schools Solve a Mental Health Crisis

Though 10% of students experience mental health challenges, only 1 in 5 of these students receives mental health treatment. Despite the need for better mental health care, a shortage of school psychiatrists means most students don’t have access to proper care at school. Psychologists are more common in schools than psychiatrists, but psychologists are unable to prescribe psychotropic medication. Teleconference-based mental health services, though, are inexpensive and may help boost access to mental health care. One successful program in Baltimore has allowed psychiatrists to provide services to kids in 70 schools. 

Google Glass User Treated for Internet Addiction Caused by the Device

Researchers are treating a man who spends 18 hours a day using digital devices, and they argue that Google Glass caused the addiction. The man only removes the device to sleep and bathe, and says that he feels anxious and upset without it. Doctors treating the man note that he repeatedly taps his temple with his finger; the man says this is a habit instilled by his use of Google Glass.

Just Try Getting an Appointment with a Psychiatrist

A research team posing as patients seeking an appointment with a psychiatrist has found that the process of seeking care is a long and challenging one. The team tried to get appointments in 360 clinics in Boston, Chicago, or Houston. Only 40% of calls to psychiatric clinics were answered. When researchers left a message, they received a call back only about a third of the time. Of those who connected to a psychiatrist to make an appointment, only about a quarter of calls successfully yielded an appointment, with an average wait time of 25 days. The study’s authors argue that there simply aren’t enough psychiatrists to meet patient demand.

YouTube Star Zoella Raising Awareness of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Zoe Sugg, better known to her fans as YouTube star Zoella, has launched her #DontPanicButton campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly anxiety and panic attacks. The “Don’t Panic Button” is simply a red button that a person can wear as a show of solidarity for people who experience anxiety. She’s posted a number of videos addressing her own panic attacks that have received millions of views, including “Anxiety Q&A,” linked below. Now Sugg wants to encourage other people who live with anxiety to talk about their experiences. She hopes her campaign will help reduce stigma and provide support to people with anxiety.

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  • Susan


    October 17th, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    Great job. We need to keep the awareness active. One person at a time. One suggestion at a time.

  • Richard


    October 19th, 2014 at 2:34 AM

    Why the researchers want to ignore the prenatal and antenatal period of the autistic children. There are a lot of un answered questions. What happened during pregnancy?
    What happened after pregnancy?
    What happened during birth? Such as children born with breathing difficulties and forced to stay in intensive care for sometime and others.
    How many parents have got a proper advice before childhood vaccination? And more.
    The researcher don’t look another place. First you should start your research on the children before blaming the environment, the fat mother, the old father and their gene.

  • SueEllen


    October 20th, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    Do you think that the pollution study has a lot of validity? If so then this is the answer that many families of autistic children have been looking for and although it doesn’t address how we could ever reverse the symptoms, it does sound as if it is something that more pregnant women should be aware pf and try to protect their unborn baby from.

  • cole


    October 20th, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    I admire what Brittany maynard is doing although I am not too sure that I would ever have the confidence to choose my death this proudly and in this way. I think that this is someone that we can all learn a lesson from.

  • Alice


    October 22nd, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    uhoh school screenings for mental health and well being?
    I sense that this would not go over very well in many districts just because of the implication that perhaps a teacher could label a student as being something that they are not all because they have behavioral issues or simply because the student is not well liked.
    This would have to be done in a way that lends itself to a whole lot of objectivity in order to be a successful measure.

  • ben


    October 23rd, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    When I was a kid we may not have had a gourmet meal every dinner of the week but whatever we ate we always ate it together as a family and that was a time for conversation and catching up, not for food fights. It was a chance for all of us to connect over the day’s activities and it is the one thing that I know that I will try to do just like my parents did.

  • Brandon A.

    Brandon A.

    October 25th, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    What kind of consent is going to be needed for kids to have access to mental health care at school? And then who will be held responsible if something goes worng and it is then deemed that the child did not receive appropriate care? This is too much for schools given all that they already have on their plates today!

  • Till


    October 27th, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    Probably very unintended consequences for this user of the Google glass device!

  • Justine


    October 29th, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    I am praying for the family of Brittany this weekend. It has to be terrible knowing just how quickly this date is approaching and although I am happy that she has the ability to die with dignity I know that there will still be a whole lot of terribly sad people when she is gone.

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