Trying to Learn Something New? Stop Focusing on It (and Other News)

A boy concentrates while studyingAccording to Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), downtime during the day helps your brain process more information and work more effectively. While focused attention is crucial to absorbing new information or completing an important task, it’s just as important to cease focusing entirely, in something Oakley terms a “diffuse mode.”

Diffuse mode allows the brain to process the new information and solve complex problems in a way that we simply cannot do while focusing. Oakley draws upon the example of Charles Dickens, who worked from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then took a long walk. She argues that this habit may have helped propel the novelist’s success. This kind of downtime allows your brain to process information on a subconscious level, resulting in insights and solutions in an almost effortless way.

Changing Trends of Childhood Disability, 2001–2011

According to a report published in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics, childhood mental health disabilities have greatly increased over the last half century. In just 10 years, the rate of neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions increased by 21%. Amy J. Houtrow, one of the study’s authors, argues that environmental factors and stress likely play a role in the increase. Interestingly, the rate of disability increased the most among children in more affluent families, who saw a 28% increase in mental health disabilities. She also points out that parents in higher economic groups are more likely to seek help for mental health challenges, so the higher numbers might be due to more accurate reporting from that demographic. 

Demi Lovato Releases Mental Health Advocacy Video

In 2011, actress Demi Lovato revealed her struggles with bipolar, anorexia, and bulimia. Through a partnership with the Mental Health Listening and Engagement Tour, for which she will be a featured speaker, she has released a mental health advocacy video addressing her experience with bipolar. In the video, Lovato says “Our society tends to shame or ignore those with mental illness, and I want to change that . . . If you or someone you care about could use help, reach out for support. Asking for help when you’re struggling is a sign of strength.” 

App Developers Hope to Help Veterans Battling Mental Health Issues

Position Report, an app designed to help military veterans who need mental health help, is already available for iPhone users. The app’s developers are now attempting to raise $500,000 to develop an Android version of the program. According to the Veterans Administration, about 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans struggle with posttraumatic stress, and suicide is a common tragedy among veterans. 

Where the Police Are Part of Mental Health Care

For impoverished people with mental health issues, jail cells often substitute for mental health care. Across the country, mental health advocates have raised concerns about insufficient mental health training for police officers. But in San Antonio, Texas, police officers endeavor to help—rather than arrest—people struggling with mental health challenges. The city has overhauled its mental health system, and police play a role in helping people with mental health challenges seek treatment, rather than putting them in jail. The city’s mental health squad is staffed by six officers trained to help people struggling with mental health difficulties. The end result is a jail system that is under capacity. The program has helped the city save $50 million in just two years.

More People Going to Switzerland for Assisted Suicide, Study Finds

Switzerland has more permissive laws on assisted suicide than most countries, and a study has found that this may attract people seeking assisted suicide. According to the study, 611 people from 31 different countries have undergone assisted suicide in Switzerland since 2009, and the number of people seeking help with suicide has steadily increased. Twenty-one people who committed assisted suicide in Switzerland were from the United States. 

Kids With Autism Have Extra Brain Connections, Study Says

A study that examined the brains of 26 deceased children with autism—all of whom died from causes other than autism—has found that children with the condition may have extra synapses in their brains, affecting the ways their brains function. Extra synapses are typically “pruned” during development, and the study’s authors believe that drug treatment could eventually help reduce the number of synapses in the brains of children with autism.

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  • Kristy

    Kristy

    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    I am afraid that there are many who will confuse “diffuse” time with zone out time!

  • Laine

    Laine

    August 22nd, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    With the childhood disability numbers I think that it is very valid to point out that the numbers could have actually been the same all along, but now there is a better way of predicting and diagnosing so that could be the same, while the numbers of those seeking treatment is what is really on the rise.

  • lois

    lois

    August 23rd, 2014 at 5:39 AM

    Maybe Switzerland is doing something right- they are not forcing their citizens to struggle with inhumane diseases and they allow them to end it all in a way that is dignified for the patient.

  • Donald t

    Donald t

    August 23rd, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    Generally I am not all for the celebrity advocacy for a cause, because most of the time I think that they are stepping into waters about which they know very little.

    With Lovato, I think that it is a little different as she faced a very public and well known struggle with her mental health issues, and I am happy to say that she has been very open and forthcoming about her experience.

    I think that when it is handled like this it can really open up the dialogue that needs to be had, so that others can understand what she went througha s well as self identify if this sounds like something that they are experiencing themselves. I do applaud her bravery and her honesty, as well as her wanting to do something to help others who could be going through the same things.

  • Jaxon

    Jaxon

    August 25th, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Great job San Antonio!
    Now THAT is a model that every city should try to emulate when it comes to patient and inmate care.

  • Belle

    Belle

    August 25th, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    If I stress about something too much then I find that I actually do a lot more poorly at it than I did when I am a little more laid back and easy going about it. I don’t want to advocate not practicing or whatever but I seriously have to take a few steps away from things, sometimes even a day or so at a time before I feel like I can accomplish something that is wrorthy. If I try to hard then I beat myself up about all of the small mistakes that I never can get quite right; but stepping away I gain some clarity that would not normally be there and I end up feeling better about the task than I did before.

  • jeff l

    jeff l

    August 26th, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    I have a daughter with sutism and it has been very hard over the yesrs on all of us. I am happy to know though that we have not been forgotten and that there are still those out there who are making it their mission to learn more about this and to hopefully one day have the answers for us that most of us want and need.

  • dave

    dave

    August 26th, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    could anyone give me a few more details about that app that is supposed to help vets? is it simply generalized help or is it an app that will help you locate a provider, etc?

  • Raj

    Raj

    August 27th, 2014 at 3:59 AM

    Do you believe that eventually Switzerland will put a stop to so many people travelling there if they learn their true motive is to kill themselves while they are there?
    That’s not exactly the kind of tourism dollars that I would want to be known for,.

  • Zawn Villines

    Zawn Villines

    August 27th, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Dave,

    The app helps veterans find each other, as well as providers. Here’s a link to the app on itunes if you want to learn more:
    itunes.apple.com/us/app/pos-rep/id576207095?mt=8

  • Emmett

    Emmett

    August 28th, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    With Demi and other celebrities sharing their stories I think that this is the best time ever to elarn more about mental illness on a very personal level and learn how you are not alone even though sometimes it certainly feels as if you are.

    There are a number of people who understandably think that they are the only ones going through something and that no one will ever understand how they feel. So not true and I think that as more and more people feel compelled to share their stories then more and more people will be willing to seek out help and ask others for that help when they know that they need it.

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