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In Case You Missed It – March 6, 2015

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Welcome to our new feature – In Case You Missed It, a weekly roundup of recent news articles related to issues of psychology, health and mental health, social justice and the public interest that you may be interested in. This week, we have stories ranging from a new campaign to raise awareness of the importance of mental health care, the Supreme Court’s hearing of King v. Burwell, the release of the DOJ Ferguson report and more.

On March 4, APA was honored to join First Lady, Michelle Obama, Give an Hour, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others at the national launch of the “Change Direction” campaign. The initiative encourages Americans to confront stigma, care for their mental health and learn the five signs of emotional distress; withdrawal, agitation, hopelessness, decline in personal care and change in personality. Check out the Change Direction campaign for more information and resources.

In this inspiring story, five Latina teens in a health informatics class share how they came up with the concept for “Safe&Sound,” a mobile app designed to provide helpful mental health tips and resources for teenagers. The students were motivated to bring mental health awareness to light after a 15-year-old student at a nearby high school shot five students and himself in addition to their personal experiences with depression, anxiety and suicide.

On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the King v. Burwell challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Hanging in the balance, subsidies to help seven million low and middle-income Americans in over 30 states afford health insurance. Should SCOTUS rule in favor of the plaintiffs, these Americans may no longer be able to afford insurance and insurance markets in those states could collapse. The Court appears closely divided with announcement of their decision anticipated in June.

A new study shows that “colorism” – complexion-based discrimination – goes beyond communities of color. Villanova University’s Lance Hannon found that, all things being equal, white interviewers deemed lighter-skinned Blacks and Hispanics more intelligent than darker-skinned people with identical educational achievement, vocabularies, scores on a political test, and a variety of other factors. These results raise concerns about the impact unfair, complexion-based beliefs and discrimination may have on Americans of darker skin tones.

According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 21 percent of high school girls have been physically or sexually assaulted by someone they dated — twice as high as previous estimates. Meanwhile, 10 percent of high school boys report having been physically or sexually assaulted by a dating partner, similar to earlier surveys. The CDC has changed the way it phrases its questions about teen dating violence, leading more students to report assaults. Teens who have experienced dating violence are at much higher risk for a variety of serious problems such as considering suicide, experiencing cyberbullying, getting into fights, using marijuana, cocaine and alcohol, and having sex with multiple partners.

In a searing report released on March 4, the Justice Department provided evidence of systematic discrimination toward African Americans by the Ferguson, MO police department and municipal court. Among the findings: from 2012 to 2014, 85% of people subject to vehicle stops by Ferguson police were African-American; 90% of those who received citations were Black; and 93% of people arrested were Black. These statistics are disproportionate to the 67% of the Ferguson population which is Black. For more, read our blog series on race, racism and law enforcement in communities of color.

How much impact does decent housing have on health? The implications can be huge. For Faiza Ayesh, moving out of a cramped one-bedroom apartment with chipping lead-based paint means a future free of lead poisoning for her two toddler daughters. For Uzuri Pease-Greene, a chance at subsidized housing means freedom from the marijuana and crack-laced cigarette smoke that seeps into her current public housing apartment and aggravates her granddaughter’s asthma. These examples bear out the research, which shows that improved housing is linked to reduced asthma and emergency room visits for children and long term improved physical and mental health benefits for adults.

Sleep deprivation can have pretty serious implications for adolescent health and academic performance. In this illuminating Q&A with neuroscientist, Christian Benedict, Arianna Huffington explores the importance of understanding young people’s sleep patterns, how school start times may play a larger role in student success than previously thought and simple tips to help your teen get a good night’s rest.

What do you think of these stories? Did we leave anything out? Leave us a comment.

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