Columnists, Articles

July 11th, 2021

The end of the pandemic

By John Grohol, Psy.D.

At least here in New England, the end of the pandemic is in sight. Masks are no longer needed, and there’s a certain sense of relief that perhaps the worst is behind us.

Like many Americans, I feel like we’ve come to the end of our generation’s shared hardship experience. While not as traumatic or needing of self-sacrifice as other hardships in our country’s modern past, it nonetheless feels like we went through something difficult together.

The past year has been especially difficult on school-aged children and young adults. Attending my nephew’s high school graduation, the graduates seemed none the worse for wear.…

June 26th, 2021

How can psychologists help with needle phobia, vaccination hesitation?

By Catherine Robertson Souter

With a growing number of Americans being vaccinated, there has been renewed hope that life will soon return to pre-pandemic normal. Guidelines around mask wearing have been relaxed, public spaces are being further opened, and the travel industry is seeing renewed interest.

With all of this excitement, it can be easy to overlook the fact that, as of this writing, only 40 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and around 50 percent have had one vaccine.

With up to 25 percent refusing and 5 percent hesitating to be vaccinated, according to an NPR/Marist poll, the question is whether we will ever reach that range of 80 to 85 percent to reach ‘herd immunity.’…

June 26th, 2021

Advocates, legislators address children’s mental health crisis

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The true toll of this pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents may take decades to fully understand. Young people can be resilient but the academic and social milestones missed may have repercussions across their lifespans that are not yet visible.

With more acute issues of mental health, the effects are being felt in the here and now. Across the United States, mental health-related visits to emergency rooms rose 24 percent for children ages 5-11 and 31 percent for adolescents 12-17 in 2020, as compared with 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control.…

June 26th, 2021

Studies show mask wearers believe in science

By Eileen Weber

Mask on or mask off? That depends on your trust in science, according to a study first published online in February. Doctoral students Morgan Stosic and Shelby Helwig and Assistant Psychology Professor Mollie Ruben, Ph.D., from the University of Maine set out to determine three things: the greater the belief in science, the greater the mask wearing; mask wearing is equated with the belief in its effectiveness against Covid-19; and mask wearing also determines the belief in its protection against virus transmission.

Based on this theory, they asked questions in a 10-item “Belief in Science” scale to determine how participants valued scientific information.…

April 13th, 2021

COVID-19 is impacting pediatric mental health

By Phyllis Hanlon

Research clearly demonstrates that the pandemic is having a significant negative effect on the younger generation.

A November 2020 article, “Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations,” found both short-term and long-term “psychosocial and mental health implications” in this population. The article was published in Psychiatry Research.

The authors noted that severity of the impact is subject to certain vulnerability factors including developmental age, educational status, pre-existing mental health conditions, low economic status, and quarantine because of or fear of infection.…

April 13th, 2021

Drug overdoses rise but NH’s death rate dips slightly

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused more than half a million deaths in the United States. Sadly, those direct results of the virus may not tell the whole story.

Across the United States, drug overdose deaths increased nearly 20 percent in the 12-month period ending last June, with a noticeable spike occurring during the early months of the Covid-19 shutdown.

These figures, provided by the Centers for Disease Control, represented the highest number of fatal overdoses ever recorded in the U.S. in a single year.

Throughout New England, the rates of death have seen an increase in the past year in every state except for one.…

April 12th, 2021

Survey: Households with children reported feeling down, depressed, or hopeless

By Eileen Weber

Since last March, feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and isolation are simply commonplace. What initially was presumed to be a shutdown for a few weeks has been prolonged into a year. People of all ages are experiencing the effects of the lack of normalcy. But children, adolescents, and young adults in particular are showing the strain.

In an American Medical Association podcast in mid-February, Patrice Harris, M.D., M.A., discussed the mental health issues resulting from the pandemic. In her estimation, it’s necessary to have serious conversations—and serious action—about what she called “COVID fatigue” or “hitting the wall.”…

April 12th, 2021

Psychologists ponder the future of their profession

By Phyllis Hanlon

When the COVID-19 virus invaded the United States last year, life as we knew it changed dramatically. For many psychologists, this shift prompted changes to the way they practiced.

According to John F. Todaro, Ph.D., clinical associate professor in Brown University’s department of psychiatry and human behavior, many psychologists shifted to telehealth-based therapy within a couple of weeks following the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Todaro, also clinical psychologist and director at Providence Behavioral Health Associates, feels for the most part that psychological therapy via a virtual platform has proven to be effective for a range of patients.…

April 12th, 2021

Data shows pandemic as ‘collective traumatic experience’

By New England Psychologist Staff

A year’s worth of data on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic has found that 40 to 50 percent of the general population is showing clinical levels of depression. “Which is what we’d expect,” said clinical psychologist Luana Marques, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Marques is also the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Massachusetts General Hospital Research Scholar 2020-2025.

“Think about COVID-19 as a collective traumatic experience with a real threat,” she says. “And that threat is intensified by the economic turndown and other factors, such as systemic racism that were uncovered by the pandemic.”…

February 11th, 2021

Maine launches initiatives to address pandemic-related issues

By Phyllis Hanlon

Approximately nine months after the COVID-19 virus was identified in the United States, Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) launched StrengthenME, an initiative designed to provide coping mechanisms for pandemic-related stress and anxiety before it becomes a more serious mental health issue.

According to Jessica Pollard, Ph.D, director of the Maine DHHS Office of Behavioral Health, the state recognized the need for mental health supports and immediately looked to expand existing services, such as the Intentional Peer Warm Line.

“We also launched new services, such as the Maine Frontline Warmline to support health care staff and first responders, and the NAMI Teen Text Line for youth,” Pollard said.…