Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed

Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to enjoy. This week’s selections include stories on locked-in syndrome, stillbirths, how covid is outsmarting us, “magic mushrooms,” CTE, and more.

The Washington Post: How To Ease The Transition To College When Mental Health Is A Concern

The move from high school to college can be a trying one, particularly for students with mental health concerns. But today there are ways to make it easier. … A 2021 survey by the American College Health Association of close to 100,000 college students found that 16 percent of college men and 33 percent of college women had been diagnosed with anxiety, and 14 percent of college men and 25 percent of college women had been diagnosed with depression. (Fritz, 8/6)

Undark: Locked-In Syndrome And The Misplaced Presumption Of Misery

In 1993, Julio Lopes was sipping a coffee at a bar when he had a stroke. He fell into a coma, and two months later, when he regained consciousness, his body was fully paralyzed. Doctors said the young man’s future was bleak. … Yet almost 30 years later, Lopes now lives in a small Paris apartment near the Seine. In an interview at his home, Lopes communicated through the use of a specialized computer camera that tracks a sensor on the lens of his glasses. He made slight movements with his head, selecting letters on a virtual keyboard that appeared on the computer’s screen. “Even if it’s hard at the beginning, you acquire a kind of philosophy of life,” he said in French. (Moens, 8/8)

KVPR: How To Talk About Disability Sensitively And Avoid Ableist Tropes

Disability can be difficult to talk about sensitively because of how embedded abilityism is in our language, biases and perceptions of disability. Conversations about disability are slowly increasing, especially when it comes to ableist language and how disabled people are represented in the media. Disability advocate Talila A. Lewis’ working definition of ableism is a “system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on socially constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence and excellence.” (Rajkumar, 8/8)

USA Today: Families Lack Support After Stillbirths. They’re Demanding Change

For the dozen parents of stillborn babies who talked to The Journal News/lohud, a part of the USA TODAY Network, seeking out other parents who had also experienced that kind of loss was a key step toward healing. They would soon learn they were far from alone in their experience: One in every 160 babies born in the US are born still. And yet, few states have paid family leave, much less a program that covers stillbirth. (Dombrowski, 8/3)

The Washington Post: Police Accused Her Of Making Up Her Rape, Then Destroyed The Evidence

Gretchen Van Winkle was transfixed as the hit Netflix series “Unbelievable” played across her TV screen in 2019. The dramatized version of a true story of one woman’s rape and betrayal by police was so similar it could have been hers. Just like the protagonist, Van Winkle was sexually assaulted in her apartment by a knife-wielding intruder, who bound and gagged her. Van Winkle remembered the same kinds of searing questions lobbed at her, as detectives accused the woman on screen of making up her assault. (Jouvenal, 8/2)

The Atlantic: Another Way The Coronavirus Is Outsmarting Us

Coronaviruses in general are pros at interferon sabotage. Among the most powerful is MERS, which “just shuts down everything” in the interferon assembly line, says Susan Weiss, a coronavirologist at the University of Pennsylvania. That essentially ensures that almost no interferons are released, even when gobs of virus are roiling about, a dismantling of defenses that potentially contributes to MERS’ substantial fatality rate. Weiss doesn’t think SARS-CoV-2 is likely to copy its cousin in that respect anytime soon. The virus does have some ability to gum up interferon production, but it would take a lot more, she told me, to silence the system as MERS has. (Wu, 8/4)

Scientific American: Restrictions On Psilocybin ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Are Easing As Research Ramps Up

Magic mushrooms are undergoing a transformation from illicit recreational drug to promising mental health treatment. Numerous studies have reported positive findings using psilocybin—the mushrooms’ main psychoactive compound—for treating depression as well as smoking and alcohol addiction, and for reducing anxiety in the terminally ill. Ongoing and planned studies are testing the drug for conditions that include opioid dependence, PTSD and anorexia nervosa. This scientific interest, plus growing social acceptance, is contributing to legal changes in cities across the US In 2020 Oregon passed statewide legislation decriminalizing magic mushrooms, and the state is building a framework for regulating legal therapeutic use—becoming the first jurisdiction in the world to do so. For now psilocybin remains illegal and strictly controlled at the national level in most countries, slowing research. But an international push to get the drug reclassified aims to lower barriers everywhere. (Makin, 8/1)

In sports news —

The Boston Globe: New Research Suggests Intensity Of Hits In Sports, Not Years Played, May Be Better Predictor Of Devastating Brain Damage

As football preseason gets underway, new research suggests that it’s the intensity of the hits players sustain, rather than the total number of blows to the head or their cumulative years of play, that better predicts who will develop a devastating brain disease. A team of Boston scientists found that players who developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition that silentlys the minds of athletes after years of repetitive hits, were more likely to have received the hardest collisions over time, rather than necessarily destroy the most hits . (Lazar, 8/3)

AP: NFL Hopes To Reduce Head Injuries With Helmet Experiment

The mushroom-like contraptions NFL players are wearing on their helmets during training camp may look strange, but they’re a part of an ongoing safety experiment the league hopes will lead to a reduction in head injuries. They’re called Guardian Caps, and they’re now mandatory for all 32 NFL teams through the second preseason game — the time when the league says head injuries are most prevalent. (Reed, 8/4)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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