Mental Health

Psychosocial Research Can Help the National Institute of Mental Health Reduce the Burden of Mental Illnesses and Psychological Disorders

Article: How psychosocial research can help the National Institute of Mental Health achieve its grand challenge to reduce the burden of mental illnesses and psychological disorders.


Teachman, B. A., McKay, D., Barch, D. M., Prinstein, M. J., Hollon, S. D., & Chambless, D. L. (2019). How psychosocial research can help the National Institute of Mental Health achieve its grand challenge to reduce the burden of mental illnesses and psychological disorders. American Psychologist, 74(4), 415-431.

This article was published in American Psychologist, and is available in the PsycARTICLES database.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) plays an enormous role in establishing the agenda for mental health research across the country (its 2016 appropriation was nearly $1.5 billion; NIMH, 2016a). As the primary funder of research that will lead to development of new assessments and interventions to identify and combat mental illness, the priorities set by NIMH have a major impact on the mental health of our nation and training of the next generation of clinical scientists. Joshua Gordon has recently begun his term as the new Director of NIMH and has been meeting with different organizations to understand how they can contribute to the grand challenge of reducing the burden of mental illness. As a group of clinical psychological scientists (most representing the Coalition for the Advancement and Application of Psychological Science), he asked what we saw as key gaps in our understanding of the burden of mental illnesses and psychological disorders that psychosocial research could help fill. In response, we first present data illustrating how funding trends have shifted toward biomedical research over the past 18 years and then consider the objectives NIMH has defined in its recent strategic plan (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, & National Institute of Mental Health, 2015). We then note ways that advances in psychosocial research can help achieve these objectives. Critically, this involves integrating psychosocial and biomedical approaches to efficiently relieve the suffering of millions of Americans who struggle with mental illnesses and psychological disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

New Study Highlights Objectification & Self-Esteem Issues on the Apps

Adonis on the apps: Online objectification, self-esteem, and sexual minority men.

Researchers at Columbia University and University of Texas at Austin examine the relationship between use of dating apps and self-esteem in sexual minority men. Dating apps can play a critical role in how sexual minority men internalize difficult standards of body image. Using objectification theory as a framework, the study tests associations between number of apps used, frequency of use, online objectification, internalization, and self-esteem.

Similar to online dating apps where people swipe left or right to find the best looking prospect, social media and fitness accounts have burgeoned. People present the best of themselves (with filters, hashtags, etc.) in social media. There are a number of accounts dedicated to fitness and weightlifting that is fundamentally changing the way we work out and the expectations we have about our bodies. Many Instagram fitness “celebrities” sell a message of self-love, but post images of thin or muscular bodies that are difficult to attain.

The Columbia and UT Austin researchers suggest future research that explores the long-term affects of online dating apps and online objectification. An interesting finding from their study is the more body-focused images an individual is exposed to, the more likely they are to experience a negative emotional or psychological effect. Online objectification and the perils to self-esteem may be related to the number of apps used rather than frequency of use. Posting pictures where a person’s face is cropped out while highlighting one’s body may have negatively affect self-esteem.

More information is needed to understand the role of online dating apps and social media on our perceptions of self and emotional well-being.

Check out the article in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinities.

Breslow, A. S., Sandil, R., Brewster, M. E., Parent, M. C., Chan, A., Yucel, A., Bensmiller, N., & Glaeser, E. (2019, April 4). Adonis on the Apps: Online Objectification, Self-Esteem, and Sexual Minority Men. Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Advance online publication.

What is NAMI's StigmaFree Campaign?

by Bill Nguyen

The StigmaFree Campaign, created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is in response to rising stigma and misconceptions regarding mental illness. The campaign’s official webpage states that its mission is “to end stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness.” Through providing insightful reference materials as well as a self-diagnostic quiz gauging one’s susceptibility to stigma, the campaign encourages individuals to learn about the misunderstandings surrounding mental illnesses and take a pledge to educate themselves and their community about the misunderstandings.

The campaign’s official website and all of its content can be accessed here.

Alcohol Overconsumption and Abstinence May Increase Risk of Dementia

by Bill Nguyen

With dementia prevalence predicted to triple by 2050, it is critical to bring attention to potential contributors. Among the list of speculated contributors to dementia is alcohol use. A study conducted by a team of researchers from Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) suggests that overconsumption of alcohol during one’s midlife may lead to an increased risk of developing dementia during old age. Even more surprising, the same study suggests that those who abstain from alcohol consumption during midlife also risk higher chances of developing dementia later in life when compared to those who drank 1-14 “units” of alcohol each week.

A conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that alcohol consumption in moderation is the most effective method of mitigating the risk of developing dementia. However, it should be noted that drinking alcohol, even in moderation, may lead to other illnesses, such as liver disease and cancer. Moreover, the study did not reach any solid conclusions and remains mainly speculative. Additional rigorous research is needed to better understand the link between alcohol consumption and dementia in old age.

Further information regarding the study, the BMJ article can be accessed here.

For those who have dementia or know people who do, help and support can be obtained here.

For those struggling with alcohol abuse or know people who are, treatment can be found here.

To receive more case-specific advice, reach out to a licensed specialist or physician.

Tourette Syndrome Overview and Facts

by Bill Nguyen


Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by the presence of tics, which are rapid and repetitive movements made involuntarily by an individual with the syndrome. Tics can be categorized into two groups: motor (e.g., blinking, shrugging, arm jerking) and vocal (e.g., humming, shouting, grunting). Symptoms usually begin during early and late adolescence and may gradually disappear as an individual ages. However, the disorder has been known to persist throughout adulthood as well.


While the exact cause of TS is currently unknown, research has suggested that the disorder may be inherited genetically or may be a result of abnormalities in one’s genetics.


As the cause of the disorder remains unknown, there is no cure for TS. Medication can be offered to temporarily repress symptoms, allowing individuals with TS to function normally throughout the day. However, these medications come with side effects and do not offer a lasting solution. Although not a cure, behavioral therapy can help individuals suffering from TS cope with their symptoms as well as help reduce the severity of tics. Ultimately, it is recommended that individuals with TS visit a certified physician or specialist to consider which treatment is best suited to them.

Notable Facts

  • It is estimated that 1 out of every 160 children in the United States ages 5 to 17 suffers from TS.

  • Individuals with TS have a higher risk of other mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression.

  • Males are more likely to suffer from TS than females are.

Below is a video containing interviews with actual individuals diagnosed with TS.

How Your Smartphone Is Affecting Your Mental Health

by Bill Nguyen

Smartphones have become embedded in our society, defining our casual and even professional interactions. However, some people fear the mental health implications of smartphones, and thus, rumors are created and spread, regardless of their validity. To clear up any misunderstandings and acknowledge legitimate concerns, listed are various mental health effects of smartphones along with recommended solutions.

Sleep Disruption

Shorter wavelength blue light, released by computer monitors, televisions, and smartphones, confuses one’s circadian rhythm and disrupts sleep if exposed to after sundown.

Solution: Limit smartphone use after dark. An alternative option is downloading a smartphone application that greatly reduces blue light emission. This setting is known as “Night Mode” on Android devices and “Night Shift” on iOS devices.


Smartphones often distract their users. This is especially detrimental when considering the implications for health care professionals. One study by Risk Management and Healthcare Policy demonstrated that, when health practitioners are interrupted by their smartphone even once during a patient visit, the chance of the practitioner mischecking or misdiagnosing the patient increases by at least 12%.

Solution: When performing critical tasks, it is best to refrain from using your smartphone. Muting or silencing your smartphone can greatly help with this. Furthermore, during a medical checkup with your provider, feel free to politely ask them to set aside their smartphone.

Impaired Social Interaction

The ease of sending a text message as opposed to talking in-person has led to many individuals (particularly teenagers) sacrificing real-life interactions with virtual ones. This can cause a lack of empathy or trust among those communicating and ultimately disrupts the intimacy many have during physical interactions. In fact, even the presence of a smartphone during interactions can inhibit the closeness of those interactions. Interestingly, teenagers who participate in more social activities tend to have lesser risks of depression and suicide.

Solution: Put your smartphone completely away or hidden when interacting with others. In addition, make the effort to arrange physical meetups with friends and families to preserve intimacy and bonding. Remember the importance of engaging in social activities, such as joining a club or sport.


The satisfaction and dopamine acquired from receiving a notification or Facebook “react” is thrilling--and can be addicting. This may lead an individual to constantly crave this sense of fulfillment gained from their smartphone, leading to significant overuse. This can induce all the problems discussed previously, as well as the countless physical health issues not mentioned.

Solution: Set restrictions on smartphone use. These restrictions can take the form of completely turning off your smartphone when not in use or downloading apps that restrict access to the most enduring parts of the phone. Setting your smartphone in a separate room can also help with resisting its use.



Smartphone Dangers: Could Your Cell Phone Be Bad for Your Health? (OnHealth)

Cellphones and unhealthy side effects (The Washington Times)

Phone Addiction is Real -- And So Are Its Mental Health Risks (Forbes)