There has been plenty happening in the global community of mental health and wellness. Ground-breaking studies have been conducted, whose findings have significant impact on how society perceives and supports mental health initiatives. We’ve dug around and pulled the brightest and most hopeful findings to keep you up to date with what’s going on.
Same Sex Marriage & Suicide Rates
Legalising same-sex marriage may have caused a dramatic fall in suicide rates, a landmark study in Sweden and Denmark has found. The Guardian and The Independent have reported that the researchers claim suicide rates among those in same-sex relationships have fallen in both Sweden and Denmark since the countries legalised same-sex marriage. Though the correlation could also be due to improved acceptance and open-mindedness in general, in the study by The Danish Institute for Suicide Prevention and researchers at Stockholm University, it was found that rates of suicide of those in same-sex relationships had fallen by 46% in the period 2003—2016 compared to the period of 1989—2002. Seeing as same-sex marriage became legal in Sweden in 2009 and Denmark in 2012, it was concluded that the correlation is very likely.
According to a team of ecologists, psychologists, and economists from Griffith University in Australia, having access to parks and open green areas can significantly improve mental health. This is something that has never been formally quantified in a psychological study before, despite the general consensus always suggesting that being surrounded by nature is likely beneficial. Now we know that people living more than one kilometre away from a green space can have nearly 50 percent higher odds of experiencing stress than those living less than 300 metres from a green space. These findings are also backed up by claims from many conservation and national park trusts, including National Parks England and NRPA.
The Kindness Institute
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will become the first University in history to launch a Research Institute on the Science of Kindness. The Institute will open as part of the university’s social sciences department, thanks to a grant of $20 million dollars from The Bedari Foundation. Named after the Foundation, the newly-established UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute will support world-class research on kindness, create opportunities to translate that research into real-world practices, and serve as a global platform to educate and communicate its findings. The Goods News Network report that this idea isn’t as trivial as it may initially sound, as ‘previous research has already shown that kindness can positively affect our biology, general health, and even our longevity. The Institute began operating in autumn of 2019, immediately after the Bedari donation was made.
Smartphones & Mental Health
It’s a common conception that smartphones and time spent connected online may be linked to mental ill-health or anxious feelings in teens. Yet, new research released after an 8 year study from Brigham Young University claims that overall time on social media is not linked to teenage depression and anxiety. This news is to be taken with a pinch of salt, though, as the links very much depend on internet users’ reasons for going online: ‘If you get on[line] specifically to seek out information or to connect with others, that can have a more positive effect than getting on just because you’re bored,’ Coyne, one of the researchers, says.
Following the example of other initiatives around the world, Edinburgh has become the latest city to start an open conversation about the future of its citizens’ mental health. The launch of ‘Thrive Edinburgh’ brought over 150 people together, including speakers from Thrive New York and Thrive London to share new ideas and discuss mental health initiatives. The plans build on the early findings of the Capital’s 2050 City Vision, and see the city’s Lord Provost chairing a new mental health assembly.