Recent studies show that people with autism are twice as likely as others to engage in substance abuse, contrary to previous belief that they are extremely unlikely to use drugs or alcohol. An expert and an author who has used alcohol to cope with his autism discuss the developments and their impact.
Drowning: It Doesn’t Look Like You Think
Seven hundred children under age 15 drown in the US each year, most within sight of a parent or other adult. Experts discuss one major reason: drowning doesn’t look like most people picture it, and so are unaware the child is in trouble.
Going to work while not feeling well could be harming the economy. Three experts discuss the impact of presenteeism, when employees come into work but don’t get much done. Rob Hosking, Senior Vice President of the HR and staffing firm Ranstad USA, was involved with a national survey which found that over half of the participants always or frequently go in to work when they’re feeling sick. Presenteeism is mostly caused by chronic conditions, like illnesses or injuries, as well as distractions from media and technology.
Todd Whitthorne, President of ACAP Health, discusses the various reasons and fears behind presenteeism. Employees can be afraid that they’re out of sick days or will lose vacation days, feel guilty that someone else will have to take on their responsibilities, or be worried that they’ll lose their jobs by missing too many days of work. But in the long run, coming in to work while unwell can cost the company more time and money. Presenteeism has also been found to affect 35-44 year olds and certain professions, such as flight attendants, more than others.
The role of employers in presenteeism is also important. Whitthorne encourages managers to examine the work culture they are creating in the office and the example they are setting for their employees. In the long run, accommodating employees helps the company more than encouraging them to come to work no matter what.
Chronic illnesses, such as allergies, diabetes, and migraines, are often behind presenteeism, rather than the common cold. Michael Klachevsky, Practice Consultant for Absence Management at Standard Insurance Company, says that the nation’s total cost of productivity loss at work because of chronic conditions can be billions of dollars a year. Mental health is an especially big factor, as it is rarely acknowledged or treated.
Klachevsky says that spending the money to accommodate these chronic conditions, especially under the motivation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ends up saving the company more money by making the employees more productive. The responsibility for saving the money lost on presenteeism falls to the employer and the health culture they create in their workplace, which can potentially improve the overall health of the population.
Find out more about these experts and about presenteeism by following the links below.
Rob Hosking, Senior Vice President, Randstad USA
Todd Whitthorne, President, ACAP Health
Michael Klachevsky, Practice Consultant for Absence Management, Standard Insurance Co.
When life changes from revolving around the kids to adjusting to an empty nest, many parents find themselves asking “what next?” Wendy Aronssen, psychotherapist and author of Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave, explains the common experiences of many parents when their last child leaves the home.
While popular culture often sees the empty nest as an opportunity for celebration, many parents commonly feel a sense of loss, insecurity, and instability. Aronssen says this is no surprise, because parents who have had the same life and job description for 18+ years are suddenly left without a label. She calls the experience of the empty nest “the shift,” because every aspect of life gets changed.
Aronssen says the emotional experience of empty nesters can follow the outlines of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To handle all these emotions, Aronssen encourages parents to see the empty nest as an opportunity for growth and development as individuals and as a couple.
The impact on a couple’s marriage holds potential for the great rewards of a newly revived marriage or for divorce. It takes intentionality to rediscover goals and dreams for the parents. Aronssen also brings up the complication of the boomerang children, kids that return home after being unable to move out or find a job after graduation. She emphasizes the importance of setting clear expectations on both sides. Ultimately, there is a loss in the empty nest, but there are also many opportunities for a fulfilling future.
To learn more about empty nesting or to purchase a copy of Aronssen’s book, visit the links below.
Wendy Aronssen, psychotherapist and author, Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave
If you’re heading outside here’s more reason to use insect repellant. A new report from the CDC shows that illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flee bites have more than tripled in the U.S. since 2004. Reported cases of diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile, Zika, and Lyme disease increased to nearly 100,000 cases in 2016, and those are just the cases that officials know about. Many people get sick who are never reported. Experts say a warmer client means that ticks and mosquitoes are moving into areas where they couldn’t live before.
Chemicals used in fracking are often found in ground water supplies nearby. And now a study shows those chemicals could harm the immune systems of children exposed in utero. A study on mice in the journal Toxicological Sciences exposed pregnant mice to 23 fracking chemicals at levels similar to those found in ground water near fracking sites. Offspring grew up with abnormal immune systems and an inability in females to fend off diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
And finally, a few years in the future people with food poisoning may be able to drink a cocktail of viruses to get better. Researchers using a simulated small intestine have demonstrated that viruses can attack and kill E. coli without harming nearby beneficial bacteria. The study in the journal Gut Microbes predicts that when the technique is perfected viral cocktails could replace antibiotics for the treatment of some bacterial infections.
Presenteeism is when people go to work at less than peak efficiency due to illness, injury or distraction. Experts discuss the huge cost to the economy, the chronic illnesses that exact the most cost, and the accommodations that could save businesses billions of dollars.
Coping with the Empty Nest
Parents who have spent 18 years or more raising children often feel lost when the last child leaves home for college or their own place. A psychotherapist discusses common reactions and strategies for renewing purpose living in the empty nest.
Firefighters have an extremely high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One study found that each year firefighters are exposed to approximately thirteen and a half potentially traumatic events, compared to civilians who experience around one to six of the same kind of events in their entire lifetime. Clearly, firefighters’ stress load is more than the average person, but what constitutes a traumatic event and how does one develop PTSD?
Dr. Suzy Gulliver is the Director and Chief of the Warriors Research Institute at Baylor & Scott White Health in Dallas, Texas as well as a Professor of Psychiatry at Texas A&M College of Medicine Health Science Center. She says experts define potentially traumatic events as those outside normal experience that threaten a person’s life or integrity. Although, how people deal with these events can vary dramatically. “For some people, a traumatic event is resolvable in just a normal grief process and for other people, a traumatic event fails to resolve ever,” says Gulliver.
According to Gulliver, most people in high-risk jobs, such as first responder and those in the military, do not develop PTSD. Around 70-80% of firefighters and veterans will not develop the disorder, although veterans have the added difficulty of transitioning to civilian life without the consistent social structure shared by members of a firehouse. A supportive social structure and a strong network of co-workers can act as a ‘buffer’ to PTSD, which is why Gulliver sees firefighting as a good career choice for veterans. Although she cautions multiple traumatic events over time can also cumulate into PTSD.
Symptoms include re-experiencing traumatic events, substantial changes in mood and cognition, significant behavioral shifts, and increased arousal. PTSD can also precipitate sleep problems, drug and alcohol abuse, appearing withdrawn and propensity for being startled. Severe PTSD is typically easy to identify, but borderline forms of the disorder can be extremely varied and harder to diagnose. Some people may have all the symptoms but still function relatively well in society. There is no typical way PTSD is dealt with or displayed.
Dan Robertson, Oakland fire lieutenant and President of the Local 55 of the International Association of Firefighters, says those in his field are uncomfortable sharing the impacts of trauma with fellow first responders because they fear being viewed as weak or unable to be trusted. Robertson says it’s the responsibility of senior firefighters to show it’s safe to talk about traumatic events and admit to having PTSD. If not, those afflicted deal with the disorder on their own and are offered little assistance. Robertson encourages peer counseling for firefighters because many believe anyone outside the profession cannot possibly understand what they’re going through.
Gulliver says research shows peer support can be effective in treating depression. It can likely help those with PTSD as well. Ultimately, the stigma of getting help for PTSD is decreasing. Most importantly, the firefighters participating in support programs say it’s saving lives.
Dan Robertson, Oakland CA fire lieutenant and President, Local 55, International Association of Firefighters
Dr. Suzy Bird Gulliver, Director and Chief, Warriors Research Institute, Baylor Scott & White Health, Dallas, and Professor of Psychiatry, Texas A&M College of Medicine Health Science Center
True prodigies are hard to find. Only one in every five to ten million people are labeled a prodigy. A diagnosis of autism, on the other hand, occurs once in every 88 people.
Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at The Ohio State University and the author of The Prodigy’s Cousin: The Family Link Between Autism and Extraordinary Talent. She says her research shows a strong link between prodigies and autism.
Ruthsatz interviewed thirty prodigies and noticed over half of them had a close relative with autism, including several prodigies with multiple autistic family members. She also notes many of the characteristics of prodigies are shared with people with autism. Both are inclined to have an extraordinary recall and repetitive behaviors.
Ruthsatz says prodigies have a unique proclivity for a certain skill. These skills typically include math, music, art, and chess, the same four skills displayed in individuals with autism. This led Ruthsatz to investigate a genetic link between autism and prodigies. She found prodigies and their autistic relatives had a common genetic mutation. Ruthsatz hopes to identify the ‘moderator’ gene. A gene that allows prodigies to have the shared proclivity in one area without the deficits that autistic individuals experience in all other areas. This could ultimately result in a treatment or medicine that could mimic this moderator gene and potentially change the lives of people with autism.
Dr. Jennifer Gerdts, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and an attending psychologist at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center, says further research needs to be done to back up Ruthsatz conclusions. Since prodigies are so rare, Gerdts says it would be extremely difficult to find a big enough sample size, which would require hundreds of prodigies.
Gerdts agrees that finding the link between autism and prodigies could potentially result in major scientific breakthroughs. Finding a specific mutation or absence of a gene that’s common to both groups could explain the similarities between the prodigies and their autistic relatives. In a best-case scenario, the discovery could result in the development of a medical treatment or cure for autism.
Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz, Assistant Professor of Psychology, The Ohio State University and author, The Prodigy’s Cousin: The Family Link Between Autism and Extraordinary Talent
Dr. Jennifer Gerdts, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington and attending psychologist, Seattle Children’s Autism Center