The Center for Mental Health and Media is an outreach, production, and research center devoted to mental health, behavioral health, neuroscience and healthy child development. Founded in 2001, we are the first organization of our kind in the United States to combine in-depth knowledge of mental health, public health and behavioral science with sophisticated media communications skills.
We connect some of the most powerful forces in today's society—the mass media—with one of the most pressing health and economic issues in both the industrialized and underdeveloped worlds: mental health.
We are a division of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, and we also collaborate with our Harvard colleagues across institutions and disciplines.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
National Public Radio (NPR)
Home Box Office (HBO)
Good Morning America
The Boston Globe
The Huffington Post
American Medical News
Research shows that Americans get much, if not most, of their health information from media news and entertainment. Some programs perpetuate myths and misinformation. But when used well, the many forms of mass and targeted media - including newspapers, radio, television, and the World Wide Web - can counter the inaccurate and destructive stereotypes. They can also provide information, reassurance and perspective that can transform the lives of mentally ill people and their families.
To accomplish these goals, the Center for Mental Health and the Media:
As mental health and public health professionals, we can translate scientific research into meaningful public communications more accurately than traditional consultants and producers. Additionally, as media professionals, we can draw on our experience with television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books and the Internet, and select the best media mix for our target audiences.
Eugene V. Beresin, M.D. (Director) is an internationally known psychiatry educator and clinician, and the Director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Training Program at the combined Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital consolidated residency training program. He is also a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and a past president of the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training. He co-edited a special issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America on child psychiatry and the media.
Dr. Beresin has been a production and content consultant to HBO for several of its children's productions (including the Emmy-winning programs "Classical Baby," "Through a Child's Eyes: September 11, 2001" and "Goodnight Moon and Other Sleepytime Tales"), as well as to prime-time commercial television programs such as "E.R.," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Family Law." He has also consulted to and been interviewed extensively by network and major market television news organizations on matters related to mental health. He is the editor of the media column in Academic Psychiatry, and Associate Editor for Ten Year Reviews of Research for the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Beresin co-produced a Parenting Resource site for abcnews.com and Good Morning America via abcnews.com.
Steve Schlozman, M.D. (Associate Director) is a highly regarded, nationally recognized and respected child and adolescent psychiatrist and educator. He currently serves as the Co-Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has been a consultant for ABC.com, for Newsweek Magazine, and he writes frequently about these issues for the online content of the Boston Globe and Psychology Today. He also serves on the mental health advisory board for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a charitable organization that helps socioeconomically challenged families to afford high school and college.
Dr. Schlozman is also a professional writer, and his first novel, The Zombie Autopsies, is scheduled for publication by Grand Central Publishing in March 2011. The novel itself is currently being sought after for movie rights, and the content of the novel has been a proxy for teaching neuroscience to the lay public. He has been invited by the National Academy of Sciences on multiple occasions to use his novel as a means of teaching the lay public about the brain and behavior. He also serves as a consultant to the National Academy of Science’s Science and Entertainment Exchange, a federally and privately funded program that helps screenwriters to maintain integrity and accuracy in their stories.
Tristan Gorrindo, M.D. (Assistant Director) is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Gorrindo is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and an Assistant Editor of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. He is interested in the role technology plays in influencing normal human development, and has written extensively about the relationship between technology and mental health. He has appeared on National Public Radio to discuss internet safety, and he has given several invited talks on the subject of teens and technology in both the academic and private sector arenas.
He is the co-author of The Digital Family blog hosted by Psychology Today and is a regular contributor to the American Psychiatric Association’s Healthy Minds Blog. Clinically, Dr. Gorrindo is developing a group-based treatment program for teens with problematic Internet behaviors.
Dr. Gorrindo is currently the Associate Director of the Medical Student Clerkship in Psychiatry at MGH and he works with the MGH Psychiatry Academy, the hospital's post-graduate medical education group, exploring innovative ways in which technology can be used in medical education.
Video games and their influence on teens
There is growing public concern about the use of increasingly violent and realistic adult games by children. The amount of time spent playing video and computer games (especially by boys, often in groups) has reached new highs. At the same time, young teens are more able to gain access to games with extremely violent or sexual content—often without parental awareness.
Since violent media are one price we pay for a free society, it’s important to find ways to buffer potentially harmful effects of violent games on children. We are studying the relationship between video game play (including games with violent content) and children's behavior. We recently completed a two-year research program, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (U.S. Department of Justice). Our overarching goal was to identify what types of kids, playing what types of games, under what circumstances are most likely to be at risk of harm—or most likely to benefit. This research included a multistate survey of 1,254 middle school youth, a survey of 500 parents, focus groups with parents and boys, a survey of game developers, and an experimental neurocognitive study using event-related potentials.
Assisted Reproductive Technology and families
The status of A.R.T. is rapidly shifting from scientific wonder to everyday occurrence. We have received private funding to research and develop materials to help parents talk effectively to their children born via A.R.T. in ways that address their developmental needs. A secondary goal is to provide information to the general public, including public policy makers and journalists, to counteract myths and negative press coverage that stigmatize A.R.T. children. This pilot project includes a multimedia web site to provide information to preadolescent and adolescent children, as well as their parents, about the emotional issues involved in being a child who was conceived through A.R.T. In order to make parents, journalists and the public aware of this Web site, we will promote it through a targeted media campaign.
Improving science literacy
The goal of this television and Web-based project is to increase the science literacy of the public and journalists. We are researching, producing and distributing (via The NewsMarket) a series of 40 news stories, plus collateral video and Web material, to local television stations across the country. The first set of stories focuses on stress—including what stress does to our brains and bodies, and destructive ways of coping with stress (such as substance use disorder). The stories can be used as a weeklong special health/science feature series, a month-long set of linked reports, or as dictated by local needs.
Each year, we will also produce a related Web-based short course for journalists (in partnership with The National Press Foundation) to make maximum use of our research and materials. This can be used as a resource by reporters and producers from the TV stations that air our stories, and to teach and inspire journalists from other stations and other media. The four-year project is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, under its Science Education and Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA) program.
Mental health and the transition to college
Across the nation, growing numbers of students are struggling with mental and behavioral health problems that can undermine their success at college, harm their health, or even end their lives. The Center is developing an integrated multimedia program that will (1) address the emotional and practical needs of high school seniors, college freshmen and their parents, and (2) help colleges prevent student mental and behavioral health problems—from normal stresses of college life to severe depression and suicide attempts.
This "transition to college" program will deliver consistent information, at low or no cost, to students, parents, high school teachers and college faculty. As a "proof of concept" for the program, we have produced a DVD on depression and suicide.
Diagnosing teen depression in a pediatric practice
Mental health problems are a routine feature of pediatrics practice. Studies suggest that over any six-month period, 11% of children aged 9 to 17 will suffer from a serious mental or addictive disorder. However, for most young people, mental health and substance use disorder problems are either unrecognized or inadequately treated. Primary care pediatricians have the potential to diagnose and treat (or make appropriate referrals) for many of these neglected youngsters.
With funding from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, the Center for Mental Health and Media collaborated with the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the MGH Child Psychiatry Service to produce a video on diagnosing adolescent depression. This video was created as a proof-of-concept pilot for a proposed national curriculum for pediatricians and pediatric residents, on common mental and behavioral health problems of childhood and adolescence.
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Eugene Beresin, MD
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