Mary McNaughton-Cassill, University of Texas San Antonio – Mental Health Crisis

Anxiety and depression don’t always come from inside.

Mary McNaughton-Cassill, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, says external factors also play a role.

Dr. McNaughton-Cassill received her Ph.D. in 1991 from the University of California, San Diego- San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis on Behavioral Medicine. Her research involved Psychological and Psychoimmunological explorations of stress responses among elderly Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers.  She also holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Psychology with an emphasis on Physiological Psychology, where her research involved the study of  glucocorticoid responses to stress in rats.  She is currently an Associate Professor and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Affairs for the College of Liberal and Fine Arts.

Dr. McNaughton-Cassill started teaching Psychology since 1984 as a Community College Instructor and an Adjunct Professor, and  currently teaches Theories of Learning, Psychology and Health, Abnormal Psychology and Stress Management, Physiological Psychology, and team teaches  an Honor’ Course on the Science and Psychology of Everyday Live. She also works with undergraduate and graduate students as a research mentor, and is the advisor for the Student Psychological Association and the Mortar Board Honor’s Society.

She has worked as a Clinical Psychologist with College Student Populations, with an Outpatient Schizophrenia Program and on a Spinal Cord Injury Unit, and with Nursing Home Populations.  She has also led stress management groups and conducted research on the stress couple’s experience when undergoing In Vitro Fertilization treatment for Infertility.

Her current research interests include the evaluation of the interaction of stress including the news media and the technological characteristics of modern life with cognitive and personality factors to impact mental and physical health. She is also looking at the psychological impact of high stakes standardized testing on elementary school children and their families. She has received research funding from the Minority Biomedical Support program through NIH, M-RISP, and at UTSA.

Mental Health Crisis

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If you feel like you are hearing more about mental health in the news, you are correct. 

Rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among young people today are often attributed to intrinsic factors such as the lack of resilience.  In psychological terms, assuming that other people’s behavior is due to internal, personal factors rather than situational influences is referred to as the Fundamental Attribution Error, and can result in the failure to address the real causes of a problem.  So perhaps assuming that feeling stressed in the face of modern life is a personal failing doesn’t take into account the increasingly rapid pace of change in our world.  Although most of us can expect to live longer than our grandparents and to have access to more material goods, we also face a number of new challenges.  For example, because of 24-hour news cycles and the internet we are exposed to a constant stream of negative and sensational news.  Research in my lab suggests that such coverage can have a negative impact on our well-being and our view of the world.

In addition, the relentless flow of idealized entertainment, advertising designed to make us feel inadequate, and self-promoting posts on social media have the potential to undermine our self-esteem.  This suggests that instead of blaming young people for how they are coping it might be more productive to figure out how to help them manage their use of technology, learn how to be more discerning about their media choices, and overcome stigmas that prevent them from seeking mental health help.  We would all benefit from this effort and might even generate a few positive stories for the next news cycle!

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