News & Announcements
Peer Bridgers:The Rare Mental-Health Fixers
Posted: December 09, 2013
Peer bridgers use the power of mental health recovery stories to reduce psychiatric hospitalizations, writes Seattle Times columnist Jonathan Martin:
Crystal looked down at her bowl of handmade pasta like she expected it to suddenly disappear. You can understand her hesitation. The day before, she was in a West Seattle psychiatric hospital after being committed for wandering Seattle streets, suicidal. This day, she lived in a downtown Seattle homeless shelter, a 57-year-old woman adrift, without a phone, clothes or identification.
Enter Dennis Villas and Mary McDonald. Their job for the day was to make sure Crystal got a square meal — the pasta at an Italian bistro downtown — and a phone. Then they would get her a first appointment with the public mental-health provider across the street. “We’re not going to leave until we have a case manager,” said Villas, 43, with inspiring confidence.
Mary and Dennis’s job title — peer bridgers — is new to the local mental-health system, but so intuitive it is a no-brainer. Mary and Dennis help ease patients out of Navos, a community psychiatric hospital in West Seattle, and, for up to three months, help to plant them in new lives firmly enough that they won’t quickly need readmission.
What’s unique about peer bridgers is they have to know the territory and be in recovery themselves. Mary was an office-supply saleswoman before she nearly died from untreated bipolar disorder and alcoholism. Dennis had a good career in the investment industry before losing it to methamphetamine and meth-induced psychosis. Their shared struggle offers a quick inroad to gain their clients’ trust.
Crystal, at first, wasn’t interested in help. But when Mary and Dennis shared, she opened up. They spent weeks just helping Crystal gather documents to get an identification card, which is necessary for her to get other help.
Read more on SeattleTimes.com.
Life-Saving Suicide Prevention Resources Address Critical Need in Juvenile Justice System
Posted: December 07, 2013
When it comes to high risk for suicide, youth in contact with the juvenile justice system stand out. It is alarming. Fortunately, staff within the system can play a crucial preventive role by working collectively to provide guidance, support and access to needed care. Studies show that up to 70 percent of youth in the system have a behavioral health problem, and for a large percentage, one or more life functions are significantly affected. An at-risk youth’s past nearly always includes multiple adverse childhood events; this, combined with the sense of hopelessness and isolation that ensues from the experience of confinement, increases the suicide risk for these youth to a level dramatically higher than for youth outside the system. The statistics are startling:
It is time to turn the tide. We must offer a brighter future to these youth. Everyone who contacts these youth, whether in juvenile justice, law enforcement, mental health, substance abuse, child welfare or education, must work collaboratively in order to successfully prevent suicide; and, in order for them to work collaboratively, the systems they work in must come together to provide “client-centered” services that are seamless to the individuals and families they serve. Suicide prevention should begin at the initial point of entry and be coordinated to protect youth at the following points of contact: referral/arrest, courts, probation, detention and aftercare.
To address this critical need, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) has released a set of comprehensive suicide prevention resources to support staff working with youth in the juvenile justice system.
Film Looks at Native American Traditions and PTSD
Posted: December 06, 2013
Native American traditions may be the key to helping modern-day veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Taki Telonidis, the producer for the Western Folklife Center's media office in Salt Lake City, has been working on a documentary called "Healing the Warrior's Heart" that explores the ways some Native American tribes treat their veterans when they return from war.
Telonidis said around two million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some come home fine, others have life-changing injuries and "many are coming home with invisible drama," or PTSD.
Some tribes refer to PTSD as a wounding of the soul, Telonidis said. Part of the veteran's spirit is still on the battlefield, and he said the tribes have traditions that can heal his or her heart. "What they're trying to do is bring their spirit home," Telonidis told the Elko Daily Free Press.
He said a lot of Native Americans have lost their connection to the warrior spirituality, but he is seeing a revitalization of that idea. The traditional healing methods are not only working for some Native American soldiers — Telonidis has seen the method work for other veterans suffering from PTSD.
Telonidis is studying two specific locations for his film: the George Wallen Veteran Affairs Center in Salt Lake and the Blackfeet reservation in Montana and Canada.
Evidence Mounting that Poverty Causes Lasting Physical and Mental Health Problems for Children
Posted: December 05, 2013
Sheila Good faced the decision most mothers dread. Should she spend more time raising her son or earning a paycheck? Should she be a better mom or a better provider? For her 6-year-old son, Benjamin, a little redhead dedicated to baseball, either choice would induce stress. It's one of those puzzles of poverty with health impacts on children.
Three recent studies add to mounting evidence that poverty can exact a lasting toll on a child's mental and physical well-being, with stress representing a key pathway. Those studies focus on poverty's impact on a child's brain volume, the adverse impact of childhood poverty on adult health, and the mental and behavior problems associated with substandard housing.
Realizing the high stakes for her son, Ms. Good, 29, of Pulaski, Beaver County, went part time for Benjamin's sake last summer despite living in poverty. Soon after that decision, a car accident on Aug. 2 left her in seizures from a concussion. Her car was totaled. She lost her part-time job. Ever since Benjamin's birth, Ms. Good said, they've lived under or near the federal poverty threshold.
Without a family car, Benjamin no longer can go to the park, the batting cages or the skating rink. "We're not doing as many things as we did before," said Ms. Good. "I don't like to let my anxiety trickle down to him, but he gets it [himself]. His quality of life has changed. I have to tell him no." She links her son's anxieties directly to household income. He's now in therapy.
"My son never had difficulty with anxiety or a sleeping disorder until our recent struggles to make ends meet," said Ms. Good, who has post-traumatic stress disorder from an impoverished childhood, bipolar disorder and anemia from a genetic bone-marrow disorder. "One small event can lead to a chain of events for a single-income household. One month we were living comfortably and then the next we had no car, no job and no health insurance -- and I was in poor health."
Read more on the Post-Gazette.com
Stigma Increases HIV Infections Among Young Black Gay Men
Posted: December 04, 2013
Unlike many young men of color who have sex with men, Detroit native Dwayne Washington has always identified as gay. Even so, he told EDGE, when Washington, then 21, found out that he was HIV-positive seven years ago, "I didn’t know at the time what HIV was, and I never had any sex education classes in high school. I never had sex education anywhere. I was just winging it."
Black youth represent half of all new HIV infections among young people aged 13 to 29, the Center for Disease Control has reported. Black heterosexual women are severely impacted, but young black gay and bisexual men comprise more than three-quarters of new infections among young black men. Although only 13 percent of the U.S. population is African American, black men account for more new infections than any other identifiable group of men who have sex with men. According to the CDC, HIV incidence among young black gay men is roughly twice that of their white and Hispanic counterparts age 13 to 29.
Washington heard the news with what some may see as surprising equanimity. "OK, it is what it is," he told himself, "I think because it didn’t really change anything for me. I wasn’t getting sick, and I felt the same." He shared his diagnosis with only one other person, a close female friend, who was more emotional about it than he was. He would only begin to tell others years later; until this day, he has tried to keep the news from his family.
Unfortunately, that is a situation not uncommon for men like Washington. Many black families and churches still shy away from any discussion of homosexuality. Despite its pervasive effect on their community, many blacks continue to associate HIV with being gay. "When I came out, it was treated like a joke and never taken seriously," Washington said. "The way they treated me when I came out, I didn’t want my HIV status to be treated the same way."
Unlike many who remain isolated and in deep denial, however, Washington did something about it. In 2012, he created an online support group on Facebook. At first only friends from Chicago and Detroit whom he specifically invited to join, the private group soon grew to the point that there are now 500 members. He is currently working on a book that he hopes will inspire others like him who are living with HIV. He also hopes the book will counter stigmatization in the black community.
Read more on EdgeSanFrancisco.com.