News & Announcements

How Undocumented Youth Can Find Emotional Support

Posted: December 08, 2011

An article published in Color Lines interviews two advocates for undocumented youth - Sonia Guinansaca at the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and Chicago-based social worker Jacqueline Luna, who supports young people organizing via the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) and the The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA). Through the interviews the advocates shed light on the undocumented immigrant experience and point to helpful resources for youth.

Sonia on What would you tell someone currently struggling that would offer them hope?

"I know it is tough, but there is hope. Seek proper help and know that you are valued, that you are beautiful and it is tough, but you are not alone. We are here for each other. Within the New York State Youth Leadership Council, the most helpful resources have been our Support Group, Arts and Expression, and Mentoring Programs. The support group started about 3 years ago and has been a space where young undocumented people feel comfortable coming to and sharing concerns and trauma. It has been facilitated by counselors in training — with and without papers."

Jacqueline on What does mental health access currently look like for undocumented people?

"It is limited because there isn’t enough awareness in terms of the undocumented community, of where they can go. And organizations that provide mental health services aren’t always making themselves known and accessible to the undocumented community. There are free services, affordable or income-based services like sliding scale in community-based organizations."

Jacqueline on What are some of the best ways you have seen communities take care of one another and rely on their own wisdom in terms of prevention and getting creative when there is a lack of access?

"Another important thing is humor. Julio Salgado has done a couple of videos about how being undocumented is not a crime, but it’s awkward. The scenes show humor that undocumented people can relate to, and it acknowledges that within the community, stress can also be relieved through laughter. “Ask Angy” and her dating while undocumented video is another great one."

Read the complete interviews on the Color Lines website.

SAMHSA Seeks Input on 2012 Publication Topics

Posted: December 08, 2011

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is seeking topic suggestions for the 2012 SAMHSA Advisory and the SAMHSA In Brief publications (previously called the Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory and Substance Abuse in Brief Fact Sheet). Completed copies of the Advisories and In Briefs are available at

The Advisory publications provide behavioral health professionals with timely information on a broad range of either emerging or hot topics in the behavioral health field. They also briefly describe new, promising treatment approaches related to the health and well-being of clients with behavioral health disorders. Unlike the Advisory, the In Brief publications are not focused on behavioral health providers. Rather, In Briefs are designed to inform and educate professionals whose work is affected by issues related to substance use or mental health disorders or who provide services for people who have these disorders. These audiences include legal professionals, educators, and primary care providers, to name a few.

In addition to proposing publication topics, SAMHSA would appreciate your input on the type of information you think is important to include in these publications. This might include groundbreaking studies, promising practices, and benefits or limitations of a particular treatment modality. To provide input on topic recommendations and the type of information that should be included in the In Brief and Advisory publications, please visit the SAMHSA Stakeholder Feedback Forum. Some of the topics suggested so far include:

  • Understanding Alaska Native/Native American Cultural Nuances
  • Strategies for working with vulnerale populations, older adults, minority populations
  • Drinking in the LGBTQ communities
  • Culture as a protective factor
  • Rural homeless strategies for persons with dual diagnosis
  • Prevelence of domestic violence in gay/lesbian relationships related to drug/alcohol use
  • Poverty and behavioral health

The forum will close Monday, December 19 at 9:00 a.m. EST. Suggest or vote for a topic for SAMHSA Advisory Publications. Suggest or vote for a topic for SAMHSA In Brieft Publications.

Fostering Reasons for Living among Low-income, Suicidal, African American Women

Posted: December 07, 2011

A new study provides evidence that strengthening protective factors associated with “reasons for living” – that is, attitudes and beliefs that can protect suicidal people from actually harming themselves - is a culturally competent approach to lowering the risk of suicidal behavior among African American women. The study entitled "Let me count the ways": Fostering reasons for living among low-income, suicidal, African American women, was published in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. The research reported in the study indicates that high levels of optimism, spiritual well-being, and social support from families are associated with reasons for living. 

African American women with high levels of spiritual well-being were almost seventeen times more likely to report reasons for living as women with lower levels of spiritual well-being. The thoughts and behaviors a woman used to cope with stress and a woman’s belief in her ability to obtain needed resources (including health care, resources for children, housing, education, finances, social support, and material goods) were not shown to be associated with reasons for living, although other studies have shown that both may help protect against suicidal behaviors. 

Although only spiritual well-being was found to be uniquely associated with reasons for living after controlling for all other protective factors, combinations of the five protective factors were a powerful influence on reasons for living - and thus a woman’s ability to cope with suicidal thoughts. Women with 2-3 protective factors were five times more likely to report reasons for living than women with 0-1 protective factors. Women with 4-5 protective factors were 11 times more likely to report reasons for living than women with 0-1 protective factors. The test scores measuring the five protective factors were found to accurately predict a woman’s “reasons for living” status 72 percent of the time.

The authors suggest that clinicians working with African American women at risk for suicide should assess and try to strengthen their sense of spiritual well-being and increase the levels of the other protective factors, such as optimism and social support. Increases in these risk factors may, in turn, enhance these women’s reasons for living and thus help lower their risk for suicidal behaviors. 

This research was based on a sample of 156 low-income African American women who had attempted suicide within the past year.

Read more on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) website. Read the study. Download the SPRC Customized Information Sheet for Clergy.

Government Accountability Office Releases Report on Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

Posted: December 06, 2011

On Nov. 30, 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the first of two reports mandated by Congress on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). The report “Mental Health and Substance Use: Employers’ Insurance Coverage Maintained or Enhanced Since Parity Act, but Effect of Coverage on Enrollees Varied,” was mandated in the MHPAEA in order to provide a complete analysis of trends in coverage or exclusions as originally requested by Congress. 

The Mental Health Parity Act, which requires employers offering mental health and substance abuse services to offer those services at the same level as other health-related services, has largely been a success, the report finds. Ninety six percent of employers who responded to the government survey offered coverage of treatment for substance use disorders and mental health conditions both in the current plan year and in 2008, before the law was passed. The report also found approximately two percent of employers reported offering coverage for only mental health conditions but not substance use disorders for the current plan year and for 2008. In addition, about two percent of employers said they discontinued their coverage of treatment for both mental health and substance use, or only substance use disorders, in the current plan year.

Read more on the Partnership at website. Read more on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Read the GAO Report (pdf).

Place, Not Race, May Be a Larger Determinant of Health Disparities

Posted: December 05, 2011

Sabrina Oliver looked forward to good schools and safer streets when she moved her family from her crime-ridden and trash-strewn West Baltimore neighborhood to the suburbs, but was surprised to discover another benefit as well — a dramatic improvement in their health. The asthma that afflicted daughter Nyla, 9, and frequently kept her out of school just about disappeared when the family relocated to Parkville, and most recently to Orchard Beach. Although chronic depression had once mentally paralyzed Oliver — keeping her out of work and on disability — the 38-year-old no longer takes antidepressants and has a job sitting with severely ill patients at hospitals. "I feel transformed," Oliver said. "I feel like I moved to a whole other world."

Where you live could play a larger role in health disparities than originally thought, according to a new study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They examined a racially integrated, low-income neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland and found that, with the exception of smoking, nationally reported disparities in hypertension, diabetes, obesity among women and use of health services disappeared or narrowed. The results are featured in the October 2011 issue of Health Affairs.

"Most of the current health disparities literature fails to account for the fact that the nation is largely segregated, leaving racial groups exposed to different health risks and with variable access to health services based on where they live," said Thomas LaVeist, PhD, lead author of the study, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, and the William C. and Nancy F. Richardson Professor in Health Policy and Management. "By comparing black and white Americans who are exposed to the same set of socioeconomic, social and environmental conditions we were better equipped to discern the impact of race on health-related outcomes and have concluded social factors are essentially equalized when racial disparities are minimized."

Read more on the Baltimore Sun website. Read more on the Science Daily website. Read the abstract of the study.

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