News & Announcements
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.
Veterans Court Program Helps Warriors Battle Addiction, Mental Health Crises
Posted: December 03, 2013
Former Marine Cpl. Eric Gonzales doesn’t remember much about the night last year he led police in Orange County, Calif., on a high-speed, 26-minute chase that ended when he threw his truck into reverse and crashed into the patrol car behind him. When he finally took his foot off the gas, he was handcuffed and later charged with DUI, evading arrest, assault on a police officer and more.
Still in the Marine Corps at the time, and living at Camp Pendleton, Gonzales’s first court appearance was brief; he argued with the judge and got himself ejected. But then he finally listened to his counsel: “My lawyer recommended I go to veterans court” — one of a growing number of such programs that oversee criminal cases involving military veterans who were arrested at least partly because of an addiction or mental illness, most commonly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
An average of 22 military veterans commit suicide every day in this country, perhaps the best measure of the mental health crisis among veterans. And 130 special courts for veterans in 40 states are tackling that problem. The first one was started in Buffalo in 2008, modeled on the drug courts that have significantly reduced recidivism rates by substituting treatment and other support programs for incarceration.
Through the veterans court, Gonzales started to work on his problems instead of masking them: “I did mindfulness, PTSD and exposure therapy — which . . . really do work, actually.”
“If you mess up,’’ Gonzales said the judge told him, “you’re going to prison.” Instead, he lived in a residential treatment center. He meditated, worked out, did cognitive therapy, underwent exposure therapy — in which he was taken back to his mentor’s death again and again— and attended every 12-step meeting he could.
Read more on the WashingtonPost.com.
#SeeTheSigns: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence
Posted: December 02, 2013
Between November 25 and December 10, the #SeeTheSigns social media campaign will educate men and women about the signs of abuse and domestic violence so that victims and others can seek help and safely intervene. #SeeTheSigns will educate women and men about the important role they play in recognizing the signs of abuse among their friends and family and how they can help break the cycle by starting conversations about the issue. Tied together with the hashtag #SeeTheSigns, the campaign features powerful graphics and "signs" of domestic violence intended to help people recognize the often subtle signs of abuse.
The Avon Foundation will post the signs daily on Facebook and Twitter beginning Nov. 25. Each sign will link to an Avon Foundation webpage where users can find information on the signs of domestic abuse from Avon Foundation funded agencies such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Safe Horizon. Throughout the campaign, the Avon Foundation will encourage people to spread the word and help others to #SeeTheSigns by sharing the "signs" with their social networks. The campaign culminates on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.