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El Paso Homeless Shelter to Focus on Female Veterans

Posted: August 27, 2014

Slightly more than a decade ago, Hope Jackson, who reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, was serving in the Middle East and entertaining thoughts of retiring to her native Florida after 25 years in the military.

Instead, Jackson, 49, found herself in the middle of the West Texas desert, overseeing the renovation of a three-bedroom house that will be a shelter this fall for as many as 12 homeless veterans. Carrying a child’s enthusiasm and few regrets about how her fate has changed, Jackson said she was doing what her faith dictates she should. “God spoke to me,” she explained. “He said he wanted me to take care of his children.”

The children, Jackson said, are female veterans who have served their country honorably but have since fallen on hard times. There was no better place for Jackson’s mission than El Paso, where she returned after her deployment and which is home to Fort Bliss, one of the largest military installations in the country. But as celebrated as veterans are in the city, El Paso lacks resources for homeless female veterans.

In October 2011, Jackson used her own money to buy a $70,000 house on the city’s northeast side that she calls the Rutherford House of Peace. It is one component of her plan called the HOPE (Healing, Optimizing, Perfecting and Empowering) Institute, which will include a similar unit for female veterans with children two miles away.

The program will include classes on topics ranging from basic hygiene to credit repair, homeownership and résumé building. The first 16 weeks are paid for by the HOPE Institute, Jackson said. After that, tenants need to have a job. “If they can’t, then they need to be re-evaluated,” she said.

The situation in El Paso became dire about two years ago, she said, when the Department of Veterans Affairs stopped allowing shelters or group homes to house both male and female veterans.

The El Paso Coalition for the Homeless put the number of homeless veterans in the city at about 154, with an average age of 49. Most, about 89 percent, are men. (There are about 1,400 homeless.) Jackson said the number of homeless veterans, women included, was much higher. The Rutherford House of Peace will serve women living on the street as well as women in transition who “stay on couches” with friends or family members.


Growing Up Poor Impacts Physical, Mental Illness in Young Adults

Posted: August 26, 2014

Socioeconomic adversity during childhood increases the likelihood of both depression and higher body mass index (BMI) in early adolescence, which can worsen and lead to illness for young adults, according to a new report. The study found that growth in depressive symptoms were predictive of the incidence of sexually transmitted infections while growth in BMI was associated with several health risk measures, including blood pressure, blood glucose, and overall health rating.

“Certain stresses manifest through increases in poor physical health, as shown by an increasing BMI over adolescence, or through worsening mental health, as shown by increases in depressive symptoms. These developments contribute to young adult physical health,” said Kwon.

“As subscribers to the ‘life course’ theory, we know experiences in early life affect you later—even if they’re latent for a while—and that these stresses can be compounded,” said Josephine Kwon, M.S., of the department of human development and family science at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Kwon and her co-authors used data obtained from more than 12,000 adolescents, ages 12 to 19 years enrolled in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health on four different occasions, or waves, between 1995 and 2001.

They measured total socioeconomic adversity by weighing factors such as average parental education, family economic hardship, family make-up and employment status. They measured health effects by calculating BMI, assessing depressive symptoms and self-rated general health and by counting the occurrence of eight physician-diagnosed diseases or health problems during the final years of the study.

They found that adolescents with more socioeconomic adversities had more depressive symptoms and higher BMIs initially and had worse trajectories over time. Higher levels and growth of depression and BMI were associated with higher counts of young adult physical illnesses and worse self-rated general health. Kwon and her colleagues also looked at specific biomarkers of health, like blood pressure.

Read more on Read the abstract of the study.

Minority Mental Health Month Calls Attention to Surprising Figures

Posted: August 25, 2014

July was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and health officials are using it to call attention to some surprising figures.

One in five American adults will battle some sort of mental health issue in their lifetime, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. While that may seem high, the data is even more staggering when it comes to minorities.

Hispanic high school girls are 70 percent more likely than their white counterparts to attempt suicide.

Whites are more than 50 percent more likely than Blacks to receive prescriptions to treat depression and other issues.

Asian women are the leading victims of suicide among senior citizens.

The challenge for mental health professionals trying to curb those statics is overcoming long-held stigmas that have kept certain groups from seeking the help they need.

“The general idea with psychiatric illness, not only within minorities but within the general population, that it's a weakness, it's a flaw, it's your fault,” said Dr. Greg Clary, a Novant Health psychiatrist.

Clary said a combination of those stigmas, limited access to care, and social and economic stresses are among the factors that keep some minorities from treating or even acknowledging mental illness. He and other mental health professionals are hoping that with time and more public conversations about this issue, the shame of seeking assistance for a mental health issue will soon disappear for everyone.


Arizona ‘Gay Camp’ a Summer Refuge for LGBT Youth

Posted: August 24, 2014

It took getting accepted to "gay camp" for Maxwell Jamison to come out to his parents as transgender four years ago. The 23-year-old, who works for an after-school program, is now paying it forward as a volunteer youth leader for Camp OUTdoors!, an annual four-day summer camp in Prescott over Labor Day weekend for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 11 to 24. Camp organizers, including Jamison, are preparing for its seventh year where it expects to have 175 campers and 150 volunteers attend.

Jamison was 19 when he attended the camp for the first time, before his parents knew he was transgender. His mother later found a name tag with his male name, and Jamison confessed he'd been keeping his true identity a secret for a long time. "But she came around. The following year she volunteered as camp nurse and has been super supportive of me as a whole," Jamison said. "Every time I go, I come back and I'm like, 'I just had the best weekend of my life. I'm so excited just to be alive,' " Jamison said.

Jamison's experience is similar to other youth who have attended what organizers and attendees lovingly refer to as "gay camp," and whose parents have been extremely supportive, said Camp Director Kado Stewart.

Stewart dreamed up the idea during her senior project while she attended Prescott College seven years ago. She said she wanted to create a safe space for LGBT teens and young adults to learn leadership skills and grow their confidence while enjoying the outdoors like so many other youth who attended summer camps.


“Pastoral Counselors” Help Fill Mental Health Gap In Rural States

Posted: August 22, 2014

Mental health therapists most often leave issues of faith outside their office doors, even for patients who are religious. But one class of counselors believes a nonsectarian model doesn’t serve everyone equally well.

“On a feeling level, people want a safe, respectful place, to ponder the tons of questions that come begging in hard times,” said Glenn Williams, a pastoral counselor in Kentucky and chair of the Kentucky Association of Pastoral Counselors. “Where is God?  Why did this happen?  Is it karma, sowing-reaping, happenstance?  What purpose does this suffering serve?”  

Williams, who works at the St. Matthews Pastoral Counseling Center outside Louisville, said many of his patients are quite “intentional” about their preference for pastoral counselors over other mental health professionals.

Kentucky recently became the sixth state (joining Arkansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee) to allow pastoral counselors to become licensed mental health counselors. As of now, Kentucky only has 20 licensed pastoral counselors. But the hope is that licensing will increase those numbers by making it easier for pastoral counselors to receive health insurance reimbursement and by adding luster to the field.

Kathy Milans, a pastoral counselor in Wilmore, Kentucky and chairman of the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Pastoral Counselors, said many pastoral counselors wanted the new law so they would be on an equal footing with other mental health professionals. “It just moved us up a notch professionally,” she said. “All the other helping professions had that license after their names, and we did not.”

Read the full story on Stateline.

This copyrighted story comes from Stateline, the daily news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts. (Learn more about republishing Stateline content)

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