News & Announcements

Local Children Benefit from Yoga-Infused Mental-Health Counseling

Posted: February 09, 2017

Ten tiny shoes sat in a pile outside the room, and the laughter of children burst through the door as Brianna Schiavoni and her class of children struck a dead bug pose on a Sunday afternoon last month. Some had spent their young lives battling depression, dyslexia and bipolar disorder. But as they contorted their bodies and quieted their minds, their symptoms subsided.

In Schiavoni’s eyes, yoga has the power to heal. Through her business, Yoga 4 Youth, the 34-year-old renaissance woman — she’s a mental health counselor, clinical social worker and yoga instructor — has channelled all of her passions to help children in the community achieve mental-health equilibrium. Schiavoni said she wants her classes to be a place parents and caregivers can turn to, as they are often too spread-out to have the resources they need for children with conditions.

Through yoga poses, games and discussion, Schiavoni helps students identify what makes them feel happy and how to create “ups” when life has them feeling “down.” She said she has seen her students improve their social, motor and communication skills, along with their self-esteem.


To Reduce Mental Health Stigma among Veterans, Higher Education Must Be the Catalyst

Posted: February 08, 2017

In 2014, 55 U.S. military service members died fighting in Afghanistan. Today, an average of 20 veterans lose their lives every day to suicide, according to a recent report by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

We do a spectacular job of providing our citizens with resources they need to keep our country safe. But the moment these brave men and women come home, there is a profound opportunity to better support their adjustment back to civilian life.

A recent Morning Consult survey from the University of Phoenix, College of Social Sciences, demonstrated that misconception and stigma complicate the support for veteran mental health. According to the survey, one in five Americans believe people with mental illnesses are dangerous and 24 percent said they wouldn’t tell anyone if they had a mental illness. Furthermore, 10 percent of Americans don’t believe that mental illness is a real medical problem. These findings have considerable implications for reaching veterans who need services.

We believe that higher education can play a larger role in changing misconceptions and reducing stigma related to veteran mental health. In order to begin to make headway, educators must stand as role models committed to honoring and serving this next greatest generation of veterans as they continue to serve; transition; and become members of the greater civilian community. Educational institutions must make concerted efforts to have a meaningful impact on the lives of veterans, the lives of their families, their communities, and generations to come.

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New Report Identifies Root Causes of Health Inequity, Outlines Solutions for Communities

Posted: February 08, 2017

In the United States, some populations suffer from far greater disparities in health than others. Those disparities are caused not only by fundamental differences in health status across segments of the population, but also because of inequities in factors that impact health status, so-called determinants of health.

Only part of an individual’s health status depends on his or her behavior and choice; community-wide problems like poverty, unemployment, poor education, inadequate housing, poor public transportation, interpersonal violence, and decaying neighborhoods also contribute to health inequities, as well as the historic and ongoing interplay of structures, policies, and norms that shape lives. When these factors are not optimal in a community, it does not mean they are intractable: such inequities can be mitigated by social policies that can shape health in powerful ways.

Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity seeks to delineate the causes of and the solutions to health inequities in the United States. This report focuses on what communities can do to promote health equity, what actions are needed by the many and varied stakeholders that are part of communities or support them, as well as the root causes and structural barriers that need to be overcome.

Read the press release on Download the full report.

Trauma-Informed Care Treats Injuries That Can Be Seen, Those That Can’t

Posted: February 07, 2017

The pain and aftershocks of traumatic injuries — physical and psychological — can linger for a lifetime and feed chronic illnesses. Certain traumas — a broken arm or battered face — are fairly easy for healthcare providers to recognize. But sometimes no skin was broken, or the wounds have long healed, and patients still suffer for years from the physical and mental impacts of a traumatic event.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital is among the New Jersey healthcare organizations now seeking to improve care for patients struggling with the mental and physical fallout from all kinds of traumatic events, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, domestic abuse, chronic poverty, or the effects of flooding or other natural disasters. In addition to depression, panic, or other emotional issues, experts have found trauma can feed chronic physical ailments like diabetes and heart disease.

To reach these goals, RWJUH and others are using “trauma-informed care,” an approach that seeks to address the immediate physical injuries associated with a traumatic event, as well as the long-term behavioral and physical problems that may result. In January, the New Brunswick-based hospital led a conference that outlined the concept and kicked off a year-long effort to help hospital staff and healthcare providers elsewhere learn to better diagnose and treat patients dealing with often-hidden trauma.

Trauma-informed care involves training staff to recognize the sometimes-subtle signs of trauma, develop trust with the patient, and carefully elicit relevant details, without causing further harm. Patients are then linked with appropriate physical and behavioral health treatments, and sometimes law enforcement.


The Health of the Transgender Community: Out, Proud, and Coming Into Their Own

Posted: February 06, 2017

The following is an excerpt from an article on by Stewart Landers, JD, MCP, and Farzana Kapadia, PhD, MPH:

One factor limiting the ability to address transgender health, as well as other sexual minority health issues, was the lack of population-based data. While convenience surveys and anecdotal data indicated that the LGBTQ community experienced health disparities, the findings from such studies were limited in their scientific validity. In a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma, advocates for LGBTQ health argued that if population-based surveys, primarily administered by government agencies, did not add questions about sexual orientation or gender identity, valid data could not be produced. Government officials responded with concerns about the lack of validated measures to assess either sexual orientation or gender identity.

Two crucial efforts to address the lack of validated measures provided the necessary support to various expert panels deliberating on how to ask valid questions on these surveys about sexual orientation1 and gender identity.2 As of 2016, many state and federal health and nonhealth (such as the General Social Survey) surveys now include measures of sexual orientation, and a growing number are also adding measures of gender identity. Thus, through science and advocacy, population-based data on gender identity or transgender status have become increasingly available in the past five or so years.

These population-based data provide an opportunity, for the first time, to assess the size of the transgender population within a larger swath of the US population, as Crissman et al. do in this issue (p 213) by using Behavioral Risk Factor Survey System data across multiple states. These findings, published here for the first time in a peer-reviewed journal, echo those reported by the Williams Institute, a national leader on LGBTQ issues. Next, a systematic review by Meerwijk and Sevelius (p 216) reviews data on prevalence of transgender persons among college-age individuals, incarcerated persons, and the general population. Using the two analyses found in this journal, data converge around a lower estimate of 0.4 and an upper estimate of 0.53 of the adult US population. The adult population in the United States was estimated by the US Census Bureau at 242 470 820 in 2013. Using the two estimates results is an estimated population size of transgender adults in the United States between 969 883 and 1 285 095 or roughly between 1 and 1.3 million. With more population-specific data on transgender persons, more accurate information regarding their health, mental health, and social services needs and strengths can be identified. These data can in turn be used to support the development of evidence-informed information and training programs for professionals in each of these fields, and, ultimately, improved health status and well-being for the transgender population.

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