Global Social Welfare Digital Summit Call for Proposals: Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Social Change

SWHELPER will host its four day annual virtual Global Social Welfare Digital Summit beginning on February 25th through February 28th, 2020. The Summit’s primary goal is to enhance practice for helping professionals by using technology to eliminate geographical borders for training, networking, and collaboration. 

Our goal is to use an interdisciplinary approach for helping professionals to provide news, information, and resources critical to global knowledge sharing,says Deona Hooper, SWHELPER Founder and Editor-in-Chief, and host of the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit. 

The virtual format transcends geographic locations and expands learning to a global classroom. Most importantly, it allows us to provide the same great content as an in person conference yet at a more affordable rate. Our four-day conference will focus on Activism, Health Care, Trauma Informed Care, Prevention and Solutions,Deona concludes.

Call for Proposals 

We are looking for speakers who are interested in giving presentations from micro to macro perspectives on topics of ethics, technology, research, policy and other related themes. All speakers are exempted from paying the participation fee and will have free access to all four days of the conference.  Additionally, each speaker will get a dedicated page where he/she can promote their work and products as well as free marketing and promotion leading up to the Summit. 

  • There are no fees for speakers. All presenters will be given a four-day pass to the live conference along with 1-year access to view all recorded presentation if they can not attend the other presentations live.
  • We will create graphics and posts for each presenter to promote on SWHELPER social media.
  • SWHELPER will publish articles recognizing all speakers chosen to present at the 2020 Summit.

The call for proposals is open, and it will end on September 15th, 2019. Visit https://on.swhelper.org/2LyU54D for more information. Global Welfare Digital Summit will work with other media outlets to arrange interviews for speakers who want to discuss their work and presentations for the Summit. 

About SWHELPER is a woman-owned, award-winning, mission-driven, and progressive news website dedicated to providing information, resources, and entertainment for the social good. Our audience is comprised of academics, policymakers, social workers, students, mental health practitioners, helping professionals, caregivers, and people looking for information to help themselves or a loved one in crisis. Visit us at www.swhelper.org

Mental Fitness: We Can Actually Train to Become Resilient Leaders!

What if I told you that mental fitness is something you can develop in the same way you build your physical fitness?

We hear a lot these days about stress and when we do, the conversation often focuses on avoiding it or managing it. What if that isn’t actually useful?

The best illustration I’ve read highlighting the direct link between mental toughness and performance comes out of a research lab. A team of researchers wanted to look at what made subjects mentally fit or resilient and took some baby chicks into the lab to study their theory. Painting the chicks and grouping them in separate pens, the first group was left alone to interact happily and normally.

The second group was periodically picked up and stressed in a confined space. After the stress, the chick was given time back in their group pen to recuperate. The third group was continually stressed in the confined space, with no recovery time or play opportunity with other chickens. The researchers created three distinct populations with different experiences.

After raising them for a time in this manner, all the painted chicks were placed in buckets of water, with researchers timing their struggle until drowning. I know, this sounds just awful.

The chicks that had been continually stressed drowned almost immediately; they just had no hope in the face of hardship that they could swim. The second group to succumb was comprised of those “happy innocents” in group one who had never been confined and stressed. They didn’t know how to withstand this watery hardship and folded in the face of it. The last swimmers fighting to make it were the chicks from the stress adaptation group.

Somehow, the confinement stressors followed by time to recover had rendered them stronger and able to swim and survive much longer than their peers. This group was resilient; they had experienced hardship before and believed they had a chance to make it and recover. They had those past mastery experiences to rely on, and they just fought to keep swimming.

Stress has a purpose. Stress is opportunity. It’s meant to teach us to swim!

Responding well to stress requires high functional capacity of your brain’s frontal cortex. This area of our brain houses something called our working memory capacity, which helps us with both emotional regulation (being able to think and not just react) and upper-level cognition (focus). We can improve that capacity with the use of some well-studied, relatively simple exercises.

Think about the last time you experienced stress. I always think back to those really awkward years – for me it was 13 – and last week. Think about that age, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.

What happened in your body at that moment? Maybe your heart sped up, you started breathing fast, your face flushed – your body fires off a full-on stress response. As the stress is registered by your brain, wherever that stress comes from – a chain reaction fires.

Your body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and a host of other chemicals to help you cope. It also releases a hormone called DHEA into your bloodstream. DHEA’s entire role is to help your brain grow from the stressor you just survived. But there’s a catch – DHEA only does its job when you give yourself a post-stressor break.

You need that time to de-escalate your revved up nervous system in order for DHEA to do its brain-building work for you! The hormone increases synaptic firing and neural connectivity (you’ll think faster) and increases working memory capacity (emotional regulation and focus). DHEA is what makes stressful experiences worth your time, but you have to create the space for it to do its work.

Creating this space is the heavy lifting of mental fitness training, and it isn’t as easy as it sounds. If I say rest, self-care, nervous system regulation and you think taking a nap, you’re on the wrong track.

When we are asleep our brain waves are long and slow. We call these delta waves, and our brain is in delta state. When you’re awake and ambulatory, walking and talking in the world you’re in Bets state. What’s interesting for a lot of us in a hyper-stimulated environment is that we find ourselves often entirely on or entirely off, and the place in the middle where DHEA does its building work is theta state.

In this space, you’re at rest, but still aware. Also, your nervous system has space to rebuild and strengthen. So what does a drop in stress hormones and downshifting of the nervous system feel like? Think about the last time you enjoyed an activity or training – when you took a deep breath in and you just felt that “Ahhh!” feeling – even if you were working hard and running up and down trails.

You may find it while running, skiing, doing yoga, getting a deep tissue massage, taking a bubble bath, or even lifting weights. Some people call it a “click,” or a “shift.” Here is where you have to experiment a bit. That moment will look different for everyone, but when you find it, take note.

Do more of it – especially when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I find it often on a yoga mat. I have a friend who tells me she finds it swimming laps. Now for me, I’m trying not to drown while swimming laps, there is nothing theta state happening for me there! Dedicate the time to finding your practice. What down-shifts your nervous system? Then do it. Ritualize it. Make downshifted moments part of your training routine.

All of us face periods of adversity, and no one is going to ask us if we can swim before the crisis. We have to train for the hard times, and we can. Make a little time for your brain and watch yourself get sharper, smarter, more focused, kinder. You’ll also be ready for the bucket of water.

You need to know how to become mentally fit to be the best student, professional, parent, and friend that you can be. Be the chick that lived well! Train yourself to swim.

A wrote a book on this subject that’s brand new from Praeger – check it out here.

Age-Related Racial Disparities in Suicide Rates Among Youth Ages 5 to 17 Years

Suicide rates in the United States have traditionally been higher among whites than blacks across all age groups. However, a new study from researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and collaborators published today in JAMA Pediatrics shows that racial disparities in suicide rates are age-related. Specifically, suicide rates for black children aged 5-12 were roughly two times higher than those of similarly-aged white children.

“Our findings provide further evidence of a significant age-related racial disparity in childhood suicide rates and rebut the long-held perception that suicide rates are uniformly higher in whites than blacks in the United States,” says Jeff Bridge, PhD, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s and lead author of the publication. “The large age-related racial difference in suicide rates did not change during the study period, suggesting that this disparity is not explained by recent events such as the economic recession.”

For older children, the trend reverses back to the national average. For youth aged 13-17 years, suicide was roughly 50 percent lower in black children than in white children.

Researchers obtained data for cases in which suicide was listed as the underlying cause of death among persons aged 5-17 years from 2001-2015 from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARSTM) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2001-2015, for American youth aged 5-17 years, 1,661 suicide deaths in black youths and 13,341 suicide deaths in white youths occurred. During this period, the overall suicide rate was about 42 percent lower in black youth (1.26 per 100,000) than in white youth (2.16 per 100,000). However, age strongly influenced this racial difference, as seen when suicide rates among 5- to 12-year-olds and 13- to 17-year-olds were analyzed.

“The existing literature does not adequately describe the extent of age-related racial disparities in youth suicide, and understanding these differences is essential to creating targeted prevention efforts,” says Dr. Bridge, also a professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

While the findings highlight an important opportunity for more targeted intervention, these data are limited and cannot point to the potential reasons for the observed differences.

“We lacked information on key factors that may underlie racial differences in suicide, including access to culturally acceptable behavioral health care or the potential role of death due to homicide among older black youth as a competing risk for suicide in this subgroup,” Dr. Bridge elaborates. “Future studies should try to find out whether risk and protective factors identified in studies of primarily white adolescent suicides are associated with suicide in black youth and how these factors change throughout childhood and adolescence.”

“Parents and health providers should be aware of the importance of asking children directly about suicide if there is a concern about a child,” added Dr. Bridge. “Asking children directly about thoughts of suicide will not put the idea in a child’s head or trigger subsequent suicidal behavior.”

Responsible reporting on suicide and the inclusion of stories of hope and resilience can prevent more suicides. You can find more information on safe messaging about suicide here.  If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

Finding Safety at Home: A Guide for Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence tears lives apart in many ways, but one of the most insidious is the way fear and vulnerability linger long after you’ve left your abuser. After violence has found its way into your home, the place that’s supposed to be your sanctuary, it can be hard to ever feel safe at home again. But you don’t have to live in fear forever. Use these strategies for reclaiming your safety at home.

Move

If you’re still living in the house you shared with your abuser, it may be time to move. Not only does the household painful memories, but living in a home your abuser is familiar with puts you at risk of ongoing harassment. Simply moving to a new house and only sharing your address with trusted individuals can do wonders for your sense of security. If you own your house and need to sell before moving, consider staying with family or friends until you can afford to buy or rent a new home.

Secure Your Personal Items

If you have a car, it is strongly suggested that you have it checked for GPS tracking, as your abuser can put one on your car without your knowledge. If you aren’t sure what to look for, your local police department can check your car to determine if any sort of tracking device has been placed on it. Also, if your abuser gave you a computer or phone, have both of them checked for any device that would allow your abuser to listen in and/or see your emails, texts, etc.

Use an Address Confidentiality Program

If you’re worried about your abuser using public records to find your new address, an Address Confidentiality Program can help. According to the Stalking Resource Center, Address Confidentiality Programsgive victims a legal substitute address (usually a post office box) to use in place of their physical address; this address can be used whenever an address is required by public agencies.” If you need to change your ID then the Social Security Administration can assist you.

Add a Door Chain or Limiter

It’s a scene that gives you nightmares: You open the door after a knock only to have your abuser barge in before you have a chance to react. A security door chain or door limiter is a small, inexpensive measure that gives you the comfort of knowing no one can enter your home unless you want them to. Also, you can buy a doorbell with a video camera system attached to see who is outside your door.

Secure Your Windows

Once your doors are secured, the next area to focus on is the windows. When securing windows, it’s important not to do anything that would prevent a safe escape in the event of a house fire. That means window bars are out, but you can easily upgrade your window locks; Home Depot offers a helpful rundown of various window lock options.

Install Motion-Activated Flood Lights

Motion-activated exterior lighting adds to your sense of security in two ways: It eliminates the ability for anyone to covertly sneak up to your home, and it illuminates your path from vehicle to front door when getting home after dark. Consider adding motion lights near ground-level windows as well.

Install a Security System

Don’t count on physical barriers alone. By installing a security system that monitors both doors and windows, you can rest assured that if someone gains unauthorized entry, the police won’t be far behind. Ensure your security code won’t be easily guessed by your abuser by avoiding important numbers like your birth date, instead choosing a random combination.

Lock Down Your Social Media

Doors and windows aren’t the only way your abuser can infiltrate your home. If you’re still active on social media and posting publicly, your abuser may be able to follow your actions, send harassing messages, and otherwise invade your peace of mind. If you don’t want to delete your social media accounts entirely, you can lock them down by blocking your abuser and your abuser’s family and friends, restricting your post visibility to friends only, declining location tagging, using an alternate name, and limiting the ways people can search for your profile.

If Harassment Continues

Sometimes, despite all the above measures, you may find that your abuser is still harassing and/or stalking you. If this is the case, get a restraining order. You can also change your identity (and your children’s) by going to the Social Security Department. If your abuser is persistent in their harassment or continues to threaten you, you can and should consider moving out of state to a safer location. Be sure to check with an attorney or free legal aid office if you have children to ensure you aren’t breaking any laws should you leave.

The transition from domestic violence victim to domestic violence survivor is both incredibly empowering and fraught with risk and anxiety. Securing your home is just one of the things you can do to take back control after leaving an abusive relationship. However, it’s only one part of the equation. In addition to creating a safe home, seek support, practice self-care, and give yourself time to heal and grieve. It takes time, but you can move on after abuse.

Mental Health Programs in Schools – Growing Body of Evidence Supports Effectiveness

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School-based mental health programs can reach large numbers of children, with increasing evidence of effectiveness in improving mental health and related outcomes, according to a research review in the September/October issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

“This review provides evidence that large-scale, school-based programs can be implemented in a variety of diverse cultures and educational models as well as preliminary evidence that such programs have significant, measurable positive effects on students’ emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” write J. Michael Murphy, EdD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues.

School-Based Programs Focus on Preventing Mental Health Problems

An estimated 13 percent of children and adolescents worldwide have significant mental health problems such as anxiety, disruptive behavior disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and depression. Especially if left untreated, these disorders often persist into adulthood, with lasting effects on many aspects of life.

Over the years, many programs have been designed to deliver preventive mental health services in schools, where children and teens spend so much of their time. Substantial research now shows that school-based mental health interventions can be widely implemented and can lead to population-wide improvements in mental health, physical health, educational, and social outcomes.

Dr. Murphy and colleagues identified and analyzed school-based mental health programs that have been implemented on a large scale and have collected data on specific mental health outcomes. The authors estimate that the eight largest programs have reached at least 27 million children over the last decade.

The interventions vary in their focus, methods, and goals. The largest program, called “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports” (PBIS), focuses on positive social culture and behavioral support for all students. The second-largest program, called “FRIENDS,” aims to reduce anxiety and to teach skills for managing emotions and coping with stress—not only to children, but also to parents and teachers.

Most of the school-based mental health interventions were designed to focus on mental health promotion or primary prevention for all students in the school; some programs also target students at high risk of mental health problems. Most of the programs have been implemented across school districts, while some have been introduced on the state or national level.

Available research provides “moderate to strong” evidence that these interventions are effective in promoting good mental health and related outcomes. For example, studies of FRIENDS have reported reductions in anxiety, while PBIS has shown improved reading scores and fewer school suspensions. Other programs have shown benefits such as reducing bullying at school; one intervention has even been linked to lower rates of substance abuse in young adulthood.

The authors point out that school-based mental health interventions have been studied almost exclusively in high-income countries—despite the fact that about 80 percent of the global population of children live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). But there’s evidence that this may be changing, since three of the eight largest programs have been implemented “to scale” in LMICs. One of these, called “Skills for Life,” has been running on a national basis in Chile for more than a decade.

“Data sets of increasing quality and size are opening up new opportunities to assess the degree to which preventive interventions for child mental health, delivered at scale, can play a role in improving health and other life outcomes,” Dr. Murphy and colleagues conclude. With ongoing data collection and new evaluation frameworks, they believe that school-based mental health programs have the potential to “improve population-wide health outcomes of the next generation.”

Cyberbullying Rarely Occurs in Isolation, Research Finds

Cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying – and doesn’t create large numbers of new victims – according to research from the University of Warwick.

Professor Dieter Wolke in the Department of Psychology finds that although cyberbullying is prevalent and harmful, it is a modern tool used to harm victims already bullied by traditional, face-to-face means.

In a study of almost 3000 pupils aged 11–16 from UK secondary schools, twenty-nine percent reported being bullied, but one percent of adolescents were victims of cyberbullying alone.

  • Cyberbullying doesn’t create large numbers of new victims, says University of Warwick researchers
  • Most bullying is face-to-face – with cyberbullying used as a modern tool to supplement traditional forms
  • 29% of UK teenagers reported being bullied – only 1% were victims of cyberbullying alone
  • Bullying intervention strategies should focus on traditional bullying as well as cyberbullying
Professor Dieter Wolke

During the survey, pupils completed the Bullying and Friendship Interview, which has been used in numerous studies to assess bullying and victimization.

They were asked about direct victimisation (e.g., “been hit/beaten up” or “called bad/nasty names”); relationalvictimization (e.g., “had nasty lies/rumours spread about you”); and cyber-victimization (e.g., “had rumours spread about you online”, “had embarrassing pictures posted online without permission”, or “got threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages, text messages or tweets”).

All the teenagers who reported being bullied in any form had lower self-esteem, and more behavioural difficulties than non-victims.

However, those who were bullied by multiple means – direct victimisation, relational victimisation and cyber-victimisation combined – demonstrated the lowest self-esteem and the most emotional and behavioural problems.

The study finds that cyberbullying is “another tool in the toolbox” for traditional bullying, but doesn’t create many unique online victims.

As a result, Professor Wolke argues that public health strategies to prevent bullying overall should still mainly focus on combatting traditional, face-to-face bullying – as that is the root cause of the vast majority of cyberbullying.

Wolke says, “Bullying is a way to gain power and peer acceptance, being the ‘cool’ kid in class. Thus, cyber bullying is another tool that is directed towards peers that the bully knows, and bullies, at school.

“Any bullying prevention and intervention still needs to be primarily directed at combatting traditional bullying while considering cyberbullying as an extension that reaches victims outside the school gate and 24/7.”

For more information, the research can be viewed in the European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry journal.

Researchers Find Improved Preventive Care From Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid proponents rally in Ohio (Credit: Columbus Dispatch)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — More Americans are taking steps to prevent disease because of the insurance expansions of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new, groundbreaking study by Indiana University and Cornell University researchers.

With Congress considering the future of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, this research is the first to estimate the impact of the ACA-facilitated expansions of Medicaid on preventive care and health behaviors.

Kosali Simon Photo Credit: Indiana University

Researchers Kosali Simon and Aparna Soni of Indiana University and John Cawley of Cornell University determined that low-income childless adults have benefited in numerous ways from the Medicaid expansions: They are 17 percent more likely to have health insurance, 7 percent more likely to have a personal doctor and 11 percent less likely to report that cost was a barrier to their health care. Their self-assessed health also improved, and they reported fewer days of poor health or restricted activities.

Participants were also more likely to undertake preventive care such as getting a flu vaccination, having an HIV test or visiting a dentist. The ACA mandates that health insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover these preventive services without cost-sharing.

“Our findings indicate that the Medicaid expansions under the ACA succeeded in some of their goals, but other goals remain hard to achieve,” said Simon, a health economist at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “More people are seeing doctors and taking steps to safeguard their health. But there’s been no detectable reduction in obesity, smoking or heavy drinking, at least through our study period.”

Conversely, there was no worsening of those risky behaviors; one might be concerned that the newly insured would be more likely to engage in risky behaviors because they now pay less out of pocket for health care. There was no evidence of this phenomenon, which economists call moral hazard, in the data.

The data for the research came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state governments, through the end of 2015. Thirty states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid benefits in 2014.

Their article, “The Impact of Health Insurance on Preventive Care and Health Behaviors: Evidence from the First Two Years of the ACA Medicaid Expansions,” is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and is available online.

Could You Tell a Stranger About Your Last Sexual Encounter?

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Could you tell a stranger about your last sexual encounter? Well, this is exactly what we expect children who have been sexually abused to do. Once (and if) they find the enormous amount of courage to tell a trusted adult such as a parent or teacher), they will then be expected to relate the sexual abuse to the police. Could you do that,and would a child even have the vocabulary to do this?

Many people uneducated in Body Safety Education often ask me, ‘Why don’t children just tell if they are being sexually abused?’ In Australia, a very prominent radio shock jock, John Laws, insensitively brought to tears a brave 80-year-old survivor who phoned in to tell his story of sexual abuse as a child. The poor man was bullied by Laws and basically told to just get over it. This kind of uneducated and insensitive reaction certainly does not help survivors to come forward.

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Let’s take a closer look at why children don’t and often can’t tell. There are a multiple of complex reasons why not but here is what I know.

  1. As stated previously, most children don’t have the actual vocabulary to tell what has happened to them. If uneducated in Body Safety, they won’t know the correct names for their body parts and will not be able to express exactly what happened to them.
  2. The perpetrator has told them no-one will believe them. End of story. And the child is so unempowered he or she believes the abuser without question.
  3. The perpetrator has threatened the child with horrific consequences if they tell, such as killing their pet, killing their parents, abusing their sibling, that they will be responsible for breaking up the family, etc. The list of terrifying threats is cruel and endless.
  4. Most adults will not believe a child’s disclosure. A child has to tell three adults before they are believed. (Aust. Childhood Foundation, 2010)
  5. The child is embarrassed because they think they are willing participant in the abuse and the perpetrator will only be encouraging this perspective, especially if the child’s body reacted to the sexual touch. The child, sadly, believes the abuse to be their fault. (Note: tragically, many adult survivors still believe this.)
  6. And if the child is brave enough to tell an adult that they are being sexually abused, and that adult does not believe them, than chances are the child will never tell again.
  7. The abuser has told the child that the sexual touch is loved-based and that this is what you do when you love someone. They may even show their victim child exploitation material to prove that this kind of sexual touch is normal between children and adults. A child, uneducated in Body Safety, has no idea that the sexual abuse is wrong.
  8. What we’re asking a child to do is to tell a stranger about their last sexual encounter. Could you do that? It takes an incredible amount of bravery to disclose. Adults find it difficult. How would it be for a child?

The bottom line is there are many complex reasons why a child or adult may never disclose sexual abuse. My advice to educators, parents and carers is to educate your child in Body Safety Education from a very young age. An educated child will know from the first inappropriate touch that it is wrong, tell a trusted adult straight away, and keep on telling until they are believed. By educating yourself and your community, the path of a child’s life may literally depend upon it.

Intimate Partner Violence; It is a Major Issue!

By Angela Codner, Elaine Hannah, Donna Martin, & Remeca Tomlin

domestic-abuse

The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) (2011) most recent study on domestic violence found that in the United States, 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) have been victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and approximately 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have been victims at some point in their lifetime of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

It is also important to understand that the recorded statistics may be understated due to male victims not reporting their abuse. Despite the current prevalent statistics which shows that men are victimized almost as much as women, more emphasis and focus is still placed on female victims by society, the media, and the government.

Interventions

Unfortunately, there is a lack of intervention programs, support services, resources, or evidence based practices for male victims of domestic violence (Barber, 2008). Very little research efforts have been dedicated to the benefit of male victims of violence. The reason for the lack of research is due primarily to lack of funding.

Unfortunately, the resources are very limited for male victims of IPV.  At the National level, there are a couple of options available to male victims. One option is the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH). NDVH is available to individuals with questions regarding domestic violence or questions about finding available resources. Another option is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) The Act was first enacted in 1994 has been reauthorized in 2005 and 2013 to incorporate gender-neutral coverage to all its victims including men.

What Can Social Workers Do? 

Awareness is a key step to prevention. Its increased efforts should include men who are also  suffering from domestic abuse. It is vital to educate the public to report abusive behaviors. The earlier the intervention the less likely victimization will occur.

With Intimate Partner Violence, awareness is just one of the issues. The main issue lies with creating more resources, programs, and funding to support this population when crisis arise. Individualized care for this population should be a huge priority. Social workers should be made aware of the epidemic toward this population and be more empathetic to their needs.

We are students passionate about empowering people and we’ve started this campaign to give a voice to those who don’t have one. #‎outofyourshadow

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Reclaiming the Word Victim

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Words shape the direction of our lives. The words spoken to us, around us and over us create pathways upon which our lives play out. Words can build up or tear down, set limits or promote freedom, encourage or discourage, bless or curse.

Understanding the importance of words and how they affect the victim of sex abuse is key to restoration. The words the perpetrator uses during the crime, the words the victim tells themselves and uses to describe their trauma or the words the justice system uses to the words the mental health profession depends on each set of words carries its own challenges. Each word spoken around the abuse carries an implication and an internalized meaning for the victim. Exploring and understanding the impact of the words the victim hears and uses is an important part of opening the pathway to freedom.

perpetrators
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Victim is not a demeaning, nor a bad word. It is a more representative word of the reality experienced in sex abuse. When we restore the definition of victim to its true definition, someone or something killed, destroyed, sacrificed, and/or one who suffers a loss especially by being swindled, we see there is no weakness in it and that it correctly identifies the person battered by sex abuse.

Something does get destroyed. No, more than something, someone gets destroyed! Value, personhood, beliefs, self-respect, deep core reservoirs of a person’s strength and possibility are destroyed. Parts of the person, i.e., the capability to trust, to be intimate, or feel safe are sacrificed by the uncontrolled urges and needs of another. That is being a victim!

One of the reasons our culture has moved away from using the word victim is because we don’t like the feeling the word gives us. Our society tends to hold a victim more responsible than a perpetrator. If your house is robbed, people ask if you locked the doors. If your purse is snatched, people question how you were holding it. If you are sexually abused, people ask why you went into that room. We first question the victim as if she did something wrong to create the scenario in which she was hurt. Seldom does the first response contain an outraged indictment that someone felt free to violate another’s personal rights. The victim is blamed and made to feel “less than”, so we don’t want to be called a victim.

In the moment of victimization you are rendered powerless by someone else’s actions. Power is highly esteemed in our culture, and we look less favorably on those without power. In the eyes of our culture being a victim means you did something wrong; you lost your power. The fact that as a victim you were powerless becomes unacceptable because power is so highly valued.

maxresdefault (1)There is no inherent weakness in being a victim – things happen to us that are out of our control. Being a victim has become a derogatory mark upon one’s personhood rather than the damaging event that it is. This indictment is wrong.

There is no shame in being a victim. Shame says I need to feel bad because I did something wrong. A victim of sex abuse is not the one who did something wrong. The victim is never the one at fault!

When we fail to identify the person as a victim, we nullify their reality, congratulating them that they made it through, as we expect them to ignore the impact of the crime. On the outside they adopt the identity of survivor, meaning “I’m OK”, while on the inside all they know is fear, uncertainty, intense pain, and loss of personal identity.

It is no wonder the victim of sex abuse hears, “put it behind you”, “why are you still thinking about that”, for as a culture we have told them by denying that they were a victim, that it IS over. We have told them in the use of our language that it IS all better – you survived! It is as if we hand them a badge we expect them to wear – a badge that says, “denial.” This is wrong and destructive and perpetuates and prolongs the damage of abuse.

Saying, “I’m a survivor” is not more empowering than saying, “I’m a victim”. Victims have more power to get freedom than survivors do because victims remain in touch with the reality of the trauma impact. When the victim quickly becomes a survivor and jumps from the point of impact directly to claim the status of being a survivor, they jump over a whole set of emotions, needs, thought processes, and confusion. When not connected to the reality of the emotions and belief systems, one cannot heal them. One can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. One can’t become a survivor without knowing what they survived. Just because the event is over and that person is alive does not mean they know what they have overcome.

The Growing Trend of Gun Violence and How It Affects Social Workers- Part I

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On May 5, 2015, Oklahoma’s Republican dominated state legislature passed a bill allowing school districts to appoint school personnel to carry guns on school property.

The bill has not yet been signed by Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin. However, it is expected for the bill to become law.

Backers said the measure that easily passed in the Republican-dominated legislature would promote school safety while opponents said having the firearms on campus could put students and teachers in danger. Read more

The history of gun control laws dates as far back as the year 1791 with the introduction of the Bill of Rights concerning the second amendment to the United States Constitution. However, world events would later give brevity to the use of firearms and how the uses should be controlled in connection to tragedies both personal and political.

In 1837, States such as Georgia banned the use of handguns, but the law was challenged and eventually ruled unconstitutional. As more laws were passed to control access and use of weapons, this led to the organizing and creation of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 1871.

The NRA’s original intent was for rifle marksmanship training in preparation for war, but they eventually became the primary lobby group preventing the regulation of guns in America. Despite the advocacy for gun ownership, many laws maintained that one race of people, blacks in particular, were specifically prevented from possessing any form of protection, including but not limited to firearms and/or ammunition of any sort. This was only a fraction of the black codes instituted and enforced by southern state constitutions. Any person of color caught with weapons were jailed and sometimes lynched.

Concerns regarding the Ku Klux Klan and their homegrown terroristic acts against African-Americans, and political tragedies consisted of the assassinations of Presidents such Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Regan eventually led to tougher gun control laws.

However, 1986 saw the passing of several Acts intending to control not only access itself, but who could have access to specific kinds of firearms and ammunition. Today, the NRA serves as one of the nation’s top watchdogs for the protection of gun ownership, and they are also key stakeholders lobbying against gun control legislation and the expansion of gun rights.

The U.S. has one of the highest gun related death rates in the world. In the last decade, it was estimated that a total of 100,000 people are shot yearly. Sometime this year, it is predicted that gun violence will become the leading cause of death for young people in the United States surpassing vehicle deaths.

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The Persistent Stigma of Substance Use Disorders

“Stigma is a five dollar word for a two dollar concept. It’s prejudice.”

Stigma, a set of negative stereotypes tied to behavioral health conditions, is not a new problem. Results of a recent survey suggest that views may be changing when it comes to mental illness. Advocacy efforts are getting results, and the public is beginning to recognize that mental illness is, in fact, a health condition.

We need a similar evolution to start when it comes to substance use disorders. Public perception of what it means to be addicted hasn’t shifted significantly. This is a problem.

In a study of Americans conducted by Johns Hopkins University, only 22% of people surveyed were willing to work closely with someone suffering from drug addiction, yet 62% were willing to work closely with someone suffering from mental illness.

Every person struggling to manage a substance use disorder, and every family stigmatized while supporting a loved one, are part of this broader landscape. Our current culture of stigma creates resistance to funding prevention and treatment. Belief that persons with substance use disorders are immoral, not ill, reduces support for behavioral health-centered policy.

Funding for treatment of substance use disorders isn’t commensurate with the scope of the problem. If substance use were recognized by the public as a health issue, it’s likely that prevention would be a higher priority.

We must help each other, and our communities, reshape the distorted image of substance use disorder as criminal and deviant. A person with a substance use disorder remains a person first. Examples of person-first language for substance use are included in this chart shared by Michael Botticelli, Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy. Note: Mr. Botticelli is himself a person in long-term recovery.

Language for addiction

Of course, stigma-free language is only one step and changing a stereotype takes time. We should see this as part of the process of removing structural roadblocks to health. As we break the persistent stigma that clings to substance use disorders, we’ll turn the focus instead to very real opportunities that exist for health and recovery.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Preventative Health for Women

 

diverse-group-of-womenThere are several elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will majorly impact our healthcare system, but one of the most important new provisions is preventative measures for women’s healthcare.  Although certain preventative measures are allowed under the ACA, there are still certain employers who are exempt when it comes to providing contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans. However, there are plenty of measures that are covered under the plan and will truly benefit women all over the country including well woman exams, breast exams, STI & HIV screenings and counseling and screening and counseling for domestic violence. These types of preventative measures can only provide positive results for women with health insurance.

I can’t help but think about the millions of Americans without health insurance and the women who will not benefit from these services. Breast cancer is the 2nd most common cancer death in women after lung cancer. Over 200,000 women get diagnosed annually and 40,000 die. Early detection can reduce the chances of getting breast cancer and having preventative screenings included in the ACA can reduce the number of women dying due to breast cancer.

STI and HIV Counseling and Screenings

According to the Guttmacher institute, 19 million new sexully transmitted infections (STI) are reported annually and half of these are among 15-24- year olds. It is estimated that 65 million Americans have a viral STI, with the most common one being genital herpes and it is not curable. Most STIs have no symptoms and can be very hard to detect with a doctor’s visit and many people have no idea they are infected with an STI. Some of these STIs, when left untreated, can lead to more serious illnesses such as pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical cancer. Having access to STI and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) counseling and screenings included in the ACA is extremely important.

In the United States, we have varied opinions on sex, but the reality is our population is not retarding in growth. Sex can be as basic a desire as water, food and oxygen for some Americans. Evidence based research has uncovered that many Americans, especially younger adults and adolescents, do not have access to the factual information about STIs and HIV. In our media, we constantly glorify sex and adolescents are exposed to several television programs that include casual sex with multiple partners.

However, comprehensive sexual health education is not a standard in our country’s public schools. The ACA includes education and information about STIs and HIV, but the hard part is getting people to go to the doctor for this information. With the ACA enacted, there is an opportunity to start encouraging Americans to get annual screenings and to obtain prevention care in order to educate themselves on these issues.

Domestic Violence

One in four women will experience some type of domestic violence in their lifetime, and it is estimated that one-third of female homicide victims that police records have reports of are killed by their intimate partner. This is unbelievable and unacceptable to me. Domestic violence, rape, and sexual violence need to be brought to the forefront of Americans minds. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and I believe should be taught in schools along with sexual health information. The fact that the ACA covers screenings and counseling is incredible and this needs to be known. Women may not even know that their health insurance covers these types of things.

Family Planning

This brings me back to the ACA exemptions where certain employers are not required to provide contraceptive counseling and prescriptions. If employers, even those with religious beliefs do not support contraception, want a diverse body of people to be employed at their organization, they need to provide diverse healthcare plans that not only include basic health care, but specific healthcare pertaining to women including contraceptive coverage. It is estimated that nearly 99% of all women have used some sort of contraceptive method in this country.

Birth control can prevent unplanned pregnancies and abortions which saves our country money. Not all women want kids, so having these options are vital to their healthcare plans. Overpopulation is our number one social problem in this country, and it leads to many other issues including water shortages, food shortages and a large population of children being placed into foster homes or adoption agencies because of unplanned pregnancies. Having birth control be easily available and affordable will go a long ways toward prevention.

Income Inequality

Additionally, we must touch on is the gap between the rich and poor and how hard it is for millions of Americans to even obtain affordable health insurance. The ACA is a large step towards providing healthcare to the uninsured in our country, but it needs to be expanded further. It’s not perfect and many Americans are being caught in the Medicaid gap where they don’t make enough money to qualify for subsidy, yet they are in a State which refuses to expand Medicaid. If more Americans can received annual checkups and screenings, many may be able to identify and access preventive care to prolong life. Right now, it seems that the majority of Americans only go to the doctor when it is an emergency which needs to change.

Preventative healthcare is one of our country’s solution to address our nation’s growing healthcare problems. Hopefully, the ACA will lead to more systematic healthcare reforms in order to change the ways our country handles health issues and social problems. Feel free to share this with organizations that work with adolescents, schools, sexual health clinics, etc.. BeYouBeHealthy.org 

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