People of color face significant barriers to mental health services

Mental health issues affect everyone, but people of color — Black, Latinx, Asian and Native American people — have higher rates of some mental health disorders and face greater disparities in getting help than White people. Those issues are primarily due to lack of access to services resulting from institutional discrimination, interpersonal racism and stigma — which can all harm the psyche of people of color in places where they are not the majority.

Such disparities have existed for decades, but “what we’re seeing is that some of the stresses that are associated with being a member of a marginalized group have been exacerbated during the pandemic,” said Brian Smedley, the American Psychological Association’s chief of psychology in the public interest and acting chief diversity officer.

 

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Responding to mental health emergencies, article by Kevin Ressler, Lancaster PA

Lancaster County needs a system geared to respond proactively to mental health situations [opinion]

KEVIN RESSLER | Special to LNP
Sep 16, 2020

Kevin Ressler is president and CEO at United Way of Lancaster County.
A tragedy happened Sunday afternoon in Lancaster city with the death of Ricardo Muñoz. To indicate otherwise simply adds insult to injury. When Muñoz’s family called police, they did so because they needed help. At no point was the help they sought their loved one’s death. When the officer responded, at no point could he have envisioned that his intervention would end the way it did. Now, two families are forever changed and scarred with a trauma that cannot be undone.

On Monday, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace laid bare her trauma in leading the city (both the community and the police department). She bravely admitted the shortcomings within the system she leads and the social structures of health and human services support. I applaud that bravery, even if some do not see it as such.
It is easy — and lazy — to look at Muñoz’s history and cast him as a someone deserving no sympathy and no pity. A more humane assessment accounts for the fact that no moment exists in a vacuum.

Milzy Carrasco, the city’s director of neighborhood engagement, stated on Facebook that she and city police department social worker Leilany Tran visited Munoz’s family. They heard the family tell of a yearslong but unsuccessful effort to get their loved one mental health assistance. Sadly, this is believable and has been the outcome for other families that have sought similar support for family members.

When we talk about the challenges facing our modern law enforcement agencies — presently often focused on race — there is much more to those concerns. Many of us working in human services are fearful that policies put in place to protect society and officer safety can have unintended consequences for those who have mental health challenges, physical disabilities such as hearing impairment or countless other barriers.
And this is not the first time such challenges have been presented to this particular city. My own awakening occurred in 2013, with the story of Gregory Stephen Bayne, who, like Muñoz, had a history of police interactions and a battle with mental health issues.
Bayne’s interaction started with him urinating outdoors and ended when his life was cut short by a police officer’s bullet because he had a knife. I am no expert in police tactics, but it strikes me that the 2019 FBI report on police officers killed in the line of duty includes zero deaths by knife. I think that begs the question about less-lethal force and non-lethal weapons at law enforcement’s disposal. Most officers in the United Kingdom, for instance, carry a Monadnock baton and PAVA incapacitant spray instead of a gun.

I don’t know the answers but believe that questions can lead to better solutions.
In addition, we need to understand that, after these events, the families involved, and the officers involved (and their families) have to live with a trauma that deserves counseling and support. Will they get it?
More police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty. It is not an easy job, and it is made more difficult by political grandstanding that dehumanizes the victims of police interactions when we could otherwise be supporting both community members and police officers by taking seriously the needs of health reform in our society.
But, for my own well-being, I need to focus beyond the negatives of tragedy and toward possible solutions. I encourage all of us to dig deeply to think about how we can be part of an improved world.
Calling 911 is an amazing and irreplaceable resource that connects people in the moment of urgency to ambulance, fire, and police personnel. What it is not equipped to do is connect people to resources in the days, weeks, and years before the emergency.
Such a resource would be immeasurable in its benefit. I know because we have that resource.
United Way of Lancaster’s 211 call center connects people to over 600 Lancaster County community organizations. These range from coalition-based resources such as the Eviction Prevention Network to food network organizations like the one I used to run — Meals on Wheels.
And, yes, to mental health resources.
But our resource is limited in its scope because we are limited in our funding. We have designed, and are ready to build out, a better network — one that stitches together the various databases through the advances in information technologies — so that organizations can know who is connected where.
We have this resource for part of our social services network in Empower Lancaster. We desire to build upon that backbone in a new way that allows our network to go from responsive information and referral to proactive and predictive supports for a wider net of organizations.
But, yes, it would require an upfront financial investment of around $700,000. After that, for $75,000 annually we could provide small organizations with a free database that would help keep their information connected like a tidy web. We could provide a live handoff from the call center akin to 911. And we could prevent tragedy from happening.
But to be clear, I need help to build that. The bravery of politicians at the podium, I hope, can become courage come budget time. I know every budget is tight, but we expend $26 million on law enforcement in the city. The county still has CARES Act funds. I invite these leaders to go with me to seek state dollars. We have asked, and we hope for a positive result.
Until then, underfunded but not short of heart, we will continue to do what we can to prevent the next tragedy, be it days, months, or years away. And, preferably, may it never come.
I have never been one to rely on wishful thinking. May we find the courage to imagine and act in new ways.
Kevin Ressler is president and CEO at United Way of Lancaster County.

 

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COVID-19 and mental health

Test 2 CiteIt

I am in Canada currently. The following is on a site offering resources in Canada.

It’s important to be kind to yourself. This is an anxious and stressful time for everyone, and it’s okay if you feel more anxious than usual, and it’s okay to take time for yourself to manage your mental health. You are doing the best you can in a time when simply turning on the news can feel overwhelming.

https://cmha.bc.ca/news/managing-anxiety-covid-19/

 

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Testing Cite-it on article about coronavirus and mental health

Today I tested Tim Langeman’s cite-it plug-in for my blog.

I am going to quote from an article I read:

When the World Health Organization released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, it was broadly welcomed.

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‘I have dark thoughts about my children’s autism’

Some parents of disabled children can appear unwaveringly positive. But one mother says her children’s autism has left her with “dark thoughts” and she wishes their impairments would disappear.

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A Glimpse Into My Son’s Magnificent Mind (who has autism)

Max’s autism diagnosis three years ago gave me an unspeakable sense of relief. When a friend asked me later that day how I was feeling, I could only describe it in this way: “I feel empty and full at the same time.”

After years of being dismissed as hysterical and overprotective, I welcomed the diagnosis as overdue validation. To be seen and heard is always humanizing, and as a woman in the world, I have confronted my own invisibility more times than I wish to recall. The diagnosis, in my mind, represented progress.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/style/modern-love-glimpse-into-autistic-sons-magnificent-mind.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

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What outdoor space tells us about inequality

Of course, trying to increase access to outdoor space has been a goal of cities way before Covid-19 struck. But the conversation has taken on greater intensity since the pandemic has exposed just how unequal access can be. It’s not yet been possible to quantify the mental-health toll of long weeks of lockdown, and any correlation with access to outdoor space. But we do know that isolation is bad for everyone’s mental health, and that people who lost incomes or had low incomes to begin with experienced more stress. “Covid continues to spotlight where these inequities are and what they look like,” says Burrowes.

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What we can learn from ‘untranslatable’ illnesses

From an enigmatic rage disorder to a sickness of overthinking, there are some mental illnesses you only get in certain cultures. Why? And what can they teach us?

“DO NOT FEAR KORO,” screamed the headline in the Straits Times newspaper on November 7, 1967. In the preceding days, a peculiar phenomenon had swept across Singapore. Thousands of men had spontaneously become convinced that their penises were shrinking away – and that the loss would eventually kill them.

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How a bench and a team of grandmothers can tackle depression

Many of the New York counsellors have successfully overcome addictions and other life challenges themselves. “We’re committed to having folks with lived experiences, who can speak the language of recovery and of dealing with addiction,” White says. “Before you know it, you’re not on a bench, you’re just inside of a warm conversation with someone who cares and understands.”

The New York City benches – which are bright orange – were piloted in 2016 and launched in mid-2017, attracting some 30,000 visitors during their first year. The city so far has three permanent benches in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem, and the programme hosts pop-ups at festivals, churches, food pantries, parks and more. Friendship Bench counsellors also make themselves available immediately following community tragedies, including a recent suicide completed in public in East Harlem.

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The world’s most accessible stress reliever – singing

When we sing, large parts of our brain “light up” with activity, says Sarah Wilson, a clinical neuropsychologist and head of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne. She led a study which looked at how the brain reacts when we sing by giving volunteers of varying vocal ability MRI scans as they warbled.

“There is a singing network in the brain [which is] quite broadly distributed,” Wilson says. When we speak, the hemisphere of the brain dealing with language lights up, as we might expect. When we sing, however, both sides of the brain spark into life.

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