Monthly Archives: November 2015

7 Ways in Which Charlie Sheen Is the Same as Everyone With HIV

step0001 by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

By David Martin, PhD, ABPP (Senior Director, APA Office on AIDS)

Charlie Sheen revealed in an interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show on November 17, 2015 that he has HIV.  Mr. Sheen is very well-known, and different from many, if not most, people with HIV in many ways—he’s rich, he’s famous, and he’s White, among others.  But I can think of at least seven ways in which he is just like most people with HIV.

1. Charlie Sheen didn’t know he had HIV. He only found out when he was sick and in the hospital and after a number of medical tests.

Today, almost one in eight of the people living with HIV in the United States don’t know they have HIV because they haven’t been tested.

You don’t have to wait until you’re sick to be tested for HIV.  The CDC recommends that all people seen in health care settings be tested for HIV routinely, and that people at high risk for HIV be tested at least every year:  If you have sex with partners you don’t know and you don’t use condoms, or if you inject drugs, you should be tested every year. has an HIV testing site locator you can use to find a place where you can get tested at no charge, in addition to other HIV-related services.

2. His emotional reaction to finding out he had HIV ranged from depression and anxiety to shame, anger, fear, and hopelessness: “It’s a hard three letters to absorb.”

Many, if not most, people who test positive for HIV have exactly these emotions, and they can last for months or even years.

3. He used drugs and alcohol to cope with his HIV infection, and they impaired his judgment.

Drug and alcohol use are common among people with HIV, frequently in response to the depression and anxiety that accompany an HIV positive status.Many people with HIV seek treatment for their depression, anxiety, and substance use. If you have HIV and you are depressed or anxious, seeking help is perfectly OK. Quitting or cutting down on alcohol or drug use is hard. You shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help if you want to stop or reduce your use of alcohol or drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator you can use to find local resources.

4. He was afraid of what would happen if other people found out he had HIV.

In fact, when he did tell people he thought he could trust, some demanded money to keep his secret—he faced betrayal when he needed compassion and acceptance. In many ways Mr. Sheen’s experience embodies the fear that prevents many people from telling others about their HIV status: They are ashamed of their HIV, and they may be afraid of rejection or that those they do tell will tell someone else. Hiding something you are ashamed of can be harmful.

5. He needed intimacy and sex.

Most people want emotional and sexual intimacy, and people with HIV are no different.

6. He’s taking his medication as prescribed.

As his doctor noted when asked, because he has been taking his medication faithfully, he can expect to live a long and productive life.  People who have HIV, who are in treatment, and who consistently take their medication as prescribed can be expected to live lives almost as long as they would if they didn’t have HIV.  They are also far less likely to give HIV to their sex partners.

7. He sees his HIV infection as a “turning point.”

Many people with HIV come to view their HIV disease as a “catalyst for growth,” a chance to rearrange priorities. For example some people leave jobs they see as meaningless to take jobs that give meaning to their lives, and many have devoted their lives to preventing HIV and to helping others with HIV.  You can read the personal stories of people living with HIV here.

It would be easy to condemn Mr. Sheen for behaviors that may have led to his HIV status (after all, he’s an easy person not to like). This is not the time for that—in fact I’m not sure there is a right time for that.  Most people with HIV are painfully aware of the behaviors that led to their HIV status. Reminding them doesn’t change their HIV, and if they’re trying to change it may actually get in the way.  This is a time to recognize his humanity.  I thank and commend Mr. Sheen for his courage in publicly disclosing his HIV status, and I wish him well in his continued recovery.  I hope we can all learn from his experience.

You can visit the American Psychological Association’s Office on AIDS website for information on psychology and HIV. You can also read an interview with Perry Halkitis, a respected HIV/AIDS researcher at New York University on Surviving the AIDS Epidemic conducted at the American Psychological Association.

Filed under: AIDS, Culture, Health and Wellness Tagged: HIV

Tipping Point or State of Emergency? Real Talk About Transgender Women of Color


Zella Ziona, transgender woman murdered in Gaithersburg, MD, October 15, 2015.

By Sand C. Chang, PhD (Gender Specialist, Multi-Specialty Transitions Department, Kaiser Permanente) and Kimber Shelton, PhD (KLS Counseling & Consulting Services, Dallas, TX)

In June 2014, TIME magazine featured Laverne Cox on the cover, the title reading “The Transgender Tipping Point.” The message to the world was, “We’ve arrived.” While the scales have tipped for some transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) individuals, notably those with access to wealth or those that fit a mainstream beauty ideal, the rest are left behind. Members of TGNC communities of color are having a different discussion. In panels and forums, on social media, in conversation, they are saying, “The transgender tipping point is crushing us.”

The notion that we as a society have arrived at a time and place in which TGNC people have gained equality is misleading. It creates an illusion of safety, reinforcing a binary gender system and excluding TGNC people at the margins—those most deeply affected by the intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty. The “transgender community” is not one community but many communities. Recent advancements in legislation and health care have greatly benefited some, but the progress is not equally distributed, and the increased visibility does not equal acceptance, which is clear when we consider the realities of many Black and Latina TGNC women’s lives.

Barely one year after being featured in TIME, Laverne Cox herself declared a “state of emergency” for TGNC people. And this is why:

Transgender women of color advocate for more care and bring attention to the disproportionate rates of physical violence, sexual assault, and poverty that negatively affect their communities. By living out loud, transgender women of color also demonstrate the resilience and strength within their communities. Organizations leading awareness and advocacy efforts, such as the #blacktranswomenlivesmatter campaign, include the TransWomen of Color Collective, The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Racial and Economic Justice Initiative, Transgender Law Center (TLC), TAJA’s Coalition, and Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC).

Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th honors the lives of transgender people who were killed in the past year, including the Black and Latina victims of hate crimes. However, it is not enough to remember and honor the transgender women whose lives were lost in 2015. Psychologists can mark November 20th as the day that they joined or advanced efforts to support transgender women of color, uniting with transgender women of color to create an uplifting tipping point that is inclusive of their intersecting identities.  Here are some things psychologists can do:

  • Engage in culturally competent practice, including use of the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People.
  • Use voice and media presence to call attention to hate crimes, suicide rates, violence and abuse, and housing and economic disparities disproportionately impacting transgender women of color.
  • Advance research efforts that are inclusive of the gender, racial, and economic realities of transgender women of color.
  • Use your political power to promote federal and state protection for the civil liberties of TGNC individuals.
  • Celebrate and promote the identities, lives, and resilience of TGNC women of color.
  • Consider making a donation to an organization dedicated to increasing safety and equal rights for transgender women of color.
  • Include curriculum in training and supervision about transgender people and their lives.

And we can all #sayhername. These are the names of the transgender and gender nonconforming people whose lives have been lost to violence so far in 2015:

  1. Papi Edwards
  2. Lamia Beard
  3. Ty Underwood
  4. Yazmin Vash Payne
  5. Taja Gabrielle de Jesus
  6. Penny Proud
  7. Kristina Gomez Reinwald
  8. London Chanel
  9. Mercedes Williamson
  10. India Clarke
  11. K.C. Haggard
  12. Amber Monroe
  13. Ms. Shade Schuler
  14. Ashton O’Hara
  15. Kandis Capri
  16. Elisha Walker
  17. Tamara Dominguez
  18. Jasmine Collins
  19. Keyshia Blige
  20. Jessie Hernandez
  21. Kiesha Jenkins
  22. Zella Ziona


Dr. Sand Chang is a Chinese American, nonbinary/genderqueer licensed psychologist. Sand is currently a Gender Specialist at the Multi-Specialty Transitions Department at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland and maintains a private practice specializing in trauma and EMDR, addictions, relationships, and healing work with marginalized communities, particularly people affected by the intersections of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Sand is the current Chair of the APA Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and recently completed an appointment on the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People.

Dr. Kimber Shelton is a licensed psychologist and owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services in Dallas, TX. She earned her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Georgia (UGA) and MS in Mental Health Counseling from Niagara University. She is a member of the American Psychological Association Committee of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, co-chair of the Texas Psychological Association Diversity Division, and recipient of the UGA College of Education Professional Achievement Award.

Filed under: Culture, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, LGBT Issues, Uncategorized Tagged: advocacy, discrimination, LGBT, prejudice, race, transgender

Utah Judge Drops Order on Lesbians’ Foster Child, Black Students Around U.S. Complain of Casual Everyday Racism, Hating Muslims Plays Right into the Islamic State’s Hands and More- In Case You Missed It– November 19th, 2015

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address a Utah judge’s orders about a foster child place with a lesbian couple, black students around U.S. complain of casual everyday racism, hating Muslims plays right into the Islamic State’s hands and more. 


Utah Judge Drops Order on Lesbians’ Foster Child– The New York Times

After ordering that a foster child be taken away from a lesbian couple because it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples,” Utah Judge Scott N. Johansen reversed his decision — at least temporarily – under pressure from gay rights advocates and Utah’s Republican governor.  In the view of gay rights advocates, the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges should have put this question to rest, as the right to marry confers the same rights that other married couples have.  APA filed an amicus brief in this case, and applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Judge Johansen subsequently recused himself from the case amid calls for his impeachment.

Black Students Around U.S. Complain of Casual, Everyday Racism– CBS News

Last week, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned amid protests by the football team and other students that the university was indifferent to repeated complaints about ongoing racial slurs and other racist behavior directed toward Black students.  Protests spread to other universities across the U.S., with students complaining of “casual, everyday racism.”  In this CBS News article, we hear from Sheryce Holloway, who is tired of White people at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond asking if they can touch her hair, or if she knows the latest dance move; and from Dominick Hall at Chicago’s Loyola University, who sees groups of White guys stop talking when he walks by and some people grabbing their bags tighter.  These were among thousands of students across the country taking part in campus demonstrations, talking not only about explicit racism but about subtler expressions of prejudice.  Many say they face these “microaggressions” daily.  For more on microaggressions, check out posts here, on the Public Interest blog.

Hating Muslims Plays Right into the Islamic State’s Hands – The Washington Post

Following the horrific attacks in Paris this past Friday night, there has been an uptick in anti-Muslim violence, with mosques, kebab restaurants, and halal butcher shops being targeted, and anti-Muslim protests.  Similar anti-Muslim violence and vandalism followed the Charlie Hedbo attacks in January.  Psychologist Arie Kruglanski, who studies how people become terrorists, commented, “This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims.  Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.’”  Some counterterrorism experts believe that Islamist militants intend to make Muslims in the West feel isolated and turn against their own communities.

Overweight Men, Not Just Women, Face Daily Discrimination – Zee News

In a study published in APA’s Journal of Applied Psychology, non-overweight men applied for jobs at retail stores or went shopping, and then donned overweight prosthetics and did the same thing, at different stores. According to Dr. Enrica Ruggs, one of the researchers, the men in overweight prosthetics experienced more discrimination, for example: “Employees they interacted with would try to end the interaction early, there was less affirmative behavior like less nodding or smiling; there was more avoidance types of behavior like frowning and trying to get out of the interaction.”  These findings suggest that men who are overweight experience more discrimination than men who are not, which is a pattern similar to that for women.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

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Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Ethnicity and Race, In Case You Missed It, LGBT Issues, Uncategorized

Surprise! Caregiving Helps the Caregiver, Too


Dancing” by fairfaxcounty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Victoria R. Marino and William E. Haley, PhD (The School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida)

Many people have heard that being a family caregiver is extremely stressful and increases the risk for poor health and even higher mortality.  But this isn’t the whole story.  Recent research suggests that caregiving has stresses, yes, but it has benefits for the caregiver too.

Who are informal caregivers? 

Our population is aging, and informal caregivers are the primary source of support and care for older adults with disabilities living in our communities. An informal caregiver is any ordinary person, like you and me, who provides assistance to someone else at no cost. Usually it is family members, spouses, and adult daughters especially, who take on the informal caregiving role.

What do informal caregivers do?

Many older adults living in the community rely on these family caregivers to provide the assistance that they would otherwise receive in an institutional setting. Family caregivers can help with activities of daily living (ADL) like eating, bathing, dressing, and moving around, as well as instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) like shopping, managing medication, and preparing meals. Caregivers can help with many other things as well, such as contributing to treatment planning and advocating on the behalf of the older adult.

Many older adults prefer to continue living in their own homes and communities as they age, and the assistance that caregivers provide helps make this possible by avoiding or delaying nursing home placement. By providing care at no cost, family caregivers save older adults, as well as society, millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent annually on formal care in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and professional home health care services.

Does caregiving harm your health? 

Unfortunately, caregiving has been overwhelmingly portrayed as so detrimental to the physical and emotional health of the caregiver that it can lead to premature death. This is in part because most research has focused on the caregivers psychologists most commonly see, that is, individuals who are already seeking clinical help and are therefore likely to be more distressed than caregivers in general. Many of these studies have found poorer mental and physical health among caregivers than noncaregivers, but studies with more representative samples of caregivers and noncaregivers have found smaller negative effects (Pinquart & Sörensen, 2003). Although one widely cited study did find higher levels of mortality among spouse caregivers who reported caregiving strain compared with spouses of nondisabled partners (Schulz & Beach, 1999), five later studies actually found the opposite effect—caregivers live LONGER than noncaregivers (Roth, Fredman, & Haley, 2015).  What explains these very different results?  Caregiving can be very stressful, but the greatest stress is most common among caregivers for older adults with particularly burdensome chronic diseases, caregivers with competing work demands, or caregivers who lack support. These stressors do not characterize every caregiving experience.

In fact, one national caregiver survey by the National Opinion Research Center found that 83% of caregivers said that caregiving was a positive experience. Roth and colleagues (2009) found that 33% of caregivers reported “no strain” and only 17% of caregivers reported “a lot of strain.”  In other words, many caregivers may not be under as much strain as previously thought, and many caregivers experience both strain and positive aspects of caregiving (Beach et al., 2000).

What are the positive aspects of caregiving? 

We know that caregiving can benefit caregivers in a number of ways. Five recent studies showed that caregiving was linked to greater longevity (Roth, Fredman, & Haley, 2015). In another study, among elderly female caregivers of people with osteoporotic fractures, those who provided more assistance with ADLs showed better physical performance and slower rates of physical decline (measured by walking pace, grip strength, and chair-stand speed) than noncaregivers and those who provided less assistance with ADLs (Fredman et al., 2009).  This increased physical activity among caregivers providing high levels of assistance may have actually protected them against physical decline. These women may not have experienced the benefits of increased physical activity if not for their caregiving experience. While caregiving can be stressful, it can also keep caregivers active, motivate them to care for their own health, and give them a purpose in life.

Caregiving may also lead to better attitudes towards oneself and one’s life. Several studies have found that over 90% of caregivers reported a greater appreciation for life because of their caregiving experience. These caregivers said they felt needed, appreciated, and important. They also reported that caregiving had helped them strengthen relationships with others, develop a more positive attitude towards life, and learn a new skill.

What makes the caregiving experience positive?

Although caregiving is a demanding role, caregivers can take care of their own well-being by using the psychological and social resources available to them. Vitaliano and his colleagues (2003) suggested that distress is determined by exposure to stressors and vulnerability, in proportion to the psychological and social resources of the individual. Psychological resources can be any internal resource that you rely on in stressful situations, such as being able to see benefits, your problem solving skills, and spirituality. Social resources include support from family and friends, caregiver support groups, and communities such as churches.  The more socially engaged we are, the more resilient we may be.  We laugh more, we experience more positive feelings and emotions.  In the past some have seen this as a form of denial, but more recently we have begun to see these strategies as positive ways to reduce stress, even after particularly aversive events such as the death of a spouse (Bonanno, 2004). Reframing the caregiving experience by finding meaning and benefits in the role can help caregivers see caregiving as a more positive experience. Armed with these internal and external resources, and with the knowledge that they are stronger than they realized, caregivers can better cope with the stressors of the caregiving experience.

Why does this matter? 

For a while we have seen the caregiving experience as almost entirely a time of chronic stress and strain, but this is not the whole picture. There are positive benefits too, such as the physical benefits that come from increased physical activity and the psychological benefits from giving care to a loved one. Seeing the benefits, relying on psychological and social resources, and reappraising the caregiving experience are all ways to make the caregiving experience more positive. We need to rethink how we portray the caregiving role – yes, it can be stressful, but assuming the role of a caregiver does not guarantee physical or emotional harm. Promoting the positive aspects of caregiving can help ensure that people are not deterred from what could be a highly rewarding and beneficial experience and that we continue to meet the care needs of the aging population.

To learn more about caregiving and available resources see the APA Family Caregivers Briefcase.


Beach, S. R., Schulz, R., Yee, J. L., & Jackson, S. (2000). Negative and positive health effects of caring for a disabled spouse: Longitudinal findings from the caregiver health effects study. Psychology and Aging, 15, 259–271.

Bonanno, G. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59(1), 20-28.

 Fredman, L., Doros, G., Ensrud, K. E., Hochberg, M. C., & Cauley, J. A. (2009) Caregiving intensity and change in physical functioning over a 2-year period: Results of the caregiver-study of osteoporotic fractures. American Journal of Epidemiology, 170(2), 203-210.

National Opinion Research Center. (2014, May). Long term care in America: Expectations and realities. Retrieved from http://www. Term%20Care%20in%20America_FINAL%20WEB.pdf

Pinquart, M., & Sörensen, S. (2003).  Differences between caregivers and noncaregivers in psychological health and physical health: A meta-analysis.  Psychology and Aging, 18(2), 250-267.

Roth, D. L., Perkins, M., Wadley, V. G., Temple, E. M., & Haley, W. E. (2009). Family caregiving and emotional strain: Associations with quality of life in a large national sample of middle-aged and older adults. Quality of Life Research, 18(6), 679–688.

Roth, D. L., Fredman, L., & Haley, W. E. (2015). Informal caregiving and its impact on health: A reappraisal from population-based studies. The Gerontologist, 55, 309-319.

Schulz, R., & Beach, S. R. (1999). Caregiving as a risk factor for mortality: The Caregiver Health Effects Study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 282, 2215–2219.

Vitaliano, P. P., Zhang, J., & Scanlon, J. M. (2003).  Is caregiving hazardous to one’s health? A meta-analysis.  Psychological Bulletin, 129(6), 946-972.


Victoria R. Marino is an undergraduate student at the University of South Florida expecting to graduate in May 2016 with a BA in Gerontology and a minor in Behavioral Healthcare. She has received the Wiley P. Mangum Scholarship for her academic performance in Gerontology as well as the Mom’s Project Scholarship for her undergraduate research in positive aging, and aims to pursue a PhD in Aging Studies.

William E. Haley, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Professor in the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida. He has studied family caregiving for over 30 years, and has served as President of APA Division 20 (Adult Development and Aging) and the APA Society of Clinical Geropsychology (Division 12, Section II).

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Filed under: Aging Tagged: aging

The time is now for mental health reform, Every Day, In All-Gender Restrooms: the Signs Reflect the Times and more- In Case You Missed It– November 9th, 2015

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address the time is now for mental health reform, in all-gender restrooms: the signs reflect the times and more.

The time is now for mental health reform- The Washington Times

More than 13 million Americans have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, and the majority of them are going without treatment. A patchwork of programs and policies spanning numerous federal and state agencies makes the task of managing mental illness challenging for physicians, providers, patients and their families. This is complicated by fragmented delivery and reimbursement systems that disregard parity laws, regulatory barriers, workforce shortages and the enduring stigma surrounding mental health. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is scheduled to markup the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This legislation would comprehensively address the issues faced by people with serious mental illness, as well as the 60 million Americans who live with another form of mental health or substance use disorder. Mental health reform would be a great accomplishment for Congress and the American public.

Every Student, Every Day – U.S. Department of Education

In response to the President’s call to action to improve the lives of all young people through the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK), the Obama Administration is launched on October 7, 2015, Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. Every Student, Every Day is focused on the estimated 5 to 7.5 million students who are chronically absent each year. Chronic absenteeism puts students at heightened risk of falling behind and dropping out of school. Despite record high school graduation rates, too many of our nation’s young people—particularly students who are low-income, of color, homeless, highly mobile, with disabilities, and/or juvenile justice-involved—still do not graduate from high school or are off-track toward that important goal. This initiative will empower educators and communities to close the opportunity gap facing our most vulnerable children and ensure there’s a student at every school desk, every day,” said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.

In All-Gender Restrooms, the Signs Reflect the Times – The New York Times

The Whitney Museum of American Art moved to its new location in Lower Manhattan, which provides restrooms for everyone on the gender spectrum. The Whitney is not alone in being challenged to rethink one of the most basic uses of public space. With the issues of serving openly in the military and same-sex marriage now largely resolved, the fight for all-gender restrooms has emerged as the latest civil rights issue in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (L.G.B.T.) community. Ever since their introduction, restrooms have been a curious ground zero for civil rights, whether for African-Americans or people with disabilities. Schools and universities (including Johns Hopkins and Michigan State), museums (like the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City), restaurants both trendy and modest (such as the Pass & Provisions in Houston and the Midtown Cafe in Santa Cruz, Calif.) and even the White House (in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) are recasting the traditional men’s/women’s room, resulting in a dizzying range of (often creative) signage and vocabulary.

APA Exclusive– All-gender restrooms were made available during the 2014 and 2015 APA Conventions and will continue to be provided at future APA Conventions. They will also be provided at the spring and fall consolidated meetings of APA Boards and Committees.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

Leave us a comment.

For more In Case, You Missed It,  go to our homepage and subscribe to our blog via RSS or email.

Moreover, don’t forget to follow us on social media:
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You can also follow APA on Twitter (@APA) and Facebook.

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 Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: In Case You Missed It Tagged: advocacy, Children, children's mental health, culture, discrimination

Is the minimum wage a psychological matter? (Spoiler alert: Yes)


By Gabriel Twose (Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, APA Public Interest Government Relations Office)

Do you think that the field of psychology has anything to say about the minimum wage?  In a recent article in American Psychologist, Laura Smith of Columbia University argues that psychology has much to contribute.  Psychological research contributes to our understanding of poverty by highlighting its developmental and health risks for low-income Americans, and how stereotypes about poverty affect that population.

The Facts about the Minimum Wage
The federal minimum wage in the United States was established in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, aiming to ensure “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” It reached its peak buying power in 1968, but has failed to keep up with inflation.  The minimum wage was raised to $7.50 per hour in 1999, which is where it stands today.  This is far from a living wage – it is not enough to lift a full time worker with a child above the poverty line.  Although a number of states tie their minimum wage to the cost of living, the federal government has not instituted such an index.

Psychological harms of poverty
Poverty and economic adversity can be difficult environments.  Substantial psychological evidence has outlined the potential harms that can accrue. For example, low-income children and adults are more likely than those living in more affluent circumstances to be at risk for developmental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and worse academic outcomes, with negative implications for success later in life.

Marginalization and exclusion
Psychological research has also looked at other facets of the debate around the minimum wage. Stereotypes about individuals shape others’ reactions to them and opportunities provided to them. We know that the poor are often stereotyped as lazy and stupid, and both politicians and the general public tend to ignore the structural factors that create and perpetuate their circumstances.  Low-wage workers are often treated worse than other workers; you can probably think of examples in your own life, as you’ve seen how people can speak to fast-food workers, janitorial staff, or manual laborers.  Dr. Smith cites a study in which participants rated applicants for a position in a parent-teacher organization; when the candidate was described as working class, she was rated as cruder, more irresponsible, and less suited for the position.  These kind of biases and stereotypes, often unconscious, can lead to marginalization and social exclusion.  This exclusion can make it more difficult to get a job, and has additional harmful effects; excluded people tend to behave more aggressively, make more high-risk, self-defeating decisions, and score worse on logic and reasoning tasks.

Policy Solutions
Dr. Smith points out that several cities have already begun experimenting with increased minimum wages in order to lift workers out of poverty, including San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, and Santa Fe, NM.  Additionally, there are a number of relevant federal bills, several of which have been supported by APA.

  • Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) have introduced legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 ( 1150/H.R. 2150).
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) have called for an increase to $15 an hour ( 1832/H.R. 3164).
  • Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2014, which would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against unemployed job-seekers by refusing to consider them for employment. Although this bill was not passed, it has been incorporated into the recently introduced Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Act of 2015 (R. 3555).

Get involved!
Psychological research has an important role to play in the conversation around the minimum wage, explaining both the negative effects of poverty and the ways in which we marginalize the poor, deeming them unworthy of our help.  The minimum wage is a natural focus for psychologists’ advocacy, and we encourage you to get involved.  A great way to do this is to sign up for APA’s Federal Action Network, joining 123,000 members and affiliates in raising psychology’s voice as one.

Image source: Flickr user Michael Fleshman on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Copyright 2015 American Psychological Association

Filed under: Poverty and Socioeconomic Status, Public Policy Tagged: advocacy, culture

Weight and exercise may affect children’s thinking skills, Alzheimer’s link leads to more financial planning, Migrant children: arriving alone and frightened and more- In Case You Missed It– November 2, 2015

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address the impact of weight and exercise on children’s thinking skills, Alzheimer’s link leads to more financial planning, migrant children: arriving alone and frightened and more. 

Weight, Exercise May Affect Children’s Thinking Skills-U.S. News & World Report

Children’s weight and physical activity levels may affect their thinking and learning skills, according to a study just out in Pediatric Exercise Science. Researchers studied 45 normal-weight children, aged 7 to 11; 24 of them were active and the rest were not. Researchers found that normal-weight active children did better on tests of mental skills — such as planning and paying attention — than their inactive counterparts. This association between physical activity and mental skills in children is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship. As Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist, commented, the good news is that children — with the help of families and schools – may be able to improve thinking skills by boosting their physical activity levels.

Alzheimer’s Link Leads to More Financial Planning -The Wall Street Journal

A forthcoming study from professors at the University of Utah says people whose families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease are much more likely to seek expert financial advice and are more likely to delay retirement, compared with people for whom Alzheimer’s isn’t an issue. Cost concerns arising from Alzheimer’s disease, which can require years of institutionalized care, are pushing individuals to plan more. The study, which has been submitted to American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, notes that care for Alzheimer’s patients is costing the patients or their families’ on average $56,290 a year, based on data from 2010. The number of Alzheimer’s patients, meanwhile, is expected to triple to 13.8 million by 2050.  Cathleen Zick, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah and one of three authors of the study, says everyone needs a realistic estimate of what they will need for retirement and a plan to help them meet those needs—especially people with potentially serious health concerns.

Migrant Children, Arriving Alone and Frightened– The New York times

Last year, more than 23,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the 28 member countries of the European Union, according to the United Nations. That was before the number of refugees surged this year. By now, 30,000 are estimated to live in Germany alone. Two dozen psychological profiles of recent arrivals provide indications that many of Europe’s new mystery children are boys ages 14 to 17, sent by families too poor to pay smugglers for more than a single journey. Some lost their parents to war or murder at home. A few were escaping recruitment as child soldiers or suicide bombers. Only about 2 percent of the teenagers who arrive alone are girls, but they often have the most harrowing tales of abuse. In a separate headquarters, with a 2-million-euro budget and a staff of 25, workers who used to protect neglected and abused children from drug-addicted parents and domestic violence now spend their days finding foster families, homes, psychological support, legal guardians and schools for the young Syrian, Afghan and Somali arrivals. The numbers are now so large that everything is scarce.

The Hidden Stigma In The Talk Therapy And Schizophrenia Study– Forbes

The good news is:  A just published study found that talk therapy benefits patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis. Thirty-four clinics in 21 states treated patients suffering from a first-episode psychosis with a “comprehensive” program rather than usual community care. But even in this study, stigma may be evident. The clinicians doing the work, according to a 2014 presentation by Dr. John M. Kane, the lead researcher on the study, “have at least Bachelor’s level education and prior clinical experience,” compared with master’s or doctoral level clinicians in other settings.  The impact of level of training and expertise on outcomes is a question we should look at.

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Filed under: In Case You Missed It Tagged: aging, bullying, Children, children's mental health