Monthly Archives: April 2016

Islamophobia in the U.S.: A Threat to Justice Everywhere

blog-islamophobia

By Muninder Kaur Ahluwalia, PhD (Montclair State University) and Saba Rasheed Ali, PhD (University of Iowa)

A Muslim mom, Melissa Chance Yassini, recently wrote on her Facebook page:

Sad day in America when I have to comfort my 8 year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America. She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.

This scenario illustrates how Islamophobia in the U.S. is making many American Muslims feel unsafe in the country they call home. Islamophobia can be defined as an unfounded dislike, distrust, fear, prejudice, or hatred against Muslims or Islam.

Islamophobia really began during the European enlightenment in early 19th century with the rise of Orientalism. On the Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Stereotypes website , Dr. Edward W. Said characterizes Orientalism in part as the Western depiction of Arab cultures as inferior or even dangerous. This philosophy is believed to be the foundation for modern day Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is exacerbated whenever the U.S. has conflict with Middle Eastern countries or a terrorist attack occurs on Western soil.  Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Islamophobia has undergone a period of dramatic spikes and declines. Immediately after 9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment rose sharply and then declined until the controversy over the Ground Zero faith center saw an increase in anti-Muslim hostility.

The anti-Muslim rhetoric of the current presidential election coupled with recent terrorist attacks by the so called Islamic State (or ISIS) has also produced another spike in backlash against Muslims according to an article in the New York Times. They reported that the rate of hate crimes directed at Muslims in the U.S. tripled after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino according to data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

The result of Islamophobia is discrimination and oppression against not only Muslims, but anyone who “appears” or “sounds” Muslim, including Sikhs and non-Muslim Arabs, and Hindus. Throughout U.S. history, we have falsely assumed that individuals who are visible racial and ethnic minorities are aligned with their country of origin or ancestry to the detriment of their loyalty to the United States. Our history provides numerous examples of this type of systemic oppression, where individuals with minority or marginalized identities were enslaved, denied citizenship, denied the right to vote, had their children taken forcibly from their families, and imprisoned.

In the 1940s during WWII, Japanese Americans living in California were branded as a “foreign enemy,” simultaneously stripped of their homes, property, and possessions and placed into internment camps. This violation of human rights occurred despite the fact that most Americans of Japanese descent expressed their strong allegiance to the U.S. and had never lived in Japan. In 1988, the Civil Liberties Act was signed into law, acknowledging that the treatment of Japanese Americans was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

However, comments and proposals by a number of 2016 presidential candidates  evoke sentiments reminiscent of the 1940s, with political leaders using fear and anger to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment. Presidential candidates have invoked some of the same hysteria regarding Muslims (and Sikhs and Arabs) in the U.S. used for Japanese Americans during WWII. For example, politicians have suggested registering Muslims, banning Muslims from entry into the country, and constant police surveillance of Muslims as options.

Islamophobia can have grave legal, physical health and mental health effects for individuals in the Muslim, Sikh and Arab communities. These consequences parallel those that are faced by individuals with other marginalized and targeted identities, as referenced in APA’s report on discrimination and diversity. Islamophobia is deeply institutionalized in the U.S.

Law enforcement routinely conducts surveillance on Muslim communities, and the TSA often unfairly conducts additional screenings for Sikh boys and men who wear patkas and turbans, asking them to remove their religious head covering and testing their hands for explosives. Increased surveillance of Muslim communities (or those perceived to be Muslim) has been associated with heightened anxiety and stress (see “Under Surveillance and Overwrought: American Muslims’ Emotional and Behavioral Responses to Government Surveillance”).

In addition, there are numerous hate crimes linked to Islamophobia, including the 2012 mass shooting by a white supremacist gunman who targeted and killed Sikhs in their Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara (Sikh place of worship). The gunman misidentified the Sikhs as Muslims because of mass media’s stereotyping of Muslims as people who wear turbans.

When individuals are targeted because of their identity, their persistent experiences with hate crimes and institutionalized oppression can result in anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. In addition, these individuals may internalize the oppression, taking in the negative, faulty messages about them and their communities as truth.

This internalized oppression can directly impact individuals’ feeling that they need to hide or discard their religious identifiers (e.g., the hijab or headscarf for Muslim women, the turban for Sikh men) or cease attendance at their places of worship. The indirect impact of Islamophobia on all minority and marginalized communities is that they feel their position in this country and thereby their rights are precarious. In addition, the impact on larger society is that justice becomes irrelevant.

In the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.”

Islamophobia is a threat to justice and threatens the shared destiny of humankind.

Psychologists, in their roles as mental health practitioners, researchers, educators, trainers, and consultants, have a responsibility to help combat Islamophobia within themselves and in others. Psychological science tells us that it can be done.

The first steps include a greater awareness of self, and an understanding of how privilege and power play out to continue oppression of Muslims, Sikhs and Arabs. From there, education and increased interaction amongst people from different faith and ethnic backgrounds can promote tolerance and respect. This is often referred to in psychology as the contact hypothesis. Even if the contact is not actual, but merely imagined, people can reduce prejudice. The imagine contact hypothesis (i.e., imagining a positive interaction with an outgroup member) has been shown to reduce prejudice against Muslims and other minority groups (for more information, see this meta-analytic test of the imagined contact hypothesis).

And finally, Islamophobia can be fought by openly advocating for respect and humanity. At the beginning of this blog entry, we spoke about the young Muslim girl living in fear. In response to that, U.S. soldiers and veterans from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds publicly stated their intent to protect her, using social media as an exemplary way to counteract widespread discrimination and prejudice directed at Muslim children.

Biographies:

Dr. Muninder K. Ahluwalia is an Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership at Montclair State University.  She earned her PhD in counseling psychology from New York University in 2002.  Her research and teaching have focused on multicultural issues in counseling, the experiences of Sikh Americans since 9/11, intersectionality, and patterns of race and racism in academia. She was awarded the American Counseling Association Counselors for Social Justice ‘Ohana Award in 2012. In addition to her academic work, she currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, and as an advisory board member on the Committee for Diversity and Public Interest for the Counseling Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. She has previously served as chair of the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs of the American Psychological Association. In her consultation practice, she provides diversity assessment, training, and programming for a wide range of organizations.

Dr. Saba Rasheed Ali is an associate professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Quantitative and Psychological Foundations at the University of Iowa. She earned her PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Oregon in 2001. Her research interest are concerned with issues related to Islam and psychology, feminism, and vocational psychology. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the current chair of the Society for Vocational Psychology. In 2004, she published an article entitled Islam 101: Understanding the Religion and Therapy Implications with her colleagues, William Liu and Majeda Humedian. She has been active in providing webinars, presentations, and workshops to psychologists, mental health providers, and community members on issues related to Islamophobia and Muslim Americans.

 

 

 


Filed under: Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: bias, discrimination, hate crime, islamophobia, prejudice, racial profiling, racism, religious discrimination, stereotypes, stereotyping

Health and Healthcare Injustice: Why We Really Should Care About HIV Disparities

red aids ribbon in hand.

By Alyssa Arentoft, PhD (California State University, Northridge) & Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD (Fordham University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps nowhere are health and healthcare inequities so glaring as in HIV.

In the early years of the HIV epidemic, when we knew little about the virus and no viable treatment existed, HIV was viewed as a death sentence. During the 1990s and early 2000s, advances in medical and pharmacological treatment transformed HIV into a chronic, long-term condition. Concerns have now shifted from simply surviving HIV to living and hopefully thriving with the virus.

Much has changed since HIV first gripped the nation. Sadly, one thing remains constant—HIV continues to take its largest toll on our society’s most vulnerable, resulting in pervasive health and healthcare disparities.

So, what are health and healthcare disparities?

A health disparity exists when a particular group of people is more significantly affected by a condition than the general public.

“Affected” can mean:

  • Having higher rates of the condition, or
  • Having worse outcomes as a result of the condition, such as higher rates of medical complications, disability, or death.

A healthcare disparity refers to differences at the service level, such as access to healthcare coverage and medical treatment, as well as the quality of those services.

What health and healthcare disparities exist in HIV?

Prominent health disparities exist among:

  • African Americans
  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Transgender people
  • People from low-income backgrounds

HIV+ individuals from these groups experience the following health and healthcare disparities:

  • Higher rates of HIV infection. For example, African Americans comprise 12% of the U.S. population, yet 41% of the HIV+ population. Latinos comprise 16% of the U.S. population, yet 21% of the HIV+ population.
  • Delayed HIV diagnosis
  • Less access to medical treatment for HIV
  • Lower quality healthcare
  • Lower likelihood of being prescribed HIV medication
  • Higher rates of death and disability
  • Worse cognitive or neurological outcomes

Why is this important?

By nature, health and healthcare disparities reflect injustices in our society, and those injustices can and should be remedied. As wage gaps widen and our population becomes increasingly diverse, these inequities will affect even more citizens.

From a social justice perspective, we must right these wrongs and protect the most vulnerable. From a health and economic perspective, the cost of not doing so is too great—if injustice is not ended, we all pay the price.

What do we need to do?

HIV has long been shrouded in stigma and HIV+ individuals often face discrimination. Therefore, we need to continue to:

  • Make efforts to de-stigmatize HIV and its treatment
  • Examine the complex relationship between these inequities and social, economic, environmental, cultural, and structural factors
  • Protect those at greater risk of contracting HIV
  • Identify and remove barriers to quality healthcare for those who become HIV+

We have a long way to go to eliminate these inequities in HIV, but we are making progress in reducing them.

Find out more about key initiatives such as the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy (NHAS) and CDC’s Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning project (ECHPP).

Act Against AIDS is a CDC-sponsored website that lists different programs you can get involved in to help in the fight against AIDS.

To find out what APA is doing about HIV, visit the Office on AIDS webpage.

Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity” – Bill Gates

 

Biographies:

Alyssa Arentoft, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at California State University, Northridge. Her research explores brain-behavior relationships in disease states using a biopsychosociocultural framework. She is particularly interested in health disparities and health-related outcomes among underrepresented and disenfranchised populations. Her current work is focused on individuals with HIV/AIDS. Ongoing projects in this area include an NIMH-funded study examining longitudinal changes in the brain among HIV+ individuals as a function of HIV antiretroviral medication. Differences in healthcare quality between non-Hispanic white and African American participants, as well as factors associated with these differences, are also being examined.

Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD, is a Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at Fordham University. She also serves as Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist. Her interests are in a variety of neurological disorders, particularly neurodegenerative disorders such as HIV/AIDS. Over the past few years, she has conducted numerous neuropsychological evaluations within her private practice with a variety of populations, including traumatic brain injury, dementia, Spanish-speakers, and others. Her primary projects at this time include a study of the neurocognitive and sociocultural aspects of antiretroviral adherence among HIV+ Latino/a adults, as well as a study examining the neurocognitive effects of opiate replacement therapies among HIV+ and HIV- opiate users. Dr. Rivera Mindt also serves as a co-investigator on a multi-site study of the CNS effects of HIV in the era of combined antiretroviral therapy. She is also investigating the sociocultural aspects of neurocognitive test performance.


Filed under: AIDS, Health Disparities, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: aids, health care, health disparities, health equity, HIV, poverty, public policy, social justice

Health and Healthcare Injustice: Why We Really Should Care About HIV Disparities

red aids ribbon in hand.

By Alyssa Arentoft, PhD (California State University, Northridge) & Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD (Fordham University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps nowhere are health and healthcare inequities so glaring as in HIV.

In the early years of the HIV epidemic, when we knew little about the virus and no viable treatment existed, HIV was viewed as a death sentence. During the 1990s and early 2000s, advances in medical and pharmacological treatment transformed HIV into a chronic, long-term condition. Concerns have now shifted from simply surviving HIV to living and hopefully thriving with the virus.

Much has changed since HIV first gripped the nation. Sadly, one thing remains constant—HIV continues to take its largest toll on our society’s most vulnerable, resulting in pervasive health and healthcare disparities.

So, what are health and healthcare disparities?

A health disparity exists when a particular group of people is more significantly affected by a condition than the general public.

“Affected” can mean:

  • Having higher rates of the condition, or
  • Having worse outcomes as a result of the condition, such as higher rates of medical complications, disability, or death.

A healthcare disparity refers to differences at the service level, such as access to healthcare coverage and medical treatment, as well as the quality of those services.

What health and healthcare disparities exist in HIV?

Prominent health disparities exist among:

  • African Americans
  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Transgender people
  • People from low-income backgrounds

HIV+ individuals from these groups experience the following health and healthcare disparities:

  • Higher rates of HIV infection. For example, African Americans comprise 12% of the U.S. population, yet 41% of the HIV+ population. Latinos comprise 16% of the U.S. population, yet 21% of the HIV+ population.
  • Delayed HIV diagnosis
  • Less access to medical treatment for HIV
  • Lower quality healthcare
  • Lower likelihood of being prescribed HIV medication
  • Higher rates of death and disability
  • Worse cognitive or neurological outcomes

Why is this important?

By nature, health and healthcare disparities reflect injustices in our society, and those injustices can and should be remedied. As wage gaps widen and our population becomes increasingly diverse, these inequities will affect even more citizens.

From a social justice perspective, we must right these wrongs and protect the most vulnerable. From a health and economic perspective, the cost of not doing so is too great—if injustice is not ended, we all pay the price.

What do we need to do?

HIV has long been shrouded in stigma and HIV+ individuals often face discrimination. Therefore, we need to continue to:

  • Make efforts to de-stigmatize HIV and its treatment
  • Examine the complex relationship between these inequities and social, economic, environmental, cultural, and structural factors
  • Protect those at greater risk of contracting HIV
  • Identify and remove barriers to quality healthcare for those who become HIV+

We have a long way to go to eliminate these inequities in HIV, but we are making progress in reducing them.

Find out more about key initiatives such as the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy (NHAS) and CDC’s Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning project (ECHPP).

Act Against AIDS is a CDC-sponsored website that lists different programs you can get involved in to help in the fight against AIDS.

To find out what APA is doing about HIV, visit the Office on AIDS webpage.

Humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity” – Bill Gates

 

Biographies:

Alyssa Arentoft, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at California State University, Northridge. Her research explores brain-behavior relationships in disease states using a biopsychosociocultural framework. She is particularly interested in health disparities and health-related outcomes among underrepresented and disenfranchised populations. Her current work is focused on individuals with HIV/AIDS. Ongoing projects in this area include an NIMH-funded study examining longitudinal changes in the brain among HIV+ individuals as a function of HIV antiretroviral medication. Differences in healthcare quality between non-Hispanic white and African American participants, as well as factors associated with these differences, are also being examined.

Monica Rivera Mindt, PhD, is a Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at Fordham University. She also serves as Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist. Her interests are in a variety of neurological disorders, particularly neurodegenerative disorders such as HIV/AIDS. Over the past few years, she has conducted numerous neuropsychological evaluations within her private practice with a variety of populations, including traumatic brain injury, dementia, Spanish-speakers, and others. Her primary projects at this time include a study of the neurocognitive and sociocultural aspects of antiretroviral adherence among HIV+ Latino/a adults, as well as a study examining the neurocognitive effects of opiate replacement therapies among HIV+ and HIV- opiate users. Dr. Rivera Mindt also serves as a co-investigator on a multi-site study of the CNS effects of HIV in the era of combined antiretroviral therapy. She is also investigating the sociocultural aspects of neurocognitive test performance.


Filed under: AIDS, Health Disparities, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: aids, health care, health disparities, health equity, HIV, poverty, public policy, social justice

Food Stamp Cuts May Put 1 Million More Americans At Risk of Hunger: What We Can Do About It

hungersnapcuts

By Sara Buckingham, MA (Public Interest Policy Scholar, APA Public Interest Government Relations Office)

 

How do you decide between heating your apartment, purchasing lifesaving medication, and eating?

As of April 1, up to 1 million more Americans will face that decision.

 

Who is affected by hunger?

Nearly 50 million Americans – including one of every five children – are at risk of going hungry (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory, & Singha, 2015). Our largest and most effective solution to hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or ‘food stamps’). SNAP provides food assistance to people below a certain income level, helping to prevent hunger. This assistance also frees up their income for other necessities, such as housing, utilities, and health care.

 

Why are so many people now losing SNAP benefits?

Under the current law, adults who are ‘fit for work’ and not caring for a child can only access SNAP for 3 months in a 36-month period, unless they are:

 

  1. working or in a training program at least half-time or
  2. in a state with a particularly high unemployment rate.

 

Prior to 2016, most U.S. states qualified for this unemployment exemption, but now, due to lower unemployment rates, only 10 states qualify, and 3 of them are doing away with the exemption voluntarily. However, lower state unemployment rates do not represent everyone’s day-to-day experiences. Chronically unemployed people have given up looking for work, skewing employment data, and local unemployment rates vary widely within states.

 

States with Newly Reimposed SNAP Time Limits in 2016

snapmap

 

 

a 19 states are required to reimpose the time limit: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.

b Three states are voluntarily reimposing the time limit: Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

c 7 states and the District of Columbia currently qualify for an exemption to the time limit: California, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

d All other states imposed the time limit prior to 2016, either due to no longer qualifying or voluntarily doing away with the exemption.

 

Why is hunger a health problem?

 

Hunger is a debilitating condition and plenty of research demonstrates its harms:

 

  • Physical – hunger is associated with higher infant mortality rates, vulnerability to illnesses and infections, and impaired physical development. It is also associated with chronic diseases, including hypertension, abnormally elevated levels of lipids in the blood, and cardiovascular health issues (Seligman, Laraia, & Kushel, 2009).
  • Cognitive – hunger alters mental functioning and can even stunt intellectual capacity (Gundersen, Kreider, & Pepper, 2011).
  • Emotional – hunger impacts psychological well-being. One study even shows that families’ lack of sufficient food, irrespective of their income, is associated with persistent depressive disorder and suicidality in adolescents (Alaimo, Olson, & Frongillo, 2002).
  • Socioeconomics – hunger has wide-reaching effects. For example, children who are hungry perform worse in schools, and people of all ages perform worse on tests, with negative implications for future economic success (Gundersen, Kreider, & Pepper 2011). As with any scarce resource, people who are hungry spend their mental energy on their hunger, which can narrow their focus and lead them to neglect other areas of their home or work lives (Shah, Mullainathan, & Shafir, 2012).

 

What can Congress do to address this problem?  

  1. Revise the rule so that unemployed individuals diligently searching for jobs qualify for SNAP benefits
  2. Expand the time-limit on benefits to better reflect the typical unemployment period. Over the past year, the average length of unemployment has ranged from 7 to 8 months (U.S. Department of Labor, 2016). In 2002 and 2008, bills were introduced in the Senate to do this (S. 1731, S. 2302).

There are a number of solutions to this crisis, but our government must act quickly to return SNAP benefits to up to one million people who will lose them this year. You can help! Join APA’s Federal Action Network to participate in our public policy advocacy efforts.

 

 

 

References:

 

Alaimo, K., Olson, C. M., & Frongillo, E. A. (2002). Family food insufficiency, but not low family income, is positively associated with dysthymia and suicide symptoms in adolescents. The Journal of Nutrition, 132, 719-725.

 

Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C., & Singha, A. (2015). Household food security in the United States in 2014 (Report Number 194). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1896841/err194.pdf.

 

Gundersen, C., Kreider, B., & Pepper, J. (2011). The economics of food insecurity in the United States. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 33, 281-303.

 

Seligman, H. K., Laraia, B. A., & Kushel, M. B. (2010). Food insecurity is associated with chronic disease among low-income NHANES participants. The Journal of Nutrition, 140, 304-310. doi:10.3945/jn.109.112573

 

Shah, A. K., Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2012). Some consequences of having too little. Science, 338, 682-685. doi:10.1126/science.1222426

 

U.S. Department of Labor. (2016). Unemployed persons by duration of unemployment. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t12.htm.


Filed under: Health and Wellness, Poverty and Socioeconomic Status, Public Policy Tagged: food assistance, food stamps, hunger, public health, public policy, SNAP cuts

No Progress, No Change: HIV Funding Stagnant for Third Year in a Row

HIV-Funding

By Sarah J. Javier, MS (PhD Candidate in Health Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University)

On February 9, President Obama released his proposed budget for FY 2017. The $4 trillion budget included several provisions for research on clean energy, education, and Medicaid. However, for advocates of HIV/AIDS research, one thing was startlingly clear: HIV/AIDS is fast becoming an insignificant issue in Congress.

There are over 1.1 million people in the United States currently living with HIV and over 18% of those individuals have no idea they are infected. The devastation of the disease has resulted in over half a million deaths in the United States alone, and there are 50,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV every year.

In 2015, the Obama Administration updated the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS).  The updated Strategy restated the original NHAS vision in which the “United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person … will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.” The updated NHAS makes clear that we still need sustained investments in HIV prevention and treatment.

However, this Administration has not backed up the strategy with needed resources. While the Federal government has provided vital funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research infectious diseases, the level allocated to HIV/AIDS research has remained flat for the past three budget periods. In addition, funding for Behavioral and Social Science Research (BSSR) has slightly decreased in the new budget proposal, indicating that this is also an area in which an increase in funding dollars is not of great interest.

Why invest in HIV/AIDS?

Government officials may ask why HIV/AIDS should remain a priority for Federal investment as opposed to other infectious diseases or autoimmune disorders. The answer to this conundrum lies in fiscal numbers. The cost of treating HIV multiplied by 50,000 new infections per year (an amount that has also remained stagnant over the past few years) equals a collective lifetime treatment cost of approximately $9.5 billion per year. Meanwhile, investing in evidence-based treatments and prevention programs could save nearly 5X that amount, i.e. $40.5 billion in lifetime healthcare costs by 2020 if we prevent 240,000 new infections. Forty billion dollars could make a huge difference to other national high-priority areas of investment, such as education and clean energy.

The importance of HIV/AIDS research.

Federally-funded research on HIV/AIDS has saved millions of lives globally. Had it not been for NIH-funded grants incentivizing HIV and AIDS research, we would not know the benefits of early initiation, treatment, and testing in curtailing the spread of the virus. Furthermore, grants from both the CDC and NIH have allowed independent researchers to discover prevention tools such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in blocking the onset of the virus among high-risk populations such as injection drug-users. Despite incredible advances in HIV/AIDS research, our work is not yet done. Scientists are on the brink of developing even more effective prevention tools such as microbicides and vaccines to prevent HIV transmission. Now is not the time to risk stopping further scientific progress by cutting the availability of federal funds for HIV research.  The proposed amount allocated to HIV/AIDS research is severely inadequate and needs to be increased to accelerate progress in discovering prevention tools and ultimately a cure.

The need for behavioral and social science research

The lack of investment in HIV/AIDS research reflects a bigger issue of a growing disinterest in behavioral and social sciences research. BSSR was quite obviously absent from the HIV/AIDS research priorities set forth by NIH this past year. The progression of HIV and the development of AIDS are not isolated to physical and immunological symptoms. Often, the disease is accompanied by mental health and in some cases, substance abuse issues not yet understood by the current body of research. BSSR is vital to understanding these issues in persons living with HIV so that we can treat them on a holistic level and improve their overall quality of life.

What can you do to help?

  • Find your representative to see what they are doing to serve the needs of the research community in your area.
  • Learn more about the psychological effects of HIV/AIDS by visiting the APA Office on AIDS website.
  • Sign up for our Federal Action Network to receive updates on APA’s important public policy advocacy efforts in Congress on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Image source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: AIDS, Public Policy Tagged: aids, AIDS federal funding, AIDS research, AIDS research funding, HIV/AIDS research, National HIV/AIDS Strategy, public policy

No Progress, No Change: HIV Funding Stagnant for Third Year in a Row

HIV-Funding

By Sarah J. Javier, MS (PhD Candidate in Health Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University)

On February 9, President Obama released his proposed budget for FY 2017. The $4 trillion budget included several provisions for research on clean energy, education, and Medicaid. However, for advocates of HIV/AIDS research, one thing was startlingly clear: HIV/AIDS is fast becoming an insignificant issue in Congress.

There are over 1.1 million people in the United States currently living with HIV and over 18% of those individuals have no idea they are infected. The devastation of the disease has resulted in over half a million deaths in the United States alone, and there are 50,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV every year.

In 2015, the Obama Administration updated the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS).  The updated Strategy restated the original NHAS vision in which the “United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person … will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.” The updated NHAS makes clear that we still need sustained investments in HIV prevention and treatment.

However, this Administration has not backed up the strategy with needed resources. While the Federal government has provided vital funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research infectious diseases, the level allocated to HIV/AIDS research has remained flat for the past three budget periods. In addition, funding for Behavioral and Social Science Research (BSSR) has slightly decreased in the new budget proposal, indicating that this is also an area in which an increase in funding dollars is not of great interest.

Why invest in HIV/AIDS?

Government officials may ask why HIV/AIDS should remain a priority for Federal investment as opposed to other infectious diseases or autoimmune disorders. The answer to this conundrum lies in fiscal numbers. The cost of treating HIV multiplied by 50,000 new infections per year (an amount that has also remained stagnant over the past few years) equals a collective lifetime treatment cost of approximately $9.5 billion per year. Meanwhile, investing in evidence-based treatments and prevention programs could save nearly 5X that amount, i.e. $40.5 billion in lifetime healthcare costs by 2020 if we prevent 240,000 new infections. Forty billion dollars could make a huge difference to other national high-priority areas of investment, such as education and clean energy.

The importance of HIV/AIDS research.

Federally-funded research on HIV/AIDS has saved millions of lives globally. Had it not been for NIH-funded grants incentivizing HIV and AIDS research, we would not know the benefits of early initiation, treatment, and testing in curtailing the spread of the virus. Furthermore, grants from both the CDC and NIH have allowed independent researchers to discover prevention tools such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in blocking the onset of the virus among high-risk populations such as injection drug-users. Despite incredible advances in HIV/AIDS research, our work is not yet done. Scientists are on the brink of developing even more effective prevention tools such as microbicides and vaccines to prevent HIV transmission. Now is not the time to risk stopping further scientific progress by cutting the availability of federal funds for HIV research.  The proposed amount allocated to HIV/AIDS research is severely inadequate and needs to be increased to accelerate progress in discovering prevention tools and ultimately a cure.

The need for behavioral and social science research

The lack of investment in HIV/AIDS research reflects a bigger issue of a growing disinterest in behavioral and social sciences research. BSSR was quite obviously absent from the HIV/AIDS research priorities set forth by NIH this past year. The progression of HIV and the development of AIDS are not isolated to physical and immunological symptoms. Often, the disease is accompanied by mental health and in some cases, substance abuse issues not yet understood by the current body of research. BSSR is vital to understanding these issues in persons living with HIV so that we can treat them on a holistic level and improve their overall quality of life.

What can you do to help?

  • Find your representative to see what they are doing to serve the needs of the research community in your area.
  • Learn more about the psychological effects of HIV/AIDS by visiting the APA Office on AIDS website.
  • Sign up for our Federal Action Network to receive updates on APA’s important public policy advocacy efforts in Congress on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Image source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: AIDS, Public Policy Tagged: aids, AIDS federal funding, AIDS research, AIDS research funding, HIV/AIDS research, National HIV/AIDS Strategy, public policy

“Don’t Believe the Hype”: 4 Reasons to Doubt That Most Mass Shooters are Mentally Ill

blog-mass-shootings-myths-mental-illness

By Joel Dvoskin, PhD, ABPP (Chair, Nevada Behavioral Health and Wellness Council)

Too often, even the most well-intentioned among us believe that most mass shootings are carried out by those with untreated mental illness. As a forensic and clinical psychologist with extensive experience treating individuals with serious mental illness, and as a member of APA’s Policy Review Task Force on the Prediction and Prevention of Gun Violence, I believe this to be unfounded and incorrect for the following four reasons:

 

1. We often base our belief that mental illness is a characteristic of mass shooters on retrospective or circular logic.

In other words, people say, “You’d have to be crazy (sic) to do something like that.” Further, in the aftermath of a heinous crime, even minor quirks and eccentricities are often incorrectly labeled as evidence of mental illness through the stigmatizing lens of retrospective analysis.

 

2. Many mass shootings are connected to organized crime and many others are connected to domestic violence.

Even though many of us believe that one would have to have a personality disorder to be in a criminal gang, that myth ignores the sad truth that in some parts of America, joining a gang is a survival tactic for adolescents. And sadly in the case of domestic violence, which is all too common, it can become fatal when a firearm is used.

 

3. Our media tends to overhype mass shootings committed by individuals who appear to be mentally ill.

There is typically saturation publicity when a mass homicide appears to have been committed by someone with psychiatric problems, leading the public (and, sadly, many mental health professionals) to overgeneralize from these few vivid cases. Professor Michael Perlin has referred to this as “the vividness heuristic.” And make no mistake of it; vividness and extreme statements sell TV advertising much more successfully than truthful reporting of the news.

 

4. Crisis is the culprit, not mental illness.

I have studied many of these seemingly irrational mass homicides, and in my opinion, many of them are perpetrated by people without serious mental illnesses (the way that term is appropriately used). What the perpetrators seem to have in common is the experience of extreme situational crisis. This often includes rage and despair, sometimes fueled by alcohol or stimulants. For more information on this, see APA’s Resolution on Firearm Violence Research and Prevention. While a situational emotional crisis could be characterized as an adjustment disorder or acute depression, terms such as “serious mental illness,” “the mentally ill”, etc. typically refer to people with serious and persistent emotional and cognitive conditions that have pervasively made their lives more difficult over time. Referring to situational crises as evidence linking mental illness to mass homicide is, once again, circular reasoning that creates misleading discourse.

 

Strengthening the public mental health system will help those in crisis

Most perpetrators of random mass shootings either commit suicide, manage to get killed by police, or spend the rest of their lives locked up. In any case, they have given up on life as they know it. Thus, it is useful to understand that mass shootings, in addition to being homicides, are typically acts of suicide or its metaphorical equivalent.

While it is virtually impossible to know which of the millions of people in emotional crisis will commit acts of murder and suicide, we do know how to prevent suicides. By using simple public health approaches to suicide prevention, American jails have managed to dramatically reduce the number of jail suicides. (Read anything by Lindsay Hayes of the National Center for Institutions and Alternatives for data on this).

I have spoken often over the past few years about ways in which the public mental health system can and must help to prevent mass homicides. This is not because of its important role in treating persons with serious mental illness. Rather I see the public mental health system as equivalent to other first responders such as Fire and Rescue, Police, and EMT’s. And like those vital services, mental health care should receive adequate funding to provide timely and competent services to people in extreme crisis and despair, whether or not they happen to have a psychiatric diagnosis.

Crisis workers need to be adequately compensated and trained in enough numbers to respond to crises with skill and speed. The U.S. public mental health system has been ravaged by budget cuts, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, during the past 15 years. If America would meaningfully invest in suicide prevention, I believe that we would prevent some mass homicides.

 

Policy changes and funding can help

Violence and its origins are currently at the forefront of political debate in the U.S. It’s heartening to see and take part in the robust national dialogue about mental illness, violence, and criminal justice that is happening at the federal level. Congress is working on legislation to overhaul both the public mental health system and the criminal justice system. APA supports their efforts to ensure that individuals with serious mental illness get access to care. We also are encouraged by the push to provide federal funding for research into the causes and prevention of violence without unnecessary restrictions.

Helping people in emotional crisis can not only prevent suicide and mass homicides. It can prevent deeper involvement in the criminal justice system as well. APA strongly supports diversion from deeper levels of justice system involvement, when public safety allows, so that individuals with mental illness can obtain the care they need. Law enforcement officers who serve on crisis intervention teams can divert individuals pre-arrest and connect them with public mental health resources. Diversion also allows criminal justice agencies to focus on those individuals for whom jail time is deemed necessary.

Emotional crises are an equal opportunity phenomenon. They can happen to anyone experiencing enough distress whether or not they have a serious mental illness. The public mental health system should be able to help them see a less horrifying way to alleviate their psychological pain.

For more information on preventing gun violence, read APA’s seminal report – Gun Violence: Prevention, Prediction and Policy.

 

Biography:

Joel Dvoskin, PhD is a clinical psychologist, licensed in the State of Arizona since 1981 and the State of New Mexico since 2005.  He is a Diplomate in Forensic Psychology of the American Board of Professional Psychology, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychology-Law Society.  Dr. Dvoskin is past President of Division 18 of the American Psychological Association, Psychologists in Public Service, (2000-2001), past President of the American Psychology-Law Society, Division 41 of the APA. He is the former Acting Commissioner of Mental Health for the State of NY and the former Chair of the (Nevada) Governor’s Advisory Council on Behavioral Health and Wellness. Dr. Dvoskin holds a Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. He is also author of numerous articles and chapters in professional journals and texts, including a number of articles that deal with treatment of persons with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorders.  He has been qualified as an expert witness on these and related issues in numerous state and federal courts throughout the United States. Dr. Dvoskin also served as a member of APA’s Policy Review Task Force on the Prediction and Prevention of Gun Violence.

Image source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: Public Policy, Violence Tagged: emotional crisis, gun violence, gun violence prevention, mass shootings, mental health system, mental illness, serious mental illness, suicide prevention, violence prevention

Can a Healthy Diet Prevent Dementia? What the Science Says

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By Catherine Escher and Rowena Gomez, PhD (Palo Alto University)

We all know that eating healthy is good for our bodies as we age, but did you know that eating certain foods may reduce your risk of dementia? Science shows some promising results.

Recently, research on healthy aging has examined the relationships between diet, dementia, and cognitive decline. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH Diet) and the Mediterranean Diet have been used in interventions to improve brain health and function. These two diets were initially used to improve heart and general health. And two studies showed that cognitive performance improved after participants followed the DASH (Smith et al., 2010) and Mediterranean Diets (Martínez-Lapiscina et al., 2013).

Inspired by the DASH and Mediterranean Diets, Morris and colleagues (2015) combined the best of both of these diets and added a few items shown to improve brain health (i.e., green leafy vegetables and berries) to see whether a new diet could reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. The result was the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay).

DASH Mediterranean MIND
Grains ≥7/day
Whole grains ≥4/day ≥3/day
Vegetables ≥4/day ≥4/day
Green leafy vegetables ≥6/day
Other vegetables ≥1/day
Potatoes >2/day
Fruits ≥4/day >3/day
Berries ≥2/week
Dairy ≥2/day
Full-fat dairy ≤10/week
Cheese <1/week
Meat, poultry and fish ≤2/day ≤1/week
Red meats & products ≤1/week ≤4/week
Fish >6/week ≥1/week
Poultry ≤3/week ≥2/week
Nuts, seeds, legumes ≥4/day >6/week
Beans >3/week
Nuts ≥5/week
Fast/fried food <1/week
Alcohol/wine <300 ml/day but >0 1/day
Sweets ≤5/week
Pastries, sweets <5/week
Sodium 2400 mg/day
Total fat ≤27% of kcal
Saturated fat ≤6% of kcal
Olive oil ≥1/day Used as primary oil
Butter/margarine <1 Tbsp/day
Source: Martha Clare Morris, et al. (2015)

Morris and her colleagues studied eating patterns of 923 older adults over a period of about 4.5 years to see whether they developed Alzheimer’s disease. The results? Those who successfully followed any of the three diets were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not.

Despite slight differences, the common ingredients between these diets are high amounts of vegetables and low amounts of processed foods containing saturated fats. The main take-away being that a healthy diet consisting of natural, plant-based foods may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to note that these research findings do not prove that eating certain foods will prevent dementia. Despite this, we still recommend a diet high in vegetables and low in processed foods to our family members who are concerned about cognitive decline as they get older. The only potential “side effects” of eating healthier are a healthier body and mind – so eat up!

 

References:

Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M., & Grodstein, F. (2012). Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of neurology72(1), 135-143.

Martínez-Lapiscina, E. H., Clavero, P., Toledo, E., Estruch, R., Salas-Salvadó, J., San Julián, B., … & Martinez-Gonzalez, M. Á. (2013). Mediterranean diet improves cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomised trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry84(12), 1318-1325. 

Morris, M. C., Evans, D. A., Tangney, C. C., Bienias, J. L., & Wilson, R. S. (2006). Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change. Neurology67(8), 1370-1376.

Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia11(9), 1007-1014.

Smith, P. J., Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M. A., Craighead, L., Welsh-Bohmer, K. A., Browndyke, J. N., … & Sherwood, A. (2010). Effects of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet, exercise, and caloric restriction on neurocognition in overweight adults with high blood pressure. Hypertension,55(6), 1331-1338.

 

Biographies:

Catherine Escher is a first year Clinical Psychology PhD student at Palo Alto University. Ms. Escher’s research interests include neuropsychology and healthy aging.

Dr. Rowena Gomez is Director of Clinical Training for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program and Associate Professor at Palo Alto University. Dr. Gomez’s research focus has been in geropsychology, neuropsychology, and depression.

Image source: Flickr user A Healthier Michigan via Creative Commons


Filed under: Aging, Health and Wellness Tagged: Alzheimer's, brain health, cognitive decline, DASH diet, dementia, diet, healthy aging, healthy diet, healthy eating, Mediterranean diet, MIND diet

Can a Healthy Diet Prevent Dementia? What the Science Says

blog-diet-and-dementia

By Catherine Escher and Rowena Gomez, PhD (Palo Alto University)

We all know that eating healthy is good for our bodies as we age, but did you know that eating certain foods may reduce your risk of dementia? Science shows some promising results.

Recently, research on healthy aging has examined the relationships between diet, dementia, and cognitive decline. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH Diet) and the Mediterranean Diet have been used in interventions to improve brain health and function. These two diets were initially used to improve heart and general health. And two studies showed that cognitive performance improved after participants followed the DASH (Smith et al., 2010) and Mediterranean Diets (Martínez-Lapiscina et al., 2013).

Inspired by the DASH and Mediterranean Diets, Morris and colleagues (2015) combined the best of both of these diets and added a few items shown to improve brain health (i.e., green leafy vegetables and berries) to see whether a new diet could reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. The result was the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay).

DASH Mediterranean MIND
Grains ≥7/day
Whole grains ≥4/day ≥3/day
Vegetables ≥4/day ≥4/day
Green leafy vegetables ≥6/day
Other vegetables ≥1/day
Potatoes >2/day
Fruits ≥4/day >3/day
Berries ≥2/week
Dairy ≥2/day
Full-fat dairy ≤10/week
Cheese <1/week
Meat, poultry and fish ≤2/day ≤1/week
Red meats & products ≤1/week ≤4/week
Fish >6/week ≥1/week
Poultry ≤3/week ≥2/week
Nuts, seeds, legumes ≥4/day >6/week
Beans >3/week
Nuts ≥5/week
Fast/fried food <1/week
Alcohol/wine <300 ml/day but >0 1/day
Sweets ≤5/week
Pastries, sweets <5/week
Sodium 2400 mg/day
Total fat ≤27% of kcal
Saturated fat ≤6% of kcal
Olive oil ≥1/day Used as primary oil
Butter/margarine <1 Tbsp/day
Source: Martha Clare Morris, et al. (2015)

Morris and her colleagues studied eating patterns of 923 older adults over a period of about 4.5 years to see whether they developed Alzheimer’s disease. The results? Those who successfully followed any of the three diets were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not.

Despite slight differences, the common ingredients between these diets are high amounts of vegetables and low amounts of processed foods containing saturated fats. The main take-away being that a healthy diet consisting of natural, plant-based foods may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to note that these research findings do not prove that eating certain foods will prevent dementia. Despite this, we still recommend a diet high in vegetables and low in processed foods to our family members who are concerned about cognitive decline as they get older. The only potential “side effects” of eating healthier are a healthier body and mind – so eat up!

 

References:

Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M., & Grodstein, F. (2012). Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of neurology72(1), 135-143.

Martínez-Lapiscina, E. H., Clavero, P., Toledo, E., Estruch, R., Salas-Salvadó, J., San Julián, B., … & Martinez-Gonzalez, M. Á. (2013). Mediterranean diet improves cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomised trial. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry84(12), 1318-1325. 

Morris, M. C., Evans, D. A., Tangney, C. C., Bienias, J. L., & Wilson, R. S. (2006). Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change. Neurology67(8), 1370-1376.

Morris, M. C., Tangney, C. C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F. M., Bennett, D. A., & Aggarwal, N. T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia11(9), 1007-1014.

Smith, P. J., Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M. A., Craighead, L., Welsh-Bohmer, K. A., Browndyke, J. N., … & Sherwood, A. (2010). Effects of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet, exercise, and caloric restriction on neurocognition in overweight adults with high blood pressure. Hypertension,55(6), 1331-1338.

 

Biographies:

Catherine Escher is a first year Clinical Psychology PhD student at Palo Alto University. Ms. Escher’s research interests include neuropsychology and healthy aging.

Dr. Rowena Gomez is Director of Clinical Training for the PhD Clinical Psychology Program and Associate Professor at Palo Alto University. Dr. Gomez’s research focus has been in geropsychology, neuropsychology, and depression.

Image source: Flickr user A Healthier Michigan via Creative Commons


Filed under: Aging, Health and Wellness Tagged: Alzheimer's, brain health, cognitive decline, DASH diet, dementia, diet, healthy aging, healthy diet, healthy eating, Mediterranean diet, MIND diet