Monthly Archives: July 2016

It’s Never Too Late to Find Your Inner Athlete

Sports participation offers physical and psychological benefits at any age

By Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, PhD

In August, when the 2016 Summer Olympics open in Rio de Janeiro, we’ll all be amazed by the athletic feats of these world-class athletes. Still, as we watch them leap, zoom, and hurl, we know that these are young people who’ve spent much of their lives in training.

We all know that exercise is good for us, and that even a moderate amount of regular exercise yields both physical and psychological health benefits. (Read my earlier blog post for more about the benefits of exercise, and guidelines on how to get started). Still, exercise and competitive sports can feel like they are worlds apart, and if you’ve never considered yourself an athlete, it may feel like it’s too late to change that part of your self-concept. If you consider the inspirational work of master athletes, though, you realize that it’s never too late to become an athlete – and that finding your sport can bring a variety of physical and psychological benefits, including an opportunity for fun!

Consider, for instance, the amazing story of Olga Kotelko, the Canadian master athlete featured in Bruce Grierson’s best-seller What Makes Olga Run. Kotelko didn’t begin competitive sports until her 70s; and yet, during her 70s, 80s, and 90s, she set 37 world records in track and field events. When she was 93, Kotelko participated with the neuroscientists at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois for a variety of tests, including MRI, and ongoing research indicates the potentially powerful effects of sports participation in keeping the brain healthy into old age.

Kotelko’s brain structure, in her 90s, was as healthy as someone in their 60s – learning new things, and engaging her physical body in skill training, seemed to have been a fountain of youth that kept Kotelko intellectually sharp and engaged until the end of her life. Prevention Magazine offers an overview of the research. Other research has found that sports participation in adulthood is related to a variety of physical and psychological benefits, including increased physical activity, reduced stress, and improved psychosocial connections. In other words: playing sports is a way that we can get fit, have fun, and make connections with other people.

Kotelko is only one of the many amazing master athletes who help us remember that we can be fit, strong, and capable at any age. Award-winning photographer Rob Jerome captures master athletes as they set records. For those attending the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in Denver this summer, APA’s Committee on Aging’s conversation hour will feature Jerome and his work. Learn more about how master athletes encourage us all to push faster, higher, and farther, both in sports and in our lives in general. If you can’t make it to the conversation hour, you can check out Jerome’s photos of master athletes at the 2016 USATF Indoor Masters or his 2009 presentation of master athletes over the age of 80 at a world championship event.

Do you want to find your inner athlete?

  • Aspiring swimmers should check out the US Masters Swimming Association, which offers a range of information for a variety of ability levels. You can find adult swimming lessons, get connected with training programs for competitive swimmers, and find local area resources to help you get started.
  • If track and field events are more your style, including race walking, then check out the USA Track and Field Master’s program for resources and support.
  • The USA Tennis Association provides support and information dedicated to adult athletes interested in getting started, or improving their game, on the tennis court. You may also find Lee Bergquist’s book Second Wind: The Rise of the Ageless Athlete inspiring as you get going.
  • Ready to see some Masters Athletes at their best (or even to give it a go with them)? Consider attending the 2016 World Masters Athletics Championships, held October 26 to November 6, 2016 in Perth, Australia. Can you think of a more exciting reason to travel down under?

Biography:

Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura is the Division 47 (Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology) representative to APA’s Council on Aging (CONA). Dr. Bonura is a fitness and wellness educator; her work focuses on the benefits of exercise for health and wellness promotion. She is a contributing faculty member in the Walden University College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and a Professor for The Great Courses. Learn more at http://www.drkimberleebonura.com/ and http://www.chairyoga.com/ and contact Dr. Bonura at [email protected].

 


Filed under: Aging, Health and Wellness Tagged: aging, exercise, healthy aging, master athletes, mature athletes, older adults, older athletes, senior athletes, sports participation

Why Evidence-Based Community Policing Needs to be the Norm, Not an Exception

Police tape saying "police line do not cross"

By Susan H. McDaniel, PhD

Longstanding tensions between police and communities of color have reached a boiling point in the United States. The horrifying cellphone videos of two shooting deaths of African-American men by police officers this month, and the subsequent killing of five police officers by an African-American man in Dallas and three police in Baton Rouge, have reinforced a deadly cycle of fear, mistrust and violence. If we are to heal as nation, we must first acknowledge and move beyond entrenched societal stereotypes that reduce people of color, particularly black men, to suspected criminals who should be feared.

Equally important, communities must recognize the challenges facing police and the stress and dangers they encounter daily.

Social science research has shown that blacks are perceived as more violent and are more likely to be associated with objects such as guns. These associations are often so automatic that they may occur unconsciously, a phenomenon researchers have termed implicit bias.

In late June, the Department of Justice announced that it will train all its law enforcement agents and prosecutors to recognize and address implicit bias as part of its regular training curriculum. The new training, based on best practices in law enforcement, is to begin “in the next few weeks,” according to the announcement — which is none too soon. While this training already occurs in some police departments, it needs to spread to police departments everywhere.

A key factor shaping whether people obey the law is trust in legal authorities, according to research by psychologists. A number of studies have shown that the most important factors related to public trust of the police are whether people believe that the police are exercising their authority fairly. This means that police are not making decisions about whom to stop based upon race or ethnicity; that they are willing to listen when they stop people; that they apply the law consistently and without prejudice; and that they take time to explain the reasons for their actions. Most important, all police need to treat people in the community with respect and courtesy. Increasing trust helps the police as well, as distrust makes controlling crime more difficult by lowering the willingness of community members to help the police solve crimes or identify criminals.

Going forward, psychological research indicates that effective strategies to prevent events such as those that occurred in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and elsewhere include collaborative police-community partnerships; procedurally fair applications of the law; community outreach and education; recruitment strategies to ensure that the police department reflects the demographics of the community; and training to reduce police and community stereotyping.

These practices are embodied in community-oriented policing. This approach stresses law enforcement that embraces community outreach and emphasizes police and community partnerships and dialogue.

Beginning with selection and training for officers, and continuing through in-service, roll-call, and supervisor and management training, it is important to incorporate behavioral health concepts and information about coping methods, responding to stress, and support (e.g., family and friends) and resiliency within the police community. It is useful to have the psychologists who provide services to police departments involved in the trainings, so that they are familiar to the employees and knowledgeable about the workings of the agency. The more police are educated about psychology and behavioral issues, the more they are prepared to deal with these difficult encounters in a productive way.

One success story comes from the late Lorraine Greene, PhD, a police psychologist who served as the first manager of the Nashville police department’s behavioral health services division. With her involvement and the support of the department leaders, a variety of initiatives were launched to improve police-community relations. These included surveying community members and holding focus groups of police officers, local residents and researchers. The data collected were then used to create training for police and citizens, which led to greater mutual understanding. More recently, social psychologist Phillip A. Goff, PhD, and his colleagues at the Center for Policing Equity have worked to develop collaborative relationships with law enforcement, communities and political stakeholders, to identify ways to strengthen relationships between local law enforcement departments and the communities they serve.

Increasing the psychological training and emotional supports available to police officers,   improving morale and reducing burnout can lead to better policing and potentially reduce violent police-community encounters. As a society, we have the behavioral tools to help heal police-community relations. We now need to ensure that we apply them – fast.

 

Dr. McDaniel is president of the American Psychological Association.


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice Tagged: Baton Rouge, community policing, Dallas, evidence-based, Falcon Heights, Louisiana, Minnesota, police bias, police shootings, policing, prejudice, racial discrimination, racial profiling, research

Racial Trauma is Real: The Impact of Police Shootings on African Americans

blog-racial-trauma

By Erlanger A. Turner, PhD (Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Houston-Downtown) & Jasmine Richardson

There have been many changes within the criminal justice system as a means to deter crime and to keep citizens safe. However, research demonstrates that often times men of color are treated harshly which leads to negative perceptions of police officers. The recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas have exposed many individuals and their families to incidents of police brutality that reminds us that as a society work needs to be done to improve police and community relations.

In light of these recent events, many people have witnessed these traumatic incidents through social media or participation in marches in their cities. The violence witnessed towards people of color from police continues to damage perceptions of law enforcement and further stereotype people of color negatively. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (Geller, Fagan, Tyler, & Link, 2014), the authors reported that 85% of the participants reported being stopped at least once in their lifetime and 78% had no history of criminal activity. What is more concerning is that the study also found that those who reported more intrusive police contact experienced increased trauma and anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, those who reported fair treatment during encounters with law enforcement had fewer symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

 

What is Racial Trauma?

In addition to the mental health symptoms of individuals who have encounters with law enforcement, those who witness these events directly or indirectly may also be impacted negatively. In an attempt to capture how racism and discrimination negatively impacts the physical and mental health of people of color, many scholars have coined the term “racial trauma” or race-based traumatic stress. Racial trauma may result from racial harassment, witnessing racial violence, or experiencing institutional racism (Bryant-Davis, & Ocampo, 2006; Comas-Díaz, 2016). The trauma may result in experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of humiliation, poor concentration, or irritability.

 

Effects of Racial Trauma on Communities of Color

Decades of research have noted the impact of discrimination and racism on the psychological health of communities of color (e.g., Bryant-Davis & Ocampo, 2006; Carter & Forsyth, 2009; Comas-Díaz, 2016). Although not everyone who experiences racism and discrimination will develop symptoms of race-based trauma, repeated exposure may lead to the following. According to a report on The Impact of Racial Trauma on African Americans, Dr. Walter Smith notes the following effects of racial trauma:

Increased vigilance and suspicion – Suspicion of social institutions (schools, agencies, government), avoiding eye contact, only trusting persons within our social and family relationship networks

Increased sensitivity to threat – Defensive postures, avoiding new situations, heightened sensitivity to being disrespected and shamed, and avoid taking risks

Increased psychological and physiological symptoms – Unresolved traumas increase chronic stress and decrease immune system functioning, shift brains to limbic system dominance, increase risks for depression and anxiety disorders, and disrupt child development and quality of emotional attachment in family and social relationships

Increased alcohol and drug usage – Drugs and alcohol are initially useful (real and perceived) in managing the pain and danger of unresolved traumas but become their own disease processes when dependency occurs

Increased aggression – Street gangs, domestic violence, defiant behavior, and appearing tough and impenetrable are ways of coping with danger by attempting to control our physical and social environment

Narrowing sense of time – Persons living in a chronic state of danger do not develop a sense of future; do not have long-term goals, and frequently view dying as an expected outcome

 

Coping with Racial Trauma

Racial trauma or race-based trauma often goes unnoticed. These hidden wounds that adults and youth of color experience are worn like invisible weights. Hardy (2013) provides the following eight steps to heal after experiencing racial injustices in our community.

  1. Affirmation and Acknowledgement: This involves professionals helping the individual to develop a sense of understanding acceptance of racial issues. This step is important because it opens the door for us to dialogue about issues related to race.
  2. Create Space for Race: Creating space allows an open dialogue with our communities about race. Hardy notes that we must take a proactive role to identify race as a significant variable and talk openly about experiences related to race.
  3. Racial Storytelling: Gives individuals an outlet to share personal experiences and think critically about events in their lives. This provides an opportunity to hear others voice how they have been treated differently due to their race and it helps expose hidden wounds through storytelling.
  4. Validation: Can be seen as a personalized tool used to counter devaluation. This provides confirmation of the individuals’ worth and their redeemable qualities.
  5. The Process of Naming: With the scarcity of research on the effects of racial trauma on mental health, there is of course no name as of yet making it a nameless condition. This in turn increases the doubt and uncertainty. By naming these experiences we give individuals a voice to speak on them and also recognize how they impact them. If we apply a mental health condition, individuals may experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  6. Externalize Devaluation: The aim for this step is to have people focus on increasing respect and recognizing that racial events do not lower their self-worth.
  7. Counteract Devaluation: This step uses a combination of psychological, emotional, and behavioral resources to build self-esteem and counter racial attacks. This helps prevent future kiss if dignity and sense of self.
  8. Rechanneling Rage: By rechanneling rage, individuals can learn to gain control of their emotions and not let emotions consume them. This is an important step because it empowers people to keep pushing forward after adversity. This may include taking steps to engage in activism or self-care strategies such as spending time with family.

 

Biographies:

Erlanger A. Turner, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Turner’s research focuses on access to child mental health services, health inequity, help-seeking attitudes and behaviors, and cultural competency in clinical practice. He teaches courses at UHD in clinical psychology, multicultural psychology, and child psychopathology. Dr. Turner is also a blogger for The Race to Good Health. Dr. Turner is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association of Black Psychologists. He has served in numerous leadership positions throughout APA and APA Divisions. He earned his B.S. in psychology from Louisiana State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. Dr. Turner is currently Chair-Elect for the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest and he was recently appointment to the Behavioral Health National Project Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health.

Jasmine Richardson, BS earned her psychology degree from the University of Houston- Downtown (UHD) and is a former research assistant at the UHD Race, Culture, and Mental Health Research Lab under the supervision of Dr. Turner.

Note: An earlier version of this blog was published on BlackDoctor.org

 

References:

Bryant-Davis, T., & Ocampo, C. (2006). A therapeutic approach to the treatment of racist-incident-based trauma. Journal of Emotional Abuse6(4), 1-22.

Carter, R. T., & Forsyth, J. M. (2009). A guide to the forensic assessment of race-based traumatic stress reactions. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online37(1), 28-40.

Comas-Díaz, L. (2016). Racial trauma recovery: A race-informed therapeutic approach to racial wounds. In Alvarez, A.N. (Ed); Liang, C. T. H. (Ed); Neville, H. A. (Ed), The cost of racism for people of color: Contextualizing experiences of discrimination. Cultural, racial, and ethnic psychology book series (pp. 249-272). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Geller, A., Fagan, J., Tyler, T., & Link, B. G. (2014). Aggressive policing and the mental health of young urban men. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(12), 2321-2327

Hardy, K. V. (2013). Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma. Reclaiming Children And Youth, 22(1), 24-28.

Image source: Flickr user blogocram via Creative Commons


Filed under: Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: coping, discrimination, mental health, policing, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racial trauma, racism, stress, trauma

Why Did the FDA Prevent Gay and Bisexual Men from Donating Blood in the Aftermath of Orlando?

Blood donation bag syringe needle

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

 

Understanding the Controversy

 

After the horrific shooting on June 12, 2016 at Pulse, a popular gay bar in Orlando, Florida, many of the victims were in extreme need of blood transfusions. Driven by empathy and solidarity with the victims, gay and bisexual men rushed to area hospitals and blood donation centers to help, along with scores of their Orlando neighbors. Sadly, hundreds identifying as men who have sex with men (MSM) were turned away because current FDA regulations prohibit gay and bisexual men from donating blood unless they abstain from sex with other men for a full year before donating blood.

 

HIV risk depends on several factors including condom use, number of sex partners and type of sexual activity, with unprotected anal sex being the most risky. While gay men and bisexual men make up more than half of the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS in Orlando, it is individual behavior, not sexual orientation, that puts someone at risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV.

The FDA 12-month MSM deferral policy prevents healthy gay and bisexual men from donating blood solely based on their sexual orientation rather than actual risk to the blood supply. The tragic Orlando shootings have brought attention to an outdated, discriminatory and stigmatizing policy and sparked renewed calls for the FDA to end it once and for all.

 

What is the FDA MSM deferral policy?

 

According to the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee recommendations, blood centers must follow guidelines that inherently discriminate against and stigmatize gay and bisexual men. While the guidelines prior to 2015 included a lifetime ban on all donations from MSM, the 2015 guidelines are not much better. They require that blood donors must not be a man who has had sex with a man for the past 12 months, or a woman who has had sex with an MSM in the past 12 months.

 

What’s Wrong with Current FDA Regulations on Blood Donations?

 

Beyond being discriminatory and stigmatizing towards gay and bisexual men, they perpetuate stereotypes that HIV is a “gay disease” and that gay and bisexual men are the primary carriers of communicable diseases. This type of stigma and discrimination has no scientific basis and is particularly damaging to the psyche of gay and bisexual men.

 

The policy is also obsolete. The FDA implemented the MSM deferral policy in the early days of the HIV epidemic before blood donations could be screened for HIV. HIV tests weren’t developed before 1985, putting those receiving blood transfusions at risk of HIV infection. However, modern HIV and other sexually transmitted infection testing methods are incredibly rapid.

 

Compared with older testing methods, recent testing methods can detect positive results within days of exposure, or at most, a few weeks. Today, the nation’s blood supply is incredibly safe. The risk of HIV infection via blood transfusion is low. As of December 2015, the rate of HIV infection via blood transmission was miniscule at one out of 1.47 million donation cases.

 

What Can Policymakers Do?

 

We know that the current FDA deferral policy singles out gay and bisexual men based on criteria unlikely to put those receiving blood transfusions at risk of HIV infection. The FDA should change its 2015 blood donation guidelines to end the 12-month deferral policy for gay and bisexual men once and for all, replacing it with one based on assessment of individual risk behaviors.

 

One day after the shooting, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Vice President of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, led a bipartisan group of more than 1,000 members of the House of Representatives in calling on the FDA to end its discriminatory blood ban. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led a similar charge in their chamber. Lawmakers stopped short of taking legislative action, but they strongly urged the FDA commissioner to revise the 12-month MSM deferral policy to more closely align with current science and blood screening technologies.

 

FDA should promptly report back to congressional oversight committees and, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Office, engage public health and LGBT stakeholders in devising a policy that may defer high-risk gay and bisexual men, while permitting low-risk gay and bisexual men to donate blood.

 

We urge federal agency heads and Members of Congress to consider the impact of stigmatizing and discriminatory laws and health policies on the LGBT community, and to take steps to correct them. For example, lawmakers can support the Equality Act of 2016, a bill to prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. APA supports policies that decrease stigmatization and marginalization of LGBT individuals. To learn more about APA’s advocacy efforts on this topic and others, please visit the Public Interest Government Relations Office website.

 

Resources

AIDS.gov – Blood Transfusions and Organ/Tissue Transplants

FDA – Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products – Questions and Answers

GMHC – MSM Blood Ban

WHO – Blood Safety and Availability


Filed under: AIDS, LGBT Issues Tagged: aids, discrimination, FDA MSM deferral policy, HIV, HIV testing, LGBT, MSM, MSM blood ban, Orlando shootings

How to Talk to Our Kids about the Tragic Shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

Diverse kids holding hands

By Robin Gurwitch, PhD

Families around the country are coming together to talk about the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the ambush of police officers in Dallas, Texas. These events come shortly after the violence in Orlando. In fact, it seems that acts of violence are in the news on a regular basis.

As a nation, we are trying to wrap our minds around what is taking place all around us. Protests related to police injustice, protests about gun violence, protests about tolerance, vigils for those killed in all of these events are happening in many communities across America.

In the aftermath of these events, we are also witnessing many acts of kindness. These have included hugs between protesters and police officers, hand-holding among all genders, races, and ages. Offering lemonade to those standing in the heat.

How do we begin to explain all of this to our children when we, as adults, are having our own difficulties with what is occurring?

First, we need to ask: What do children understand or believe about what they are seeing and hearing from the media, social media, and family?

It is important to include our children in these important conversations. Check in to see children what they are thinking or feeling. This will shape the talks. Feelings may include worries and anxieties to fears about safety and security. There are similarities and there are differences in the talks across families. Families of color are having to talk to their children about how to act should they be stopped by police officers. Is it fair that these discussions must still happen in 2016? Absolutely not.  The fact that this is still necessary is an example of the injustices many face daily.

All families should talk about diversity, the reality of racism and discrimination, and the importance of respect, tolerance, unity and justice.

These events, as horrific as they are, are opportunities for families to come together to discuss how to treat others. It is time for a frank discussion about realities in our society and equitable treatment of all who live in our country. This is a time to share values and beliefs, a time to share our wishes for the future. Research shows us that hate and prejudice are not ingrained—they are taught, they are learned. This is a time to turn the tide and teach our children about the kind of society we want for their future.

While events before and since Ferguson have spotlighted systemic injustices, it is important to also recognize the good done by the majority of police officers on a daily basis in communities around the country. It is important to note for children that as shots rang out in Dallas, police protected protesters and ran toward the sound in hopes of keeping people safe. Police and other first responders can be a resource of help. Families’ experiences may vary widely, so discussions will also vary. While not shying away from the realities of current events, be mindful of the age of children as you talk with them. We are at a long-overdue “tipping point” for improving relationships and trust in our communities. We can and should all be a part of this change.

The protests about police injustice and the attacks on officers are not an “either-or” issue, but are two important, interrelated conversations.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents championed the importance of acts of kindness. We should discuss this with our children, too.

As children may be worried about safety and security issues, it is important to share with our children what communities are doing to keep everyone safe. It is also important to help children consider how they would like to show an act of kindness. This may be participating in a community event/vigil for healing. It may be writing a letter or creating a drawing for community first responders or other positive figures in the community; it may be helping a neighbor or a friend in some small way. Rather than tell our children how to act with kindness, let’s be role models by our own actions and words. Let’s include them in the conversation. Oftentimes the ideas of children, even the very young, and teens surprise and impress us! We all have heard the quote, “children are our future,” perhaps now, more than ever, we need to decide what kind of future this will be.

For more information and tips, check out the resources and articles below.

Related Resources:

 

Recent News Articles:

Biography:

Dr. Robin Gurwitch has been involved in understanding the impact of terrorism and disasters on children since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, providing direct service, training, and conducting research. She is a member of the APA Disaster Resource Network, American Red Cross, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Gurwitch was recently appointed to the HHS National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.

 

 

 


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: Children, children's mental health, Dallas, difficult dialogues, excessive force, Louisiana, mass shootings, Minnesota, police brutality, police shootings, policing, race relations, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, social justice, trauma, violence

How to Talk to Our Kids about the Tragic Shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas

Diverse kids holding hands

By Robin Gurwitch, PhD

Families around the country are coming together to talk about the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the ambush of police officers in Dallas, Texas. These events come shortly after the violence in Orlando. In fact, it seems that acts of violence are in the news on a regular basis.

As a nation, we are trying to wrap our minds around what is taking place all around us. Protests related to police injustice, protests about gun violence, protests about tolerance, vigils for those killed in all of these events are happening in many communities across America.

In the aftermath of these events, we are also witnessing many acts of kindness. These have included hugs between protesters and police officers, hand-holding among all genders, races, and ages. Offering lemonade to those standing in the heat.

How do we begin to explain all of this to our children when we, as adults, are having our own difficulties with what is occurring?

First, we need to ask: What do children understand or believe about what they are seeing and hearing from the media, social media, and family?

It is important to include our children in these important conversations. Check in to see children what they are thinking or feeling. This will shape the talks. Feelings may include worries and anxieties to fears about safety and security. There are similarities and there are differences in the talks across families. Families of color are having to talk to their children about how to act should they be stopped by police officers. Is it fair that these discussions must still happen in 2016? Absolutely not.  The fact that this is still necessary is an example of the injustices many face daily.

All families should talk about diversity, the reality of racism and discrimination, and the importance of respect, tolerance, unity and justice.

These events, as horrific as they are, are opportunities for families to come together to discuss how to treat others. It is time for a frank discussion about realities in our society and equitable treatment of all who live in our country. This is a time to share values and beliefs, a time to share our wishes for the future. Research shows us that hate and prejudice are not ingrained—they are taught, they are learned. This is a time to turn the tide and teach our children about the kind of society we want for their future.

While events before and since Ferguson have spotlighted systemic injustices, it is important to also recognize the good done by the majority of police officers on a daily basis in communities around the country. It is important to note for children that as shots rang out in Dallas, police protected protesters and ran toward the sound in hopes of keeping people safe. Police and other first responders can be a resource of help. Families’ experiences may vary widely, so discussions will also vary. While not shying away from the realities of current events, be mindful of the age of children as you talk with them. We are at a long-overdue “tipping point” for improving relationships and trust in our communities. We can and should all be a part of this change.

The protests about police injustice and the attacks on officers are not an “either-or” issue, but are two important, interrelated conversations.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, residents championed the importance of acts of kindness. We should discuss this with our children, too.

As children may be worried about safety and security issues, it is important to share with our children what communities are doing to keep everyone safe. It is also important to help children consider how they would like to show an act of kindness. This may be participating in a community event/vigil for healing. It may be writing a letter or creating a drawing for community first responders or other positive figures in the community; it may be helping a neighbor or a friend in some small way. Rather than tell our children how to act with kindness, let’s be role models by our own actions and words. Let’s include them in the conversation. Oftentimes the ideas of children, even the very young, and teens surprise and impress us! We all have heard the quote, “children are our future,” perhaps now, more than ever, we need to decide what kind of future this will be.

For more information and tips, check out the resources and articles below.

Related Resources:

 

Recent News Articles:

Biography:

Dr. Robin Gurwitch has been involved in understanding the impact of terrorism and disasters on children since the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, providing direct service, training, and conducting research. She is a member of the APA Disaster Resource Network, American Red Cross, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Dr. Gurwitch was recently appointed to the HHS National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters.

 

 

 


Filed under: Children and Youth, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Culture, Ethnicity and Race, Human Rights and Social Justice, Violence Tagged: Children, children's mental health, Dallas, difficult dialogues, excessive force, Louisiana, mass shootings, Minnesota, police brutality, police shootings, policing, race relations, racial bias, racial discrimination, racial profiling, racism, social justice, trauma, violence

Starting a Conversation: How We Can Reduce Health Disparities Among Older Adults

You're in good health

By Heather Plakosh, MA (Doctoral Candidate in Counseling Psychology, Chatham University) & Jennifer Q. Morse, PhD (Associate Professor of Psychology, Chatham University)

Achieving Optimal Health is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Effort

The “melting pot” of America is becoming more diverse and “older” with each passing decade. At present, older Americans (aged 65 and up) account for 14.1% of the population and are expected to nearly double over the next 30 years. With this growth, we will witness an increase in diversity among older adults.  Often, we recognize diversity simply in terms of racial and ethnic differences; however, diversity is so much more than that. It also applies to all that affects a person individually, socially, and environmentally. Given the broad scope of diversity, especially among older adults, optimal health will only be achieved when we provide equal healthcare to every individual and disparities cease to exist.

Healthy People 2020 defines health disparities as:

“a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.”

In other words, health disparities occur because some groups have worse health simply because they are members of a disadvantaged group. Health disparities affect the prevention or development of injury, disability, or illness, as well as negative health consequences and death. This is simply not acceptable.

So, what does this mean in terms of promoting, achieving, and sustaining optimal health and well-being as people age?

It means we must pay closer attention to who a person is in addition what they require for preventing poor health and maintaining good health.

It’s Time to Start TALKING. Really Talking.

Reducing health disparities among older adults overall is a massive undertaking and managed healthcare significantly reduces time spent with patients. However, there are still small steps that providers and older adults themselves can take. Providers and older adults can talk to each other about barriers to receiving care, barriers to achieving healthier lifestyles, and their own values and beliefs.

We should all advocate for ourselves and be active participants in the healthcare decision-making process. If you’re an older adult receiving care – speak up. Ask questions. Let your doctor know when it is hard for you to get to a particular clinic and why. Ask if there are others locations or resources to help you get to an appointment. Ask for several treatment plans. Ask about lifestyle changes that go along with a treatment plan and ask for help to make healthy lifestyle changes. Make sure your provider knows your values and preferences for treatment. Let your voice be heard!

A Few Relevant Talking Points for Providers:

Barriers to adequate care

Two of the most common barriers are transportation and cost. However, other barriers may include geographic location.

  • What resources are available?
  • Where can these resources be located?
  • Can small adjustments or accommodations be made?

Current lifestyle

It is important to assess how your client lives their life.

  • Do they engage in pleasurable activities, hobbies, or interests?
  • Do they live in a safe, healthy environment?
  • Are they isolated or part of a larger community?

These are simple, yet powerful determinants of health and well-being.

Beliefs and values related to illness and treatment.

  • How does your client view their illness?
  • What do they think about the treatments for the illness?
  • Are there negative viewpoints or beliefs?
  • Do they have enough information to make an informed decision?

Perhaps they had a past negative experience with their care. Perhaps they hold firm religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs that influence their decisions about healthcare.

Keep in mind, the above list is only a snapshot of how we can begin to reduce health disparities among older adults. The general theme here is it is important to recognize diversity and uniqueness in our older clients, and to ask about barriers, lifestyle, and values or beliefs in order to reduce or eliminate health disparities. Asking about these topics allows us to understand context and provide more support to our clients. It also encourages older adults to be more involved in their care, and helps to address disparities consistently, one person at a time.

 

Biography:

 

Heather Plakosh, MA, is a third year doctoral student of Counseling Psychology at Chatham University, where she also obtained her Master of Arts in Psychology. Her training background includes neuropsychological and psychological assessment and individual and group Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) with individuals across the adult lifespan. Heather is currently receiving advanced training in psychotherapy with older adults at a geriatric primary care clinic. Heather is extremely passionate about working with older adults and plans to specialize in geropsychology. Her main research interests include late-life mood disorders, the impact of comorbid health conditions on mental health, and health disparities among older adults.

 

Jennifer Q. Morse, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Chatham University. Dr. Morse graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in psychology and completed her doctoral studies at Duke University. Dr. Morse’s research interests focus on Axis I and II disorders across the lifespan, with particular interests in late-life depression and the personality and interpersonal factors that predict depression, treatment course, and recurrence or relapse, assessment of attachment and interpersonal relationships across the lifespan and their relation to psychopathology, and personality disorders across the lifespan especially borderline personality disorder.

For more information on aging issues, visit APA’s Office on Aging website.

Image source: iStockphoto.com

 


Filed under: Aging, Health Disparities, Uncategorized Tagged: aging, equal access, health care, health disparities, health equity, healthy aging, positive aging

Why HIV Providers Should Care About the Orlando Shooting

ORLANDO2

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

In the aftermath of the mass shooting of LGBT people in an Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016, there was a great deal of discussion concerning the shooter’s motives. Was it a hate crime? An act of terrorism? Members and allies of the LGBT community have come together to express their support for the victims and to denounce violence against LGBT people.

Although the solid links between the LGBT community and the HIV prevention and treatment communities resulted in a strong show of solidarity, there is another reason HIV care providers and educators should be concerned about the shooting and its aftermath: It is an instance of the stigma that can increase the risk of HIV transmission and reduce the ability of people with HIV to fight their disease.

Although most LGBT community members demonstrate resilience in the face of these psychosocial factors, they do take a toll. These factors have been associated with poor mental health (increased depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicide ideation/attempt), diminished self-esteem, and drug and alcohol use/misuse.  

Just as important, they can increase the risk of HIV transmission in the LGBT community. And for those living with HIV, they may diminish the body’s ability to fight HIV beyond the damage done by the virus itself:

  • In an early study, Steve Cole and his colleagues reported that gay men with HIV who concealed their sexual orientation demonstrated faster disease progression than gay men with HIV who did not conceal their sexuality.
  • In a later study, Dr. Cole and his colleagues reported that gay men with high levels of autonomic nervous system activity (ANS: a measure of stress) experienced impaired response to anti-HIV medication—their viral loads prior to starting anti-HIV medication did not drop nearly as much as those with low ANS levels.
  • In 2003, Ron Stall and his colleagues reported on the impact of psychosocial health problems (polydrug use, depression, childhood sexual abuse) on high-risk sexual behavior among gay men; they found that the more of these health problems gay men had, the higher their sexual risk. Similarly, in 2007, Brian Mustanski and his colleagues demonstrated the role of psychosocial health problems (binge drinking, street drug use, regular marijuana use, psychological distress, sexual assault, partner violence) in increasing high-risk sex, and in 2012, Ann O’Leary and her colleagues also reported similar findings. They suggested that the overall constellation of findings suggests that “cumulative adverse psychosocial health conditions of any sort seem to exert their negative effects on HIV risk and infection.” Dr. O’Leary and her colleagues also found that optimism and education lessened (but did not eliminate) these effects.

The Orlando mass shooting is another manifestation of the multiple psychosocial insults that still confront the LGBT community. The recent findings cited here (and others) suggest that, in addition to their impact on the mental health of the LGBT community, these insults contribute to increased risk for HIV and diminished physical health among people with HIV.  For these reasons, HIV providers need to continue partnering with their LGBT allies in confronting anti-LGBT bias and discrimination.

You can visit the American Psychological Association’s Office on AIDS website for information on psychology and HIV.  While there, you can also read the Resolution Opposing HIV Criminalization recently passed by the APA Council of Representatives. The Psychology and AIDS Exchange is a topical newsletter on emerging HIV-related issues.

Image source: Flickr user Ashley Van Haeften via Creative Commons


Filed under: AIDS, LGBT Issues Tagged: aids, discrimination, HIV, hiv prevention, HIV risk, HIV/AIDS research, homophobia, LGBT, Orlando shootings, prejudice, stigma