Monthly Archives: August 2016

We Need to Talk About How Race-Related Trauma Hurts Black and Brown Youth in Schools

School girl victim of violence

By Dawn Henderson, PhD (Associate Professor, North Carolina A&T State University) and Alexis Lunford (Research Assistant)

Witnessing or experiencing race-related trauma damages the psychological wellbeing of minority youth. African American, American Indian, and Latino youth not only encounter race-related trauma in their neighborhoods but also in school. Schools should be a safe space for all children, but some disturbing data prove otherwise.

  • The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reported African Americans and American Indians between 20 and 34 will more likely experience death from police than any other ethnic group. Just within the past two years, African American, American Indian, and Latino youth have witnessed, via social media or directly, police officers kill fathers— for example, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Allen Locke, and, more recently, Philando Castile.
  • Teachers, school personnel, and resource officers often enact violence against children of color. Hyman and Perone (1998) wrote about this understudied aspect of school violence more than fifteen years ago and while the CDC does not provide any indicator, a disturbing 2015 video captured a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, SC violently wrestling an African American female to the ground while other students numbly watched.

Minority youth not only witness or experience physical violence in school, they also deal with constant alienation, discrimination, and microaggressions. In our work with suspended youth, we have uncovered these encounters and are capturing them more intentionally through interviews with minority students.

  • Alienation manifests in our interviews with students like Natalie[1], a Latina, who mentioned, “I felt like I did not belong, like I wasn’t worth anything and didn’t mean anything.”
  • Discrimination—Teachers and school personnel discriminate against minority youth in discretionary discipline practices and recommendations for advanced courses. Racial discrimination can increase anxiety and depressive symptoms among youth (Chavous et al., 2008; Cogburn, Chavous, & Griffin, 2011).
  • Microaggressions (intentional or unintentional language and behavior that is derogatory or negative) are evident for students like Samantha, an African American female:

I was the only black child, well the only black female in the computer engineering science class. And the teacher wouldn’t help me, he kind of pushed me [to] the side and he’s always like you can figure it out. But then Billy needed help so he just raised his hand and the teacher would assist him. But when I raised my hand he would overlook [me].

When youth like Natalie and Samantha begin to internalize the belief “I wasn’t worth anything and I didn’t mean anything”, it is obviously a detriment to their mental health. While Natalie and Samantha survived and are in college now, the scars from feeling alienated, encountering discrimination, and emotional abuse in public school remain etched onto their psyche.

Unfortunately, a number of African American, American Indian, and Latino youth may not be able to survive the emotional assault; they will either lash out in aggressive or self-destructive ways or leave school completely. The National Center for Education Statistics reports African American and Latino youth between ages 16 through 24 have the highest high school dropout rates.

 

How do we counter race-related trauma and build resilient youth and schools?

In order to decrease race-related trauma among children of color we will need to target the context in which they spend much of their time—schools. We offer a three-pronged approach to how schools can provide a context for intervention.

 

  1. Adopt Stress Reduction Practices in Schools 

blog-racialtraumagraphic

Stevenson (2008) wrote, “student-teacher relationships are stressful interactions that have the potential of being perceived as threats or challenges by both parties and that this primary appraisal is followed by a secondary appraisal of controllability or self-efficacy” (p. 356).

Adopting stress reduction practices, such as mindfulness, in schools to use with youth, teachers, and other school personnel can reduce tension and mitigate conflict. The work of the Holistic Life Foundation shows that mindfulness reduces stress-related behaviors by using meditative practices to improve attention, reduce stress, and increase self-regulation among adults and children. If we can identify ways to adopt stress reduction practices in school, we can reduce racial tensions.

 

  1. Support Advocacy through Youth –Adult Partnerships

Advocacy through youth-adult partnerships centers on improving community and civic engagement among youth. These partnerships can link youth to social support and provide opportunities for them to address racism and participate in decision-making in school. These types of activities can improve school engagement and build a number of skills for youth, such as social competence and self-efficacy (Zeldin, Christens, & Powers, 2013). In addition, training teachers and other supportive adults to model mindfulness in youth-adult partnerships only boosts the ways that youth manage stress and build resilience.

 

  1. Facilitate Truth and Reconciliation Groups

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) are a restorative justice process used in global human rights violations. Modeling TRCs into smaller groups in schools can potentially bring together multiple stakeholders such as youth, teachers, parents and other community members to address racial disparities in schools and develop solutions. These groups may not only foster partnerships between youth and adults, they may also increase opportunities for parents and other community members to inform school practices. Androff (2012) indicates TRCs can target problems states fail to address because they rely on individuals impacted by the issue and foster collective action—such as redesigning discipline practices.

Reducing race-related trauma in public schools will require us to understand how it occurs and then identify ways to reduce stress, racial anxiety, and support the abilities of minority youth, their parents, and communities to drive decision-making in schools. This is a lofty goal but it can be accomplished if we work together to support youth of color and show them that they matter.

 

References:

Androff, D. K. (2010). Truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs): An international human rights intervention and its connection to social work. British Journal of Social Work, 40, 1960–1977. doi: 10.1093./bjsw//bcp139

Chavous, T. M., Rivas-Drake, D., Smalls, C., Griffin, T., & Cogburn, C. (2008). Gender matters, too: The influences of school racial discrimination and racial identity on academic engagement outcomes among African American adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 44, 637–654. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.637

Cogburn, C. D., Chavous, T. M., & Griffin, T. M. (2011). School-based racial and gender discrimination among African American adolescents: Exploring gender variation in frequency and implications for adjustment. Race Social Problems, 3, 25–37.

Hyman, I. A., & Perone, D. C. (1998). The other side of school violence: Educator policies and practices that may contribute to student misbehavior. Journal of School Psychology, 36(1), 7-27.

Lanier, C., & Huff-Corzine, L. (2006). American Indian homicide A county-level analysis utilizing social disorganization theory. Homicide Studies, 10, 181–194.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The condition of education 2015 (NCES 2015-144),Retrieved from the U. S. Department of Education website: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

Stevenson, H. C. (2008). Fluttering around the racial tension of trust: Proximal approaches to suspended Black student-teacher relationships. School Psychology Review, 37, 354–359.

Zeldin, S., Christens, B. D., & Powers, J. L. (2013). The psychology and practice of youth-adult partnership: Bridging generations for youth development and community change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 385–397. doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9558-y

 

Biographies:

Dawn X. Henderson, PhD, is a Community Psychologist and member of Division 27 (Society for Community Research and Action) of the American Psychological Association and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at North Carolina A&T State University. Her research includes how trauma occurs in the public school system and interventions targeting economically disadvantaged ethnic minority youth. Alexis Lunsford is a Research Assistant and graduate of Winston-Salem State University. Any comments or feedback can be sent to [email protected].

[1] All names listed are pseudonyms assigned to protect the identity of the students.

Image source: iStockphoto.com


Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: African American youth, American Indian youth, children's mental health, discrimination, Education, Hispanic youth, Latino youth, microaggressions, mindfulness, prejudice, race-related trauma, racism, resilience, school dropouts, stress, stress reduction, trauma

Why We Should Celebrate Senior Citizens Everyday

blog-senior-citizens-day

By Sheri R. Levy, PhD1, Jamie L. MacDonald1, and Ashley Lytle, PhD2 (1Stony Brook University and 2Stevens Institute of Technology)

Have you heard of National Senior Citizens Day? If not, you aren’t alone. This holiday is not often listed on most, if any, calendars. There are usually no headlines or special sales or promotions that accompany this holiday. Why is National Senior Citizens Day virtually forgotten? Probably for the same reasons that led to its establishment in 1988 by President Reagan.

Older adulthood is not universally celebrated and valued.  Ageism (negative attitudes and behavior toward older adults) continues to be a “serious national problem” since it was first discussed by Robert N. Butler, M.D. in 1969. Butler later wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Why Survive? Being Old in America” and became the first Director of the National Institute on Aging in the United States.

Historically, older members of our society were valued for their vast knowledge and contributions to society.  Fast forward to our current society, which has a well-established and profitable market of greeting cards, t-shirts, and other products that portray older adulthood in a negative light, for example being “over the hill.” Our youth-centered society supports a billion dollar industry of “anti-aging” creams, treatments and surgeries, to reduce signs of aging.

Frequent headlines exaggerating the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease add to fears and worries about older adulthood. Save the relatively rare coverage of positive images and outlooks on aging, even though older adulthood can be a fulfilling and happy time in one’s life. In fact, studies show that many older adults report being happy and satisfied with their lives.

Medicare and social security are constantly targets for budget cuts, despite alarming rates of poverty and financial problems among older adults. Forced early retirement and incidents of age discrimination toward older workers are on the rise. Reports of elder abuse (both financial and physical abuse) by health care workers and by family members are also increasing.

Adults aged 65 and over are the largest and fastest growing age group in our society.  It’s long overdue to celebrate senior citizens both on August 21 and other days, too. The 1988 Proclamation is still relevant today.

“Throughout our history, older people have achieved much for our families, our communities, and our country. That remains true today, and gives us ample reason this year to reserve a special day in honor of the senior citizens who mean so much to our land.

With improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders and as links with our patrimony and sense of purpose as individuals and as a Nation. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination. And more than 4.5 million senior citizens are serving as volunteers in various programs and projects that benefit every sector of society. Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.

For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”

Isn’t it time to celebrate older adults?

If you would like to learn more about ageism, the following might be of interest to you:

Carstensen, L. (2011). Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_carstensen_older_people_are_happier

Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-270. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.2.261

Levy, S.R. (in press). Toward reducing ageism: PEACE (Positive Education about Aging and Contact Experiences) Model. The Gerontologist. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw116.

Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 1-22. doi:10.1111/josi.12153

McGuire, S. L., Klein, D. A., & Couper, D. (2005). Aging Education: A National Imperative. Educational Gerontology, 31(6), 443-460. doi:10.1080/03601270590928170

Ng, R., Allore, H.G., Trentalange, M., Monin, J.K., & Levy, B.R. (2015). Increasing negativity of age stereotypes across 200 years: Evidence from a database of 400 million words. PLoS ONE, 10, e0117086. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117086

Pillemer, K., Connolly, M., Breckman, R., Spreng, N., & Lachs, M. S. (2015). Elder mistreatment: Priorities for consideration by the White House Conference on Aging. The Gerontologist, 55(2), 320-327. doi:10.1093/geront/gnu180

 

Biographies: 

Sheri R. Levy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, USA. She earned her PhD at Columbia University in New York City, USA. Levy studies factors that cause and maintain prejudice, stigmatization, and negative intergroup relations and that can be harnessed to reduce bias, marginalization, and discrimination. Her research focuses on bias based on age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and social class.  With Jamie L. Macdonald and Todd D. Nelson, Levy co-Edited a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016). Levy’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and Levy publishes her research in journals such as Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Child Development, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Social Issues and Policy Review. Levy was Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Social Issues from 2010-2013 and is a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9 of American Psychological Association).

Ashley Lytle is an Assistant Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. Ashley earned her PhD from Stony Brook University, New York, USA.  Her research explores how prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping impact social and health outcomes among marginalized groups. For example, much of Ashley’s research has focused on better understanding prejudice toward older adults and sexual minorities, with the ultimate goal of creating simple, yet effective, interventions to reduce prejudice. She also examines how intergroup contact and beliefs systems relate to prejudice as well as the more applied focus of understanding factors that are involved in the reduction of prejudice and stigmatization.

Jamie L. Macdonald is graduate student at Stony Brook University working with Sheri R. Levy. Jamie received her BA and MA in Psychology from Stony Brook University, New York, USA. Her research investigates prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination with a focus on ageism in different contexts, like the workplace. She was a Co-Editor, with Sheri R. Levy and Todd D. Nelson, on a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016).

 


Filed under: Aging Tagged: ageism, aging, healthy aging, National Senior Citizens Day, older adults, senior citizens

How to Help People with Mental Health Conditions Quit Smoking for Good

blog-cdc-tips-smokers-mhconditions

By Corinne M. Graffunder, DrPH, MPH (Director of the Office on Smoking and Health,  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Rebecca’s Story                                                                                                                                         

Rebecca, a former smoker featured in CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, started smoking cigarettes at age 16. Everyone in her family smoked, and once she started smoking, she quickly became addicted. She kept smoking into adulthood. While she tried to stop, she had difficulty quitting. “I probably tried to quit smoking at least half a dozen times, but the addiction was so strong.”

Rebecca was also diagnosed with depression at age 33, and she is not alone. Smoking is more common among people with mental health conditions than among people in the general population. In fact, people with mental health conditions smoke about 4 out of every 10 cigarettes smoked by adults in the United States.

Rebecca recalls the shame she felt when she tried to quit smoking and couldn’t. “All this time, I didn’t even realize that smoking and my depression went hand in hand. I was smoking to try to help my depression, but it only made things worse.” Struggling to quit made her feel even more depressed.

Smoking didn’t just affect Rebecca’s mental health. She also had gum disease and started losing her teeth. The additional toll smoking had on her health motivated her more than ever before to lead a healthy lifestyle. “I finally realized I had to look to myself for my own happiness and health. I had to quit,” she said. She finally quit smoking and received treatment for her depression.

Today Rebecca feels better than ever, both mentally and physically. “Today, I take care of myself. I eat right. I went back into therapy to self-check and to have a professional to talk to about the trials and tribulations that I go through as a single grandmother, and as someone who wants to stay healthy.”

After she quit smoking, Rebecca began running while taking her grandson along for a ride in his stroller. This activity helped her manage stress and depression and to stay smokefree. Six months after starting to run, Rebecca ran her first 5K. “I actually placed third in my age group. That gave me the confidence to keep going,” she said. Learn more about Rebecca’s story, and the wake-up call that  helped her quit smoking for good.

Smoking and Adults with Mental Health Conditions

The percentage of adults with mental health conditions who smoke is at least twice that of the general population, compared with fewer than one in five (17%) adults in the general population.

Smoking-related diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer are among the most common causes of death among adults. Smoking is not a treatment for depression or anxiety.

Quitting smoking is not easy, but it is possible! Like other smokers, adults with mental health conditions who smoke want to quit, can quit, and can benefit from using proven stop-smoking treatments. By including cessation as part of your treatment plan, you can improve more than just your patients’ physical health – you can improve their overall mental and emotional well-being.

Resources to Help Smokers Quit for Good

Primary care and mental health care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based smoking cessation treatments. You can help by asking patients about their tobacco use and providing support and education about cessation to those who smoke.

Mental health care professionals and primary care providers can:

  • Ask their patients if they use tobacco; if they do, help them quit.
  • Offer proven quitting treatments, including tailored quit assistance, to patients who use tobacco.
  • Refer patients interested in quitting to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, Smokefree.gov, or other resources.
  • Provide counseling, support, and stop-smoking medicines, as appropriate.
  • Make quitting tobacco part of an overall approach to treatment and wellness.
  • Monitor and adjust mental health medicines as needed in people trying to quit using tobacco.

Free resources to support smokers in their quit journey are at CDC.gov/quit.  These tools can help smokers:

  • Choose a quit date. A new month as a start date is a great idea.
  • Let loved ones know about their quit journey, so they can be supportive.
  • List the reasons for quit smoking.
  • Find out what triggers cause them to smoke, especially during the early days.
  • Have places to turn to for help right away.

Just like Rebecca, smokers can end the cycle of nicotine addiction. If you are a mental health professional who works with patients who smoke, please take a look at CDC’s Resources for Mental Health Care Professionals.

No matter what your specialty is, you know the damaging effects that smoking can have on your patients’ health. Most smokers want to quit. Getting started often takes support and motivation from trusted sources, like you. With CDC’s Resources for Health Care Professionals, you can help your patients quit smoking for good and begin a healthy, smokefree life.

For more information, check out APA’s Smoking and Health Disparities resource page.

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Vital Signs: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults Aged ≥ 18 Years with Mental Illness—United States, 2009–2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013;62 (05):81–7 [accessed 2016 July 28].

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2013). The NSDUH Report: Adults With Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorder Account for 40 Percent of All Cigarettes Smoked [PDF–563 KB]. March 20, 2013. Rockville, MD [accessed 2016 May 18 ].

Biography:

blog-graffunder

Dr. Corinne Graffunder is Director of the Office on Smoking and Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She is responsible for providing broad leadership and direction for all scientific, policy, and programmatic issues related to tobacco control and prevention.

Prior to her current position she served as the Deputy Associate Director for Policy in CDC’s Office of the Director, working to strengthen collaboration between public health, health care, and other sectors to advance CDC’s population health priorities. She has more than 25 years of experience with national, state, and local prevention efforts and working with the US Surgeon General and National Prevention Council, led the development of the first ever National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness.

Since joining CDC in 1987, she has held leadership positions in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, working on a range of health issues including tobacco control, cancer prevention and control, and violence prevention.  She received her doctorate from the University of North Carolina and her Masters of Public Health and Bachelors of Science from the University of South Carolina.

 


Filed under: Health and Wellness, Health Disparities Tagged: CDC, CDC Tips from Former Smokers Campaign, depression, health disparities, mental health, mental illness, smoking, smoking and mental health, smoking cessation, tobacco

How to Help People with Mental Health Conditions Quit Smoking for Good

blog-cdc-tips-smokers-mhconditions

By Corinne M. Graffunder, DrPH, MPH (Director of the Office on Smoking and Health,  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Rebecca’s Story                                                                                                                                         

Rebecca, a former smoker featured in CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, started smoking cigarettes at age 16. Everyone in her family smoked, and once she started smoking, she quickly became addicted. She kept smoking into adulthood. While she tried to stop, she had difficulty quitting. “I probably tried to quit smoking at least half a dozen times, but the addiction was so strong.”

Rebecca was also diagnosed with depression at age 33, and she is not alone. Smoking is more common among people with mental health conditions than among people in the general population. In fact, people with mental health conditions smoke about 4 out of every 10 cigarettes smoked by adults in the United States.

Rebecca recalls the shame she felt when she tried to quit smoking and couldn’t. “All this time, I didn’t even realize that smoking and my depression went hand in hand. I was smoking to try to help my depression, but it only made things worse.” Struggling to quit made her feel even more depressed.

Smoking didn’t just affect Rebecca’s mental health. She also had gum disease and started losing her teeth. The additional toll smoking had on her health motivated her more than ever before to lead a healthy lifestyle. “I finally realized I had to look to myself for my own happiness and health. I had to quit,” she said. She finally quit smoking and received treatment for her depression.

Today Rebecca feels better than ever, both mentally and physically. “Today, I take care of myself. I eat right. I went back into therapy to self-check and to have a professional to talk to about the trials and tribulations that I go through as a single grandmother, and as someone who wants to stay healthy.”

After she quit smoking, Rebecca began running while taking her grandson along for a ride in his stroller. This activity helped her manage stress and depression and to stay smokefree. Six months after starting to run, Rebecca ran her first 5K. “I actually placed third in my age group. That gave me the confidence to keep going,” she said. Learn more about Rebecca’s story, and the wake-up call that  helped her quit smoking for good.

Smoking and Adults with Mental Health Conditions

The percentage of adults with mental health conditions who smoke is at least twice that of the general population, compared with fewer than one in five (17%) adults in the general population.

Smoking-related diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer are among the most common causes of death among adults. Smoking is not a treatment for depression or anxiety.

Quitting smoking is not easy, but it is possible! Like other smokers, adults with mental health conditions who smoke want to quit, can quit, and can benefit from using proven stop-smoking treatments. By including cessation as part of your treatment plan, you can improve more than just your patients’ physical health – you can improve their overall mental and emotional well-being.

Resources to Help Smokers Quit for Good

Primary care and mental health care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based smoking cessation treatments. You can help by asking patients about their tobacco use and providing support and education about cessation to those who smoke.

Mental health care professionals and primary care providers can:

  • Ask their patients if they use tobacco; if they do, help them quit.
  • Offer proven quitting treatments, including tailored quit assistance, to patients who use tobacco.
  • Refer patients interested in quitting to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, Smokefree.gov, or other resources.
  • Provide counseling, support, and stop-smoking medicines, as appropriate.
  • Make quitting tobacco part of an overall approach to treatment and wellness.
  • Monitor and adjust mental health medicines as needed in people trying to quit using tobacco.

Free resources to support smokers in their quit journey are at CDC.gov/quit.  These tools can help smokers:

  • Choose a quit date. A new month as a start date is a great idea.
  • Let loved ones know about their quit journey, so they can be supportive.
  • List the reasons for quit smoking.
  • Find out what triggers cause them to smoke, especially during the early days.
  • Have places to turn to for help right away.

Just like Rebecca, smokers can end the cycle of nicotine addiction. If you are a mental health professional who works with patients who smoke, please take a look at CDC’s Resources for Mental Health Care Professionals.

No matter what your specialty is, you know the damaging effects that smoking can have on your patients’ health. Most smokers want to quit. Getting started often takes support and motivation from trusted sources, like you. With CDC’s Resources for Health Care Professionals, you can help your patients quit smoking for good and begin a healthy, smokefree life.

For more information, check out APA’s Smoking and Health Disparities resource page.

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Vital Signs: Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults Aged ≥ 18 Years with Mental Illness—United States, 2009–2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013;62 (05):81–7 [accessed 2016 July 28].

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2013). The NSDUH Report: Adults With Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorder Account for 40 Percent of All Cigarettes Smoked [PDF–563 KB]. March 20, 2013. Rockville, MD [accessed 2016 May 18 ].

Biography:

blog-graffunder

Dr. Corinne Graffunder is Director of the Office on Smoking and Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She is responsible for providing broad leadership and direction for all scientific, policy, and programmatic issues related to tobacco control and prevention.

Prior to her current position she served as the Deputy Associate Director for Policy in CDC’s Office of the Director, working to strengthen collaboration between public health, health care, and other sectors to advance CDC’s population health priorities. She has more than 25 years of experience with national, state, and local prevention efforts and working with the US Surgeon General and National Prevention Council, led the development of the first ever National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness.

Since joining CDC in 1987, she has held leadership positions in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, working on a range of health issues including tobacco control, cancer prevention and control, and violence prevention.  She received her doctorate from the University of North Carolina and her Masters of Public Health and Bachelors of Science from the University of South Carolina.

 


Filed under: Health and Wellness, Health Disparities Tagged: CDC, CDC Tips from Former Smokers Campaign, depression, health disparities, mental health, mental illness, smoking, smoking and mental health, smoking cessation, tobacco

New CDC Survey Data Confirm the Severe Health Risks LGB Youth Face

blog-YRBS-LGB-youth

By Clinton Anderson, PhD (Director, APA Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns) & Lacey Rosenbaum, MEd (Director, APA Safe and Supportive Schools Project)

 

On August 11, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of the first national study of sexual minority high school students: “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 – United States and Selected Sites, 2015.”

This is the first nationally representative data on a wide range of risks among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) students, and it was made possible by CDC adding questions to the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is conducted biannually among students in grades 9-12 in high schools.

 

What does this new research tell us?

 

LGB students experience much higher levels of physical and sexual violence and bullying compared to their heterosexual peers:

  • LGB high school students are more likely to report being forced to have sex (18% vs. 5%),
  • to experience sexual dating violence (23% vs. 9%),
  • to experience physical dating violence (18% vs. 8%),
  • and to be bullied at school or online (at school: 34% vs. 19%; online: 28% vs. 14%).

LGB students are at increased risk for suicide:

  • More than 40% of LGB students reported seriously considering and roughly 30% reported attempting suicide in the last year.

60% of LGB youth reported having been so sad or hopeless they stopped doing some usual activities.

More than 10% reported having missed school because of safety concerns.

LGB students were up to 5 times more likely than other students to report using several illegal drugs.

These results confirm the need for school-based interventions that APA called for in its Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Children and Adolescents in Schools.

 

What about transgender students? 

 

The 2015 results include no findings on transgender students. To date, federal officials have not been able to devise scientifically sound gender identity questions for inclusion in the YRBS. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes this research challenge and seeks to address it in its federal sexual orientation and gender identity data collection plans. APA in its Resolution supports the validation of gender identity measures to better understand the experiences of transgender and gender diverse students and calls for schools to create supportive environments for these students.

 

What does other research on LGB youth say?

 

Other research points to a number of shared risk factors for violence, which may affect LGB youth:

  • Social isolation and lack of social support;
  • Poor parent-child relationships (lack of parental caring and support);
  • History of violent victimization (violence makes one vulnerable to more violence);
  • Perceived by others as not masculine or feminine enough.

 

So, what works to protect LGB youth?

 

There is no simple solution to these dangerous intersections of risks, but research has identified shared protective factors that can help young people at the individual, family, and community levels.

  • Individual-level protective factors include helping young people develop problem-solving and coping skills and encouraging bystander interventions.
  • Family-level protective factors include family support and connectedness, connection to other caring adults, connection to and commitment to school and peers.
  • Community-level protective factors include community support and connectedness and access to mental health and substance abuse services.

All of us, including parents, schools and communities, can and must take action to ensure gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth survive and thrive. APA’s Respect Workshop, developed with CDC support, provides school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to make schools safe and supportive for LGB students.

 

What can we all do?

 

Professionals and parents can:

  • Work with schools to ensure comprehensive, community-wide support systems that reduce risk and promote protective factors for LGB youth.

Schools can:

  • Work to support and encourage parents to foster resiliency in their children by providing strong family support and teaching all children nonviolent problem solving skills.
  • Build environments that provide safety and connectedness for all students, including gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth.

Communities can:

  • Adopt policies and practices to reduce discrimination and forms of victimization that contribute to vulnerability and thereby reduce stressors for LGB youth.

 

Connectedness is key

 

At the end of the day, making sure that LGB youth feel connected – to parents, to peers, to teachers, and to schools and other community organizations – is key to protecting their health. Students are more likely to thrive in their schools and communities if they know they matter – if they know the adults, teachers, and friends in their lives care about their safety and success.

For more info, check out APA’s Safe and Supportive Schools Project.

Image source: Flickr user ankxt via Creative Commons


Filed under: Children and Youth, LGBT Issues Tagged: bullying, CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, health disparities, health risks, LGB youth, online bullying, safe schools, school bullying, school connectedness, school safety, sexual assault, sexual minorities, sexual minority youth, sexual violence, suicide, violence, YRBS