Findings From The Minority Mental Health Month Twitter Chat

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The National Institute of Minority and Mental Health Disparities[NIMHD] co-hosted a Twitter chat in observance of Minority Mental Health Month with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[SAMHSA] on July 12.

The #MinorityMH chat addressed the mental health of adults in minority groups at the community level and reached health organizations, researchers, federal agencies, mental health professionals, community health workers, and other members of the public health community.

Here are some discussed points and shared resources:

Factors Affecting Minority Mental Health

  • Stigma and fear associated with mental health contribute to a lack of understanding about illness, undiagnosed conditions, and treatment prevention in communities.
  • The limited number of culturally competent caregivers and resources, treatment discrimination, and structural inequalities lead to distrust, misdiagnosis, and not seeking care.
  • Socioeconomic factors hindering care include poor quality of care, inadequate health centers, finances and transportation for care, and limited Internet access.
  • Psychological distress caused by racial discrimination, poverty, environment, and other social determinants of health contribute to higher prevalence rates of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, depression, suicide, and substance abuse in minority communities.
  • There’s a need to change the narrative and encourage more minorities to talk about depression and seek care, particularly for elders, youth of color, African American and Latino males, and LGBT individuals.

Practices for Addressing Minority Mental Health in Communities

  • Various organizations are working to educate community members, teach care providers, and support research that helps us better understand factors affecting minority mental health.
  • Forming community-level help groups and forums, actively reaching out to minorities, considering faith-based partners, having culturally competent and diverse staff, serving as role models, and good screening at all levels of care are some methods for addressing the issue.
  • Community organizations are researching better solutions for specific groups and illness, examining race-based differential treatment, creating training programs for health professionals, and ensuring that community centers have multilingual resources to contribute to improve mental health services.

The takeaway here is to educate, inform, educate and inform. Next, communities that have been and remain underserved and underrepresented in availing themselves to mental health service providers, need access to licensed and qualified agencies with culturally responsive professionals in their area. Medical offices should be a referral source, and staff should be mindful of key indicators of mental health conditions when patients come in for routine doctor’s visits. Schools should be equally as mindful when it concerns students in attendance. Health fairs, held at school and in the community should have a forum for such information dissemination, and have readily available resources to make referrals.

The stigma attached to mental health can only be removed with education and outreach to minority populations. They tend to be the groups whose cultural beliefs have perpetuated and attached negative stigma to those who seek mental health counseling or individuals with mental health diagnoses. That must be countered by plainly talking about mental health, and bringing it out into the open. Make it a part of normal conversations and eliminate the shame.

There is no shame in seeking help! Reach out and spread the word; make it ok and learn to manage life with a mental health diagnosis. Teach families to cope, manage and support their relatives who have been diagnosed. Teach them to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, so they know when to seek professional advice-consultation, treatment. Don’t let a family member feel they are alone. Don’t let children feel they are bad people, either. Nobody, ADULT OR CHILD, should go through it alone–without professional help AND unconditional love AND familial support!

Culturally Tailored Mental Health Resources for Minorities

Common Myths About Dyscalculia and Math Learning Disabilities

What is dyscalculia? Dyscalculia is a specific learning disability in math. Kids with dyscalculia may have difficulty understanding number-related concepts or using symbols or functions needed for success in mathematics.

It’s not as well known or understood as dyslexia. But some experts believe it’s just as common. Experts don’t yet know for sure if dyscalculia is more common in girls or in boys. But most agree it’s unlikely that there’s any significant difference.

Dyscalculia goes by many names. Some schools refer to it as a mathematics learning disability. Doctors sometimes call it a mathematics disorder. You may even hear kids and parents call it math dyslexia. (The term math dyslexia can be misleading, though Dyscalculia and dyslexia are not the same.)

They often don’t understand quantities or concepts like biggest vs. smallest. They may not understand that the numeral 5 is the same as the word five. (These skills are sometimes called number sense.)

Kids with dyscalculia also have trouble with the mechanics of doing math, such as being able to recall math facts. They may understand the logic behind math, but not how or when to apply what they know to solve math problems.

Who says dyscalculia isn’t common?

Here are five common myths about dyscalculia—and the facts to debunk them.

Source: Common Myths About Dyscalculia and Math Learning Disabilities

By Any Other Name…. It Is Still Called Segregation

Interestingly, within a U.S. city as sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and diversely populated as New York City, it boggles the mind that their public education system encompasses all five boroughs, flows through so many different communities, cultures and yet… an overwhelmingly segregated school system.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is the largest school district in the U.S., serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. Nearly 77% of the students live in or near poverty, and combined, black and Hispanic students make up over 70% of their enrollment. Teachers remain overwhelmingly white, and represent significant cultural mismatches, but that doesn’t mean that this is necessarily problematic. Race and culture don’t determine efficacy. The ‘problems’ exist in a different realm.

Of late, the focus is on student demographic data, disaggregated by race and class. This means, plainly spoken, the student populations are not reflected in the schools they attend and there is a recognizable pattern of enrollment across the city’s schools. This pattern suggests extreme segregation due to clustering. Black kids go to school with black kids. White kids with white kids, affluent with affluent-no healthy cross-section. Newly unveiled plans to address the disturbing patterns in a number of ways.

#1. Plans are to make the schools representative of the overall student population. Over 70% of students in all school districts across the 5 boroughs of NYC are black and Hispanic, who represent 30% and 40% respectively. However, school enrollment demographics do not reflect those numbers. So, soon the general enrollment is to be less segregated by race and more balanced student diversity.

#2. Schools are greatly segregated along class lines as well. Duh! The proposed changes once again are to be more reflective of the general population. Some schools have large numbers of high needs students enrolled  in similarly disproportionate fashion. Even the ‘limited selection’ schools are about to be tweaked in terms of their enrollment/admissions process.

Normal selection process in such schools, has interest that determines the student selection for attendance. If students attend open houses, as an expression of interest in those schools, then they are selected to enroll. This process places many students in poorer families at a disadvantage. The affordability of transportation, time off work, etc… are factors that limit their access. So, that will change, too. Of course, all such changes will be incremental. No one can withstand radical change, it seems. How radical is de-segregation? In the 21st Century?

 

It is noteworthy that in all new school proposals to be implemented by the Department of Education, not anywhere is explicit language used to describe the root symptom of the identified problems-segregation and integration. Instead, diversity is the common term to describe de-segregation of public schools.

Diversity is everywhere we look, and everywhere we go, and within every school’s core student population, no matter the racial make-up. But, the ‘implied’ in this students of color and students of families with lower household incomes are not attending every school at numbers that reflect the city-wide student demographic.

Let’s call it what it is, NYC…SEGREGATION !!

 

 

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change, too. Of course, all such changes will be incremental. No one can withstand radical change, it seems. How radical is de-segregation? In the 21st Century!

It is just noteworthy and questionable that in all new proposals, not anywhere is explicit language used to describe the root problem-segregation, integration. Instead, diversity is the coined term. Diversity is everywhere we look, and everywhere we go, and within every school’s core student population, no matter the racial make-up. But, the ‘implied’ students of color and students of families with lower household incomes are not attending every school at numbers that reflect the city-wide student demographic population. We’re still evading the main issue.

Additional noteworthiness in these new plans is that there is a clear absence of any plans for staff training, professional development, diversity workshops, cultural proficiency courses, or any system-wide, initiatives that will be undertaken at all levels in aim to prepare and equip school based staff for the new slice of ‘diversity’ soon to enter their school buildings and classrooms. Segreation didn’t happen by chance, but by deliberated choice, therefore by design.  Not only is re-design an imperative, but so is the general re-design of the framework of policies, practices, procedures, programs, and personnel, too.

Best practices, as an informational guide to all of the above, need to be re-evaluated, revised, researched, and reconsidered in all school environments. If student populations are to change, radically, in some cases, we will merely start a ‘grease fire’ in districts across the city without well thought out transitional processes. There are a number of components about which we mustn’t neglect in this design, should we wish for success and positively impact all lives.

Prepare the students themselves, for when students acquire the tools, mindsets, that enable them to appreciate, respect, and not just tolerate differences, they will be more eager to collaborate in and outside of school settings.

Proactively prepare the staff, for when staff acquire the tools that will enhance their already present competencies with cultural competence, they will experience less job-related stress, and will develop and sustain relationships with students and families. Differentiated instruction will be delivered with optimal positive outcomes. Win-Win!

Prepare the community, PARENTS AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST, for when the community stakeholders are informed, involved, invited, and aligned with mission, and school-related decisions, we empower an entire community, and gain powerful, influential allies, too. Win-Win!

Prepare ourselves. Essentially, we must be individually and then collectively ready to facilitate true educational equity, and ensure school success for every child, and partner with every parent. All students can then engage, learn, thrive, and travel the pathways to potential recognized and realized within this new structural design of 21st century learning environments. The absolute 1st step before incrementally introducing physical shifts, transfers, district changes being proposed here.

That part of the preparation process that exists to impact every student in every classroom is in the curriculum (re-)design. Must, must, must be overhauled, more inclusive, and respectful and responsively incorporate into academic and life lessons all different faces, races, religions, cultures, communities, etc…

Instruction, supported and supplemented by the inclusion of real life, present and past in all forms, is both relevant and engaging. Besides preparing students to engage in a global society, respect ‘diversity’ and feel validated, they will certainly enjoy learning in the classrooms much more than they do today, or more than their parents may have appreciated or enjoyed school yesterday.

How will students learn to respect ‘different’ if they don’t learn about different people, different experiences, realities, histories, traditions, opinions, worldviews? How can a black child feel good about him/herself if they never learn about themselves through learning about others who look like themselves? Certainly, we aren’t that far removed from reality that we actually expect an overwhelming majority of black children to excel at, near or greater levels than their counterparts with the content provided in schools today. Motivating students to want to learn, achieve, dream, engage, and behave depends as much on content as relationship between teachers, families and student.

Children, by and large, are taught throughout their k-12 education by learning about white people, through white eyes, from white perspectives. That doesn’t work, and with increasing diversity, we must use the current data on instructional content and achievement to better inform us. Everything about education must change, and this means the curriculum; not subject, not rigor – the lack of contextual diversity and cultural relevance must be altered.  We expect black kids to learn and want to learn about Pythagoras theory, but we don’t tell them that this math pioneer was of African descent.

Oh, sure! We throw a few bones to black kids each year, but how long should they have to wait before school become places where they want to be, not just mandated to be?

 

FOR NOW, LET’S CALL IT WHAT IT IS, PEOPLE….. DE-SEGREGATION!

 

For Youth Who’ve Experienced “Complex Trauma”[Part 3-Healthy Coping Strategies]

Trauma reminders or “triggers” can set off false alarms in the brain and body. For people who have experienced Complex Trauma, it can feel as if their problems are too big to manage, that they are all alone, that no one cares, or that nothing will help. When this happens, their false alarm can feel so strong that they forget safe or healthy ways to cope and turn to forms of coping that can cause more problems.

It is natural to get a little ‘off your game’ when reminded of bad past experiences. Fortunately, it doesn’t mean that you are bad, crazy or messed up. It just means that you are human. Fortunately, when we make it through bad times, we become stronger, and the fact that we survive to live another day, means that today, we ARE stronger and can exercise and own our power to dictate and determine OUR future. No matter how powerless you may have felt before, today we know better.

Just don’t go through it alone-that’s not healthy, nor is it in your best interest. Never feel ashamed or afraid to ask for help when facing difficult times or difficult decisions-AT LEAST SOME TIMES. Professionals or people who understand how complex trauma works can show you ways to help things get better. Even others who have had similar experiences can help to recognize your triggers, and help you tap into your strengths and resilience. Aside from complex trauma therapies, here are some strategies that can be used to help make things better.

#1. INCREASE YOUR SAFETY.

There are ways to increase your safety in life and relationships. Sometimes you may feel like things will never change because you’ve experienced complex trauma for so long. By talking to people you trust, teacher, therapist relative, you can learn ways to feel and be safe.

  • Learn how to recognize unsafe situations, then identify and practice ‘exit’ strategies-to leave the situation safely.
  • Learn whom you can trust, and who will give you the best advice or guidance if in an unsafe situation, and need help. You don’t have to figure things out alone.
  • Take inventory of your relationships, and ask yourself how do you know who is safe. Violence and abuse is not always physical, as it can be emotional, and if that’s the case, you are not safe.
  • Explore how you can feel safe in your own mind and body. What helps you to replace negative or frightening thoughts? What helps to calm you and makes you feel in control? Trust yourself and learn when your body or mind tells you to get out of a situation, stand up for yourself or get help.

Remember, love is not supposed to make you feel less than good, smart, capable, and it doesn’t take your control away from you or take control of your body in ways that make you feel sad, scared or tense all the time. No one wants to feel that way, and when you learn to manage your emotions, energy level and behavior, you give yourself more choices and get more control over your life.

#2. MANAGE YOUR FEELINGS

  • Begin to recognize your trauma ‘reminders’ or triggers,. Learn to know the things that remind you, like the way someone talks to you or the way someone looks at you.
  • Identify your feelings, figure out what you are feeling and where you feel it. For instance, when you are nervous, or mad, does your heart beat really fast? Do you feel it in your stomach? Your body sends messages to your brain that are used to identify your emotions. Then you can change the feelings in your body so you have to feel that way.
  • Practice communicating your feelings to a caring and trusted person in your life in ways that they may ‘hear’ you and want to help you. Avoid holding everything inside or blaming someone you care about. Let people know how you feel.
  • Find ways to let go of hurtful feelings or thoughts, or just express your feelings. Try journaling, drawing, listening to music, yoga or exercise.
  • Try new coping skills to see which ones help. Discover which help when you feel bad about yourself, have low energy, lots of energy…which work best for different feelings.

 

#3. BUILD HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

Everyone needs people in their lives, and although complex trauma may mean that those who were supposed to protect and have your back didn’t, don’t give up on people altogether. While it’s good to be careful about who you choose to trust, don’t believe that you can trust no one.It is easy to give up and expect the worse from others, and you may even start to put up with things from others that you shouldn’t. There are some things you can do to help.

Relationships with siblings, adults, peers and even coworkers take work. Some of us prefer to have one or two good friends, and some prefer lots of people. Find people who care and whom you can go for support, have fun with, feel safe with, and who will have your back when things aren’t going well. The skills you need to build good relationships with others are:

  • learning how to make and maintain safe and healthy connections,
  • knowing what you want from other people,
  • understanding what you want and can give to other people.

 

  • Take a close look at all of your relationships. What have you liked and not liked in each one? Ask yourself is this a relationship I can count on, how do I act when in this relationship, and am I proud of the person I am?
  • Decide which are worth continuing and which may cause problems or hurt you. Look at examples of good relationships- described in books, TV and movies and try to picture a good healthy relationship. How would it feel, look like? Example: the type of people in your life now- friend, mentor, caregiver…Which or what do you need more of?
  • Do you have enough sources of support? Comfort, for advice, fun, a good listener, someone to lend you a hand when needed? You don’t need one person for all of these, for it may take several people to meet different needs.
  • Practice your relationship skills with people you already count on. It may be a therapist, sibling, or relative. When you feel ready, practice with two people you want to know better that maybe you hadn’t thought of before. A co-worker, family member, people your age or others you may trust.
  • Think about building new relationships and friendships. Find something that you like to do that others may like and find out if they want to do it with you. Look for opportunities to try new activities or go new places that seem fun and safe and introduce yourself to new people. It takes great courage, but you can do it. If you’re unsure about a new person or group of people, ask someone you trust to think it through with you.

#4. INCREASE STRENGTHS AND POSITIVE FEELINGS

Many youth who have experienced complex trauma spend alot of their timew jusy getting by from day to day. This is exhausting and may mean having more bad feelings than good ones. Good feelings- excitement, pride, hope, vuriosity- won’t erase the bad ones, but they help you get through them. Everyone deserves joy in their lives. Look for places or people to do fun things with. Recognize positive things about yourself and people and things around you.

  • Take a look at what is getting in your way. Often things outside of ourselves get in the way-family obligations, finances. Often there are things inside of us that get in the way-feeling guilty, uncomfortable feeling happy, you don’t deserve good things, or even hopelessness.
  • Find things you’re good at and do them. Take pride in your efforts. Feel good about working toward something. Sports, dancing, music, art, singing, gardening, fixing things….
  • Learn how to do one thing at a time. Pick one thing to focus all of your attention on. Do it for two minutes. Start with concentrating on slowing your breathing, and breathing from your stomach. If you find your mind wandering, don’t feel bad, just try again. The more you practice the better you’ll get. Practice doing one thing at a time and it will get easier for you to stop worrying about bad things and focus on good things. Positive thinking works!
  • Make a list of all the things you like to do and would like to try. Make it as long as you can. Choose those that seem almost impossible and those that are immediately available.

 

#5. MAKE SENSE OF THE PAST, FIGURING OUT WHO YOU ARE NOW AND TAKE A LEAD ROLE IN SHAPING YOUR FUTURE

When people live through a lot of bad stuff and not enough good, they learn to react first, think later and focus on survival. Over time, this can become a habit and feel like the only way to live. We can forget all about our dreams, wishes, goals. People who have experienced complex trauma may not have had time to develop their goals and the only future they imagine is more bad stuff or no future at all. They can, however, learn to envision a better future, feel more powerful, think through difficult situations, and make good decisions that solve problems and improve their lives.

  • Learn to understand and cope with your emotions. Don’t just get rid of your feelings, but take control over them. You want to size up a situation, figure out your choices and make a good decision instead of making them worse by acting on impulse like avoiding them altogether or succumbing to them as though you have no choice. We always have choices, even when it seems there are none. Every situation presents options, including doing nothing or walking away. Hard to figure out the right or best solution sometimes, muster up courage and have no fear in asking for help. You may feel better after seeking the guidance or advice from someone whom has been given your trust.
  • Explore yourself, who you are, what matters to you, and what you want to be in the future. If there are limits to your dreams and goals, you don’t have to abandon them- just adjust them a little. You can still get to your goal. What you do well, what interests you and makes you feel good or happy-identify these things that hold meaning for you. Understand which experiences have influenced, good or bad, the person you have become today. Make sense of your history, even if they get in your way. Learn to manage your responses to reminders of things in your past takes time, and that may require help from someone who makes you feel safe.
  • Even the hardest times can lead to development of new strengths in people who survive therm. Take inventory of your strengths developed thus far. You have many! You can be and are resilient!
  • Exploring your experiences, life history, look at the whole you, not just the past or parts that make you feel bad, hurt… It can help build the strongest you.
  • Others can give you the tools to cope, spark the strengths you don’t know you have, but its up to you to take it from there. Keep going!

Never give up imagining a brighter future for yourself, even when all seems hopeless. You’ve got to fight through the hopeless feelings. You can’t change everything, but you can find good things that make living your life worth it. Change your response to that which you can’t change and focus on changing that which you can. All of this happens as you focus on you, and the best you will accept and understand the difference. Then you can dream bigger, better, brighter-your future can still be bright!

 

 

Know yourself, who you are, and your strengths. In life, we each can grow, build capacity, and increase our strengths. We are more positive than not, and those who care will accept you for all you are.

We live for today and plan for tomorrow, knowing more than we did yesterday. We are stronger, better, wiser, and the past doesn’t have to dictate the future, no matter how it seems that it always will-only if you let it. Don’t let it take away your joy! Give yourself a chance to be happy! Give people a chance to be a part of your happiness. Just know that you learned from past mistakes, build on your past successes, and be your best self. You are a gift to the world!