Thursday, June 22, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Greetings, MindSite News Readers! In today’s Daily, a look at the rising numbers of older Californians experiencing homelessness for the first time in their lives; a peek inside a gender-affirming hair salon in Texas, and a conversation with a tarot-reading social worker who says the cards can help us better examine ourselves.

Plus, Congressman Adam Smith wrote a memoir about how he learned to manage his mental health struggles and HBO’s Real Sports takes a look at how changes to artistic swimming are causing problems with athletes’ mental health. 

Old people losing housing” – with no net to catch them – is a big factor in California homelessness

Addiction and severe mental illness aren’t the only paths to homelessness in California, writes Los Angeles Times columnist Anita Chabria. A major study published this week found that reaching age 50 as a member of the working poor is a major pathway to homelessness – especially if you’re Black or Brown. The research team from UC San Francisco found that among unhoused adults in California, 7% are older than 65, and close to half are 50 or older. And get this: 41% of older, single Californians in the study had never experienced homelessness until they hit 50. 

“These are old people losing housing,” Margot Kushel, the study’s lead author, told Chabria. “They basically were ticking along very poor, and sometime after the age of 50 something happened,” she said. “Something” might include divorce, death of a loved one, illness, or a cut in job hours, triggering a downward spiral that ends with loss of a home. Combine these with mental illness and drug use and the numbers soar.

The problem is twofold: Older adults are being priced out of the places they currently live and there’s no other affordable housing available. “For every 100 extremely low-income people in California, defined as making less than 30% of area median income, there are only 24 units of affordable housing available,” Chabria wrote. The failure to provide affordable housing for people with very low incomes all but guarantees that they will end up on the streets.

The study was based on surveys of almost 3,200 homeless people selected to be demographically representative, plus 365 in-depth interviews, in rural and urban areas of the state. Another interesting fact: Most of the unhoused in the state are native Californians, contrary to the narrative that unhoused people flock to the state for a more comfortable living on the street. Kushel’s bottom line? Mental health and substance use problems are major issues, and treatment is vital, she said, but “the only solution to homelessness is housing.” 

Acute Salon, the first gender-affirming hair salon in Fort Worth, Texas

Acute Salon, owned and operated by Charli Bonham, doesn’t just provide gender-neutral cuts and care to clients, it also provides its hair care professionals training in mindful consultations and gender-neutral barbering. “We are committed to helping folks to express themselves through their hair regardless of gender identity… to cultivate an environment that is devotedly intolerant of racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and bigotry,” Bonham told Good Good Good. Moreover, all stylists at Acute are equipped with information about LGBTQ+ organizations and health providers, in the event their clients express a need for additional support. It’s “a breath of fresh air” in Texas, a state that has put much energy toward anti-trans legislation of late. 

In addition to being a safer space for trans, nonbinary, and other LGBTQ+ identified people, it’s also a space where any person, LGBTQ+ or not, struggling with alopecia, trichotillomania, or sensory issues can get compassionate and patient care. “We strive to do what we can to help facilitate a safer space, create community, and simply provide quality services that everyone needs,” said Bonham.

And for LGBTQ+ identified people who can’t afford a haircut, Acute has been providing discounted or free cuts since 2018. At present, the salon partners with LGBTQ Saves and Finn’s Place to fund the free haircuts. “Positive representation has proven to be helpful in increasing self-esteem for people of marginalized groups,” Bonham said. “And there isn’t anyone who doesn’t want to feel a self-esteem boost after getting their hair done.”

Tarot and psychology: How the cards can help us understand ourselves

Let’s get this out of the way first: Jessica Dore, a licensed social worker and author of Tarot for Change: Using the Cards for Self-Care, Acceptance, and Growth, says she doesn’t use tarot cards as a form of fortunetelling or divination. Instead, they present a daily opportunity for self reflection to better understand ourselves and make choices that align with our values. Her book isn’t solely about spirituality either.

It offers meditations on the 78-card deck by incorporating teachings from psychology and behavioral science, with more traditional aspects of tarot. Dore told the LA Times she sees the cards as tools of exploration and personally uses them to “stimulate new ideas or ways of seeing things that maybe hadn’t been previously considered.”

For example, while many people seek tarot readings for answers during uncertain periods in their lives, Dore says the cards can be used to help people learn to sit and deal with their challenges because not everything can be put “right” again. It offers validation for the difficulty they’re experiencing as they learn to work through their troubles, she said. 

The cards can help people “make sense of the ways that thoughts, feelings and behavior can interact and how to develop some awareness and skill around those interactions in service of making meaningful changes in your life,” Dore said.

In other news…

Elected officials often have to present as self-assured and confident, even when they aren’t. In his new memoir, Lost and Broken: My Journey Back from Chronic Pain and Crippling Anxiety, Rep. Adam Smith, who represents Washington state’s 9th Congressional District, writes about his mental health struggles throughout the years. He told the Seattle Times that he struggled intensely with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain for six years, and as he learned to manage his challenges, he thought that what he learned “felt like a story worth telling.” 

Artistic swimming, formerly called synchronized swimming, is no longer about the images most of us hold in our minds: beautiful, but relatively “calm” swimming movements creating visual formations that allow the swimmers plenty of space to breathe. These days, the sport is far more intense, and more closely aligned with gymnastics and competitive swimming, sports that draw larger crowds and make more money. The changes to artistic swimming have come at a cost to the swimmers themselves. In this piece from Real Sport’s Soledad O’Brien, viewers learn the toll changes have taken on artistic swimmers’ mental health.

Mental health apps exploded in usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the public health emergency phase of COVID has ended, numerous stakeholders including physicians, mental health providers, politicians, and app makers themselves are working to decide how the public can continue to make good use of these digital tools which proved indispensable over the past three years. KFF Health News offers a look at the policy implications of their use.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...