Tuesday, January 17, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s Daily, Denver has paired social workers with park rangers to address needs of unhoused people. Most of us get grouchy when we’re sick – and there are biological explanations. Traveling is found to improve physical and mental health. A Chicago nonprofit cafe uses sales of coffee to fund free therapy for those who need it. And tips on getting over “productivity guilt.”

A new Denver combo: social workers and park rangers

When Denver park rangers patrol the city’s parks and trails, they now have some unusual partners: two social workers who accompany them in order to help people grappling with homelessness and substance use. The effort is a response to the growing number of people rangers are encountering who are in crisis and need mental health support, rather than police. They “help us on tougher contacts with individuals who might be experiencing homelessness or addiction,” Ranger Caronia Distefano told KDVR-TV.

“We don’t want to call the cops,” Kayla Bauer, one of the two social workers. “We don’t want to have to use any kind of excessive force. We want to be like, hey, what resources can we help you with before we write citations or evict them.” The two therapists work for WellPower, a Denver-based nonprofit that offers services in substance use recovery, mental health, and social support. 

Bauer’s job is to build a positive connection with people so that they can be directed to much needed help, including case workers, shelters, food stamps and other basic necessities. “I feel like it really makes everything safer for everyone no matter what class you fall into, how much money you make, if you’re experiencing homelessness or not – it’s safer for everyone,” she said.

Does traveling contribute to better mental and physical health?

via Twitter

A team from University College London’s Centre for Transport Studies found that the ability to travel – and the social connections that travel facilitates – is associated with improved overall health, Medical News reports. Researchers analyzed survey responses from 2,747 residents of Northern England and found that those who reported traveling outside their local area – defined as 15 miles away from their primary neighborhoods – seemed to have better health outcomes, especially in people aged 55 and over. 

“The study shows that the possibility to travel is important for the health of populations,” said lead author Paulo Anciaes. “The implication is that constraints to travel need to be removed.”

“It is clear that social connection is a basic human need,” Elizabeth Pegg Frates, a researcher who studies social connectedness and was not involved in the research, told Medical News Today. “After our need for water, food, and shelter, we have a need for belonging, or social connection

“Why Does Getting Sick Turn Me Into a Whiny Little Crybaby?”

That provocative question comes from an interesting piece in Self magazine. We all know that being sick can impact your mood, and not in a positive way. The Self story reports that researchers have identified a set of “sickness behaviors,” or shifts in the things people do when their body is infected. These include psychological and neurological symptoms, including diminished mood, sluggishness, impaired brain performance, and even a decreased desire to be social.

It works like this: When your body gets a hint that it’s been exposed to a pathogen, it starts producing tiny proteins called cytokines as part of its immune response. When they travel to your brain, cytokines affect the hippocampus, causing inflammation in the region that regulates mood. They trigger inflammation in other parts of your body, too, and as a side effect of their necessary work, you get fever, body aches, and fatigue. Inflammation is a key factor in depression, according to scientists, with people diagnosed with mood disorder generally displaying higher levels of inflammation related to the immune system.

At any rate, take heart: It’s a good thing that your body reacts this way when it detects some invading germs. Sickness behaviors, including a less cheerful mood, push you to slow down and focus on healing. 

In other news…

Cover an hour of therapy with a cup of joe. Coffee, Hip Hop, and Mental Health is a Chicago nonprofit that uses proceeds from coffee sales to pay for people to get therapy. It also provides free yoga classes and free group therapy, with plans to expand into after-school and youth programs, hip-hop gatherings, book clubs, and more wellness offerings. 

“Lack of access to quality health care, economic stability, resources and basic survival needs plague individuals and families alike, making it a challenge to be receptive to therapy and its benefits,” founder Christopher LeMark told Block Club Chicago. “We can complain and look away or we can do something about it. This is our way of doing something about it [by] launching healing journeys with hopes of changing community and family dynamics.”

Productivity guilt and what to do about it: Do you often feel there’s something wrong with you because you haven’t checked enough things off your never-ending to-do list? You may have experienced “productivity guilt,” therapist Sarah Bryski-Hamrick told LIVESTRONG.com. She calls it “insidious.” Even when it’s impossible to do everything you set out to, productivity guilt makes you think you’re not enough. Hustle culture doesn’t make it any better, with its constant suggestion that any time spent “doing nothing” is time lost to earn money or get something done. 

The good news is, there are things you can do about it, LIVESTRONG says: 

  • Unfollow social media accounts that prioritize productivity over wellness. 
  • Seek professional help from a licensed mental health counselor.
  • Pay attention to your body – when you feel overwhelmed and need a break, take it.
  • Assert your right to say no and mean it.
  • Be kind to yourself and stop comparing your accomplishments to others. 
  • Put “work” and “production” aside sometimes and feed your fun by doing something for the joy of it.

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 WiseReporter

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...