August 2, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In this edition, we bring you Kate Ruder’s on-the-ground look into how Boulder County, Colorado, is helping its traumatized wildfire survivors cope with displacement and rebuilding as well as triggers that include smoke, windstorms and ongoing evacuations due to new wildfires in the region. Plus, mobile medical care for the unhoused in Los Angeles, getting calm through inclusive meditation in Chicago, hockey’s toxic culture, and the dangers of ‘John Henryism.’ We wish you a safe and rejuvenating August.


How a Colorado Community Put Mental Health First After a Wildfire

In Boulder County, every time there’s smoke or a strong wind, therapists are getting calls from wildfire survivors who’ve been retraumatized. Foundations and other agencies have helped support a Wildlife Mental Health Program, which has helped thousands of residents survive the unthinkable. Counselors are helping children prepare to return to school and families heal in their ‘new normal.’

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Mobile medical care for the unhoused in LA County

Credit: Twitter

Since 2017, the Saban Community Clinic has driven a team of doctors, physician’s assistants and nurses throughout Los Angeles streets to deliver care directly to the unhoused. The mobile clinic works to provide vital, humanistic care and screenings to a population frequently lacking consistent treatment for chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and mental illness.

Lisa Rogers was seeing a doctor for the first time in years, but she allowed the LA Times to sit nearby during her intake interview. She came hoping for treatment for a painful rash. As she revealed her medical history – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, diabetes, and asthma – she laughed nervously, confiding, “I’m all messed up.” Still, she hadn’t visited a hospital in three years: Her last emergency room experience left her with an unclosed hole from a tracheostomy and too afraid to go back.

At the mobile clinic, Rogers was treated by Samantha Kumpf, a physician’s assistant, who inspected a skin rash, checked her for STDs and hair lice, and sent her off with prescription medications for diabetes and asthma. Kumpf also promised to look for a specialist who could close the hole in her neck and offer her regular care. 

Rogers’ experience at Saban is becoming more commonplace. LA County supports roughly a dozen mobile clinics that reached 22,558 people in 2021, and plans to open more. Many of those who visit become repeat patients. “I have been able to see more patients since we got the van,” said Dr. Coley King, director of homeless health at the Venice Family Clinic. “We are able to bring vaccines, we are able to do lab testing and extensive wound care. And if the patients wish, we are able to offer them more privacy. It’s a well-stocked, beautiful modern space.”

Making meditation and Reiki accessible in Chicago

Credit: Twitter

“Can you name what’s stirring within your heart and soul? Or name what has been heavy within your body?” Cristina Puzio posed the question to the dozens of people gathered for the sound healing sessions she offers every week in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

A Reiki practitioner and meditation instructor who started offering meditation to her community more than five years ago, Puzio realized many of her neighbors didn’t understand the practices or how they could use them, the Chicago Tribune reported. “Many people may have thought that they didn’t belong in a room where people meditate,” said Paula Acevedo, co-director of El Paseo Community Garden, where Puzio hosts her sessions. “We want to create a safe space for everyone.”

Puzio began hosting workshops and sessions at the garden, asking only for a donation for entry. She teaches participants how to use meditation as a way of managing physical and emotional pain and to heal them: soul, mind and body. Attendance swelled in 2020 as people sought to deal with their grief from the effects of COVID. Puzio and Acevedo are strategizing ways to grow the program and keep it low cost. Participants are appreciative.  “I tried to do it at home, but it wasn’t working, I needed something different,” participant Eddie Galvan said.

Serious concerns about hockey’s toxic culture

Credit: Twitter

Hockey Canada is dealing with a reckoning. As the organization faces public outrage following its handling of sexual assault allegations throughout the years, some people – parents in particular – are questioning whether the sport’s governing body can be trusted. “I’m not sure it’s possible for women to trust an organization with that kind of history anymore,” Beatrice van Dijk, a mother of four daughters in the sport, told Cross Country Checkup. “I’m not sure it’s possible for parents who care about young men being raised in a non-toxic, non-highly sexualized power environment to have trust in an institution that has enabled such behavior.”

The CBC reported that former Canadian Hockey League goalie Brock McGillis’s experiences in junior hockey locker rooms caused him to hate his life. “Being a gay man in there, hiding who I was and adhering to the norms and becoming a womanizing hockey bro — and what that did to me, I mean, quite honestly, I was going home … and attempting to die by suicide,” he said. “There’s no room to be anything other than the norm — and if you are, you’re othered.”

Strict adherence to the homogenous culture promoted an environment that is harmful to women, people of color and the LGBTQ community, McGillis said. “You see thoughts and behavior that lead to bigotry, and lead to misogyny, and lead to sexual assault.”

Psychologist Rheeda Walker discusses ‘John Henryism’ and its damage to African-Americans

Dr. Rheeda Walker, a licensed clinical psychologist whose work focuses on suicide prevention among people of color, discussed the Black mental health crisis in her recent book, The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health. Speaking to Word In Black, Walker asserted that one of the Black community’s unique challenges is “John Henryism,” a theory coined by Dr. Sherman Jones in which Black people dangerously overwork themselves to defeat the stereotype that they’re lazy. “So we’re overcoming stereotypes and killing ourselves in the meantime,” she said. “You’ve got to slow down. You’ve got to release some of this stress. And a lot of that stress is associated with depression and with anxiety.”

Credit: Twitter

Walker wrote her book in part to be a resource for people with mental illness and those who love them. “In both cases, it gives folks some language,” she said. “People will say: ‘I thought I was just losing my mind.’ They really just thought that there was something that only they were experiencing that no one had any understanding or exposure to. And the book just gave them the words to be able to say like, ‘This is what I’m experiencing. It’s unfortunate, but it seems like it’s normal.’”

In other news … 

NPR reports that baby talk is universal. This talk – softer, higher pitched, with an imaginary vocabulary – may not only help teach speech, but might also help babies manage their hard-to-express feelings.

Elementary-aged children need lots of sleep, just like their middle- and high-school aged counterparts. News18 reported on a study out of the University of Maryland and published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health that found youth who get less than nine hours of sleep per night are at greater risk for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and impulsive behaviors. 

The BBC reports that policymakers in Scotland are considering raising the age of starting school to 6. Toni Guigliano, policy convenor of the Scottish National Party said, “We are seeing more children with mental health problems. We are seeing more children with additional support needs and an attainment gap that is not narrowing at the scale that we would like. So what we are asking for is a culture shift in how we do early years education in this country.”

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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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.