November 3, 2021

Hello MindSite News readers: Today you’ll read about a teacher who found that being real with her students about the emotional toll the pandemic took on her gave them permission to express their own feelings. In a commentary, a writer notes that since the unhoused are people, they deserve equal protection under the law — and they aren’t getting it. And a story in the Boston Globe raises questions about how you practice harm reduction among unhoused residents with mental health and substance use challenges. Read on!

 Is It All Right for a Teacher to Shed a Few Tears in Class?

In Leah Calote’s online theater arts class at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo, California, students enjoy shape-shifting into different characters and costumes. Her class had been preparing to put on an elaborate Zoom performance, until she learned last April that they had to return to the classroom.  With the extra restrictions on social distancing at school, it meant the online performance her students had been fine-tuning and looking forward to for months could not be performed, according to an article from KQED Radio’s MindShift program. Her voice shaking, Calote told her class the news on Zoom. A chorus of support came from the students, eliciting a tearful thanks from Calote, even as she reassured them that they’d figure out another way to create something. Student Allison Gertler said she was glad that her teacher didn’t try to hide her feelings. “I feel like so much of school has this almost fake positivity energy. But when we come in this class, it’s actually, you know, it’s real.” 

Students with “long COVID” may benefit from accommodations to prevent anxiety and depression

Photo: Shutterstock

The number of COVID-19 infections among children is relatively low, and the few studies on how long-term COVID affects children are all over the map. But for those few kids who do develop COVID and end up in the hospital, nearly a quarter of them were still experiencing symptoms more than six months later, according to one recent study. So how best to support and assist children who do suffer from long-term effects? Two psychology researchers – one focused on schools, the other on assessment – proposed in a commentary that schools use the same protocol for students with “long COVID” as they do for students with concussions. That means  allowing for flexible attendance, rest breaks, reduced workload and physical activity, and less exposure to overstimulating environments to prevent fatigue and headaches. Symptoms for both concussion and long-term COVID are similar: Both include brain fog, memory impairment and fatigue –  and concussion accommodations appear to help resolve them. Researchers Susan Davies and Julie Walsh-Messinger also suggest that schools work with counselors and pediatricians to “develop an emotional support plan for the student to prevent anxiety and depression. This might include identifying an adult at school to talk with if the child feels overwhelmed, or providing a support group for students to discuss their experiences and recovery.” The commentary was first published in The Conversation, a news site focused on disseminating scholarly research to the broader public, then republished in multiple media outlets.

What if homeless people were a protected class rather than a condition?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is proposing a new way of thinking about people who are homeless. At the core of most policies that affect the homeless, is the belief that homelessness is a condition, according to an opinion piece in The New York Times.  Instead, a new ACLU report entitled “Outside the Law: The Legal War Against Unhoused People,” suggests that unhoused people should be protected by the Constitution in the same way that other groups based on race, religion or gender are protected. In essence, the report authors are asking that homeless people be considered a protected class and thus not subject to discrimination. Such a legal framework would also help remove the stigma around being unhoused and could lay the groundwork for policies that help improve their quality of life, such as affordable housing. “As the crisis — which is an affordable housing crisis — gets worse and worse, visible houselessness is rising,” said Eve Garrow, one of the report’s authors. “Local governments have become increasingly sophisticated in finding ways to discriminate against and persecute unhoused people.”

Law students report pandemic-related exhaustion, anxiety, hunger and depression

A survey of 13,000 law students across the country reveals that the vast majority were satisfied with their education, but many were having difficulty meeting basic needs, according to a story in Reuters. They were also suffering from loneliness, anxiety and depression. Echoing other findings during the pandemic, students of color were most affected, with half of them suffering from food insecurity. Some 71% of Latino law students also had worries about being able to pay their bills, for example, compared to 60% of white law students. In addition, 85% said pandemic-related depression interfered with their ability to function. The results were shocking to Southwestern Law School professor Meera Deo. “These problems are persistent,” she said. “But hopefully the report will serve as a wake-up call, to recognize that we need to do more to support our students.”

Boston begins removing large tent city, offering “voluntary treatment” at jail facility

Tent cities, like this one in Anaheim, California, that was bulldozed in 2017, are increasingly common features of American cities. Photo: Shutterstock

Boston officials began removing tents at an encampment after giving occupants 48 hours to remove their belongings in exchange for a shelter bed or what the local sheriff described as “voluntary treatment” in a new facility at the jail. The city’s actions have prompted protests from doctors, community advocates and researchers, who are calling it a move to criminalize the city’s most vulnerable residents. An article on, the digital platform of the Boston Globe, reported that city workers began dismantling the tent encampment on Monday in accordance with an executive order by Acting Mayor Kim Janey. On the same day, virtual court hearings started at the Suffolk County Jail for encampment dwellers who had been charged with disorderly conduct for refusing to leave. City officials said nobody would be forced out if they didn’t have a bed or a placement at a treatment facility. Some 350 people have been staying in the so-called Mass. and Cass area, far more than the 90 beds typically available at shelters each night, according to the city’s chief of Health and Human Services, Marty Martinez. “We want to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people who use substances, have mental health needs, or are unsheltered,” Martinez said Friday. “And especially folks who are living in places that are not meant for human habitation.” Critics of the court say that the treatment option offered by the court does not give people authentic choices and is antithetical to principles of harm reduction.  

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’re a veteran, press 1.

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