November 7, 2022

By Rob Waters

Good morning, MindSite News readers. Today’s edition, as always, has some good news and some very distressing news. We’ll lead with optimism: This is World Kindness Week, and we’ve all got our work cut out for us – but the rewards are great. In Detroit, another young, mentally ill Black man in crisis was killed by police, and his grieving family has filed suit. A new report highlights the importance of providing emotional support to middle-school students. Plus, learning Psychological First Aid can be good for the mental health of the givers, not just the receivers. And more…

Acts of kindness can be planned, not just random

Photo: Shutterstock

World Kindness Week starts today, just in time to offer an antidote to the ugliness and insults of the midterm election campaign that will, thankfully, wrap up this week. The folks at Good Good Good, a digital magazine, are out with a story, 9 Ways to Celebrate World Kindness Day, which ends the week on Nov. 13.

Cynical journalist that I sometimes am, it would be easy to scoff at the name of the publication and this story. But it’s worth holding that cynicism in check. Here are a few lines from the story:

Kindness goes beyond a fleeting trend or a singular act; it’s a lifestyle and mindset shift that implores us to meet the world – and each other – with greater empathy and justice.

Kindness asks us to extend our approach beyond niceties and good manners, and into transformative action, compassionate and intentional inclusion, and empowering solutions

Kindness is a choice, a muscle we all flex, and could frankly use a little more of our attention. 

The article suggests we learn about “the science of kindness” and notes that “doing good for others is contagious.” It also suggests that we read books about kindness, such as Be Kind by the Dalai Lama or The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci or listen to one of several podcasts on the subject. You can help one person, directly, by doing a favor for a friend or letting someone cut in front of you in a line, or you can help many people buy “advocating for systemic change” to help a community or the planet. And – important point here – you can be kinder to yourself by trying these proactive self-care ideas.

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Lawsuit filed against Detroit police in killing of 22-year old in throes of mental crisis

One month ago, the family of Porter Burks called 911 to report that he was having a psychotic crisis. Five officers responded and found Burks, a 22-year-old Black man with a history of schizophrenia, agitated in the street. After they failed to convince him to drop a pocketknife and he started running toward them, the officers fired 38 rounds in three seconds, killing him on the spot, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Edited video from a crisis intervention officer’s body camera footage shows Burks was a good distance away from officers when he was shot,” the Free Press reported.

Via Twitter

Last week his family filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against the Detroit Police Department. According to the lawsuit, the officers who shot him included a “’highly-trained’ DPD CIT De-Escalation Team.” CIT is an acronym for Crisis Intervention Team, denoting that officers have completed a training with mental health professionals that is designed to “promote officer safety and the safety of the individual in crisis,” according to a description of the training.

“The autopsy report indicates no shots were fired in close range, and that he was hit at least 19 times,” the family’s attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, said at a press conference. “The Detroit police had a myriad of alternatives available other than executing him by firing squad.”

Middle school is tough on kids – emotionally and academically. A new report offers some tips

Via Twitter

Middle school can be both a vital and difficult time for kids, one that sets the stage for their later years. Good grades can predict future academic success, and poor attendance and behavioral issues can be signals of future struggles in high school. A new report from Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and school district leaders, outlines the unique academic and social-emotional support that middle school students need, and how schools can set up systems to provide it.

Chiefs for Change member Maria Vazquez, the superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., told Education Week that middle school is already a time when kids are trying to figure out their identity and set themselves up for the academic challenges of high school. Adding the stress of the pandemic on top of that is “a perfect storm,” she said.

Her district is creating interdisciplinary teams of teachers that work with students and plan together, while also bringing in mental health professionals and school counselors. A new goal, Vasquez said, is “to have 80 percent of all of our staff trained on mental health first aid, so that they can understand the signs of when a child is in distress, when a child needs help.”

Learning Psychological First Aid may also help those who get trained

Psychological First Aid (PFA), a strategy aimed at helping people better support others who may be in need, appears also to boost the mental wellbeing of those who get trained, a new study suggests.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government of the UK offered PFA to frontline staff at care homes throughout Great Britain. Researchers wanted to find out whether the training had impacted those care workers by helping them deal with their own stress and mental health. A survey of nurses and health care workers published in the journal PLOS One found that care workers are highly stressed and need psychological support. It also found that for those who received it, the training seemed to help “with overcoming stress and coping via self-growth and improving relationships with others,” according to a story in Health Europa.

One participant said the training “helped me to separate work from home life as I do not take the stress home or work.” Another said it “helped me cope better, it was a position I was thinking of giving up at one time [and] now I have the strength to carry on.” But only a small number of people surveyed had taken part in the training, leading researchers to conclude that barriers to taking it need to be removed and that more research is needed to assess the benefits.

In other news…

Conditions inside Alabama prisons are inhumane and dangerous, said a former corrections officer. “We have to treat people like human beings. Everybody’s in danger – the officers, the incarcerated individuals,” said Stacy George, who recently resigned after 13-1/2 years at Limestone Correctional Facility. Conditions in the prisons led Alabama inmates to go on a work strike in September and led the US Department of Justice to file a lawsuit in 2020 charging that conditions are so bad they violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Read more in this AP story.

Magic mushrooms on the ballot again in some Oregon counties. A statewide referendum passed in 2020 will allow psilocybin to be provided to people in Oregon under the supervision of therapeutic guides starting in less than two months. But in 104 cities and two-thirds of counties, opponents are bringing the issue back to voters in Tuesday’s election, allowing them the opportunity to opt out of the statewide measure, CNN reports.

A new tool may help employers gauge the adequacy of the mental health support they provide to their staff. MedCity News reports that the survey tool, called Well Gauge, was developed by the Northeast Business Group on Health. Scores on the survey will offer “an indication of how effective your organization is in creating a culture of mental wellness,” Amy Tippett-Stangler, senior vice president of Northeast Business Group on Health, told MedCity News.

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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Rob Waters

Rob Waters, the founding editor of MindSite News, is an award-winning health and mental health journalist. He was a contributing writer to Health Affairs and has worked as a staff reporter or editor at...