February 21, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Greetings, MindSite News Readers. Today’s roundup mixes the somber with some hope: MSU students declare they’re too anxious and afraid to return to class after last week’s mass shooting on campus, and a Chicago-based artist painted a “wall of unconditional love” to offer support to the mother of an infant lost to gun violence.

Also, we bring you news of a Massachusetts therapist working to connect communities of color to culturally competent mental health treatment, 10 tips to help get you through each day, and how your teeth may offer up insight into your mental health. 

Despite student fear and anxiety, classes resumed this week at Michigan State University

via Twitter

One week after the mass shooting that killed Arielle Anderson, Alexandria Verner, and Brian Fraser and wounded five others at Michigan State University, classes have resumed—earlier than many students felt prepared for. Sharing information about where fellow classmates could access on-campus mental health resources, the editorial board of The State News, MSU’s student paper, said they had no plans to go back to class right away.

“Our home will never be the same. We can’t physically sit in a classroom on Monday. It’s been less than a week since we lost three fellow Spartans in those classrooms. We aren’t ready,” they wrote. “But we also can’t log onto Zoom on Monday and meaningfully engage in our classwork. We’re processing trauma. We’re coming to terms with grief. We can’t be worried about a deadline or an exam. We need more time to process without a class to worry about. MSU must extend the pause they’ve given us so we can decide how we need to proceed to feel safe and secure.”

Standing at The Rock, a sacred place on campus, junior Todd Williams told the Lansing State Journal, “I just wanted to come here and offer my respects. I still can’t believe this is real — that this happened on my campus. I can’t believe we’re supposed to just go back to class. There’s no way we’re ready for that.” 

Spring break at the school starts on March 6, but university officials said they didn’t want to wait that long to come back together. “No one thinks we are coming back to a normal week,” said MSU interim Provost Thomas Jeitschko announcing the return to classes this past weekend. “One of the things that is important for us to recognize is that coming back together will help us. We know that everyone heals at their own pace and in their own manner.”

via Twitter

A wall of ‘unconditional love’ in Chicago to support the mom of a slain infant

Last summer, 5 month old Cecelia Thomas was tragically shot while sitting in the backseat of her family’s car on Chicago’s South Shore Drive. To date, there have still been no arrests in the killing. In an effort to show support for Cecelia’s mother, Juanita Harris, artist Oneita Jackson created a wall for people to sign and show their support. In addition to the wall, Jackson told Block Club Chicago she’s also painting a heart using the baby’s name that she hopes to give to Harris, to show her that “there are people out here who do care.”

Jackson began painting hearts in her signature style in public spaces around South Shore immediately following Thomas’ death. “I thought, ‘Somebody is going to see these hearts and wonder what’s up with these hearts,” she said. “I’ve been hurting for my friends [who have lost children], hurting for Ms. Juanita Harris — just wanting people to pay attention” to the repercussions of gun violence.

“We need to treat each other better, but we cannot do that if we’re not taking care of ourselves,” Jackson said. “I hope that we would be more neighborly and show each other more love.”

Massachusetts therapist seeks to destigmatize mental health treatment in communities of color

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Discussing her own need for therapy in childhood but being unable to find the right help, therapist Whitney Dodds launched Wellness for the Culture in Springfield, Massachusetts to help destigmatize mental health in communities of color. She told MassLive that providers lacking cultural competency and not prioritizing safety and trust when working with Black and Brown clients can lead to misdiagnoses and people being afraid to seek help.

People need to know they won’t automatically be reported to children and family services for disclosing home instability and that speaking about visits from the ‘holy spirit’ won’t be dismissed as borderline schizophrenia, Dodds said. “Black women die because of this narrative; little Black boys are diagnosed and misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Some parents may worry about domestic violence. If they report abuse, will their children be taken away? If I reach out, will they help me? Or will it do more harm than benefit?”

Dodds hopes that her practice will open new pathways for people in need of help to get it by offering a safe space for people of color to access healing on their own terms, without the pressure of conforming to white expectations.

“When my clients come in, I am not just with the therapist but an advocate,” she said. “I will give them homework. If there is something they would like to accomplish, we will work on an action plan together to take steps in the process of learning how to also self-advocate.”

In other news…

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Psychologists and life coaches are always dishing out advice. Ever wondered what bits of it they follow? NPR’s Life Kit rounded up ten pieces of “well-worn life advice” that manages to stay evergreen. My favorites: “There’s more than one way to do something,” “It’s not all about you,” and “Expect yourself to change.”

How are your teeth doing? Turns out your dental health may offer insight into how you’re faring mentally. In case you missed it, the Cleveland Clinic posted a brief blog about the links between oral and mental health. “When your oral health is suffering, it can decrease the quality of your life or exacerbate mental health issues,” explained psychologist Susan Albers. “If you feel embarrassed about the health of your teeth, you may notice that this triggers some social anxiety. You may withdraw. Or it may hurt your self-esteem. This can lead to an increase in some of your mental health symptoms.” Albers added that the reverse is also true: When you’re not doing well mentally, you may neglect your oral health. 

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...