Good morning MindSite News readers. In today’s edition, you’ll hear about getting by with a little help from your friends, find out what propelled a former cheerleader into suicide prevention, and learn about reparations for a 70-year-long forced sterilization program in California. Plus: A MindSite News essay on Build Back Better and children.


MindSite News Guest Essay: 

If the Build Back Better Plan Dies, the Biggest Losers Will be Children

Protesters in Washington DC call for Sen. Manchin to support the full Build Back Better Bill. Photo: Phil Pasquini/Shutterstock

In a MindSite News Guest Essay, psychologist Stephen Seligman writes that low-income families and their children will, once again, be the biggest losers if Senate Democrats are unable to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Failure to pass the $2 trillion social spending and climate bill would be bad for the middle class and the environment – but the continued failure to pass paid family leave and to extend the enhanced child tax credit is catastrophic for poor families and their children, Seligman says. He writes:

“As a mental health clinician, I have seen how parents’ inability to take time off from work to care for a newborn can take a severe toll on infants, children and their families. For lower-income parents, paid leave is generally not an option, nor is licensed child care, which costs on average $16,000 per year for infants. This leaves low-income parents with limited choices, fueling exhaustion, depression, domestic violence and worse.”

Read the rest of the essay here.


Pop stars channel the Beatles, urge people to seek ‘Help’ in UK mental health campaign

“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down.” Pop musicians were enlisted to sing these classic lyrics in a British mental health campaign featuring The Beatles’s “Help,” Yahoo News reported. The UK’s National Health Service deployed a roster of pop stars, including Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud and singers Tom Grennan and Craig David in a campaign to urge people to seek mental health support if they’re – well, feeling down. 

Photo courtesy National Health Service

“It’s about saying this is what is happening to me, it’s not my fault, but my happiness matters and I’m going to put my hand up and say I need some help,” Roberts told Yahoo. She added that she “wouldn’t be where she is now without therapy.” (See Roberts and others participating in the campaign above).


Following disasters,  Kentucky sees uptick in mental health need

First came the opioid crisis and then Covid-19. Now tornadoes and floods have ripped through Kentucky, and the need for mental health care has never been greater, Louisville public radio station WFPL reported. In 2019, the 14 community mental health centers around the state provided mental health appointments via telehealth to 807 people. In 2021 that figure jumped to 6,214. Over the past three years, the network of mental health centers is seeing 3,000 to 4,000 new patients each year, a 20% jump over previous years. Understaffing is also leading to huge caseloads – up to 250 clients per clinician, double the normal caseload. “There are shortages of clinicians at every mental health agency that we know of,” Thelma Hunter of Four Rivers Behavioral Health told the station. The trauma of a major disaster “can endure for years,” says Dave Matthews, the regional disaster grant coordinator for Kentucky River Community Care. For that reason, his organization is trying to integrate mental health services and help people meet their need for housing, food and other basic services.


California to pay survivors of state’s forced sterilization program

Mary Franco was in middle school in 1934 when her parents, immigrants from Mexico, sought to protect her from being molested by a neighbor and committed her to a state hospital in Pomona, California. She was deemed sexually deviant and, at the age of 13, was forcibly sterilized – one of thousands of males and females in state-run institutions deemed “feeble minded, sexually deviant or undesirable” who were subject to involuntary sterilization under the state’s 1909 eugenics law. 

Today, some 600 survivors are estimated to be alive, and as of January 1, they are eligible to receive reparations from a $7.5 million state program, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee produced in conjunction with the Central Valley News Collaborative. The reparations bill comes too late for Franco, who died in 1998. She married briefly but her husband left her when he learned she couldn’t bear children. “She never felt that she could truly be loved because she couldn’t give anybody a child,” her niece, Stacy Cordova Diaz, told the Bee. “It was horrendous that her family had done this to her.”

The sterilizations disproportionately targeted women of color, those with disabilities and the mentally ill. One study estimated that Latinas were 59% more likely to be subjected to forced sterilization than non-Latinas in California. The state performed one-third of all forced sterilizations in the country. Stunningly, these sterilizations did not stop completely in 1979 when the eugenics law was repealed, continuing in prisons until 2010

Survivors are eligible to receive up to $25,000 as an acknowledgement of the unethical  act perpetrated against them. The money is “not going to change the course of their lives,” said Laura Jimenez, executive director of the statewide advocacy organization California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “But it is a symbol of a wrong being done and an attempt to correct that wrong.” 

Victims can apply via www.victims.ca.gov/fiscp, or contact CalVCB at 800-777-9229 or fiscp@victims.ca.gov.


NYC opens first government-sanctioned site to prevent overdoses 

Can a government-sanctioned site help prevent overdoses among street drug users? New York City advocates give a resounding yes, according to an article in the Washington Post. Two sites approved by former Mayor Bill de Blasio began operations in the Washington Heights and East Harlem neighborhoods at the end of November. Workers at the sites, which are managed by the non-profit OnPoint NYC, have reversed 76 overdoses thus far. “To see it live is absolutely mind-blowing,” said Sam Rivera, the executive director of OnPoint NYC, “especially the interaction with the participant who is thanking us in that moment.” Overdoses have exploded during the pandemic; more than 100,000 people died between April 2020 and April 2021. 


Teenage girl on a mission

A teen who attempted suicide is on a mission to ensure that her peers don’t follow her down that same dark path. The journey of 16-year-old cheerleader Emma Benoit of Geismar, Louisiana, who was paralyzed after a failed suicide attempt, is captured in a documentary entitled My Ascension, according to the New Orleans news site nola.com. “I just know if it saves just one person or even helps just one person to be able to stand up and say, ‘I have those feelings; I have those thoughts’ and not be ashamed of it, it’s worth it,” Benoit says in a clip from the film. My Ascension is also the name Benoit gave to her movement in schools, which includes a suicide-prevention program known as the Hope Squad that is being implemented in schools across Louisiana. 

In other news:

Mental health providers in Oakland and Richmond, California who work for Kaiser Permanente did not go to work on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to protest the health plan’s unwillingness to give employees a paid day off on MLK’s birthday. They also want to highlight that Kaiser “still refuses to address structural racism within its ranks and work with us to provide appropriate care for all marginalized communities,” a Black therapist who works at Kaiser wrote in an Op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle


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.

Please check out all of our stories at mindsitenews.org. And did we mention you should share this newsletter with your friends and colleagues? Thanks for reading. – The MindSite News team

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