December 8, 2022

By Courtney Wise and Diana Hembree

Good morning, MindSite News readers! Have you tried to find a therapist or counselor for your child lately? Many parents find themselves waiting for months for a referral – and even then, the visit may not be covered by health insurance. In this issue of our parenting newsletter, we look at an Associated Press story revealing that many families, desperate to get help for their kids, have turned to their school’s special education department. Read on to find out how that is playing out.

Also in this issue, you can find Dr. Barbara Greenberg’s advice to a woman whose husband doesn’t take her depression seriously. Plus: A message from Dawes (the indie rock band). A ticking time bomb for millions of Medicaid recipients. How the NBA integrated arts, sports and placemaking across Latin America; Gen Z on the move for mental health action at colleges and beyond; Dads on Duty and more.

The mental health crisis for our youth isn’t getting better. Can special ed help?

via Twitter

Desperate parents are turning to special education to help their children with mental health crises. During the pandemic, Heidi Whitney’s daughter took a nosedive in middle school, sleeping during the day and staying awake all night. Returning to school after in-person learning resumed, she was in such a fever of anxiety she begged to come home. Failing most of her classes, she was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility and diagnosed with depression and ADHD. When she entered high school this fall, school officials said she qualified for special ed because her psychological problems were undermining her learning. Still, they weren’t sure whether her symptoms were chronic or a side effect of isolation during COVID. “They put my kid in a gray area,” Whitney, a paralegal in San Diego, told the Associated Press

For schools, it’s an important distinction, since special ed has limited resources and is available only to kids with a chronic learning problem. “It’s important not to send children who might have had a tough time during the pandemic into the special education system; that’s not what it’s designed for,” said John Eisenberg, the executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. “It’s really designed for kids who need specially designed instruction [and have] a lifelong learning problems.” But if special ed won’t take students whose mental health was upended during the pandemic, where can they turn for help?

Earlier this week, a Washington Post piece looked at the youth mental health crisis among adolescents and noted, succinctly: “Things are not getting better.” According to the Post, nearly 40 percent of schools nationally reported increases in physical fights, almost 60 percent reported more disruptions in class because of student behavior and at least a third are trying to hire more mental health professionals. The Los Angeles schools chief says calls about suicidal thinking continue to rise; Las Vegas recorded multiple attacks on teachers.

Although more federal dollars are flowing in an effort to meet the needs of troubled students, there are simply not enough school psychologists to meet the need. In the meantime, schools are trying different solutions they hope will stop the bleeding. In Shreveport, Louisiana, where a local high school saw numerous brawls and 23 arrests this fall, a group of fathers formed Dads on Duty, bringing more than 40 fathers into a local high school to greet students and keep a watchful eye. The fighting has stopped and students told CBS News they felt safer. “You ever heard of a look?” one girl said, explaining the success. Montgomery County, Maryland has added more school-based wellness centers offering mental health services. Several states have contracted for telehealth services to help students who are struggling.

The arrival of “Dads on Duty” at a high school in Shreveport, LA, put an immediate end to fighting with what the team calls “Dad looks.” This CBS story on them drew 50 million views (YouTube)

Meanwhile, back in California, Heidi Whitney is grateful that the school has developed an individualized education plan for her daughter, and that she can leave class if she feels too anxious. “We just went through COVID,” she said. “Give them a break.” 

Ask Barbara: Advice from a Teen Psychologist

Dr. Barbara Greenberg, Clinical Psychologist

I suffer from depression, and my husband is being unsupportive and dismissive. What can I do to bring us closer?

Dear Barbara,

I am a middle-aged woman who suffered from depression in college, and I am struggling with it again post-pandemic. My husband, who I’ve been married to for many years, had an ex-wife who was severely depressed, and he is clearly nervous and uncomfortable when I mention how I am feeling. He has made light of me seeing a therapist and claims that my therapy is just making things worse. He has said many times that I should just get a hold of myself and “everything will be just fine.” He says he loves me but can’t deal with me when I am like this. In the meantime, he is spending a lot of time with the kids and appearing to avoid me. I feel that there is a gulf between us I can’t bridge and I am worried about our marriage.

In her latest column, Dr. Barbara Greenberg responds with advice on how to deal with a partner who does not understand your depression or take it seriously. 

If you have a question about your marriage or parenting kids, teens or young adults, send them to Dr. Greenberg, co-author of Teenage as a Second Language, at

Medicaid coverage for millions of families is at risk 

Up to 18 million Americans, including 7.3 million children, could lose their health coverage when the Covid-19 public health emergency ends, according to a research brief from the Urban Institute and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. 

Since the public health emergency was declared, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s continuous coverage requirement has prevented state agencies from disenrolling people from coverage. But in April 2023, the act is set to expire, and over the next 14 months, an estimated 10.6 million adults and 7.3 million children will lose their Medicaid coverage. Although most will have an opportunity to transition to other coverage, nearly 4 million people may be left without any health coverage, according to the Urban Institute. 

Earlier this year, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and 14 Senate colleagues introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2022 to, in Sanders’ words, “end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its citizens.” At present, the independent website GovTrack gives the bill a 3 percent chance of being enacted.

In other news

The NBA brings the joy as it renovates basketball courts in Latin America

For its 75th anniversary, the National Basketball Association had an inspired idea: Refurbish basketball courts all over Mexico, Central and Latin America, according to the Urban Institute. The NBA hired local artists to adorn the courts with beautiful murals and involved the communities in every step of the process. The basketball association found that sports – which are also a protective factor against the impact of childhood trauma – are ideally suited for placemaking work. In Sierra Norte, Oaxaca, basketball is important to the Indigenous community, with the courts serving as a central gathering place for festivities, religious ceremonies and even shelter. Children were also involved in preparing and painting the space, and they now take turns cleaning the court (pictured above). “By involving kids in the renovation, they will care for it,” said one participant. “You create a cycle of positive energy.”

Children who grow up near water have an edge on mental health as adults. The Good News Network reports that growing up around lakes and other bodies of water (and parks) is linked to better mental health and wellness in adulthood, according to researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome. They published a study that spanned over 15,000 people across 18 nations in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Their findings? Children who spent a lot of time in and around green and blue spaces – parks, greenlands, rivers and lakes – placed a greater value on being in nature as adults.

via Twitter

Gen Z on the move: The Washington Post recently spotlighted the work of teenager Riana Alexander who, after struggling with her mental health last winter, became a leader with Arizona Students for Mental Health, working to connect other teens to the behavioral health and emotional support they need. Her leadership is inspiring – and better yet, it’s not an anomaly. A recent post from Good Good Good features 20 teens who are inspiring people to do more good on everything from the environment and racism to LBGTQ+ rights.

Cracking the case – for reconciliation

Colleges and universities have an obligation to nurture spaces for thoughtful, challenging dialogue in order to build bridges across differences – a critical action for necessary social change, argues Manu Meel in Greater Good Magazine. “Our competitive advantage as people is that we can communicate,” he writes. “If we lose the ability to talk across lines of difference, listen to each other, and empathize with new perspectives, everything breaks down, from education to community to politics.”

The haunting song Crack the Case from indie rock band Dawes, might help jumpstart the dialogue. If you haven’t heard it, take a listen on YouTube.

I wanna sit with my enemies
And say we should have done this sooner
While I look them in the face
Maybe that will crack the case.

Finding out that we occupy
Somebody else’s opposing side
On the banks of some great divide
Two versions of a dream

I wanna call off the cavalry
Declare no winners or losers
And forgive our shared mistakes
You can pick the time and place
Maybe that will crack the case

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...

Diana Hembree, MS, is MindSite News co-founding editor. She is a health and science journalist who served as a senior editor at Time Inc. Health and its physician’s magazine, Hippocrates, and as news...