Happy New Year, MindSite News readers! Today we’re starting the year with a combined MindSite News Original and Daily News edition of the newsletter. Our MindSite News Original is an essay that many people will find disturbing – because it is. It’s a story about a school discipline practice that some of you may never have heard of: paddling – a form of corporal punishment – in U.S. public schools. As a warning, this story contains graphic descriptions and images of child abuse.

In states where it is legal, teachers can hit children as young as three with a wooden board. Black children, disabled students and boys are most likely to be hit. In a first-person article by MindSite co-founding editor Diana Hembree, she shares some memories of school paddlings, a practice that left emotional scars – and fueled her lifelong commitment to expose abusive practices directed at children. Here are some thoughts from her about the story.

Decades ago, my colleague, MindSite News Founding Editor Rob Waters, and I were sent by a Time Inc. magazine to look at the impact of corporal punishment in U.S. schools. In a four-month investigation of federal and state data, court and hospital records, newspaper clippings and in-person interviews in eight states, we found that hundreds of thousands of children from 5 to 18 were being whipped, hit, beaten and paddled on the buttocks for reasons that included talking, drawing, getting a bad grade, dropping a pencil or turning around in their seat. In some instances, principals used baseball bats or electric cattle prods.

In our stories, published in Time Inc.’s Parenting and Hippocrates magazines, we documented many cases of severe bruising and contusions, and in rarer cases, broken bones and persistent pain. But the psychological scars were still greater, with parents reporting their children’s terror, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in students as young as 6. Because today, school paddlings are still legal in 19 states – including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Idaho, Indiana and Wyoming – and new injuries are occasionally reported in the media, I decided to finally share my own memories of corporal punishment at school. I do so in the hope of drawing more attention and action to one of the most unconscionable forms of child abuse in our time – and one that MindSite News will continue to report on in the coming year.

Suicide prevention program aims to reduce stigma among Muslims 

Islamic Center of America, Dearborn, Michigan. Nagel Photography via Shutterstock

Suicide is prohibited in Quranic verses and Hadith, making it harder for Muslims who feel suicidal to reach out and get help, according to a commentary by two Muslim scholars in USA Today. The need for help, however, is clear: American Muslims are twice as likely as any other religious groups to attempt suicide, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The combination of Islamaphobia and gender discrimination was especially potent, raising the risk of suicide attempts by 180%, the study found. The authors, who were among the study’s investigators, have worked with the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab to build a suicide prevention training being offered by a community-based organization, Maristan. The group is also seeking to train 500 U.S. Muslim religious leaders in suicide prevention through its 500 Imam Campaign. “Effective suicide prevention in Muslim communities…requires a solution that is medical and spiritual,” the authors say. 

A year after Jan. 6, Capitol police struggle with morale, mental health challenges

Nearly a year ago on January 6, members of the Capitol police were beaten, sprayed with toxic substances, and trampled by Capitol insurrectionists. One officer, Brian Sicknick, died that day. Another, Harry Dunn, called out in despair, “Is this America?” All told, 150 officers suffered physical injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and neurological disorders. Many also have psychological wounds – depression, PTSD and anxiety, The New York Times reported. What galls many officers is that those in power disregarded signs of impending danger in social media and intelligence reports and delayed sending D.C. police and National Guard. Leadership also failed to promptly provide mental health support for the police who defended the Capitol. A few days after the attack, Officer Howard Liebengood killed himself; since then, three other officers in the siege committed suicide, and many others have resigned. “Almost a year out, it’s common for officers to still be struggling,” said an officer who requested anonymity to speak openly. “The most challenging part of my job is trying to help those officers.”

Canada will pay $31 billion for placing indigenous children in foster care

The Canadian government will pay $31.5 billion to settle legal claims by families of First Nations children inappropriately placed in the country’s child welfare system, according to an article in the Washington Post. Half will go to the families and the other half will fund reforms over five years. The agreement settles longstanding complaints that the government used an “inequitable and discriminatory” funding formula for child welfare systems that encouraged the removal of indigenous children from their homes.

Over more than two centuries, 150,000 indigenous children have been forcibly removed from their homes. “Canada could have settled this case for hundreds of millions of dollars back in 2000, when we raised the alarm that … families were being separated unnecessarily,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Caring Society of Canada. “Children have lost their lives and sometimes their childhoods in the process.”

In other news: 

A reentry program established by a federal court has reduced recidivism among violent offenders in Philadelphia, according to an an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer by one of the judges that runs it, Timothy R. Rice. The program provides “mental health counseling, job assistance, safe housing, family support, tutoring, and health care to break the cycle of violent crime,” Rice writes. “Our successes far exceed the failures.” At a time of spiking homicide rates, he says, support from feuding city leaders might “give the morgue a break.” 

Michigan schools will spend more than $240 million to recruit some 562 mental health counselors, nurses and social workers to help meet the looming needs engendered by COVID-19 pandemic among its students, according to an article by AP.

Cavetown Song “Boys Will Be Bugs”: Rx for Teen Boys’ Mental Health

The 2018 sleeper hit is the most important song about teen boys that most adults have never heard of.

Did a Rap Song Cut Suicide Rates?

Researchers studying three events where the song was highlighted found an association with 10,000 more calls to the Lifeline.

Research Roundup: Multilingual learning good for the brain

Long-term study of child health and brain development shows big benefits to the brain from learning a second language.

Please help us build MindSite News by sending this email to friends and colleagues who you think would enjoy it. We want to bring timely, important reporting on mental health issues to as wide an audience as possible, so we appreciate your help.

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 and see you next time,

The MindSite News Team

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