January 26, 2022

Good morning MindSite News Readers! In today’s newsletter: A new book explores how urban design can boost mental health. A guaranteed-income program helps families in Sacramento. Plus, how residents of a small town in Kentucky are weathering the traumatic scars of a tornado that leveled much of their town.

Residents of Mayfield, Kentucky, cope with aftermath of a tornado’s devastation, trauma

A tornado ripped through the town of Mayfield, Kentucky six weeks ago, leaving behind not just physical wreckage but trauma, according to on-the-scene reporting in The New York TImes. For 32-year-old Isaiah Holt, who sustained nerve damage, cuts and chemical burns when the candle factory where he worked collapsed on top of him and killed nine of his coworkers, a rising wind or loud sound on TV still triggers a feeling of terror. Similar trauma has affected many in the town of 10,000 residents in western Kentucky. Compounding their anguish, the downtown is pockmarked with flattened businesses, and some residents have lost both their jobs and their homes. A church and the non-profit Mayfield Community Foundation are helping distribute food, clothing, diapers and even cars. 

“You can’t start recovering until the disaster has ended and you feel safe,” said Amy Nitza, who is the executive director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz. As for Holt, he is talking with his coworkers to help them deal with their trauma, and he’s trying to coach himself through his rough times. “Last night was a good night, so it led to a good day,” Holt reflected. “If I have a bad day, at least try to have a good night.”

Guaranteed-income program helping families in Sacramento 

When Fienishia Wash arrived in Sacramento three years ago, fleeing the high cost of living in Oakland, she and her children lived in her car while she worked to piece together enough money for rent. Today, Wash is among the 100 families receiving $300 a month from a United Way-funded program. The extra cash will continue through June 2023 and supplements payments she receives for providing in-home supportive services to one of her children with special needs. It has helped her pay bills, boosting her credit score and allowing her to save some money for emergencies, according to the Sacramento Bee.

MindSite News covered a guaranteed-income program in Stockton, California that led to a decrease in depression and anxiety among participating families and a similar initiative in New York City that appears to improve babies’ cognitive development. Now the Sacramento program is giving Wash hope for a different future. “I see a start to a better path, a stronger foundation,” she said.

How can we design cities to foster social connection and mental health?

In their new book,  Restorative Cities: Urban Design for Mental Health and Wellbeing, authors Jenny Roe and Layla McCay offer up a menu of what scientific research shows humans need in order to thrive in urban environments. Green spaces are necessary for mental health and also enhance community, the authors say in an interview in Greater Good Magazine. “It might surprise some people to know that neighborhoods that have parks in them have stronger senses of trust and altruistic behaviors,” said Jenny Roe. They’re also an antidote to climate change. “It’s an absolute essential requirement for public health, but also for planetary health and for the resilience of our cities,” Roe concludes.

In other news:

Mental health counseling for first responders: Cumberland County, Pennsylvania is rolling out a mental health counseling program for all its first responders – police, fire and EMTs – according to an article on pennlive.com. Ali Rothrock, the former emergency medical technician who is running the program for his company, On-the-Job-and-Off, remembers the days when he worked as an EMT. “I think there was one paragraph [on stress] in our textbook. And that was it.”

Provider burnout and the pandemic: On Feb. 7, STATnews is sponsoring a webinar exploring mental health exhaustion among health care workers and solutions to address it. Find out more about the panelists and how to register here

Homeschooling in response to pandemic: One reason some parents are choosing to homeschool their kids are concerns about their social and emotional needs during the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported. When 8-year-old Reagan, who had been diagnosed with dyslexia, was constantly breaking down in tears and unable to adapt to distance learning, her mother Molly Taylor pulled her out of school. “I know that Reagan will look back on her time with us and be happy we made this choice for her,” said Taylor, a former private school teacher. “I never wanted to homeschool my own kids, but I’m so glad we’ve done it.”

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.

Biden Administration Taking Aggressive Steps to Enforce Mental Health Parity

The Biden administration is boosting enforcement of laws requiring insurers to cover mental health on par with medical care.

Black-Owned Hospice Brings Ease in Dying to Black Families

Hospice care helps control pain in the dying while providing compassionate care. It also offers mental health support to patients and families.

Research Roundup – Stem Cells’ Clues to Schizophrenia?

Stem cells from people with schizophrenia show abnormal features that correlate with clinical symptoms, new research shows. 

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