Tuesday, December 20, 2022
By Courtney Wise
Good morning, MindSite News readers. A recent study shows that the mental health risk of LGBTQ+ youth who are incarcerated is intensely vulnerable. A hospital doctor uses her cartooning skills to communicate a new-found joy: the pleasure of sharing World Cup mania. Families with developmentally disabled kids face unbearable strains and inadequate services. And why it’s a good time to reach out to that long-lost friend.
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Understanding the needs of incarcerated LGBTQ+ youth requires study – and listening
What do LGBTQ+ youth experience while locked in juvenile detention facilities – and how does it affect their mental health? They are likely to have worse mental health even before entering custody, says Kirsty Clark, lead author of a recent study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. And that, she told The 19th, puts them at greater risk for prison than their peers.
States that have compiled data, including California and New York, find that LGBTQ+ youth of color are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. A Williams Institute study based on data from 2012 found that 58 percent of detained girls identified as queer.
Incarcerated LGBTQ+ youth are also more likely to think about suicide and harm themselves than their peers, Clark notes. More research is badly needed, and it needs to be conducted in ways that allow incarcerated young people to safely disclose their gender identity – even when it’s not safe to be publicly out.
This kind of research is best done by groups that are trusted by young people, said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ+ Task Force. “I don’t want the federal government doing it by themselves,” she said. We know our communities.”
The desperate need of families with developmentally disabled children
Zainab Edwards, a 23-year-old Arizonan, has always had to navigate the world a little differently. She was born deaf and faced serious health challenges early in life that led to the removal of her colon, but successfully connected with others through sign language and cochlear implants. But eight years ago, her family told the Center for Public Integrity, she met another challenge – autoimmune encephalitis, a condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack the brain.
Her symptoms included extreme aggression and hundreds of daily seizures that eventually made it impossible to feed herself. Caught early, autoimmune encephalitis is treatable, but for Edwards, it was caught too late. “She still can’t write her name,” said her mother, Cynthia Elliott. “She’s lost all those cognitive skills.” Now 71, Elliott wonders who will care for Zainab when she and her husband can’t.
Edwards’ family is luckier than many of the 7.4 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the nation who get no financial support for their care or sit for years on waiting lists. Arizona pays more than $1 million a year for Edwards’ care – yet her quality of life remains “dismal,” says her mother. Since 2018, police have been called to the house more than 100 times due to the severity of Edwards’ behavior. The state pays for medical costs, transportation, and full-time care – including round-the clock nursing and a behavior coach. Yet little training and high staff turnover means Elliott still provides most of her daughter’s care. While there are no easy answers, advocates say there is a desperate need for better care and living situations for people that are too often hidden and ignored.
National Call A Friend Day is coming; use it to spark your own joy
Stressed this holiday season? Here’s something that might actually make you feel better: Reach out to an old friend for no other reason than to say hello. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a long time since you’ve spoken; they’ll appreciate it anyhow, according to Reader’s Digest report on a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others,” the researchers wrote. Plus, Wednesday, December 28 is National Call A Friend Day – giving you the perfect excuse to reach out with a text, email or phone call before the end of the year.
In other news…
Gaslighting is one of Merriam Webster’s words of the year, with lookups for the term up 1740% over last year. In the age of fake news and Big Lies, I guess it’s hardly surprising. Read this report from the dictionary kings for more on the word and its meaning.
A surprising joy (and a new kind of goooall): The World Cup ended Sunday, so we thought it fitting to share a little cheer regarding the globe’s favorite sport. Grace Farris, a hospital doctor in Austin, Texas, noticed that almost every patient seemed to have the games on, and she used her skills as a cartoonist to capture how the shared joy infected even the doctors. Check out her whole cartoon strip here on NPR.
Are teens interested in regulating social media? Yep. Emma Lembke and Aliza Kopans are cofounders of a youth lobbying and advocacy group called Tech(nically) Politics. They are pushing the federal government to force tech companies to regulate kids’ access to social media and to hold the companies accountable for the impact their platforms have already had on youth. They sat down with CBS 60 Minutes last week.
Addressing generational trauma in Black and Indigenous communities. Yes! magazine revisited some of its favorite stories of 2022. At the top of the list is an article from writer Jasmin Joseph reflecting on her own experience finding and working with a Black therapist and exploring the ways that trauma crosses generations. “My own mental health journey began with destigmatizing mental illness,” she writes, “and eventually transformed into an acceptance of mental health care as an inextricable part of holistic wellness.” Understanding history and culture – and bringing those insights into the therapy room is vital. “The closer intervention and treatments are to our ancestral ways, the more effective they can be,” she writes.
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.
Recent MindSite News Stories
Overwhelmed by a continuous barrage of wildfires, Cal Fire firefighters have grappled with mounting mental health problems. Now a new contract provides pay hikes, but delays for two years the shorter workweeks they wanted to relieve job-related stress. Continue reading…
Mental health issues have long been a critical – but little-discussed – challenge for Latino farmworkers, especially the undocumented. New research shows that substance use and signs of depression and anxiety have only worsened in the past two years. Continue reading…
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The name “MindSite News” is used with the express permission of Mindsight Institute, an educational organization offering online learning and in-person workshops in the field of mental health and wellbeing. MindSite News and Mindsight Institute are separate, unaffiliated entities that are aligned in making science accessible and promoting mental health globally.