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“If I Wasn’t Poor, I Wouldn’t Be Unfit”: The Family Separation Crisis in the US Child Welfare System


"It is time to reimagine the child welfare system."

Key Recommendations​

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call on federal, state, and local governments to take the following steps to reduce the harmful impact of child welfare interventions and strengthen and support families and communities to prevent child maltreatment:
  • Hold public hearings, including congressional hearings, to hear from families who are affected by the child welfare system.

  • Narrow the definition of child abuse and neglect. Prohibit the treatment of poverty-related circumstances, lack of financial resources, or substance use by parents or during pregnancy, without actual or imminent risk of harm, as factors that can trigger child welfare interventions.

  • Eliminate mandatory reporting requirements. Replace universal, centralized, and anonymous mandatory reporting with permissive, confidential, and decentralized reporting; give reporters and responding agencies the option to refer families directly to services in lieu of the government child welfare agency; and maintain records about the administration of this direct referral process separate from agencies responsible for investigating and evaluating allegations of child abuse or neglect.

  • Adopt a universal right for parents to quality pre- and post-petition counsel. Ensure the right attaches upon first contact with child welfare authorities and support contemporaneous provision of social work and support services to address immediate and collateral issues prompting child welfare concerns.

  • Require agencies to inform parents and children of their rights upon first contact to remain silent, to speak to a lawyer, and to refuse entry into the home absent an emergency or court order.

  • Prohibit drug testing of parents and pregnant people without prior written, voluntary, and informed consent or pursuant to court order.Legislatively create a right to decline a drug test unless ordered by a court. Prohibit caseworkers or courts from drawing any adverse inferences from the exercise of the right. Prohibit a parent’s drug treatment plans from being used against them in child welfare proceedings.

  • Require states to engage in “active efforts” to maintain family unity. In particular, require that child welfare agencies meaningfully assess and address:
    • Poverty-related barriers to reunification for child-welfare-involved parents, including the provision of financial support for transportation and costs associated with visitation, court hearings, mandated services, and other meetings.

    • Barriers to reunification for child-welfare-involved parents with problematic substance use. Refer parents to supportive, non-coercive, evidence-based services focused on harm reduction for substance use disorders, ensure parents have unimpeded access to quality substance use disorder treatment, and allow adequate time for relapse.
  • Improve data collection at federal, state, and local levels. Regularly publish data that can be disaggregated and commission expert studies on intersectional, persistent racial disparities in the child welfare system.

  • Acknowledge and meaningfully redress institutionalized racism and settler colonialism in child welfare policies and practices.

Anti-inflation, Pro-savings thread


As it turns out, consumers might be the guilty party in the inflation mystery. We've at least been aiding and abetting. "Inflation is coming from demand," says Wolfers.

In spite of inflation, demand hasn't really blinked. Companies have been raising prices and we have been paying them. In fact, in many parts of the economy, spending has been rising right along with prices.

We're not necessarily buying more because we have more money, though. Our collective savings has been shrinking and household debt has been on the rise. It's possible we're spending money we don't have to keep up with rising prices.

That is likely not sustainable. And when our buying slows down, Wolfers says, companies will start lowering prices to entice us to buy: Prices will fall and inflation will ease. But, until demand drops, companies will push prices up as much as they can. It's elementary.

7 Things to Thrive


You Need These 7 Things to Thrive, Research Says​

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

Do you feel like you’re thriving-really thriving-or are you just going through the motions every day? Do you bounce back quickly from adversity and problems, and feel strong physically and psychologically? If you don’t feel like you’re truly thriving yet, the latest research can help you get there.

In a recent study, researchers reviewed what was known about how human beings thrive. They examined personal factors and environmental factors. Here are the main seven personal factors, or enablers of thriving, that they discovered. These are parts of yourself that you can attend to and improve upon, so you can move from surviving to fully thriving.

7 Things You Need To Thrive​

1. Positive perspective: “I see the good in the future.” Research shows that having hopeful future expectations, an optimistic attitude, and positive views of your future are linked with greater thriving. This approach helps you cope with stress and adversity by sticking with activities or tasks rather than quitting or avoiding.

Character strengths: The central strength here is hope, which means to look positively toward the future, to set your goals, and to feel confident you can reach them. Researchers also link this to being honest about one’s values. Honesty might be considered a secondary character strength here, meaning you have integrity with your values, practice what you preach, and are authentic along the journey forward.

2. Religiosity and spirituality: “I am connected with the universe in a meaningful way.” For some people, religious coping, faith, a relationship with a higher power, and having a spiritual community are connected with thriving. Other research has shown the importance of practicing one’s religion/spirituality, as opposed to merely having a religion.

Character strengths: The strength of spirituality is broadly viewed as having a sense of meaning and purpose in life, which may or may not include formal religion. Personal practices such as meditation and prayer, spending time in nature, and reflecting on the universe are sources of spiritual sustenance for many. When this is connected with other people in community, other strengths emerge such as gratitude, and the gateway to thriving may widen further.

3. Proactive personality: “I try to challenge myself.” Proactive people seek out opportunities to be challenged. This is an internal desire you feel when you want to pursue something and to challenge yourself. One example found in research is teachers who engage in purposeful career decision-making; they are more likely to thrive.

Character strengths: Facing challenges and obstacles is the work of the bravery and perseverance strengths. In addition, I have observed that when I am proactive in pursuing a new work project, I tap into my zest strength while maintaining levels of self-regulation strength to take on the right task and not take on too much. No doubt when you are being proactive you are using more than one character strength in that effort.

4. Motivation: “I am motivated to grow.” Research shows people are motivated by their naturally occurring strengths, talents, and interests. These serve as sparks for fueling interest, growth, and learning. Thriving in the workplace is connected with work that is meaningful.

Character strengths: Curiosity and love of learning are central to our pursuit of knowledge, ideas, and the development of new skills. Individuals can turn to their highest strengths–signature strengths–as a central source of personal motivation to take action in relationships, work, or play.

5. Knowledge and learning: “I learn, therefore I know.”
Research shows the desire and commitment to learning is important to thriving not just for certain people but across groups of people.

Character strengths: Here researchers suggest a number of strengths that have been found to support thriving under hardship in academic and vocational domains. These include creativity, perspective, appreciation of excellence, and especially love of learning.

6. Psychological resilience: “I overcome, rise up, and benefit from my struggles.” When stress and adversity arise, those who thrive are able to be flexible and adaptable and even benefit from the problem. The idea here is to move beyond surviving to thriving. Extra workloads, colleague difficulties, new demands–these become sources not to overcome and “ride out” but to benefit from.

Character strengths: What helps you become more resilient? In researching this area I’ve found links between all 24 character strengths and resilience. The strength with the most immediate resonance would be perseverance–the capacity to keep going, to overcome obstacles. Other important strengths include hope, gratitude, forgiveness, spirituality, curiosity, and kindness.

7. Social competence: “It matters that I connect with others.” An important enabler of thriving is to access others, connect with them, and benefit from their social support. The building of social competence matters here, such as skills of peaceful conflict resolution, awareness and appreciation of other cultures, and interpersonal skills.

Character strengths: The strength of social intelligence helps us assess situations and people, and respond appropriately. It serves us in sensing what is going on within both ourselves and others and to share those feelings in the spirit of cooperation or connection. Also important here is the strength of love which involves bonding with others, being warm and genuine with them, and giving/receiving that caring support. The justice-oriented character strengths of leadership, fairness, and teamwork are important for building social competence.

References​

Brown, D. J., Arnold, R., Fletcher, D., & Standage, M. (2017). Human thriving A conceptual debate and literature review. European Psychologist, 22(3), 167–179. DOI: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000294

When Sadness Lingers

When Sadness Lingers​

Understanding and Treating Depression

En español
A person looking sad and staring out of the window


It’s normal to feel sad, down, or low at times. But these feelings can sometimes linger. They can get worse, too, eventually making it hard to do basic daily tasks. If you’ve had a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in most activities for at least two weeks, you may be experiencing depression.

Depression is a serious disorder. “It’s not some-thing that you can just ‘push through,’ or get through without help,” says Dr. Kymberly Young, a mental health researcher at the University of Pittsburgh.

Depression isn’t caused by a single thing. Some people’s genes put them at risk for depression. Stressful situations may trigger depression. Examples include money problems, the loss of a loved one, or major life changes. Having a serious illness like cancer or heart disease can also lead to depression. And depression can make such illnesses worse.

People may experience depression during pregnancy or after giving birth. This is called perinatal depression. Others feel depressed during certain seasons, most often in winter. This is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Regardless of what’s causing depression, treatments are available that can help many people feel better. And researchers are working on new options for those who need them.

Treatment Options​

Depression can look different for different people. But there are some common symptoms (see the Wise Choices box). If you think you may be depressed, talk with your health care provider. Some infections or medical conditions can cause similar symptoms. Your provider can perform a physical exam and blood tests to look for possible causes.

If you have mild depression, your provider may recommend you first try counseling or talk therapy. “Therapy helps people learn how to get out of a hopeless state by viewing the world and themselves differently,” says Dr. Michelle Craske, who studies depression at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Some lifestyle changes may help you feel better during treatment. Try to get some physical activity every day and eat regular, healthy meals. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and drugs. Keep a regular sleep schedule. And stay connected to people who support you.

People with more severe depression may benefit from medication as well as therapy. “We have drugs that, in many people, work really well,” says Dr. Todd Gould, who tests new treatments for depression at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Depression-fighting drugs and therapy sometimes work better together.

However, these drugs, called antidepressants, can take many weeks to start working. And there’s no way to know if they’ll work ahead of time. You may have to try more than one drug, or a combination of drugs, to find something that will work for you. For some people, these types of drugs can have serious side effects that may require close monitoring.

Persistent Depression​

For certain people, depression persists despite counseling and medication. This is called treatment-resistant depression.

Brain stimulation therapies may help some people with treatment-resistant depression. These use electricity or magnets to directly change brain activity.

For people who don’t feel better after trying at least two standard drugs, a drug called ketamine may be an option. Ketamine is usually injected into a vein. A type of ketamine that’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat depression, called esketamine, is sprayed into the nose.

“There are two exciting aspects of ketamine treatment,” says Gould. “One is that it’s fast acting.” It can make people feel better within hours. “The other is that it works in some people who don’t respond to any other medications.”

The downside of ketamine treatment is its side effects, Gould says. You may feel strange, woozy, or spacey during treatment. Some people can even experience dissociation, which is an out-of-body experience.

Gould is testing compounds made by the body when it breaks down ketamine as potential new treatments. “Our hope is that these compounds will have the same rapid antidepressant effect that ketamine does, but without the side effects,” he says.

Testing New Therapies​

Researchers have also been working on new types of talk therapy for depression. Craske’s team is testing a type of therapy designed to help people focus on joy, excitement, and other positive moods.

“Standard treatments are better at reducing negative emotions than increasing positive emotions,” she says. But people with depression often have the most trouble feeling positive things.

“We’re trying to build your capacity to focus on and appreciate positive parts of your life,” Craske says. “And in our early studies it’s been remarkably effective.”

Young and her team are using a technique called neurofeedback to help people with depression try to enjoy positive emotions and memories. The technique teaches people to directly control activity in different parts of their brain.

“Activity in certain brain areas is what allows you to use positive memories in a healthy way,” Young says. Real-time imaging lets you watch blood flow to different brain areas. “We then teach you to make part of the brain more active when you’re recalling positive memories.” This activity makes the memories feel positive.

Craske and others are also interested in preventing depression before it develops. “That would mean starting at a very young age. But preventing the onset of depressed mood would have far more impact than treatment,” she says.

Studies suggest that teaching skills like mindfulness may help prevent depression in kids at high risk. Mindfulness helps you focus on the present and on what’s going on inside and around you without judgment. Craske’s team is testing an app to teach teens such skills to manage intense negative emotions.

If you’re struggling with depression, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to seek help, says Young. “We’ve moved past the days of ‘we don’t talk about depression.’”

Daily meditation may work as well as a popular drug to calm anxiety, study finds


A new study on anxiety in JAMA Psychiatry shows a mindfulness program works as well as the popular anti-anxiety medication Lexapro.

Anxiety symptoms like restlessness, feelings of worry and dread, and sleep problems, can interfere with daily life, relationships and career goals. Many people get relief using psychiatric medications, but finding the treatment that works best is an individual journey, and some look to find additional ways of coping with their symptoms.

Meditation is a well known method of calming anxiety, but now there's new evidence showing it to be effective at managing anxiety.

For the first time, scientists compared patients who took an intensive eight-week mindfulness meditation program to patients who took escitalopram, the generic name of the widely-prescribed and well-studied anxiety drug Lexapro. They found that both interventions worked equally well in reducing debilitating anxiety symptoms. (Talk therapy, another effective treatment for anxiety for some people, was not addressed in this study.)

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday, and the research began long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, when it could still be conducted in person.

Researchers took 276 adults diagnosed with untreated anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety, panic disorder, or social anxiety, and split them into two randomized groups. One group received a 10 to 20 mg daily dose of Lexapro – a standard beginning dose.

The other half was assigned to weekly two-and-a-half hour mindfulness classes at a local clinic — using an approach called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction — plus 45 minutes of daily meditation homework for eight weeks, as well as a day-long retreat around week five or six.

The study participants who took the drugs and those who participated in the meditation program were evaluated at the end of eight weeks using the same clinical scale, and both groups showed about a 20% reduction in the severity of their symptoms.

"The fact that we found them to be equal is amazing because now that opens up a whole new potential type of treatment," says study author Elizabeth Hoge, director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Hoge notes that she's not suggesting that meditation replace escitalopram — she herself prescribes the drug regularly to her anxiety patients. She says her intent is to add new treatment options, and ultimately, provide evidence that would get insurance companies to cover mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety.

How mindfulness may help​

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, the technique taught in the study, was developed more than 40 years ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn and is based on the principles of meditation established in Buddhist vipassana meditation.

It teaches students to focus on the breath and direct attention to one body part at a time to see how it feels, and encourages them to try to focus on what is happening now, rather than the past or the future.

It suggests a way to look at their negative thoughts with less judgment, explains Hoge.

"Somebody with anxiety tends to worry about bad things that may happen, like failing an exam," she says. "When the thought comes up, then the person can learn to experience that as just a thought, not the truth or anything that needs to be acted on," she says, and that can calm anxiety.

MBSR is widely used to reduce stress among health care professionals and in clinical settings and has been studied as an intervention for pain, depression and several other conditions.

The new study provides another piece of evidence of the potential of the approach.

A potential complement to medication​

Researchers and clinicians who treat anxiety praised the study.

"It does suggest that both treatments are helpful, and about equally so," says Michael Mrazek, a research associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin and the co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness & Human Potential at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Importantly, the study shows that MBSR can achieve similar outcomes with tremendously fewer side effects," Mrazek tells NPR in an email.

Side effects of escitalopram include suicidal thoughts in extreme cases, but more commonly diarrhea, loss of sexual desire or ability, nausea, and constipation.

Though numerous participants in the medication arm of the study had side effects like sleep problems and nausea, none of the patients in either group left the trial because of side effects.

Joy Harden Bradford, a psychologist in Atlanta who hosts the podcast Therapy for Black Girls, says she was "surprised but not shocked" that the meditation treatment works as well as the medicine, and is excited that a new avenue of treatment might become more widely available.

"The thing I would hate to have happen is for people to pit medication against the mindfulness-based resources," Harden Bradford cautions. For example, someone with panic attacks may have a much quicker reduction in those attacks with escitalopram, rather than waiting weeks for meditation practices to take hold, she says.

It's worth noting that longer term adherence to the treatments was higher for participants taking Lexapro than for the meditators. At 24 weeks, just 28% of the MBSR arm were still doing daily meditation, compared to 52% taking the drugs.

That could point to the challenges of learning mindfulness techniques. Many people may not have the time or money required to participate in an eight-week guided program, and scrolling meditation apps or trying out a free course at the YMCA is not exactly comparable.

Meditation is a skill that takes time and dedication and practice. "If you want to take it seriously, you've got to get a teacher," says Hoge.

Mrazek, who studies how to teach mindfulness, says it might be a good idea to see how both MBSR and Lexapro work together. "Neither MBSR or escitalopram eliminated participants' anxiety, and it's possible that larger improvements would arise from combining both treatments," he says.

More research to come on meditation apps and online tools​

There are shortcomings to the study. For one, the majority of the participants were single, white, well-educated women with full time jobs. "Not everyone can clock out at 5 o'clock to get to the 6 o'clock [meditation] meeting," notes Harden Bradford.

However, women have higher rates of anxiety disorders than men. And "there is plenty of existing evidence that MBSR can benefit a wide variety of folks, so there's not much reason to doubt the generalizability," says Mrazek.

One way to make meditation more widely accessible to people with anxiety would be to use an app instead of in person training.

Mrazek says the future of MBSR must be online. "Hopefully this study will help make MBSR more widely available, but it's extremely hard to scale up in-person programs to reach millions of people. That's why I think digital programs are the future of mindfulness training," he says.

Hoge is planning future research to determine if using online guided meditation could help with anxiety, though she emphasizes the value of learning meditation in a class.

"I really don't think apps are going to provide the same benefit as having in-person training. ... The benefit of having a meditation teacher is that you can ask questions," Hoge says.

Still, mindfulness apps, says Harden Bradford, can teach people "concrete skills," she says, which may help reach more people. "Giving people something is better than having nothing," Harden Bradford says.

Sergeant Stubby (Hero Dog in World War I)


1669846874957.png
Sergeant Stubby c. 1920

Sergeant Stubby (1916 – March 16, 1926) was a dog and the unofficial mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment (United States) and was assigned to the 26th (Yankee) Division in World War I. He served for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the Western Front. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, found and comforted the wounded, and allegedly once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants, holding him there until American soldiers found him. His actions were well-documented in contemporary American newspapers.

Stubby has been called the most decorated war dog of the Great War and the only dog to be nominated and promoted to sergeant through combat. Stubby's remains are in the Smithsonian Institution.

Stubby is the subject of a 2018 animated film.

Born1916
DiedMarch 16, 1926 (aged 9–10)[1]
Place of displaySmithsonian "The Price of Freedom" exhibition
Allegiance
23px-Flag_of_the_United_States_%281912-1959%29.svg.png
United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1917–18
Rank WW1-Sergeant.svg Sergeant
Unit102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) Division
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsHumane Education Society Gold Medal
Wound stripe
Other workMascot for Georgetown Hoyas

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Also known as APD and Psychopathy.
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Diagnosis and Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Friends, partners, and family members of individuals with BPD.
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Risks of recreational marijuana use and abuse
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Medical Marijuana and CBD

Evidence and lack of evidence for the use of medical marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) to treat medical and mental health conditions
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Compulsive Behaviors & Behavioral Addictions

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Alternative Medicine & Therapies - Natural Remedies

The pros and cons of herbal remedies, "natural" remedies, naturopathy, homeopathy, and other alternative approaches
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Just for Fun

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10K
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News and Current Issues

Current issues not necessarily related to mental health. Unusual or interesting items from the news; human interest stories; stories of inspiration, the weird and the wonderful; current events and issues such as climate change and tolerance.
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