Mental Health // Category

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16 Jun

ONALASKA, Wis. (WXOW) – Over 800 people gathered at the American Legion during Onalaska Community Days to spread awareness about mental health.

The Warrior Walk is hosted by the YMCA Veteran Community and is a 2.2 mile trek to shed light on veterans who have taken their own lives. That 2.2 mile distance symbolizes the 22 veterans that die from suicide each day in our country.

“So the biggest thing that we’re trying to accomplish is to try to bring awareness to different mental health needs in the community and we’re kinda highlighting the veterans mental health needs, but as well as anyone who is suffering from mental health,” YMCA Wellness Director Christopher Matt said. “Making it more normal for people to talk about people that have needs or if you do have needs to know that there’s resources out there for you.”

Health professionals were available in bright green for support and the event also featured several fired shots in honor of warriors who are no longer with us.

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15 Jun

When National Association of Black Counselors (NABC) co-founders Tamara Ferebee and Dr. Faye Barner launched the organization this past November, it was out of a need for a supportive, professional community geared specifically to the Black counselor identity.

Tamara Ferebee

With more than 100 members and growing, NABC’s vision is to ensure that all counselors “possess the knowledge, attitude and skills to ensure that the mental health needs of the African American community and the African diaspora are competently attended to and addressed for the individual and the collective.”

The co-founders are now working to grow the organization, further its legislative advocacy and professional development offerings, and notably, bring in paraprofessionals who disproportionately provide mental health services to Black children and families, they say.

“Up until this point, there has not been a professional organization specifically slated for Black counselors and for the Black counseling profession,” Ferebee told Diverse. “We are looking to expand and provide services, which is different than a lot of other professional organizations. We [also] hope to expand to be able to provide a platform for people to be able to submit research and publish.”

Ferebee, NABC’s executive director of Human Services Administration and a licensed professional counselor who has been practicing for more than 20 years, said Black counselors make up only 10 to 15 percent of professional counselors.

“In mental health professions, period, it’s low. Because of that, it’s hard to find us,” she said. “We’re trying to specifically increase the number of Black professionals that come into the field.”

Some of the initiatives NABC plans to introduce to increase the number of Black counseling professionals include a mentor-mentee program.

“We want young counselors to have someone there that can answer their questions,” Ferebee said. “I think it’s important to pass along that wisdom and knowledge so they don’t make the same mistakes we did. Also, teaching them what’s important as it lies ahead and teaching them to forecast what’s going to be happening in the field is important.”

Another NABC initiative would assist students through school and their residency programs – as part of a student division. The program would also help aspiring counselors identify institutions that hold accreditation with the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Program (CACREP), Ferebee said.

“One of the shifts that we’re seeing is that the counseling field is now starting to ask everybody to have CACREP accreditation behind them,” she said. “Depending on your institution, you may or may not have CACREP accreditation right now.”

For students at historically Black colleges and universities or other schools that do not have this accreditation, it can serve as a barrier to becoming licensed and paid as a counselor, Ferebee said. For this reason, NABC has an additional goal to help HBCUs work towards securing a CACREP accreditation by connecting Black counseling consultants to HBCUs in order to evaluate their counseling programs.

Broadly, the co-founders note that there are opportunities for current and aspiring Black counselors to become involved with NABC. The organization is looking to establish itself locally, at the state level, regionally and nationally, with opportunities for schools, for instance, to partner and develop chapters.

NABC currently has sixteen divisions, with plans to adjust as the needs of members evolve. There are divisions for counselors working in the fields of correctional health, marriage and family, men, students and residents, LGBTQIA, addiction treatment and recovery, faith and spirituality and more.

A specific division for paraprofessionals is one that the co-founders say is particularly important because they disproportionately provide a “lion’s share” of mental health services to Black children and Black families.

“Paraprofessionals tend to be the ones providing the lion’s share of mental services to Medicaid populations, but they are largely unmonitored and it’s no one really training or policing paraprofessionals,” Ferebee said. “They’re providing mental health services disproportionally to Black children and Black families. We want to bring them under our auspices and … give them an opportunity to have access to professionals that speak to the services they are providing.”

And on the legislative front, the association will be advocating for similar issues taken up by organizations like the American Counseling Association. A major advocacy priority will be giving counselors access to Medicare and Medicaid.

“When people have Medicare, they can’t come to us,” Ferebee explained. “We are lobbying as a profession to get into Medicare. When you talk about the Medicare population, you’re talking about those who have disabilities, you’re talking about older folks, you’re talking about much more vulnerable populations that are being cut off basically. We are not an option for them for mental health [services.]”

NABC will similarly advocate for better military mental health, awareness around suicide prevention and gun control advocacy, given their impact on people of color, Ferebee added.

“Anything that we do to increase our availability to [this population] will have an impact,” she said.

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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15 Jun

Along with taking a physical toll on flood victims, the process of cleaning up damage since historic flooding hit Nebraska and Iowa hard in March, can also take an emotional toll as well.

In an effort to address flood-related mental health needs, mental health professionals and psychological first aid experts from the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center recently launched the Nebraska Strong Recovery Project.

The Nebraska Strong Recovery Project is led by Denise Bulling, a senior research director and licensed mental health practitioner with the Public Policy Center, and has led the charge through training outreach counselors across the state,

“These counselors are members of the community who work with survivors and organizations to help support individuals and communities as they experience the highs and lows of recovery,” Bulling said. “They talk with survivors, listen to their stories, and help them problem solve and connect them to resources.”

According to Bulling, there are several phases of disaster recovery that survivors experience including — pre-disaster, impact, heroic, honeymoon, disillusionment and reconstruction.

Counselors within the program are trained to spot these phases and help individuals work through them.

“Once people understand the phases of disaster, and what the common reactions are, they’re able to put their own reactions in perspective and realize what they’re experiencing is common and that there are ways to cope with the stress of recovery,” Bulling said. “When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to see and recognize it. These outreach workers help them understand what they’re going through and give them some tools to help cope and move forward.”

Outreach counselors were identified by the state’s behavioral health regions and are paid through the grant funding. They must be certified in five trainings held throughout the year.

According to Bulling, Public Policy Center staff are also helping communities collect data on the contacts made by the outreach counselors, and have created branding and supplemental materials for the project.

Bulling stressed that the program is free and anonymous to anyone affected by the disaster.

While outreach workers are in the communities, the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline — 1-800-464-0258 — is also serving as a touchpoint for anyone who needs help.

Bulling has worked on countless disasters across Nebraska and the United States, including the Hallam tornado in 2004, the California wildfires in 2017 and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“We have a longstanding role in disaster preparedness and recovery, and we have a longstanding partnership with the state and voluntary agencies,” Bulling said. “For us, it’s important to help the state and its residents access all available resources to recover emotionally after a disaster.”

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15 Jun

An alarm sounds at 10:35 a.m., snapping Don Amorosi’s mind back to what he lost.

The weekly cellphone ping marks his son’s official time of death, the moment deputies killed 16-year-old Archer Amorosi.

It all happened so quickly. The suicidal teen burst through the front door of his Chanhassen home last July brandishing a hatchet and a handgun-style BB gun, charging toward officers. Two officers opened fire as his horrified parents stood nearby.

Nearly a year has passed since the shooting, but Don Amorosi can’t stop fixating on the details. On how he thinks it could have ended differently.

Now Amorosi is fighting for meaningful reforms in how police respond to mental health calls. The mission has brought him before elected bodies — from the Chanhassen City Council to the Legislature — to plead for additional training and resources to help teens in crisis.

He relentlessly pressures local politicians and school administrators, who sometimes try to placate him with what he calls “empty commitments” to explore the issue. But he says he won’t stop trying to change the stigma around a disease that doesn’t discriminate.

Since Archer, eight Minnesotans have died at the hands of police while in a mental health crisis.

“In each of those situations, the families would have been better off if the officers hadn’t shown up at all,” Amorosi said from his Wayzata home. “As parents, we cannot second-guess whether to call 911.”

Of 183 fatal police shootings across Minnesota since 2000, at least 75 of those shot had a history of mental illness or were in the throes of a mental health crisis at the time of the shooting, according to a recent Star Tribune analysis. In response, a handful of agencies have piloted programs that pair officers with mental health specialists on emergency calls.

Advocates support the expansion of those measures but say they have limitations.

“If there is a weapon involved, [crisis teams] are not equipped to go in. That’s not their training,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the state’s National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Deadly force by Minnesota law enforcement results in approximately 12 to 15 civilian deaths each year. The trend has prompted the state Department of Health to conduct a homicide review chronicling all fatal police encounters since 2017. Researchers plan to perform case studies on the deceased to determine what may have led up to the confrontation — then recommend changes to prevent future tragedies.

“We’re not going in assigning blame,” said Mark Kinde, from MDH’s violence and injury prevention unit. “We’re committed to an honest and transparent look at the data, asking … what went wrong?”

Unlike an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which focuses on whether an officer’s use of force was justified, the MDH one would take a more holistic approach, scouring autopsy results, 911 transcripts, psychological records and even school disciplinary files to determine any variables the system may have missed. Kinde hopes the findings will ultimately improve social service safety nets statewide.

In Archer’s case, it may shed light on how a talented teenage athlete wound up in a fatal standoff with Carver County sheriff’s deputies.

“My son was a popular, bright, kind young man with many gifts,” Amorosi told state lawmakers in February. “I can’t bring him back — but God willing, I can be a voice that saves other equally precious lives.”

A fight for influence

Every so often, Amorosi receives a welcome reminder: “It’s not your fault,” an uncle texts him.

Sometimes he struggles to believe it.

In the weeks before the shooting, Archer had stopped taking his medication for anxiety, depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. “He thought it was a sign of weakness,” Amorosi said. “Try and convince a football player — who was told he needs to gain 20 pounds by next season — that he has to take a drug that causes loss of appetite.”

The incoming junior at Minnetonka High School also struggled with anger issues and had become increasingly hostile to authority, relatives said. But that was a side he allowed only a select few to see.

To most, Archer was a charming young man with long blond hair and a bright smile. Football parents called him “Hollywood,” a nod to his chiseled features. He planned to try out for varsity quarterback this fall.

Amorosi fears his son was part of a generation faced with mounting pressures to perform — academically, athletically and socially — without enough emphasis on simply being happy.

“Collectively, we don’t get it,” he told parents and mental health professionals during a March presentation at the Blake School. “They have problems that we never had.”

Amorosi, a pharmacy services executive, expressed deep concern about the results of a 2016 student survey. Statewide results showed nearly one-fifth of all Minnesota 11th-graders had seriously considered suicide. Roughly the same number reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless more than half of the days in the past two weeks.

The solution, he said, was to push for more mental health services inside schools. Days earlier, he’d trekked to the State Capitol to testify in favor of expanding school-linked mental health. The bill went on to pass.

Amorosi also scheduled meetings with Minnetonka school administrators, delivering an ever-growing list of demands he believes will improve student culture and reduce stigma. The district approved only one: a tree planted on school grounds in memoriam of Archer.

Superintendent Dennis Peterson rejected his request to perform a case study on Archer’s journey through the school system to determine whether there were any missed opportunities for early intervention, saying it would only create further confrontation between the Amorosi family and school officials.

“We don’t see anything productive about [it],” Peterson said.

Amorosi’s persistence has made himself a nuisance in some corners, but a welcome crusader in others.

Michelle Gross, president of the watchdog group Communities United Against Police Brutality, said Amorosi uses his position of privilege to connect with decisionmakers in a way that forces them to listen. He, along with the affluent south Minneapolis neighbors of police shooting victim Justine Ruszczyk Damond, has driven increased donations to the group’s Stolen Lives Fund.

“It wakes up more people that look like them and are in their same economic strata,” Gross said. “This could really happen to anybody.”

Activist groups like Black Lives Matter and Justice for Justine have invited him to speak at their rallies. The day after ex-MPD officer Mohamed Noor was convicted of third-degree murder in Damond’s death, Amorosi joined protesters on the steps of the Hennepin County Government Center to lambaste law enforcement and the BCA. He accused police agencies of fostering a culture of “silence, self-preservation and deceit.”

Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said local departments owe their communities transparency about how officers are trained and the policies that guide their actions during difficult calls.

“We must address these fears together if we want to change these incredibly tragic outcomes and restore the public’s trust,” he said.

Many ways to remember

Minnetonka High School football and lacrosse games bring Amorosi solace. It’s one place he doesn’t have to talk about the shooting. One place where parents greet him with a warm smile and big hug.

This month, Archer would have played in the boys’ state lacrosse tournament. Instead, his friends are wearing A12 stickers on their helmets to honor their fallen teammate.

Many of those boys will play in the inaugural Northern Lights Lacrosse Tournament in Shorewood this August, a fundraiser Amorosi developed through his new nonprofit, Archer Aim. Some festival proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for two Minnetonka High School graduates who have overcome adversity related to mental illness.

Frequent projects are his way of trying to cope, said Amorosi’s fiancée, Sara Ratner. “Some people crawl into a hole and become paralyzed. Not Don.”

Soon he’ll be forced to clean out Archer’s bedroom, where he sometimes sleeps to feel closer to his son. For months, it’s remained a shrine to the teenage boy who collected nutcrackers, sports memorabilia and Tom Brady quotes.

But now Amorosi and Ratner plan to sell the home and, hopefully, escape some painful reminders.

Every Friday, Amorosi picks up flowers and heads to the cemetery. He plops down beside the patch of grass at Archer’s grave overlooking Lake Minnetonka. At 10:35 a.m., his cellphone vibrates with the ringtone “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy.

He lets it play.

The phone still holds a dozen angry voice mails Archer left in his final days. Amorosi can’t bear to listen, but he can’t bring himself to delete them. He’ll leave them there, just in case he needs to hear his son’s voice again.

“I failed him down here,” he said, choking up. “I can’t fail him up there.”



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14 Jun

Oklahoma City Schools announces restructuring, focus on mental health  KOKH FOX25

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel sent letter to families and staff members that discusses more restructuring. The district is now …

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14 Jun

Family says insurance fails to pay for mental health coverage despite medical necessity  KUTV 2News

Leah knows the pain every mother fears. In August 2018, her teenage son texted friends that he was going to take his own life. Those friends texted the Safe …

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14 Jun

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS: The Pasco County school district backs away from a proposal to require every high school student complete at least one college-credit bearing course or industry certification before graduation. Superintendent Kurt Browning says he still has the idea as a longer-term goal. • Florida State University becomes the largest university in the nation to require students to have a hands-on learning experience outside of the classroom, Florida State University News reports.

MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS: Bay County school district leaders worry that children stressed by Hurricane Michael and its aftermath face continued mental health problems that demand attention in a community with fewer services than before.

SUMMER DRILLS: More details emerge about the death of Hillsborough County teen Hezekiah B. Walters, who collapsed during football conditioning drills at Middleton High School. Other school districts take a look at their athletic safety protocols as a result of the incident.

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP: The Pasco County school district names three new principals, including its first black male principal in nearly 50 years.

A ‘DIFFERENT DIRECTION’: St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Decisions lets go its longtime leader amid unannounced plans to refocus the center’s efforts.

LIFE LESSONS: Hernando High School FFA students credit the agriculture-based club with helping them find direction for their futures.

HELPING HAND: A Hebrew charter school in Broward County offers to accept students from a similar school in North Carolina that faced financial troubles, Jewish News Syndicate reports.

TEACHER PAY: About 50 Brevard County students are expected to march for increased teacher salaries, Florida Today reports.

TAXES: Duval County leaders continue to posture ahead of a vote on when the school district may hold a sales tax referendum, Florida Politics reports. The situation is a bit different in Duval than other counties, where placing a school district question before voters is more straightforward, because Duval has a county charter that grants local government more discretion in creating the ballot. • A 7-year-old speaker at a public hearing on the tax issue made a big impression on the debate, the Florida Times-Union reports.

LEARNING TO READ: Franklin County charter school third graders outperform their district school peers on state exams, leading district officials to seek ways to better help the students, the Apalachicola Times reports. Absenteeism appears to be a factor, officials say.

GOPHER TORTOISES: Marion Technical College’s plan to expand its commercial driver’s license program practice space is stalled by the appearance of protected gopher tortoises, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

LOGO CHALLENGE: The University of Texas tells Hillsborough County’s Lennard High School to change its Longhorn logo, saying it’s too close to the university’s trademarked look, WFLA reports.

CLOSER LOOK: The embattled Mason Classical Academy charter school in Collier County calls for its own separate investigation into mismanagement allegations against it, the Naples Daily News reports.

MISUSED FUNDS: A new report indicates the University of Central Florida misspent about $100 million since 2010, although some former officials are refusing to cooperate with the investigation, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

BAD ACTS: A Charlotte County school resource officer resigns amid allegations he showed up drunk to an event with students, the Charlotte Sun reports.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup

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14 Jun

Posted: Jun 13, 2019 / 07:29 PM CDT
Updated: Jun 13, 2019 / 07:29 PM CDT

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Travis County Sheriff’s Office estimates that about 20 percent of the inmates in its jail require some kind of mental health treatment.

To better deal with that vulnerable population, 12 corrections officers volunteered to participate in a 40-hour advanced mental health training course at the Travis County Correctional Complex.

“As corrections officers, there’s lots of different areas you can specialize in, like K9 or tactical units or the dive team,” said Daniel Smith, the director of inmate mental health programs. “These officers said, ‘I want to work with the mentally ill. It means something to me, and I can contribute in a positive way.”

On Thursday the officers split into smaller groups so that they could work with actors trained to do mental health scenarios with them. In one room a coach watched and critiqued the response, as officers approached a seemingly depressed inmate who would not come out from underneath a sheet.

“In that scenario, you don’t know if that person has a knife behind that [sheet] that they’re going to stab individuals,” Smith explained. “But the last thing we want to do is have someone run in and pull the sheet off and ruin the rapport with the inmate and escalate the situation to a more dangerous one.”

Every corrections officer hired by the Travis County Sheriff’s Office already goes through three days of training for mental health, suicide prevention and de-escalation, Smith said. This course, however, goes further in helping personnel approach and handle people in safer, more caring ways.

“Jails across our nation are being forced to be hospitals and forced to be mental health facilities, and we’re really neither,” Sheriff Sally Hernandez said. “But if it’s going to be our responsibility, we’re going to do it the best that we can. This kind of training helps us do just that.”

This is the first time that the sheriff’s office offered the advanced mental health training to its officers. Administrators said they’d like to bring it back several more times throughout the year.

“Mental illness is a sickness, right?” Sheriff Hernandez said. “If somebody’s having a heart attack, they have to have skills. They have to be trained in how to approach that. It’s the same way with mental illness. We want [officers] to have those skills. We want them to have that training, and we want the best possible result.”

The various scenarios that the officers ran through Thursday with actors and instructors are similar to situations that they encounter every day on the job.

“We have individuals that are hallucinating or have delusions,” said Smith. “A lot of psychosis, depression and a lot of suicidal thoughts and attempts.”

“In 2018 there were 36 attempted suicides at the Travis County Jail, but they were all unsuccessful,” Sheriff Hernandez added. “It’s because of this type of training. We just think it’s important to help train them to communicate, to help de-escalate and how to care for people with mental illness.”

When corrections officers identify an inmate with a suicidal or mental health concern, they then refer them to the jail’s behavioral health staff members. The Travis County Jail has more than 20 counselors and social workers who can do assessments of inmates and figure out a treatment plan. There’s also a psychiatrist and four nurse practitioners on staff who can prescribe medications.

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13 Jun

Lady Gaga plans to roll out her Born This Way Foundation’s teen mental health program in schools across the United States.

The Million Reasons hitmaker co-founded the nonprofit alongside her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, back in 2011. And, teaming up with the National Council for Behavioral Health, the star plans to expand the peer-to-peer mental health program, teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA), to 20 additional high schools across the U.S.

“With teen Mental Health First Aid, we like to say, it’s okay to not be okay,” the 33-year-old said onstage during her Lady Gaga Enigma show at the Park Theater, Las Vegas on Wednesday. “Sometimes when life gives you a million reasons to not want to stay, you need just one person that looks at you, listens to you, helps you get help and validates how you feel. Together, Born This Way and the National Council have put this program in eight schools and soon it will be in 20 more.

“I know for certain that I’m not stopping here. I want the teen Mental Health First Aid program in every school in this country.”

A representative from tMHFA told Rolling Stone the program is “an in-person training for high school students in grades 10 to 12 to learn about mental illnesses, including how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers.”

The Bad Romance singer has previously opened up about her struggles with mental health, admitting last October she “wishes there had been a system in place to protect and guide me.”

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13 Jun

A new well-being support group has been set up to help people with their everyday mental health issues.

The HD1 Fitness Clinic on Old Leeds Road holds the ‘Well-Being Forum’ which hopes to cover all factors affecting mental health.

One in four adults experience at least one diagnosable well-being problem in any year and poor mental health is estimated to cost the UK economy £105bn per year.

Stress, anxiety, depression and obesity levels are particularly high in Kirklees.


Trevor Seymour, owner of the HD1 Fitness Clinic said: “We believe our well-being forum in Huddersfield is an opportunity to help make a difference to those levels.

“We will prove that activity levels, good nutrition and many other areas of improving our well-being will make a massive impression on the statistics of those areas.”

The forum is open to all every Tuesday at 6.30pm.


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