Social Work in the Public Eye (May 2009)

Pamela DuhlPamela Duhl was quoted in the Chicago Tribune in a story about best ways to deal with anxiety in the face of possibly losing one's job. The article broke down the different emotions that can arise in a person during the threat of a lost job. It noted that being anxious doesn't solve anything.

Duhl, a licensed clinical social worker, said it's important to acknowledge fears, but to also move on to healthier activities such as exercise, meditation and socializing. Putting anxiety in its place is important, Duhl said in the article. "For people who don't have anxiety disorders, it's not that they don't worry, it's that they don't get stuck in it," she said.

When discussion turned to depression, Duhl said it's important to not let depression run its course. Try to make daily goals, the article suggested. Having emotional flexibility was also encouraged in order to deal with changes. Duhl said taking on a part-time job can be beneficial in allowing the person to pursue a career goal as well as time to enjoy diversions. Duhl suggested taking risks and saying "yes" to opportunities that come one's way.

She also said it's important to not lose one's sense of humor. "Say to yourself, 'OK, I can't go to Vegas for the weekend, but I can invite friends over and have a Vegas night.'"


Mary Ann Carter (no photo) was quoted in the Colorado Springs Gazette in a story about breaking the cycle of violence. Carter is a co-founder of Centro de la Familia, a Colorado Springs nonprofit that serves Hispanic/Latina victims of domestic abuse. The organization received a grant to expand a key component of its program: educating children who have been abused or witnessed abuse to break the generational cycle of violence, the article pointed out.

"Educating children is so critical — it's the answer," Carter said.

Centro de la Familia worked with 150 children last year, teaching them about such issues as building self-esteem and anger management. Thanks to the grant, it can hire another child-play therapist, Carter said.

About one-third of the 1,400 to 1,800 clients the organization sees each year are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and South and Central America and are often fearful of seeking help because they are afraid of deportation, Carter said.

The staff is bilingual, and the organization is sensitive to the nuances of Hispanic and Latino culture, she said.

"The sex roles are more defined; the man is primarily the bread winner, and women can't work as easily as they can here," Carter said in the story. "Moving here often creates an imbalance in the family power system, which creates tension and can lead to domestic violence."

The nation's economic downturn also has resulted in more severe cases of abuse, she said.

Karla Horton, a board member who nine years ago turned to Centro de la Familia for assistance, encourages abused women to reach out for help, for their sake and their children's.

"Don't be scared to talk to people if you need help," she said. "We often are worried about what everybody is going to say or fearful if we're illegal, but don't be. There is help for family violence."


Christopher G. DonovanChristopher G. Donovan was profiled in The Hartford Courant about his rise to become the speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. Donovan is a former organizer for the Services Employment International Union, the article pointed out. Donovan, a legislator since 1993, and House majority leader since 2005, will be the first graduate of the grass-roots organizing movement to hold one of the ultimate insider jobs in Connecticut politics, the article said.

As speaker, he will largely control the agenda of the House, where Democrats will hold 114 of 151 seats. Donovan commented that with President Obama leading the country, it felt like 1980 again when Ronald Reagan was president. "There has been a sea of change in America," Donovan was quoted saying. "And people are going to be looking at different ways of doing things."


Leonard Lempa (no photo) was interviewed for a story about the public's heightened anxiety in the new economy, published in the Courier News in Elgin, Ill.

Lempa works as the intake coordinator for behavioral health services at Provena Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin. In his role, he sees and evaluates people who might need help with mental health issues.

During the current economic downturn, even among co-workers and friends he's noticed a heightened level of anxiety, the story stated.

"I've had people tell me about waking up in the middle of the night wondering if they are going to be able to pay their bills," Lempa said in the article. "A lot of people are walking on egg shells. There's a level of anxiety I haven't seen before."

And a survey released last fall noted that an overwhelming number of Americans are feeling stressed out about money and are worried about the economy.

But if coping these days is tough for what Lempa calls "the worried well," it's tougher still for those in need of help with mental health issues - especially for those with little or no means.

The story noted more people are seeking mental health services during the recession. At the same time, clients are spacing out their appointments more than they typically would so that they can afford to visit on their insurance. Others have stopped attending sessions because of insurance issues.


Chathapuram RamanathanA special tribute plaque by the state of Michigan was given to Chathapuram "Ram" Ramanathan in October 2008. Signed by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and State Rep. Andrew Meisner (27th District), the tribute recognizes Ramanathan as an important Michigan leader in the Asian American Community. "We commend Dr. Ramanathan's steadfast commitment at the state, national and international levels," it stated, "to racial inclusiveness, racial and religious diversity, and racial and religious harmony, as well as his research on the subject of economic and social diversity."

The tribute goes on to state that Ramanathan has used his social work and human resource management skills to improve the lives of several of the state's citizens. "He has employed a lifetime of learning about groups and community organizing to provide political access to Michigan's Southeast Asian Americans by forming the First Indo-American Democratic Caucus in the United States of America," it stated.

Ramanathan was noted for volunteering his experience to assist Michigan's communities in pursuing freedom of religion guaranteed by state and federal constitutions. "He has helped engage the Asian American Business Communities in job development through his systematic pro-bono advice to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation," the tribute stated.

Barbara Alderete (no photo) was quoted in a story about eating disorders for the Keller Citizen in Keller, Texas.

Those with personality disorders, such as rigidity or obsessive compulsive behavior, are more likely to develop an eating disorder, said Alderete, an eating disorder therapist and coordinator for the Southlake satellite office at Texas Health Springwood Center Southlake.

Hearing society tout the virtues of a thin body combined with other factors such as poor family functioning, conflict or sports related pressure, such as gymnastics or cheerleading, can set teens up for disorders, Alderete said.

"About 10 percent of those with eating disorders are male," she said.

About 50 percent of anorexics and bulimics are completely cured through therapy, and 25 percent may struggle with the disease occasionally. Another 25 percent deal with the disorder at a chronic level for their entire life and 6 percent of those die, according to statistics provided by Alderete.

To help prevent the disorder, parents should focus on balance in health and nutrition without excess focus on weight. "Looking at flexibility in eating, and the overall balance is important," Alderete said.

"We should all be educated consumers about what we are taking in from media sources. Things in print have often been airbrushed and corrected."

Alderete also points out, "very often models we are seeing are underweight."

She also advises that parents should encourage their children to cope with their emotions in a healthy manner and encourage dialogue over emotions within the family.

If a friend or family member is dealing with an eating disorder, Alderete urges those wanting to help to reach out in kindness.

"I would express care and concern and support and encourage them to seek treatment and answers," Alderete said. "If they express that from care and concern as opposed to anger or control, they'll be a lot more successful."


Susan Dowd StoneSusan Dowd Stone, chair of the Postpartum Support International's President's Advisory Council, joined postpartum and depression (PPD) awareness advocates at a Capitol Hill briefing to increase the federal commitment to combat PPD.

Stone was joined by actress Brooke Shields, lawmakers and others at the event where it was announced that The Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act (S. 324/H.R.20) was introduced in the Senate that day. She said great progress has been made in promoting awareness about the devastating effects of PPD, "but we're asking people to ask their elected officials about where they stand on the issue." Stone said passage of the MOTHERS Act will help ensure every woman will have access to information about PPD and treatment options.


NASW New Hampshire Executive Director Stephen Gorin (no photo) was quoted in a Public News Service story about the state's interest in President Obama's Fiscal Summit held in February. The story noted Gorin is interested in making sure the big budget discussions remain clearly in public view. While early proposals from one group call for fast-tracking decisions about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Gorin had a different suggestion. "I think the other thing we need to avoid is any kind of fast-track process," he was quoted as saying. "It's something that needs to be debated, and it needs to be done out in the open."