Social Work in the Pubic Eye (April 2016)

Geoffrey GreifStudies involving one of the longest and most significant relationships a human can have — that of adult siblings — is rare, according to University of Maryland School of Social Work professors Geoffrey Greif and Michael Woolley, who were highlighted in a Baltimore Sun article.

Greif, an NASW member, joined Woolley in discussing their book, “Adult Sibling Relationships” for the article.

“The relationships we have with our siblings are the longest relationships we’ll ever have,” Greif is quoted as saying. “We have them longer than our parents, our partners, our children and probably longer than our friends in most cases.”

The authors’ research probes the relationships of 262 people between the ages of 40 and 90, the article notes.

Among their findings are that the dynamics of sibling relationships during childhood often are transferred into adulthood.

“A relationship that lacked trust in childhood was likely to have a similar emotional status later in life, Woolley was quoted as saying, adding that a person who had a positive emphasis on sibling relationships during childhood often found those relationships to be strong in adulthood.

According to Greif, most people are “mixed bags” of emotions. Seventy percent of subjects said their relationship with another sibling had waxed and waned, the article explained.

Greif and Woolley’s book offers suggestions for both mental health practitioners and those interested in improving and exploring the many complexities of their sibling relationships, the article points out.

The two highlighted the importance of setting boundaries, ensuring that parents don’t interfere too often or project favoritism, which can cause conflicts between siblings well into adulthood.

Greif noted that he and Woolley also have been interviewed about their book on NPR shows in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Baltimore.

Carolyn LogsdonThe Seattle Times quoted NASW member Carolyn Logsdon in an article about ways parents can help their small children cope with a new trend — school lockdown drills.

The article notes that parents may wonder, “How can you help a grade-schooler make sense of the need to protect themselves against extreme violence?”

Logsdon, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker at Pacific Medical Centers Northgate, said to start by telling children the truth, but within limits, the article says.

“When I’m working with parents, I encourage them never to lie to their kids,” Logsdon told the newspaper. “But in general don’t tell them, ‘Well, OK, this will never happen’ or ‘Everything is going to be OK,’ because you really don’t know that.”

Logsdon suggested gearing the information to the child’s age and development level.

She encouraged telling children that the teacher’s job is to keep them safe by ushering them out of sight from the hallway.

The social worker also said it’s a good idea to tell children the comforting aspects of the experience, stressing that they won’t be alone, but with classmates and the teacher.

“You don’t want to overly concern them, but you also want to let them know the purpose of this is to keep (them) safe,” Logsdon told the newspaper. “You do what your teacher tells you to do.”

Lisa RichardsNASW member Lisa Richards was interviewed for the podcast, “The Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin” about her book, “Dear Mallory: Letters to a Teenage Girl Who Killed Herself.”

In 2011, Richards, a clinical social worker, lost her only child, 18-year-old Mallory, to suicide.

In an effort to find some good from the tragedy, Richards collected letters to Mallory from her friends and loved ones.

Richards also began writing to her daughter, and the results were put into the book that Richards says offers compassion and understanding. At the same time, the book’s contributors hope it will increase awareness of how people can influence others’ lives for the better.

In the podcast, Richards said the book serves as a tool to teach and inspire other people.

“I’ve connected (the book) with my teenage clients and their parents and with adult clients as well,” she said. “I am always touched and grateful this story of Mallory has an impact - that’s the beauty of this story.”

Richards noted in the interview that tragedies such as suicide have the potential to awaken people to a deeper understanding about ourselves and the world around us.

She also discusses how she grieved the loss of her daughter and how the grieving process can be different for everyone.

Roberto HessThe Asheville Citizen-Times in North Carolina quoted NASW member Roberto Hess in its story about the need for more drug addiction treatment models geared toward adolescents.

The article says that in western North Carolina, residential help for youth with serious drug addictions exists almost entirely for those able to pay tens of thousands of dollars. It notes that experts say other less intensive treatment options are fragmented. “Those that do exist generally are geared more toward adult addiction treatment models than the needs of adolescents,” the story says.

In addition, the article stresses that national experts say obstacles for adolescent substance abuse treatment centers exist in part on the stigma of associating young people with drug addiction.

Hess, an emergency clinician and substance abuse counselor and social worker in Asheville, said he thinks the area needs a “one stop” center for adolescents that would treat them from crisis through discharge. The lack of treatment options was “sobering,” the article quoted Hess saying.

“If we can intervene at the adolescent or young adult need, we could hopefully keep any sort of addiction at bay,” Hess told the newspaper.

The article says about 67,000 adolescents per year in 2013-14 in North Carolina reported using illicit drugs within the month prior to being surveyed, according to a 2015 report from the substance abuse administration.

Hess said the need for treatment directed at mental health and addiction is vital.

“There really is no place to take them besides the hospital,” Hess told the newspaper. “We have seen an incredible increase in people presenting in mental health and addiction issues in the past year and a half. You wouldn’t believe.”

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