Social Work in the Public Eye (November 2008)

Margery CarpenterNASW Pioneer® Margery Carpenter was recognized by the International Council on Social Welfare at its 80th anniversary in Tours, France. She was honored for the many years of leadership and service provided to the organization. Carpenter has attended 18 of the 22 conferences. She has been a volunteer coordinator of the U.S. Council, ICSW, for many years.


Loren Gelberg-Goss (no photo) was quoted in the Bend Bulletin in Bend, Ore., in a story about how the roles of aunts and uncles have changed in recent years.

The story mentioned Bend residents Kyle and Heidi Weaver who spend several days each week with their niece Morgan, 6, and nephew Nathan, 3. The Weavers, both 34, have always valued family, the story stated. While other young couples move to Bend for the outdoors and weather, the Weavers moved to Central Oregon to be near family.

"They are the closest thing we have to kids right now," said Kyle Weaver in the article. "We each feel a need for each other."

Aunts or uncles can introduce kids to new hobbies, such as scrapbooking, baking, sports or hiking, the story pointed out. Bonding with aunts and uncles can also help kids see their parents in a new light. Thanks to aunts and uncles, kids also get to see their parents as brothers and sisters. "They get to see their parents as human," Gelberg-Goff, a licensed clinical social worker, said in the article. She also said that she sees the benefits of kids having "other people in their lives who can love them unconditionally."

The article pointed out that proximity can be a huge factor in aunt and uncle relationships. For instance, kids won't necessarily call and reach out to aunts or uncles with a problem if they live a long distance away, one expert said.

Gelberg-Goff, however, said she thinks distance can sometimes make the relationship a bit easier. Aunts and uncles can stay connected to kids through e-mail and cell phones, while avoiding the day-to-day struggles.

"It's easier sometimes to love from afar," she said. Living close together can create disappointment and more expectations.

"It's the quality and energy one brings to the relationship that makes the difference," Gelberg-Goff was quoted as saying.

The key is for aunts and uncles to consider what kind of relationship they want to have with nieces and nephews and then think about what they are willing to do to create it, the article stated.


Chris Gilchrist (no photo) was quoted in the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk, Va. The story examines one community's efforts to help those having suicidal thoughts. Every year, more people die by their own hands than by homicide, the story stated. Suicide claims the lives of 32,000 Americans annually. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90 percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, such as major depression, at the time of their death, the story pointed out.

A Hampton Roads' group is working to bring awareness to these facts, in hopes of saving lives, the story noted, by hosting the third annual Out of Darkness Community Walk, which takes place during National Suicide Prevention Week.

Gilchrist is a licensed clinical social worker in Chesapeake and founder of the Survivors of Suicide support group. She is the event's organizer. She wants to let people know they're not alone.

"The walk is a wonderful opportunity for those who have lost loved ones to suicide," Gilchrist said. "It's a place of healing and remembering. Everyone is welcome to come - whether you're suffering from depression yourself, if you've lost a loved one to suicide or if you're just community minded."

Events at the walk included a remembrance ceremony during which the names of more than 90 people who completed suicide will be read.


Lisa WessanLisa Wessan was profiled in the Lowell Sun in Lowell, Mass. Wessan maintains a private practice, but also works as an author, motivational speaker and coach.

The story noted that she hosts workshops on laughter meditation. Wessan can get hundreds of people laughing, whether they are at hospitals, conferences or businesses. She motivates people to find joy in their lives, despite their illness or personal loss, the story said."Laughter is a high spiritual state," Wessan said. "When you laugh, you are centered in the moment. It's a holy state - and it's contagious."

The idea that laughter can help ease life's stresses and pain is catching on in traditional medical circles, Wessan said.

"Laughter has a lot of positive benefits," she said. "It can help lower blood pressure and blood sugar. It oxygenates the brain, improves memory and boosts the immune system."

Laughter can also act as a team-building tool in the office, the story noted.

"When we think of humor, we realize that it is subjective, not everyone shares the same sense of humor or will laugh at the same joke or comic," Wessan said. "However, laughter is universal and the benefits derived from it can be enjoyed regardless of one's sense of humor or lack thereof."

Wessan went on to say that laughter is free and there are no negative side effects. "There are many paths leading to the mountain of serenity: sex, dancing, exercise. Laughter therapy is a powerful tool in an effort to stay strong, resilient and relaxed, she said.


John Pank (no photo) was quoted in The Oregonian for a column by Helen Jung about parenting tips. The topic focused on how parents can handle having their children witness the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.

"You — and your kids — are likely to see those images on TV again today. All day. So how do you tell your child about something that adults are still trying to get a handle on," the columnist asked.

First, consider whether the children are ready to see those images on TV, Pank, a licensed clinical social worker at Providence Youth Services, was quoted as saying. If the children are especially sensitive or might not seem ready to handle it, keep the TV off, he said.

"Second, if they are ready, don't let them watch the news alone," Pank stated. "Help them sort out what they are looking at." The best way to do that is to allow your child or teenager to ask questions, and to answer them honestly but without venturing off-point into unnecessary detail, he suggested.

Answer their questions "in a way that brings the feelings and thoughts to the here and now," Pank said. "The goal is to get through the anniversary with everyone feeling safe."