Social Work in the Public Eye (June 2016)

Kristie SeelmanTransgender university and college students are at a significantly higher risk for suicide attempts when their campus experience includes being denied access to bathrooms and gender-appropriate campus housing, according to a Georgia State University study authored by NASW member Kristie Seelman.

“An alarmingly high proportion of the transgender individuals participating in this study – 46.5 percent – had a history of attempted suicide,” said Seelman, an assistant professor of social work in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

Seelman was quoted in a San Diego LGBT Weekly article about the study, which was published recently in The Journal of Homosexuality.

“Hostility, harassment, discrimination, invisibility and marginalization are common experiences for transgender students,” Seelman said in the story. “The institutional and social supports that may contribute to their resilience, coping and academic success are often lacking. Taken altogether, these experiences often tear down their psychological well-being.”

The article says Seelman used data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. It is a study of more than 6,000 transgender adults, including more than 2,300 individuals who self-identified as transgender while in college, to learn whether denial of access to bathrooms and gender-appropriate campus housing are related to a heightened risk for suicide attempts among transgender individuals.

Nearly a quarter of those in the NTDS who had attended college reported being denied access to bathrooms or other campus facilities due to being transgender or gender nonconforming, the story explains. About one-fifth of the total sample had been denied access to gender-appropriate campus housing.

Connie MeyerNASW member Connie Meyer, a licensed independent clinical social worker with the Mankato Clinic, was interviewed by KEYC in Mankato, Minn., for a story about eating disorders.

The story explains that Meyer is one facilitator of the “Am I Hungry” program, a 10-week effort that helps binge eaters take back control. The group meets twice a week, once for mindful eating strategies and once for group therapy.

While eating disorders can come in many forms, the most common eating disorder is binge eating, the article notes, affecting 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men.

A binge eater is defined as someone who eats a larger amount than most in the same period of time, feels a lack of control, and then feels disgusted and guilty afterward.

Meyer told KEYC, “It becomes a problem when it interferes with life. That you are not living life and your relationship with food takes over everything.”

Meyer said the program goes in depth with people’s relationship with food, looking into how to change it. It is what makes the program unique, she said.

One of the clients was quoted in the article saying the program was “life changing” for her.

Twenty-five people went through the program last year.

More than 60,000 South Carolinians will be impacted under new standards for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Lee PattersonNASW member Lee Patterson was quoted in a story by in Greenville, S.C., about the change. Patterson is the Social Work Outreach program coordinator at the Richland Library.

The article noted that under new standards for the SNAP program, formerly known as Food Stamps, any able-bodied adult without dependents will be limited to three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period, unless he or she meets a work requirement or exemption.

“It is going to put a little bit of stress,” Patterson says in the story. “Because it doesn’t matter how hard you’re looking. If you fill out 80 applications a day, if you don’t have the 80 hours a month then it doesn’t count. You’re going to lose your SNAP benefits for three years.”

The article says the change comes because South Carolina no longer qualifies for a SNAP regulation waiver based on the state’s high unemployment rates. In times of high unemployment, states can request a waiver to the regulations.

“Theoretically that means our unemployment rate is now low enough that we either don’t feel like we need to request the waiver or are no longer eligible for the waiver anymore,” Patterson said.

Nine-hundred thousand people are on SNAP right now in South Carolina, and Patterson says 61,000 will feel the effects of this change.

“Contact your caseworker, find out what programs are out there for you,” Patterson says in the story. “Your caseworker is able to find training programs or help you look for work in ways that help you meet the requirements to keep your SNAP.”

A 2015 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that veterinarians suffer higher rates of suicidal thoughts and depression compared to the general adult population.

Elizabeth StrandA story about confronting suicide in the veterinary community was published in the Veterinary Practice News and quoted NASW member Elizabeth Strand about the issue.

In 2002, the dean of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine urged the hiring of a psychiatric social worker to work with students.

From that meeting, Strand became the director of veterinary social work and clinical associate professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work. Her position is a joint appointment of the Colleges of Social Work and Veterinary Medicine, the story explains.

The gamut of emotions experienced by veterinarians became clearer to Strand in her work with hospital clients, the story says.

“I am all about calling a spade a spade, teaching students from the beginning what practice is like and giving them tools so they will have the emotional wherewithal to deal with that, without turning it on themselves,” Strand says in the article.

More efforts are being made to incorporate personal wellness practices at veterinary schools.

The story notes the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Health and Wellness Summit held a joint meeting with the International Veterinary Social Work Summit in November. Participants included leaders of all U.S. veterinary colleges.

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