Social Work in the Public Eye (April 2012)

Judith MatzThe best way to gain weight is to go on a diet, says author and NASW member Judith Matz, in an blog by HuffPost.

The article states that the common New Year’s resolution of going on a diet to lose weight is a direct link to overeating even more.

“The mere thought of saying ‘I resolve to diet January 1st’ is enough to set you up for overeating,” Matz says.

She and her sister, co-author Ellen Frankel, specialize in eating issues. They work together to offer a newer, fresher approach to losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle without dieting.

According to Frankel, dieting is counterintuitive. Failing on a diet is actually a success in survival, because the body will see a restricted eating regime as starvation and rely on its resources to keep itself alive, she says. This can cause overeating to compensate for the lack of calories.

“When the diet doesn’t work, and people find themselves overeating, the blame is placed at the doorstep of the dieter,” Matz says in the article. “Our concern is that dieters feel they’ve done something wrong. That they think: ‘I’m weak. I don’t have will power.’ We want people to understand that, when you see [rebound overeating] happening to almost everybody, it should no longer be seen as an individual weakness or fault.”

Matz advises her clients to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits in an intuitive way and to approach the lifestyle change as positive, without the negative internal dialogue that often comes with structured dieting.

“Happiness and health are much broader than the number on the scale,” Matz says in the HuffPost. “My broadest suggestion: Practice good self-care. I would really encourage people to learn attuned-intuitive eating. That’s learning, day by day, to honor your internal cues for physical hunger and satiation.

“Also, moving your body in a way that feels comfortable, maybe even joyful; managing rest through meditation and good sleep patterns. All these kinds of sustainable self-care practices lead to better health and happiness than dieting, which creates a harsh internal dialogue, negative feelings and so much distress.”

Matz and Frankel offer more tips, advice and inspiration in their book “The Diet Survivor’s Handbook.”

Jonathan SingerSuicide is a growing problem among young children, according to an article on NewsWorks.

In a study conducted by NASW member Jonathan Singer, Temple University researchers discovered that out of 400 school social workers surveyed, 90 percent have dealt with suicidal youth. Seventy-five percent of the social workers in the survey work in elementary schools.

Singer says it’s a common misperception to assume that suicidal tendencies among school-aged children occur only in students who are adolescents. The study shows this is not always the case.

“What’s true is that adolescents are more likely to make attempts, but kids at the elementary school level are making suicide attempts, and some of them are being hospitalized for suicidal behavior,” he says.

Singer found that 40 percent of the social workers surveyed who work in elementary schools have reported a student being hospitalized as a result of a suicide attempt. And 7 percent of the elementary school social workers surveyed have experienced firsthand a student death due to suicide.

Even though school social workers feel generally capable of recognizing and handling suicidal behavior, Singer points out that training materials on suicide have been created with older children in mind.

People should not pretend that suicide among youths doesn’t happen, he says, and it’s important not to disregard elementary school-aged children as capable of suicidal tendencies.

“These kids not only are capable of having thoughts of wanting to die, but they are capable of actually acting on those thoughts,” he says.

Alexis ReillyBeing diagnosed with cancer at any age can be traumatizing, but getting diagnosed when going through the pressures of being a teenager is another story.

This is what happened to NASW member Alexis Reilly, according to “The Rundown” a PBS Newshour blog.

Reilly, 22, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma toward the end of her freshman year of high school. The experience of going through chemotherapy and radiation is not what Reilly takes away with her, The Rundown article says, although she, of course, remembers the details. What stuck with her the most were her memories of the loneliness she had to endure, she says.

Reilly only saw her social worker twice during the ordeal, and noted the lack of resources available to help people in her age group mentally cope with cancer.

“Cancer as a teenager is not like cancer as a kid, where a lot of times you don’t even remember much of the treatment when it’s all over. As a teenager, I knew exactly what was going on, but I wasn’t really old enough to deal with it myself,” she says. “I was lucky to have a lot of friends and family, but we could have really used the extra support.”

Reilly is now a social work graduate student, and has been inspired by her own experiences to one day provide teens with the help they need to cope with situations similar to hers.

Reilly’s motives are part of a larger movement led by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who to provide treatment directly tailored for the needs of adolescents who are diagnosed with cancer.