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I write this blog post from the beautiful country of Zambia. I’m here with a team of 5 people who are teaching mental health skills to medical students, psychiatric residents, and chaplains. We’re working at the University of Zambia and at Trinity Chaplain College, both in Lusaka. The trip has been eye-opening in many ways.

The up-side of this trip is that Zambians are generous, kind, gentle, and soft-spoken. They appreciate any help that is offered. Their country has never been at war during its 50 years of existence.

The down-side is the wrenching poverty that is all around coupled with a lack of resources. There are 6 psychiatrists for a country of 13 million people. There is one psychiatric hospital. The hospitals are overwhelmed and underfunded. There are few counselors, no treatment centers, limited medications, and no support groups or recovery programs.

Our team has promised the Zambians that we will spread the word about the desperate needs here. There is a tremendous demand for people to come and help. If you are a mental health, medical, or ministry professional please let me know if you might be able to make a trip to offer support. You have the opportunity to change lives and in the process you may find that your life has been changed as well.

This post was co-written written by Liz Fielden, Associate and Diane Manwill, LPC, LMFT, LCPC-S, Senior Associate, Mental Health for Services to the Armed Forces department at the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, DC. 

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic event at Ft. Hood, Texas, our hearts go out to all members of the military community stationed there. The Red Cross has staff members and volunteers who are permanently stationed at Ft. Hood, and that team is continuing to provide the support and services Ft. Hood military families rely on from the Red Cross. The local Red Cross chapter was also immediately on the scene, opening a shelter for families who live on the installation and were unable go home until the all-clear. Before the shelter closed, the Red Cross provided a meal and emotional support. The chapter remains on standby and is in close communication with the military, ready to help.

Volunteers loading supplies last night for the shelter.
Photo credit: @HOTRedCross

Unfortunately, traumatic events such as a shooting can have a significant and widespread impact. For a community that is still healing from the Ft. Hood shooting less than five years ago, military families based on other installations, or even the general public who have become overwhelmed with the countless shootings reported by the media, here are some normal reactions that people may experience following an incident like yesterday:

  • Worry and anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble eating

Children may also struggle with their feelings and emotions when their sense of safety on the installation has been violated. They may also pick up on your distress and fear. Here are some common reactions found in children:

  • Clinginess
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares
  • Physical ailments

While each of these responses is normal, it is important to know what to look for in yourself and your child following traumatic events. However, there are things you can do to help begin the healing process. Below are some tips to help you and your children stay physically and mentally healthy:

  • Sleep and get enough rest
  • Eat healthy (even if you are not hungry)
  • Talk about it
  • Limit time spent watching the news
  • Maintain a routine
  • Exercise

For more information on how to help you and your family cope with this tragedy, here are some additional helpful mental health resources:

 

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The New Social Worker has published a piece I wrote about the DSM-5. The focus of this article is on things that new social workers should know about the DSM-5. You can link to the article by clicking here.

If you are a social worker, or know a social worker (lucky you!) please tell them about this great online resource. The New Social Worker is chock-full of great ideas for folks who are new to the field.

Editor Linda Grobman consistently cranks out a magazine that targets early-career social workers who need to be up to date with what’s current in the field. While the focus is on recent social work grads, all of us in the helping professions an benefit from it’s content.

  

Click here if you would like to see a clip of the Psychotherapy Networker DSM-5 interview that I did with editor Rich Simon. My blog post from September 15, 2013 gives more details about this video series on the release of the DSM-5. This web-based series features interviews with various leaders in the field discussing their take on the new diagnostic manual.

Psychotherapy Networker has released the latest edition of its webinar series. I am pleased to be a part of their focus on the impact of the DSM-5 on the practice of therapy. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition, has created a lot of buzz among mental health professionals, and Psychotherapy Networker has developed this tool to help people better understand how to use the new diagnostic manual.

Editor Rich Simon interviewed six people to get their impressions of the manual, and then compiled those conversations into a package that gives solid, current information about the changes in mental health diagnosis.

You can click on this link to read all about the webinar series they’re calling “The Uproar Over DSM-5: How the New Standards Affect Your Practice”. My segment is called “Navigating the New DSM-5: Ten Ways it will Impact Your Practice”.

Hats off to Rich Simon and Psychotherapy Networker for being on the cutting edge of spreading the word about this significant publication.

After years of expectation, we now have the DSM-5 in hand. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was released at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco at the end of May.

Following my participation as a collaborating clinical investigator during the field trials I began training mental health professionals in what was expected to be in the manual. I was able to attend the APA conference where the DSM-5 was launched, and went to all the sessions I could on the content of the new manual.

 I’ll be continuing to provide training on the DSM-5 since all mental health clinicians will transition to using this manual at a date to be determined. There are significant changes, including changes to the multiaxial system (it’s gone), and the elimination of Asperger’s Disorder, several new diagnoses, and a new chapter organization. These changes are the most substantial revisions in decades.

 To learn more about training opportunities, feel free to contact me at martha@marthateater.com. You can also visit www.cmieducation.org to learn about CMI-sponsored workshops. CMI will sponsor a 90-minute webcast on the changes on June 19 at 1:00 p.m. EST for $39.99.

 There’s a lot of new information to learn, and the changes will impact how we practice in the future. Join in on some training soon!

Sgt. Adam Trantham with his parents, Doug and Amy

Military families living in remote areas or far from a military installation often feel unsupported and isolated. A newly released online course can help them as they deal with deployments.

 Coping with Deployments is an American Red Cross course developed to help military families during all phases of the deployment cycle: pre-deployment, deployment, and the return home. Each of these times can bring challenges to the service member and the family.

 Developed in 2008, over 4,400 people have taken this free course in person, led by licensed mental health professionals. Feedback has been overwhelmingly strong and positive.

 The online version of the course will be valuable for families living in remote areas that would otherwise have to drive a long distance to attend a live course. The online class can be accessed at any time, making it convenient for people to fit it into their schedules.

 Coping with Deployments helps families build resilience in themselves and in those around them. Participants learn how to offer emotional support to those in need through all phases of the deployment cycle.

 A Spanish version of the course is now available, which will broaden the reach of this skill-building resource to Spanish speaking military families.

 The course is available to families of Reserve, National Guard, retired, Veterans, and active duty service members. Content was developed with input from subject matter experts from all branches of the military including Guard and Reserve.

 To learn more about the live, instructor-led course contact your local Red Cross chapter. To sign up for the online course, go to http://www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families/deployment-services/coping-deployment-course,

 Spread the word to military families so they can get solid, practical support as they face the challenges and opportunities that deployment brings.

 

Supporting children following Sandy

          I write this from New York where I’ve been deployed as a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.

          It’s hard to describe the impact that this storm has had on east coast residents. Thousands of people have lost homes and possessions. They are living without power and they are cold. They don’t want to leave their homes because they can’t secure them, so they are living and sleeping in rooms that are as cold as it is outside, which is close to freezing temperatures.

          I’ve been struck by several things in my time here. I spent a couple days in a community that was hard hit by the storm. Meadowmere Park is a small area, about four by six blocks in size. Many of these folks have lived there their whole lives. Every home there has been damaged. They have no power. One man described his discouragement by saying he felt like an adult who was “back in diapers” again.

          The fire department immediately stepped up to meet the needs in the neighborhood. They have sheltered people there every night, since they have a generator and it’s the only warm place in the area. They are cooking dinners and breakfasts for the residents. They even built a shower for people to use.

          In walking through the area with the fire chief I met families who had lost everything. Or had they? All of them are determined to rebuild their homes and stay in this community surrounded by the neighbors and friends that went through this disaster with them.

          These families show a certain grit and emotional hardiness. They are down, but they sure aren’t out. My initial thought was admiration for the spirit of that community, of New Yorkers. Then I realized it goes far beyond Meadowmere Park, New York, or the northeast. It’s not even the American spirit that is on display.

          It’s the human spirit.

The reunion of military families following deployment may not be the honeymoon phase that families often hope for. Tensions and conflict may arise, and service members and their loved ones may have little support to deal with the challenges of the reunion phase.

The American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) group has developed a series of modules called Reconnection Workshops. These 2 hour sessions cover such topics as communication, depression, stress and trauma, anger, and children. Designed for small groups, the information can also be adapted for larger audiences.

The workshops are free and are led by licensed mental health professionals.

If you know a military family or small group that would benefit from one or more of these workshops, please pass the information on to them.

If you are a licensed mental health professional with a master’s degree or higher, please consider this valuable opportunity to help military families. You can apply to become a facilitator by emailing reconnection@redcross.org.

For more information please contact me at martha@marthateater.com. You can also email reconnection@redcross.org.

Let’s do all we can to support and honor our service members and their families as they return home from deployments. Their service and sacrifice are much appreciated. 

Many of us experienced bullying when we were children or teens, and most of us know someone who has been a victim of bullying.

 October 1 kicks off National Bullying Prevention Month. This is a great time to clarify what bullying is: it is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time (www.stopbullying.gov).

 National studies estimate that between 20-28% of 6th-12th graders experience bullying. The National Crime Prevention Council notes that bullying can be a gateway behavior. Nearly 60% of boys in grades 6-9 were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, while 40% had three or more convictions (http://www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying).

 PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center reports that more than 160,000 students stay home from school each day because of their fear of being bullied (http://www.pacer.org/bullying/nbpm/).

 Bullying can be verbal, social, or physical. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t necessarily stop when people reach adulthood. Even adult relationships can experience bullying.

 So what can we do?

  • Support bullying prevention programs in the schools. If your children’s schools don’t have programs, consider starting one.
  • Take bullying seriously. Ask your children about “teasing” and how it makes them feel.
  • Teach students nonviolent ways to deal with bullies. Help children act with confidence.
  • Assure that students have strategies to stay safe, such as staying around other students or adults and reporting threats.

 Visit the following websites for more information on this challenging issue:

www.pacer.org/bullying

www.ncpc.org/topics/bullying

www.stopbullying.gov

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