Second story in a series
The mentally ill are under scrutiny and pressure like never before. Mental health budgets have been slashed. Inpatient beds are at historic lows. Emergency rooms and jails are the new front lines of care. And gun-control debates are focused on the mentally ill.
But there is promise for change. State funding may increase. Research shows these illnesses are based in flawed physiology, not character flaws. And many who suffer are challenging stigmas.
The Post and Courier will examine these issues in a series of stories over the coming months. In this installment we look at involuntary commitments, which are at the heart of state gun-control legislation.
Perhaps the hardest part is that her son once was such a normal boy, a Mount Pleasant kid with loving parents, extended family and a life full of friends and dreams. But at 17, Jack Youngs’ thoughts turned down a disturbing new path.
President Obama released his budget proposal on April 10. With it came good news and not so good news. The good news is that the President’s proposal overall includes a new $130 million initiative for expanding mental health services that would include counselor positions. The President’s budget also requests $7 billion to expand mental health care for veterans, which represents a $469 million increase from the previous year. Some bad news is that the school counseling program, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (ESSCP), was zeroed out once again and the money is proposed to be spent under a new program called Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students. ACA is disappointed to see the Administration and the Department of Education decide to no longer request funding for a program that has demonstrated great success and high demand as seen by the number of applicants each time a call for grant proposals is made. Why is this bad if funding has been increased in new and different mental health proposals by the President? The reality of our politically-polarized Congress could cause Republicans to claim common ground with the Administration by agreeing to save money on programs that were cut in the President’s proposal. Republican offices have also told us that they are not interested in approving any new programs that will cost money. Therefore, school counselors could lose all specified federal funding that has been critical to hundreds of school counseling programs. ACA needs school counselors who have received ESSCP grants and school counselors who have successful intervention data to share their stories with their federal Congress members (and us!).
There have been some promising pieces of mental health legislation moving through the Senate recently. Two bills, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, S. 264, and the Mental Health and Improvement Act (S. 689) may be proposed as amendments to the gun violence legislation that the Senate is believed to be voting on this week. S. 689 was recently passed out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee after pulling together the language in a strong, bipartisan fashion. Read Chairman Harkin’s press release here. Any legislation that may pass in the Senate will still need to be passed by the House of Representatives. Please continue to share your stories with Congress of how mental health services make a difference in your community, along with the grave need for increased resources.
You can communicate easily with Congress by going to our website.
This week’s Latina Spotlight is on Xiomara A. Sosa, mental health professional, mental health advocate and founder of the National Hispanic Mental Health Professionals Advocacy Network. As a Latina, a veteran and a mental health professional, Xiomara has dedicated her career to ensuring that often underserved populations, such as the Latino community and U.S. veterans, receive the mental health information and care that they deserve. New Latina has partnered with Xiomara and the National Hispanic Mental Health Professionals Advocacy Network to promote education, awareness and advocacy for the mental health services needs of U.S. Hispanic communities. We are so very proud to share Xiomara’s story with you all and we encourage you to learn more about the National Hispanic Mental Health Professionals Advocacy Network.
Acording to the World Health Organization (2008), mental health advocacy includes a variety of different actions aimed at changing the major structural and attitudinal barriers to achieving positive mental health outcomes in populations. Initially developed to reduce stigma and discrimination and to promote the human rights of persons with mental disorders. The advocacy movement has substantially influenced mental health policy and legislation in various countries (World Health Organization, 2001). Advocacy actions include the raising of awareness, the dissemination of information, education, training, mutual help, counseling, mediating, defending and denouncing (James, 2010). It is at our professions’ roots. Advocacy is an ethical responsibility for all counselors and plays an important role in the career of a crisis response counselor.
XAS Advocacy Network Series (ANS)
Xiomara A. Sosa, ANS Executive Consultant
- The National Hispanic Veterans Advocacy Network
- The National Sexual Minority (LGBQQTI) Veterans Advocacy Network
- The National Hispanic Mental Health Professionals Advocacy Network
- The National Sexual Minority (LGBQQTI) Mental Health Professionals Advocacy Network
- The National Latina Mental Health and Wellness Advocacy Network
- The National Modern Family Mental Health and Wellness Advocacy Network
The XAS Advocacy Network Series (ANS) is a bilingual, culturally competent multi-platform advocacy campaign for diverse communities launched by XAS through Get-Right! and You Are Strong! in partnership with prominent social media and coalition partners.
Through these partnerships ANS helps shed light on issues affecting diverse communities through a series of articles about these community members’ needs, resources, events, spotlights, interviews and critical legislative, government, and military initiatives. The campaign includes Legislative Days with representatives and Town Hall Meetings with stakeholders.
The goal is to advocate for mental health and wellness and health and human services needs that are culturally competent and effect positive social change for these communities:
- Hispanic community
- Veteran community
- Sexual minority (LGBQQTI) community
XAS Consulting, LLC Founder Xiomara A. Sosa is committed to creating positive social change through culturally competent advocacy. Her advocacy work is done through the 2 nonprofit organizations she founded: The Get-Right! Organization, Inc. whose mission is to educate families, teach children, and support communities about mental health and physical health; and You Are Strong! Center on Veterans Health and Human Services whose mission is to combat negative stigma and provide health and human services information to veterans and their families.
Xiomara created this advocacy network series to build unity within and awareness about the mental health and wellness and health and human services needs of these communities. These advocacy networks are launched in partnership with like-minded social media and coalitions to unify health and human services professionals that advocate for mental health and wellness and health and human services needs of Hispanics, veterans, and sexual minorities (LGBQQTI). The advocacy campaign is based on empirical, evidence-based research data. This initiative elevates the voices of these communities and spotlights their unique challenges, needs and stories. The partnerships are a natural extension of the social media and coalition partners’ missions to help and support these communities by providing a platform where the greater community can share and receive culturally competent information.
Current ANS partners are:
Stay tuned for the next partnership launch in October 2012 during Hispanic Heritage Month:
NOTE: YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE HISPANIC, A VETERAN, OR A SEXUAL MINORITY TO SUPPORT, JOIN OR PARTICIPATE IN THIS CAMPAIGN. EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTS THE ANS MISSION IS WELCOME!
ACA Responds to Scathing Report on Veterans Affairs
Following a critical report by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding severe delays in providing mental health evaluations and treatment for veterans, ACA has launched an initiative to shed light on this urgent matter, and highlight the need for the VA to hire more counselors. ACA staff have contacted news outlets to help us get the word out that there is no shortage of counseling professionals ready and qualified for this work.
The OIG report found that only about half of veterans received an initial mental health evaluation within 14 days; the rest had to wait on average 50 days before receiving an evaluation. The VA had claimed that 95 percent of veterans were evaluated within 14 days. In response to the report, the VA has said it intends to increase its mental health staff by 1,600 providers, and to begin hiring counselors for some of these positions. To date, however, very few counselor positions have been established at VA facilities, despite the fact that the law recognizing counselors was enacted back in 2006.
Several media interviews took place during the week of April 30. Additional interviews are scheduled for the week of May 7-11. Links to all articles published will be posted here, along with other documents developed to state our case.
Article in Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times, and Military Eagle Edge, May 3, 2012
Mental Health Problems Impact Overall Health and Well-being. Sound mental health contributes to quality of life, enables people to care for themselves and others, and reduces the risk of substance abuse, failing in school, and suicide. Applying a primary prevention framework to mental health can support the care and treatment of those in need while also reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems.
Xiomara A. Sosa
Where Things Stand: Recent legislative and court challenges to the health reform law have raised questions about where things stand. As of today, nothing has really changed. Court decisions ruling the law unconstitutional do not prevent implementation from going forward. These decisions will be appealed (with a likely hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court) and will take a long time to conclude. The Senate this week voted against repeal. But the new House GOP majority and Senate Republicans have announced that won’t stop them. They plan an “unrelenting” effort to attack the law. That includes stripping away key patient protections and blocking funding for implementation.
What You Can Do: Your continued advocacy will be needed to protect the many benefits of the new law. Make sure you contact your House Member and Senators. Use this alert and tell them to protect health care reform!
© copyright Mental Health America” February 3, 2011
Mental Health Professionals Take Lead to Remove Stigma of Sexual Orientation
Although the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association no longer consider homosexuality to be a mental disorder, some individuals still harbor this belief.
The American Psychological Association took an even stronger stand and adopted an official policy statement that “homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities” and indicated that mental health professionals should take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.
A number of studies (Berube, 1990; Gonsiorek, 1982; Hooker, 1957; Reiss, 1980) have demonstrated few adjustment differences between individuals with a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. As one researcher concluded, “Homosexuality in and of itself is unrelated to psychological disturbance or maladjustment. Homosexuals, as a group, are not more psychologically disturbed on account of their homosexuality” (Gonsiorek, 1982, p. 74).
However, exposure to societal discrimination may be responsible for the recent findings that lesbian and gay youth report elevated rates of Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and substance abuse. Gay men also reported high rates of major depression. Lesbians appear to fare better and re ported mental health equal to that of their heterosexual counterparts.
Individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered are at higher risk for substance and alcohol related problems. Compared to heterosexuals, GLBT individuals are more likely to have been abused as children and adults. Sexual assaults in adulthood were reported by 11.6 percent of gay men, 13.2 per- cent of bisexual men, and 1.6 percent of heterosexual men. Among women, the rates of sexual assault were 15.5 percent of lesbians, 16.9 percent of bisexual women, and 7.5 percent of heterosexual women.
Gender identity issues and cross-dressing can be characterized as mental disorders according to the mental health organizations. However, transgender individuals are hoping that they can follow the success and path taken by the gay liberation movement and eliminate the classification as a mental disorder.
(Sue, Derald Wing. Counseling the Culturally Diverse, 5th Edition. John Wiley & Sons (P&T) 446).