Weekly Roundup 9-30-12

School: Teaching ex-criminals how to redirect their “skills” into legitimate careers.

Psychology: The importance of letting children grieve openly.

Scholarship: Scientists report that a drug usually used to treat cancer shows promise in treating progeria (“rapid aging disease”) in children.


At Risk

It has long been known that certain groups are at increased risk for suicide. One of the known risk factors is seeing or reading about someone who commits suicide. Yesterday, Fox News accidentally showed a suicide during a live broadcast that went awry. The network anchor, Shepherd Smith, had been following a live car chase when suddenly the car stopped and the man began running away. Despite a 10 second delay, the producers were unable to cut away on time, and the man’s suicide was shown live. Mr. Smith was clearly upset, and gave a lengthy apology to viewers.

While this was not a deliberately sensationalized moment, the live broadcast was potentially traumatic for anyone viewing. And according to the single-topic blog Reporting on Suicide, “[T]he way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking.”

From ReportingOnSuicide.org:

Important Points for Covering Suicide:

  • More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage.
  • Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/
    graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.
  • Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths which can
    encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.

Here are more tips on reporting suicide, from a free .pdf available for download from the site (click to enlarge):

International Week of the Deaf 9-24-12 to 9-30-12

Yesterday marked the beginning of International Week of the Deaf, a.k.a. Deaf Awareness Week. To put a little bit of a different spin on this, I’m going to focus on one topic: deafness in prison populations. I first became aware of this special needs population through an excellent series on the blog CrimeDime earlier this summer. Written by the primary contributor to another blog I follow, DeafInPrison, the series of four articles provides a wealth of information and additional resources.

There are so many issues specific to deaf inmates that most of us probably have never thought of. For example, how do defend yourself if you can’t hear people sneaking up behind you? And how do you report abuse if you can’t tell anyone about it? I started my career doing forensic assessments, and my heart always skipped a beat when I walked into the assorted prisons and detention centers and holding facilities where the interviews were conducted. And I never took for granted that after my few hours “inside” I was able to just walk right out. As BitcoDavid points out in a recent post on Deaf in Prison – and something we should all keep in mind when working with any disability population – “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Links to the four articles from Crime Dime:

Deaf In Prison: What Challenges Do Deaf Inmates Face? – June 5, 2012

Deaf In Prison: How Do Correctional Officers Treat Deaf Inmates? – June 7, 2012

Deaf In Prison: Prison Life and the Americans With Disabilities Act – June 11, 2012

Deaf In Prison: Being Deaf In A Society of Captives – June 13, 2012

55 Years Ago Today

All of us know this picture: the iconic shot of brave Elizabeth Eckford trying to walk to Little Rock Central High School after Brown vs. Board of Education ended school segregation. This picture was taken on September 4, 1957. This wasn’t the day Elizabeth entered the school; this was the day she was turned away by the Arkansas National Guard. The day she finally walked into the school building was September 23, but she and 8 other African American students were chased out of school that day by an angry mob. On this day 55 years ago, September 24, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in the United States Army to escort and protect the group that came to be known as The Little Rock Nine.

The story – and the image above – are indelibly etched on the American collective consciousness (or should I say collective conscience?). If you search for Elizabeth Eckford on Wikipedia, this is the picture you will find. But did you also know that if you search for Hazel Bryan Massery on Wikipedia, this is also the picture you will find? Hazel Bryan Massery is the girl behind Elizabeth, shouting at her.

I mention this because while the drama of the photograph is well-known, it is less well-known what happened in the years and decades after this seminal moment. The short version is that in the following months and years, Hazel became increasingly wracked with guilt about her actions that day. In 1963, she tracked down Elizabeth and called her to apologize. During the 40th anniversary celebration of Central High School’s integration, Hazel and Elizabeth met again and at that point struck up something of a friendship. What came after is complicated, and in some ways represents the challenges of racial relations we still face. But parts of the story are inspiring. And parts of the story make me wonder if the glare of the media – and all its attendant pressures – hadn’t been focused on these two adult women as they tried to forge a reconciliation 40 years later, could they have formed a more authentic bond?

If you want to know more about the story, there is a book about it called Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. There is also an interesting NPR piece about it, including an interview with the book’s author. In addition, the NPR piece offers a brief introduction to the psychological repercussions of the original incident; perhaps unsurprisingly Elizabeth suffered PTSD as a result of her experiences.

Monday Giveaway!

Last month I wrote about The New Teacher Project and their research on the irreplaceables: teachers who are “so successful that they are nearly impossible to replace.” I went ahead and ordered two copies of their report, and I’m giving them away to you! If you would like one, email me at [schoolpsychscholar at gmail dot com]. Be sure to include your name and mailing address in the email. The first two people to email me will get a copy. Happy Monday!  Update: all gone!

Weekly Roundup 9-23-12

School: The Chicago teacher’s strike is over, but by all accounts there is still a tough road ahead. With record deficits and dozens of under-performing schools, what does the future hold for Chicago’s school system?

Psychology: Twenty-somethings all over the world are taking longer to reach the traditional milestones of adulthood. Researchers now consider the late teens and early twenties to be a distinct stage of life, and brain research continues to support this new paradigm.

Scholarship: Children who received an apology from someone who hurt their feelings had a better emotional reaction to the situation than children who didn’t. The apology recipients were more likely to rate the apology giver as sad, thus reinforcing a positive view of the world as a place where people do not generally like to be mean to others.

Concussions and Mild Brain Injury in Children

I spent yesterday at a very interesting conference about mild brain injury and post-concussion syndrome. It was led by Dr. Gerard Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist and expert in the field of concussions in children. There is far too much information to present here, but I wanted to offer some helpful information so I’ve distilled everything down to the Top 5 things I learned at the conference, as well as a few links with further resources.

Top 5 things I learned at the conference:

  1. Studies with rats show that the brain pathology following a concussion is not related to physical injury, but rather a neurometabolic reaction within brain cells that leads to an overall “energy crisis.” (for a detailed description of the cellular processes, see the Pathophysiology section of the Wikipedia entry on concussions).
  2. Most traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are not the result of sports-related injuries (for children aged 0-14, falls cause half of all TBIs annually; see pie chart below).
  3. The time interval between injuries is critical for preventing long term (cumulative) effects. If you do not allow a child sufficient time to fully recover from a mild concussion incident, if the child has another mild concussion during the healing period, the synergistic effect of both injuries is equal to one large injury.
  4. Most concussions do not result in loss of consciousness.
  5. A direct hit to the head isn’t the only way to cause a concussion. You can also get a concussion if your head is jolted (jerked) suddenly as a result of a hard blow to the body.

source: Wikipedia commons

Additional Links:

– The main resource for information is the concussion and traumatic brain injury section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Much of Dr. Gioia’s work has been funded by the CDC, and that is where you will find a host of resources, both on- and offline. There are download-able .pdfs for school personnel, clipboard magnets for coaches, a variety of publications available for order, and even a page devoted to social media (Twitter, podcasts, widgets, etc.).

– Dr. Gioia also helped develop an iPhone/iPad app called Concussion Recognition & Response. It walks you through an injury and helps coaches and parents determine if a child has suffered a possible concussion. A lot of information is embedded in the app, and at the end of the assessment you can easily email the results in the form of a summary sheet.

Unrelated to the conference, here is an informative video made by a doctor/dad about child concussions. I especially like the way Dr. Evans describes symptoms and post-concussion protocol, as well as the way he addresses children directly and offers them encouragement during a potentially frustrating time.

Weekly Roundup 9-16-12

School: A short personal essay exploring whether schools (and adults in general) are letting kids down by not effectively confronting cyberbullying.

Psychology: Why “following your passion” is a bad idea when it comes to picking a career.

Scholarship: Every single student who graduates from high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan, receives free college tuition paid for by a group of anonymous donors.