Mental health

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Action by mental health workers wins concessions from Victorian Labor

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/04/2022 - 3:35pm in

Stop work action by Victorian public mental health workers has forced the Victorian Labor government to sign off on a statewide enterprise agreement.

The campaign by Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) members won some concessions and a pay rise but fell short of what could have been achieved. 

The agreement expired nearly two years ago in June 2020. This coincided with the first serious COVID-19 community transmission in Victoria and enormous strain on health and community services.

Mental health workers have worked all through pandemic with worsening conditions and pay rises below the increasing cost of living but have also been taking industrial action to fight back for workers and service users.

Three months after the EBA expired, HACSU filed to hold a protected action vote, which was endorsed by the majority of union members across Victoria.

Many of the bans implemented at the beginning of protected action were designed to frustrate management, make things easier for workers and not adversely impact service users, for example bans on logging contact hours, non-clinical meetings and paperwork.

These bans were popular among workers and effective but after several months of negotiations key claims hadn’t progressed and people began calling for a step up of industrial action through statewide stop work action.

Excuse

Government officials and the bosses’ union used COVID as an excuse to stall negotiations. They also asked the union to drop key demands and industrial action until the Mental Health Royal Commission recommendations were handed down, arguing that they would improve the sector. This process also took for ever and the union pushed back against this technocratic approach.

Many workers have worked overtime to fill big holes in service delivery and staffing shortfalls, which is a way the system increases overall exploitation of the workforce.

This is a particular challenge in more feminised industries when the product of our labour is human health and wellbeing—we feel the pressure to fill the gaps because we want to support our colleagues and service users who may be placed at increased risk without adequate staffing cover.

Healthcare employers struggle to retain and recruit new staff because of over-work and underpay, relying on goodwill and the “hero narrative” to celebrate healthcare workers without providing them with wages and conditions that support workers on the job and outside of it.

The health system has become so reliant on overtime that some workers who have difficulty making ends meet take on extra shifts, which only exacerbates burnout.

Mental health clinicians who had been around in the 1986 nurses’ strike and periods of broader union militancy called for statewide stop work actions.

HACSU issued a 12-hour stop work and people were planning to come from all across Victoria on the 26 May 2021 until another COVID wave led the Andrews government to ban large outdoor gatherings.

This happened again on 4 April and many unionists joked that COVID-19 was a conspiracy to stall the EBA.

While stop work actions still took place at localised clinics and hospitals this made it difficult for unionists across the state to connect with each other, share strategies and a broader vision for a better mental health system. Zoom organising was also difficult.

While COVID was a very real threat, governments also leveraged the crisis to restrict organising. Black Lives Matter demonstrated it was possible to hold powerful and safe rallies with tens of thousands of people during the pandemic.

Gains

While a range of strategies were used to get the EBA over the line it’s telling that it was only in-person industrial action which finalised the agreement.

The union put on hold industrial action when a draft agreement was reached and endorsed by the majority of members in November 2021. Then nothing happened for another four months as the government continued to stall and delay. It was only when another stop work action on 17 March 2021 was held in person at Victorian Trades Hall that the agreement was finalised.

There were some gains in this EBA including extended leave for child rearing, emergency management and disaster relief (timely in the current and future climate), and improvements in career structure for the growing lived experience workforce.

In terms of wages, nurses were able to secure a 3 per cent increase in wages each year but unfortunately the government has split the workforce by only offering 2 per cent a year to allied health (social work and occupational therapy), the lived experience workforce and administration.

This is in line with Labor’s commitment to the public sector wage cap, which is repressing wages below inflation, contributing to a cost-of-living squeeze on public sector workers.

Workers did fight back against this and were able to secure backpay for the two years of backsliding in wages and living costs and a modest $1500-$2000 lump sum “retention bonus” each year to stay in the sector.

These gains barely keep up with the cost of living in the harsh industrial and inflationary environment of the last two years but could also only be achieved through withholding labour and industrial struggle.

It will take more of this for workers to begin to claw back some control, particularly in industries like healthcare, disability and social services where work is consistently undervalued and under enormous systemic strain.

By a HACSU member

The post Action by mental health workers wins concessions from Victorian Labor appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Welcome to Your Friendly Neighborhood Mental Health Center

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/03/2022 - 7:00pm in

In the fall of 2019, Lauren Lucht was walking to the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Strawberry Hill mental and behavioral health center in Kansas City, Kansas, when a passing driver rolled down his window. “He started honking and then screamed, ‘Thank you for bringing the grocery store!’” she remembers with a laugh.

It’s not every day that Lucht, a mental health care professional, gets thanked for providing a new local food shop. But the project she shepherded into existence just over two years ago isn’t typical, either. As the executive director of mental and behavioral health for the University of Kansas Health System, Lucht oversaw the opening of the Strawberry Hill center, and has since witnessed the gradual reawakening of the long-neglected surrounding neighborhood. 

The decision to locate the center in this particular spot was intentional. “It would have been less expensive to purchase land in a more rural area and build a psychiatric hospital there,” Lucht says, “but the partnership with the community was really the driving force here.” 

kansasThe atrium at Strawberry Hill Behavioral Health Hospital. Credit: CannonDesign

This approach represents an emerging school of thought in mental health facility design. Until recently, many such facilities purposefully removed their patients from public life, sending them out into serene rural environments, or walling them off in fortress-like psychiatric hospitals. This arrangement, though isolating, was long thought to be best for both patients and society. 

But new facilities like Strawberry Hill exhibit a new way of thinking, one in which mental health facilities are seen not as a risk or a burden to the surrounding community, but a potential boon, bringing with them the same social and economic benefits that any medical hospital would — while helping to destigmatize mental health care in the process. 

For a long time, the neighborhood of Strawberry Hill has struggled with vacant lots, derelict buildings and street crime. The very building the new mental health facility is housed in, in fact, had been abandoned for years. Now, it’s bustling with hundreds of workers, and the neighborhood around it is slowly coming back to life. The new grocery store, opened in what was once a food desert, is a prime example.

“We know that a healthy diet is part of keeping ourselves healthy,” Lucht says. “My motto is: Mental health is health. And until we start thinking of mental health as being one component of our overall health care, we continue to silo things out in a very unhealthy way.”

A history of hiding away

The previous incarnation of the Strawberry Hill mental health center was a nondescript cinderblock building cloistered within the University of Kansas’s sprawling, difficult-to-navigate main campus. Lucht says the old space didn’t have the capacity for its growing demand for services, so she and her team began searching for a bigger location with a more expansive mission.

From about the 1850s into the early 1900s, not much middle ground existed in the care of people struggling with mental and behavioral issues. According to Stephanie Vito, a Buffalo-based architect at CannonDesign who was on the design team for the Strawberry Hill project, families either cared for the ailing or, if they were unable, the person would go to an asylum in the countryside. “The idea was that the patient will go there for, most likely, the rest of their life,” says Vito. “The landscape in the rural setting was really bucolic; they could do farming, they could ride horses — it was a different kind of model of treatment, with a different end goal.” 

While the countryside was thought to be therapeutic, the remote location had the effect of “othering” those seeking psychiatric care, perpetuating their stigma and isolation. To this day, neighborhoods often oppose new mental health facilities, viewing them as a liability rather than an asset — a perception the Strawberry Hill center works to disprove. It is housed in a building that was formerly the offices of the Environmental Protection Agency, nestled in a community near homes, businesses and restaurants.

The former offices of the Environmental Protective Agency now house the Strawberry Hill facility. Credit: CannonDesign

Clinical Manager Stacie Stoltz wants local residents to think of the campus as another business that’s part of their daily lives. She says discussions are underway to identify and provide more services those residents might need, like an easy-to-access urgent care.

“We want to be a one-stop shop for health, not just mental health,” Stoltz says. “We’re walking distance from the library and the grocery store, so we’re definitely like, you know, ‘Come to the library, come to our building for mental health,’ and, hopefully, someday, perhaps some physical health as well.”

Clinical Manager Stacie Stoltz. Credit: Anne Kniggendorf

The center is already providing knock-on benefits that go beyond the services it directly provides to the community. The most tangible is the creation of — and ability to fill — over 300 new jobs. 

Lucht points out that, in a job market where hiring is already a challenge for many businesses, behavioral health centers are especially difficult to staff. Staffing shortages at two other state psychiatric hospitals, one in Larned and another in Osawatomie, are partially due to their undesirable locations, she says. Not so in Kansas City, where the talent pool is broader. 

“We’ve been able to hire people from the community, which also pours money back into the community,” says Lucht. “And so there’s really a win-win there for keeping your patients, your employees and the revenue within your county and the community that you’re really partnering with to serve.”

Designed to be open and visible

As members of the community both staff the new facility and are served by it, the repurposed former office building also fosters a more open connection with the outside. Streams of light flow in through towering windows, illuminating a central atrium space that features living green walls and a view of the Kansas River and Kansas City, Missouri’s skyline.

“We took advantage of that central atrium, and we actually brought greenscape and nature and plants from the ground level all the way up vertically within the building,” says Vito. “So, it wasn’t just this kind of center strip, but it actually went three dimensionally.”

kansas“We’re walking distance from the library and the grocery store, so we’re definitely like, you know, ‘Come to the library, come to our building for mental health,’” says Stoltz. Credit: CannonDesign

Many of the rooms have about a foot of glass around the ceiling so that light floods from one room to the next. Murals in the hallways depict the Kansas plains and the wetlands of the southeastern part of the state. These aren’t just ornamental touches — according to Lucht, more comfortable surroundings make patients more likely to stay the full length of their treatment.

Stoltz, who’s worked in mental and behavioral health for over 30 years, says those treatments are as forward-thinking as the facility’s central location. Each patient is assigned to a psychiatrist, mental health therapist and licensed case manager. Everyone also receives a variety of “expressive therapies” such as art, music and recreational therapy, as well as individual, group and family talk therapy. This is a dramatic change from just six years ago, Stoltz says. “The programming at the old facility was really heavily emphasizing medications and psychiatric treatment … with some support from the psychology groups that they were getting once a day.”

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Strawberry Hill is part of a vanguard of mental health centers that attempt to soften the barriers between the facility and its surroundings. The Margaret and Charles Juravinski Centre for Integrated Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, was designed for its non-clinical spaces, like its swimming pool, auditorium and conference center, to be accessible to the public. Pilgrim Psychiatric Center on Long Island, New York, opened an on-site museum in 2002 where the public can learn about the facility’s history and current treatments. 

So far, Strawberry Hill doesn’t have amenities that are open to the public, and Lucht and her colleagues know that if the campus was to truly integrate into the community, neighbors would need to be on board. Even plans to add more health services, the new grocery store and the economic benefits — what Lucht calls the center’s amazing trickle-down effect — were initially not enough for some anxious residents. But developing neighbors into stakeholders was important.

So, during the design work’s developmental stage, health system representatives like Lucht met with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, neighborhood associations, the mayor, churches and local residents to talk about the project.

“They were a little bit nervous about a psychiatric hospital coming to town,” Lucht says. “That conjures up for people a lot of things that they’ve seen on TV that don’t depict the reality of what psychiatric healthcare in 2022 looks like.”

Lucht and her team talked to community members about the difference between a dangerous person and a person with a mental health condition. “They’re not interchangeable,” she says. She believes people are starting to understand that, and that more facilities like Strawberry Hill, which attempt to integrate into local communities rather than wall themselves off from them, will begin to emerge.

“We have now multiple generations that have grown up, that are growing up, thinking and knowing that it’s normal and okay to treat your mental health as importantly as your physical health,” Lucht says. “We’re raising generations of kids who understand that a broken heart is not any less real than a broken arm.”

The post Welcome to Your Friendly Neighborhood Mental Health Center appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Uganda’s LGBTQ Church Is an Act of Faith

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/02/2022 - 7:00pm in

A revelation

In Uganda, homosexuality is outlawed and anti-gay violence is a serious problem, in part because of hateful rhetoric spread by religious leaders. Now, an LGBTQ-led church is defying the threats, providing a safe, joyful place to worship for Uganda’s Christian sexual minorities.

Formed near Kampala in 2019 by Pastor Ram Gava, a gay man, Adonai Ministries has over 40 members who attend services physically, and dozens more who attend virtually. Its existence speaks to the dilemma of Uganda’s gay Christian community, which is deeply devout depsite the fact that the church is their chief antagonist. “In this gathering, you get confidence, your self-esteem is boosted, and you start being yourself,” said one congregant.

In Uganda, the need for such a space is particularly acute. But Black LGBTQ churches exist all over the world, not just in Uganda as Minority Africa reports. In London, House of Rainbow CIC, a fellowship for Black LGBTQ Christians, carves out a space for those who feel rejected by other Black churches. “A lot of pastors, priests, or theologians do not understand human sexuality,” said its reverend. “They should practice that principle that all are truly welcome.”

Read more at Minority Africa

Mending young minds

Covid hasn’t been easy on kids. According to the American Psychological Association, 71 percent of parents believe the pandemic has taken a mental health toll on their children. Demand for counseling services reflects this – mental health-related hospital visits rose by 31 percent for U.S. teenagers in 2020 over the previous year.

What if some of those hospital trips could be prevented? An initiative in Philadelphia is attempting just that with “integrated behavioral health,” which brings mental health care into mainstream settings. 15 primary care practices operated by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have begun screening all young patients for mental health issues during their annual checkups. If needed, the children can immediately be referred to mental health practitioners on site, with whom they can begin regular sessions. The idea is to lower the barriers to mental health services by integrating primary care doctors as overall health care “quarterbacks.” 

Research has shown the model to be highly effective at making mental health care more accessible. Now, CHOP is bringing the model out of the clinical setting entirely. A multi-year initiative has started providing on-site mental health services to all 258 students at Girard College, a Philly boarding school for disadvantaged students, 80 percent of whom are Black. According to one psychiatrist, putting mental health treatment in schools “side-steps the stigma issues and relieves parents of the additional challenges of child care, scheduling, transportation and other social determinants/barriers.”

Read more at the Philadelphia Citizen

Carry the water

California has roughly 4,000 miles of canals, and much of the water they carry evaporates before reaching its destination. This fall, a pilot project will begin covering those canals with solar panels, saving huge amounts of water while turning the Golden State’s plentiful sunshine into clean energy.

A rendering of one of the canal coverings. Credit: TID

The public-private partnership, with $20 million in initial state funding, will build the solar coverings over a portion of the state’s canals, allowing researchers to analyze reductions in evaporation, water quality improvements and electricity generation. A 2021 study estimated that if all of California’s canals were covered in solar panels, it would save 63 billion gallons of water and generate 13 gigawatts of green energy annually – enough to power nearly 10 million homes.

Read more at Renewable Energy World

The post Uganda’s LGBTQ Church Is an Act of Faith appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

What can universities do to support the well-being and mental health of postgraduate researchers?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/02/2022 - 10:00pm in

As highlighted in a recent LSE Impact blogpost, there is evidence to show that postgraduate researchers face particular risks in relation to poor mental health and well-being. Reporting on a recent review of interventions carried out by universities and higher education institutions, David Watson, outlines four areas in which universities can develop initiatives to support … Continued

Revenge Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/01/2022 - 5:03pm in

Is Revenge Capitalism messing up our world?

Ross Ashcroft met up with Author and Teacher, Dr Max Haiven.

The post Revenge Capitalism appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Revenge Capitalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/01/2022 - 5:03pm in

Is Revenge Capitalism messing up our world?

Ross Ashcroft met up with Author and Teacher, Dr Max Haiven.

The post Revenge Capitalism appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Is doing a PhD bad for your mental health?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/01/2022 - 10:00pm in

Poor mental health amongst PhD researchers is increasingly being recognised as an issue within higher education institutions. However, there continues to be unanswered questions relating to the propensity and causality of poor mental health amongst PhD researchers. Reporting on a new comparative survey of PhD researchers and their peers from different professions, Dr Cassie M … Continued

Seattle’s Soda Tax Worked Like a Charm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/01/2022 - 7:00pm in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Pop star

How well taxes on sugary drinks really work is a subject of debate. A new study of Seattle’s “soda tax” is more comprehensive than most, and the results in this case appear definitive: the policy works.

The top line data show that sales of sugary drinks fell by a whopping 23 percent after the tax was implemented. The sample group was huge, representing 45 percent of all food store sales in the city over the course of three years. The declines held fast throughout the study period, suggesting they could be permanent. Then, the researchers attempted to address a crucial question: Did sales of other types of sugary products go up? Were people simply switching from soda to candy? They found that a small percentage did, but not nearly enough to cancel out the soda tax’s gains. In the end, the net reduction in sugary product sales held at 19 percent.

seattleSeattle, Washington. Credit: Jeff Youngstrom / Flickr

This runs counter to the soda industry’s claims that such taxes simply push consumers toward other sugary products. “There was some offset for sure, but there’s still, at the end of the day, a substantial reduction in grams of sugar sold,” said the lead researcher. Nevertheless, despite the policy’s impact (or perhaps because of it), in response, the soda industry successfully pushed for a ballot initiative banning such taxes from the rest of Washington State.

Read more at Next City

Art therapy

When Number 600 Gallery opened in Shanghai in 2021, it was covered by a range of national media outlets, including the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The fact that it received so much press is astounding, for Number 600 isn’t just any gallery — it is housed in Shanghai Mental Health Center (SMHC), a place rarely spoken about in China. 

The gallery, showcasing works created by the hospital’s patients, has become a viral sensation. Observers say this points to a major mindset change in a country where mental health issues are highly stigmatized. But after two years of traumatic Covid lockdowns, there are signs that China finally seems ready to talk about mental health. 

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SMHC’s gallery, which has been hashtagged 73 million times on Weibo, is just one example. A new Chinese TV drama called Psychologist advertises itself as the country’s first show to feature therapy. The Broadway musical Next to Normal, about a woman with bipolar disorder, premiered last year in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. And a Shanghai gallery exhibition about eating disorders recently became a nationwide topic of conversation.

This is SMHC’s second time in the spotlight: last year, the mooncakes sold in its cafeteria became a hot Lunar New Year gift. “The pandemic has made us all really see how important mental health is to us,” said one psychiatrist.

Read more at Sixth Tone

Shell game

The largest eelgrass bed in the continental U.S. is in Padilla Bay, just north of Swinomish Nation. These grasses provide a critical habitat for an array of local species, one of which is the Olympia oyster, the only oyster native to Washington State. Once nearly extinct due to overharvesting and habitat destruction, Olympia oysters have rebounded in recent years.

But in 2017, it looked like the Olympia oyster would once again come under threat when a change in federal policy opened up these eelgrass beds to the commercial shellfish industry. The Swinomish tribe fought the decision and won, and gained exclusive access to the area. Now the tribe’s own fishery, the Swinomish Shellfish Company, is demonstrating how to harvest oysters while also preserving their habitat.

padilla bayEelgrass in Padilla Bay. Credit: Washington State Department of Ecology

The company’s key rule is simple: don’t disturb the eelgrass beds. With this directive in place, scientists say it can harvest oysters for years to come while maintaining the health of the ecosystem — a long-range way of thinking that markedly contrasts with the commercial operations that decimated the oyster habitats in the past. “It was made clear to me early on that everything we were to do would have to be in line with protecting the environment,” said Stuart Thomas, an industry veteran who now works for Swinomish Shellfish. “Swinomish Fish Company is not just about revenue for the tribe.”

Read more at High Country News

The post Seattle’s Soda Tax Worked Like a Charm appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Mental Health System Overhaul Still Coming

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/10/2015 - 11:35am in

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Mental health

Jobseekers with Mental Illness Placed in Driving Seat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/08/2015 - 10:39am in

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