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The Stigma of Race

November 2, 2012

Recent debates and political speeches continue to remind me of the racial stigma’s people face, despite claims that it is no longer an issue. Do we continue to live separate but equal? Even after Brown v. Board of Education? We may attend similar schools, or live in the same neighborhood but the statistics are still do not show true equality. Minorities continue to have barriers despite government attempts to level the playing field. Discrimination continues to be an issue of the present. A quote from a biopic that is applicable to minorities and other stigmatized people is:

 Being Mexican-American is tough. Anglos jump all over you if you don’t speak English perfectly. Mexicans jump all over you if you don’t speak Spanish perfectly. We got to be twice as perfect as anybody else. And we got to prove to the Mexicans how Mexican we are and we got to prove to the Americans how American we are. We got to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans. It’s exhausting. – Edward James Olmos as Abraham Quintanilla (Selena, 1997)

This attitude still seems to ring true for all multicultural people in the US, and it can be seen in the criticisms of President Obama. The New York Times demonstrates this attitude by saying “Those close to Mr. Obama say he grows irritated at being misunderstood — not just by opponents who insinuate that he caters to African-Americans, but also by black lawmakers and intellectuals who fault him for not making his presidency an all-out assault on racial disparity” (Kantor 2012). A large criticism from his “black advisors, friends, donors, and allies” is that President Obama is not commenting on his experiences as the first black president or advocating for them. In addition, he is criticized for disproportionally helping African Americans by funding underfunded schools, and medical programs. However, that should be a red flag to Americans that the people most affected by poverty are often African Americans, showing just how inequalities of the past continue to effect the current population.

 Erving Goffman (1986) explains that the duty of a stigmatized person is to educate the non-stigmatized. President Obama continues to be the token black American that represents not only this country, but also a whole community of people. According to Kantor (2012) he is also responsible for breaking barriers of discrimination that have been long ingrained in our society. Goffman’s idea of resiliency and overcoming adversity is seen as “special” or “impressive” when someone with a stigma does the same thing as a non-stigmatized person. One of the press aides of the Black Entertainment Television even went as far to say President Obama’s administration was a “great American experiment.” This thinking underlies Obama’s achievement in winning his first election and the pressure he will continue to face this election. Despite President Obama’s efforts to remain race-neutral, he continues to be perceived strictly by his race and his action toward it. It will be interesting to see what people say post-election. Will people continue to credit his racial makeup for his accomplishments or can he overcome the stigma and expectations attached to his race?

Elizabeth Reyes


Foster Care Chilren and their Mental Health

November 2, 2012

The foster care system has been one with many controversies over the years. Some people can’t stand the system and others love that it takes children out of unsafe places. The mental health of children that are going into and coming out of the foster care system has also been an important topic of discussion. Many have wondered if these children are being placed into foster homes with mental illnesses already relevant or if it is the foster homes that are creating them. Having worked with children and youth that have come from foster homes or who have spent some amount of time in one or many had raised my interest in this topic.

There are millions of children that are placed or are living in a foster care home every day. Most if not all of these children are coming into the system after experiencing some kind of trauma, whether it be neglect, abuse, or death of their parents.  In this article they discuss the importance of assessing children’s mental health, development, and educational ability before placing them into a home. It also places importance on early treatment to prevent poor outcomes in these areas. Children in foster care, as stated in the article, are exposed to many risks that put them in danger of having poor educational and mental health outcomes. Part of the problem is the fact that there is little treatment in the foster system. Another contributing factor to these problems is the fact that children in foster care are not in very stable situations. The instability puts them at risk for mental illnesses and also sets them up for failure in school and academics. Children are then later put out into the world with little skills on how to survive. This then leads many of them to become homeless or incapable of holding a job due to the barriers that there mental health creates.

 I was more interested in seeing what types of mental health disorders children in foster care suffered from. When it comes to foster children there are many studies that had found that over half of them may experience one or more mental disorders (Bruskas). Children were found to have suffered from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and social problems. I found PTSD to be controversial because as we learned in class there are some that would argue that PTSD is not a mental illness but instead is an appropriate response to some traumatic events. Either way that they diagnose it does not matter to me but I do believe that to some degree it needs to be treated, preferably with therapy. Children in foster care though are getting little to no treatment for these issues. In a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health only 4%, in their sample of children in foster care that had the worst symptoms, were receiving mental health care while 84% did not have any services provided (Bruskas). This is a substantial amount of children that are going through the system and being spit out at the end without even dipping into the trauma of how they got there or what they have experienced before coming there. After working in social services for the past couple years I have learned that there is this stigma on children in foster care. They are often believed to be broken and sometimes unworthy but after hearing these statistics I see why these stigmas are in place. Children are not being provided with the tools or treatment to break free of these stigmas.


Kaitlin Richards

New Type of Therapy for Children with Autism

November 1, 2012

A main idea within the Sociology of Mental Health is that an individual’s environment contributes to the status of their mental health. The article (link provided below) that I will be looking at for this blog post was published by CNN and is titled Early Therapy Can Change Brains of Kids with Autism. This article reports new positive findings for a particular type of behavioral therapy called the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) for children with autism. In class it has been discussed that mental health disorders fall within three groups and autism would fall within the severe or chronic disease that is caused less by environment and more due to biological factors. However, this does not mean that ones environment does not greatly affect the way their autism is expressed and the way they live their life.

In this article it is discussed that the Early Start Denver Model has been shown to not only improve symptoms of autism, but also improve social behavior and through EEG (electorencephalogram) can be seen to normalize brain activity. During ESDM therapy children play on the ground with their therapist or their parents rather than sitting at a desk being taught complex task in bite-size components. This is a perfect example of how environment can drastically change an outcome. By simply switching the environment that the child learns in ESDM allows the child to build a social relationship that is based on play, which helps them immensely.

Another benefit of this type of therapy is that parents can easily learn ESDM and use it at home; therefore, children continue to improve their social learning and overcome autism symptoms.  However, this brings up the key issue of social support. We have discussed how important social support is in regards to mental health and how it can greatly affect the outcome of ones mental health. It is clear that with ESDM therapy social support from the parents is key to the child’s success and parental involvement to the degree that may be needed is not always available for the children that need it most.

Early Start Denver Model shows the significance of environment on affecting and in this case improving mental health. A child who has autism can normalize their brain activity by simply changing the way they experience therapy and by having social support to help them learn social relationships. It is also important to note that nowhere within this article or the reported study was medication referenced. This fact may be evidence that our society is continuing its shift from a medicalized model of mental health to increasing emphasis on how environment can effect and shift mental health disorders.

Hayley Murphy

Link for article:

Bullying and Depression

October 26, 2012

An interesting article posted on the NIH (National Institute of Health) website reported a study conducted by the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study looked at cyber bullying and the effect it has on a child’s health. It was found that those targeted for cyber bullying are at a greater risk for childhood and adolescent depression. This topic is especially relevant to society in the past ten to fifteen years with the expansion of Internet sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as e-mail and instant messaging. From a sociological perspective, this is a problem that’s arisen from the larger society because of the value we place on sociality and the need to be able to communicate at all times with others via text, e-mail and social networking.

Of course not all social networking is bad, but it has become a convenient outlet for kids to anonymously bully others. The authors in the NIH article explain that, “Traditional forms of bullying involve physical violence, verbal taunts, or social exclusion,” whereas “Cyber bullying…involves aggressive behaviors communicated over a computer or a cell phone.” While it may seem obvious that physical violence or verbal taunts would be more harmful to a child, the study found that because cyber bullying doesn’t allow child victims to see their perpetrator face to face, the child may feel, “isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack” (Wang et al. 2010).  The study claimed that the children who were cyber bullied reported feeling more depressed than the perpetrators themselves or those who were bullied face-to-face.

Because childhood is such a crucial developmental period in a person’s life, bullying can affect this development when it becomes a major stressor to a child. A child may live in constant fear of engaging with his or her peers due to a constant worry he or she may be bullied. It’s especially difficult if the child has no social support through peers, a school counselor or his or her family. According to Peggy Thoits, “Social support is a key social coping resource; it consists of emotional, informational, or practical assistants with stressors from significant others such as family or friends” (111). Unfortunately, after chronic stress with no coping mechanism, a child’s mental health will suffer.

My only criticism for this study is that the children were given self-report surveys to evaluate if they were “depressed” or not. As discussed in class, does this survey reflect and explain depression or just normal sadness? How does cyber bullying affect the child in the long run (into adulthood)? I believe a lot more research needs to be done on this somewhat new social phenomenon. Until then, society needs to work much harder on offering social support to children who have been bullied, regardless of the type. 

Lindsay Mesplay

Keeping Kids out of the Emergency Room

October 26, 2012

I found an article on the New York Times website that tells the story about a child named Gabriel. He is a second grade student at Public School 67 in New York and has anger management and outrage issues. Several times through out the year when Gabriel would have an incident the teacher would end up calling the paramedics and each time Gabriel would go to the hospital, have a psycho therapy evaluation and be released from the hospital for class the next day. This has been happening to many kids across the country because instead of them getting the real help they need, they are just unnecessarily taken to a hospital, where they aren’t dangerous enough to be held there, and released for class without an end results to the psycho evaluations. 

Usually disruptive children like Gabriel are placed in a class room setting where the ratio is 12 students to one teacher. But because the funding just isn’t there Gabriel is instead of a class of 30+ students and isn’t able to have the attention he needs and to be calmed down in the proper manner. After the September 29 incident in 2011, Gabriel was moved into a smaller classroom and given a personal counselor who could help him to control his anger and to process situations differently. There are many kids who need counselors and typically schools account for how many students need personal counselors at the beginning of the year and run out of money half way through, leaving many kids with unmet needs. 

The problem lies in public school funding, but the problem also lies within the social stigma that has arisen from mental illness. Why are these children, why is Gabriel a second grader being sent to the hospital as if this were a medical case, but then being released for class the next day. Instead of receiving the help he needs, Gabriel is being pushed through the system just as many people who suffer from mental illnesses are. What are some basics that these mental health counselors are doing that can be taught to teachers to help reverse the rule about sending children to hospitals for disturbance issues? This is a waste of money and time for all parties involved. 

Gabriel went through 3 counselors, and when the article was written in April of 2012, his counselor had left his job, and Gabriel began with a new woman. He had an outburst was sent to the hospital, and again released for school the next day. There is a greater problem at hand for school policy regarding mental illness and for the students who suffer from such issues. 




Childhood Trauma Linked To Mental Health Issues

October 26, 2012

In Medical News Today I found an article titled Early Childhood Trauma Takes Visible Toll On Brain posted on October 18th, 2012In this article we are given information that shows that trauma in infancy or childhood will increase the risk of mental disorders and also stress related conditions in adulthood. The research shows that communication between body control brain areas can be realigned when children are physically abused. This can cause adult cardiovascular disease and mental health problems. We also are presented with information showing that childhood poverty being associated with working memory changes and attention changes into adult years. Lastly the article gives us evidence that chronic amounts of stress in infancy can lead to fearful and aggressive behaviors as the child grows up. 

This article was interesting because it provides concrete evidence that what happens in our infancy and childhood can affect us as we get older. Situations which occur, even when the child is too young to remember, will affect children as they enter into adulthood. I found it interesting that childhood trauma can cause issues with memory and attention. I question if children with ADD or ADHD have a high correlation between children who suffered from chronic trauma in infancy. I would like to see the results of a study looking at this sort of information. When reading this article I looked at the information which showed that high stress amounts in infancy can lead to fearful and aggressive behavior. This in my mind relates back to children with Operational Defiance Disorder. There are many areas of this article where they should have expanded on ideas and labels of which traumas can cause certain mental health issues.

I looked up some more information and found an article in Stanford School of Medicine. This article provides information that states that childhood trauma is linked to higher rates of mental health problems and also obesity. This article finds that children who experience found different types of trauma are 30 times more likely to have learning and behavior problems. Also they found that 30% of children in violent communities can suffer from symptoms such as post traumatic stress disorder, but if a doctor is unaware of the child’s trauma the child is often diagnosed with ADHD. This article stresses the idea of doctors screening children for trauma. One issue with this is if the parents are present when the child is screened for trauma the child may be less likely to admit to problems at home. Often time I find it important to survey children about trauma when the parents or guardians are not present. Children may be more likely to speak up if they feel safe. 

Overall these two articles provided evidence that what happens when we are children follows us into adulthood. I find it important for parents to keep chronic stress out of their child’s life in the best way they can. Sometimes this may be difficult. 

-Kimberly Langley

The Impact of Parent Depression in Children

October 26, 2012

            Depression, regardless of the cause, is something that is extremely prevalent among people in the United States. As mentioned in class, approximately fifty percent of people will experience symptoms of depression within their lifetime. With this known fact, it is vastly important to look at how depression in parents affects the family and specifically the children. In an article titled Parents’ Depression Linked to Problems in Children by Perri Klass, depression in parents is examined as well as how primary care doctors may identify risks of postpartum depression in women.

            It has been found that examining a parent’s mental health in the first couple months of a baby’s life is of great importance due to the fact that parent’s depression can be severely detrimental to not only the baby but also older children in the family. Depression seems to be a very “contagious” illness and can severely impact people who live in close quarters such as family and possibly friends. Not only can a parent’s depressed mood affect her children, but also it can also severely impact the way they take care of them on a day-to-day basis. 

            The frustrating part about this is that depression can be very easily treated but often time’s people do not seek the care or treatment that they need. Untreated depression in parents can affect children in a way that it leads to poor performance in school, higher visits to the emergency room, as well as less than ideal relationships with peers. Most severely, depression among parents can actually lead to depression symptoms in their children. The good news is that when parents seek help and treatment, their family seems to do a lot better overall.

            One reason why parents usually don’t seek treatment is because the physician may not be trained well enough to notice or may be afraid of stigmatizing the parent. All of the adverse reactions that children have to their parent’s depression as mentioned above, supports the fact that it is crucial for doctors to pay attention to depressive symptoms without discrediting the parent. In fact, it has been found that women actually like being asked because it raises opportunity to talk about the depression for what may be the first time. Klass explains that urging the parent to “get better for their children” is usually the best way to get them help. It is important to keep in mind, though, that asking about depression can also create more problems if there is a lack of help due to the financial or social situation they are living in. It can also make the parent feel as if the doctor is blaming them for something wrong in the child. With that being said, it is important to approach the issue of depression in parents with a non-stigmatizing and open view of what is going on in the their life.

Melissa Peterson