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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Photo: Mi Casa.
At Genesis , an intergenerational community in Washington, DC, older adults provide care and social support to individuals and families facing vulnerabilities, who in turn, promote the well-being of the elders as they age.

Because we don’t know the future, we need to make a plan. Catch-22: we can’t make a plan because we don’t know the future.

If we will always be able to handle the usual things that grown-ups handle, we may want to stay in our homes. For couples, if only one of us needs extra care, we may want to be where two lifestyles are possible. If we want to take interesting walks, we need to be where there are interesting walks. If we can’t walk or operate a wheelchair, a walkable neighborhood may not be as important as, say, being around good conversationalists or having easy access to books.

And what about being able to interact with people of other generations?

As Matt Fuchs reported at the Washington Post in September, “Research has shown that older and younger adults need one another: Mixed-age interactions make seniors feel more purposeful, and young people benefit from their elders’ guidance and problem-solving skills. ‘They fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,’ said Marc Freedman, chief executive of encore.org, a nonprofit group dedicated to uniting the generations.

“But in practice, such closeness can be hard to come by. Many young adults flock to cities, while older people often isolate within the walls of 55-and-over communities. Parts of the country are as segregated by age as race, fewer people are having children, and people live by themselves in record numbers, including 27 percent of adults over 60. …

“One solution is establishing residential communities that are designed to nurture these bonds.

“ ‘There’s a trend toward intergenerational living,’ said Elin Zurbrigg, deputy director of Mi Casa, a D.C. nonprofit that provides mixed-age housing through its Genesis program, in collaboration with city officials. Demand may be rising because of the pandemic, which has exposed loneliness as a serious health issue and has prompted many Americans to move for fresh starts. …

“[Here are some ways] mixed-age communities benefit their residents.

“[First] they cultivate purpose. A shared purpose with neighbors is what Estelle Winicki, a 78-year-old retiree, always envisioned for herself, but finding that wasn’t easy. In Boulder, Colo., she rarely crossed paths with neighbors. … Her therapist suggested Bridge Meadows, which operates two complexes of townhouses in Oregon that bring together seniors, former foster-care children and their adoptive parents. Residents are encouraged to spend time with their age opposites.

“Winicki, who lives at Bridge Meadows in Portland, doesn’t need persuasion. She starts many of her days helping her neighbors’ children get ready for school. ‘It gives me such pleasure to see these kids grow with a strong foundation,’ she said. ‘They know they can rely on me, and I like helping.’

“[Second] they provide mental health support. ‘The first thing you see among all the generations [at Bridge Meadows] is the sense of “I belong” and “I matter,” ’ said Derenda Schubert, Bridge Meadows’ founder and a clinical psychologist. Such an environment allows mixed-age communities such as Bridge Meadows to provide safety nets that protect residents’ mental health. …

“[Third] they offer professional advantages. In other communities, the generational glue is professional. PacArts, a mixed-age building in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, provides affordable housing to artists. Luis Sanchez, a 53-year-old painter, said he can count on his neighbors whether he’s having a rough patch with health — he’s had two kidney transplants — or his work. An older neighbor has hired him repeatedly to assist with large painting projects. ‘I’ve learned a tremendous amount,’ Sanchez said. ‘She knows techniques and materials I would’ve never used.’

“Eva Kochikyan is a musicologist and teacher residing at Ace 121, a similar building in Los Angeles County. … She grew up in Armenia, where residents socialized regardless of age, but after relocating to Los Angeles, she barely saw her neighbors. In moving to Ace 121, the 41-year-old re-created the experience of a big extended family. …

“Kochikyan recalled her 4-year-old wandering into the building’s communal art studio, sitting right next to an accomplished painter in his 70s and picking up a brush. ‘No lecturing, just working together,’ she said. ‘These connections happen naturally.’

“[Fourth] they may keep older people active. Seniors may get more movement when inspired by the vigor of youth. … Kochikyan thought of a neighbor as an ‘old grandma’ after watching her frown during a solo workout. Since then, though, the baby boomer has befriended a group of children who enjoy kicking her yoga ball with her. During these sessions, her intensity picks up and her face lights up, Kochikyan said, ‘like she drops 20 years off her age.’ ”

Read about other potential benefits and check the most recent research at the Post, here.

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Photo: Marwan Naamani/picture alliance/Getty Images
Amelia at the
Christian Science Monitor says, “As its economy and government collapse, Lebanon has become almost unrecognizable to its own people. Now, they are rallying around each other.”

When corrupt leadership creates a failed state, ordinary people may step up.

Taylor Luck has the story of Lebanon’s struggle today.

“Each day for Safa is the same: a race for a solution. Her husband, a construction worker, has been without work for six months. The two now worry about how to make their nearly bare cupboard – and the $30 in their bank account – stretch to make their next month’s rent. Her children skip one to two meals per day.

“ ‘We have no government, no services, no electricity, no currency, no hope,’ says Safa, who did not wish to use her full name. ‘Who can we even turn to?’

“It is a question being faced by many Lebanese: What happens when a state fails, and no one is there to help?

“In Lebanon – in the midst of what the World Bank is calling the worst economic collapse the world has seen since 1850, and in the aftermath of the third-largest nonnuclear explosion in human history – people are finding hope as scarce as the medicines and baby formula disappearing from store shelves.

Yet some are finding solace in leaning on one another, and, thanks to civil society groups that are refusing to give up, strength to make it through another day. …

“ ‘No one is coming to save us,’ says Beirut resident Rayan Khatoun.

“Her response, starting two years ago, was to help found a grassroots network that identifies the needs of vulnerable Lebanese families and launches fundraising appeals on social media.

“With support from the Lebanese diaspora abroad, the network, called All of Us, has helped hundreds of families, providing rent money to keep some off the streets, and providing others with dry food staples whose shelf life is unaffected by electricity cuts. …

“The collapse of Lebanon’s economy and the decline of government services have been a work in progress for years, the product of worsening political gridlock and corruption among competing sectarian elites.

“What began as a very visible failure to deliver basic services, such as trash collection, worsened as the country defaulted on its international debt and the economy crumbled. A grassroots protest movement two years ago sprang up to demand systemic political change, even before the pandemic and the devastating blast at the Port of Beirut destroyed for many Lebanese the last shreds of government function or accountability. …

“Lebanon has now become unrecognizable to its people. Beirut and most of Lebanon are in darkness. Out of cash, the national electricity provider turned off its generators completely [in October]. In the best of times, it provides one to two hours of electricity per day. …

“As the Lebanese say, ‘The surprises just keep coming.’ … It now costs more than 300,000 Lebanese pounds – nearly half the monthly minimum wage – for 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of gasoline. …

“ ‘Our coping mechanism is to make fun of the situation, slave the next day just to survive, come back home and rest a little,’ says Ms. Khatoun. ‘People just don’t have the energy to be angry.’

“The economic crisis is felt by all classes, but is crushing the working class. … [But] the fact that Lebanese’s misery is caused by financial and government mismanagement, rather than by earthquakes or war, makes it a tough sell to donor countries, many of whom insist that Lebanon stand on its own feet. …

“To help compensate for a failing government social safety net, the World Food Program is providing food parcels to 100,000 of the most vulnerable families across Lebanon, and modest cash assistance to 1.6 million people. …

“Unlike in previous crises, wealthy Gulf Arab states, the international community, and even Iran are not coming to Lebanon’s rescue with big-ticket bailouts. Instead, Lebanese are stepping up themselves, trying to do good where they can with rapidly dwindling resources. …

“Volunteers soldier on also at Embrace, a mental health care group whose emotional support and suicide prevention hotline, Lifeline, has become a critical service in the wake of last year’s port blast. …

“[But] dozens of Embrace’s volunteers have left Lebanon because they too, exhausted, can no longer afford life in the country. Embrace is already training the next batch of staff. … Says Rêve Romanos, a clinical supervisor and psychotherapist at Embrace. ‘Hopelessness is a recurrent theme for all of us.’

“But small things can help people cope, Dr. Romanos says. ‘Sometimes, just being able to vent, talk it out, and have someone listen can make a difference.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Rx: Nature

Photo: Jim Wileman/The Guardian.
Seven of the UK’s National Health Service care groups received [$6.9 million, combined] in government funding for projects harnessing nature to improve mental health.

I’d be the last person to tell any person who badly needed therapy to take a walk in the woods. But as today’s article indicates, nature does have healing properties. If you’re feeling down, you could try it. Like chicken soup, “It wouldn’t hurt”!

Reporter Damian Carrington at the Guardian has been talking to patients.

” ‘It sounds dramatic, but this place saved my life,’ says Wendy Turner, looking out over the Steart salt marshes in Somerset. ‘I am really loving the colours of all the marsh grasses at the moment, and the flocks of dunlin and plover. The light is just so beautiful.’

“Turner was once a high-flying international project manager. ‘But the Covid pandemic resulted in me losing everything – my business and my home – and I had years of abuse in a marriage.’ In July 2020, she attempted suicide and woke up in [the emergency room].

“But then she discovered the Steart nature reserve. …

“Turner is one of the fast-growing number of people using nature to improve their health and wellbeing and she is now helping to boost the rise of ‘green social prescribing,’ where health and community services refer people to nature projects. She has helped co-create a mental health and nature course with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), which manages the Steart reserve, and the Mental Health Foundation.

“There is already good evidence of nature’s efficacy, such as a 2019 study showing that a two-hour ‘dose’ of nature a week significantly improved health and wellbeing. The missing link has been connecting health services and nature activities.

“ ‘These activities have being going for years, it’s just that they often have not had that connection into the health systems to enable them to receive the people who need the benefits the most, and to deliver precisely what they need,’ says Dave Solly, at the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), which was launched in 2019 with funding from the Department of Health.

“But things are changing. Seven NHS care groups from the Humber to Surrey received a combined £5m in government funding in December for projects harnessing nature to improve mental health, including tree planting and growing food. There are also now more than 1,000 social prescribing link workers working in GP surgeries and health clinics, helping doctors link patients to nature activities, as well as arts, heritage and exercise groups. A million people could be referred to social prescribing in the next few years.

Among the projects championed by NASP are Wild Being in Reading, an open-water swimming group in Portsmouth, Dorset Nature Buddies, the Green Happy cafe in Northampton, and a Moving in Nature project in Chingford, Essex.

“Back in Steart marshes, NHS rehabilitation physiotherapist Ralph Hammond is setting off on the weekly 30-minute health walk he leads. He started the walk as a volunteer in 2017, having found there was no suitable walking group for recovering patients.

“The flat landscape and good paths on the reserve, which hosts otters and samphire beds, are important, he says: ‘We are trying to break down barriers – the people I am after are not walking at all.’ The group have been following the fortunes of a pair of white swans and their cygnets. …

“Suzanne Duffus tackles the walk enthusiastically with a sturdy wheeled walking frame. She started coming to Steart after her husband died and is now a volunteer, giving support and encouragement to newcomers. …

“Increasing access to such activities requires staff dedicated to connecting nature groups to the health service. The WWT’s Will Freeman is doing this at Steart and says: ‘For a lot of people, it is very exciting, but it can also be difficult as the cultures of organisations may not match.

“A lot of nature reserves have not been that well connected with their communities.’ … The social side is key too, he says: ‘We sometimes miss the simple human side – just having a chat and asking how you are. Nature is an asset that adds to all that.’ …

“Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of NASP and of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, says: ‘[During the pandemic] we have all become increasingly reliant on our local outdoor space as other activity was restricted. From allotments and parks to walks in the country, being outdoors has been a lifeline for many of us.

“ ‘However, all too often those who would benefit more from time “closer to nature” simply cannot access it. … Social inequalities mean that those in the most deprived areas spend less time outdoors. As a practising GP myself, it is so heartening to see so many projects flourish right across the country, making the most of this approach to health provision.’

“Solly, who is on secondment to NASP from Natural England, hopes that green social prescribing will become routinely offered to those who would benefit: ‘Instead of a prescription for further medicine, your prescription is to go to an activity, with a suggestion of a few options that work for you.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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. Photo: Vermont Folk Life Center.
The Most Costly Journey

Just before Covid descended on our world, an unusual comic book was created in Vermont. Using two languages, it spoke to the lives of migrants who work in the state in normal times.

Kaitlin E. Thomas, an assistant professor of Spanish at Norwich University, reported for Public Radio International’s The World.

“Imagine becoming a character in your favorite comic book, ” she writes. “For Latino residents in Addison County, Vermont, seeing their stories illustrated in print has been key to tackling some of the mental health challenges of migration. …

“Vermont is the second least populated state in the US and more than 50% of its residents live in rural areas. The state is confronting a range of obstacles — a declining labor force, an aging population, and difficulty attracting young residents. But Latino migrants are increasingly stepping into roles that would otherwise remain unfilled. 

“There is ample opportunity for migrant workers willing to venture to the far reaches of the Northeast, particularly in the agriculture, dairy and construction sectors. But even for the heartiest locals, Vermont winters can be a challenge to endure.

“Add to the mix not knowing the local language, little access to public transportation, and separation from home, and it becomes a recipe for isolation, depression, substance abuse, and other mental hurdles for migrant farmworkers.

“ ‘People think that crossing the border is the hardest part, but the worst part is finding a way to survive after you arrive,’ said Guadalupe, 43, a homemaker and cook who came to Vermont from Veracruz, Mexico.

“Guadalupe is one of 18 contributors to ‘El viaje más caro” or “The Most Costly Journey’ — a project to create a comic-based set of stories that spotlight the experiences of Latino migrants in Vermont. She and her co-storytellers use pseudonyms to protect their identities in the midst of an increase of immigration raids and apprehensions in the area

The comic book project was sparked by Julia Doucet, an outreach nurse at the Vermont-based Open Door Clinic. While seeing patients at the clinic and in the field, Doucet noticed that the Latino migrant community she serves was dealing with an epidemic of failing mental health. …

“Doucet works with more than 300 Latino immigrant farmworkers in Addison County, the vast majority of whom are men under 40. They are primarily from Mexico, while others come from Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, and El Salvador to work in Vermont. Some speak an Indigenous language as their first language, while a third have completed less than an 8th grade level of education.

“In this population group, the topic of mental health can be sensitive. And with low levels of literacy and limited internet access, Doucet felt challenged to find a tool to best serve migrant workers struggling with mental health challenges. 

“With the support of Andy Kolovos of the Vermont Folklife Center and the University of Vermont, they started documenting the stories of migrant workers in Vermont.

“That’s when Marek Bennett, local Vermont cartoonist and educator, who had spent time documenting stories of marginalized people in Eastern Europe through comics, joined the initiative. …

“Topics such as language barriers, navigating new professional relationships, the traumatic experience of crossing the border, the pain of family members left behind, and much more are expressed in detail by participating storytellers. …

“Through the initiative, migrant storytellers talk about why they made the impossible decision to leave their home countries, and how some eventually managed to find happiness and community in rural, small-town Vermont.

“ ‘It helps all of us who are isolated. We talk about our situations,’ [said] storyteller Lara, a homemaker and gardener from Mexico. In her story, she offers encouragement to other migrant farmworkers to tap into mental health resources and the community — migrant and non-migrant alike.”

More at PRI, here.

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Art: Vincent van Gogh.
“Memory of the Garden at Etten” (1888), oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg.

From the quasi-animated film Loving Vincent to revelations in old postcards, Vincent van Gogh has been making a lot of headlines in the last few years. I’ve covered a few of the stories myself: for example here, here, and here.

Now there’s a book aiming to shine a light on the artist’s three sisters. Eva Recinos reviewed it for Hyperallergic.

“We might sometimes forget that major artists have had to exist as people, too, with all the trials and tribulations that might come before they reach fame. Take, for example, family dynamics. And in the van Gogh family, there were many of them. 

“Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters — Willemien (Wil), Elisabeth (Lies), and Anna van Gogh — are highlighted in the historical biography The Van Gogh Sisters by Willem-Jan Verlinden (Thames & Hudson). The book was originally published in Dutch in 2016; the English version, translated by Yvette Rosenberg and Brendan Monaghan, includes previously unpublished letters, largely the result of research completed after the Dutch version was first released.

“Through letters between the siblings, we read that Lies was frustrated that women didn’t have more professional options that were socially acceptable. We learn about how Wil often copied Vincent’s drawings and was his favorite model, and that the two wrote to each other about art and literature and inquired about one another’s mental health. …

“But about 100 pages in, there’s still a lot of focus on Vincent and his two brothers, Theodorus (Theo) and Cornelis (Cor) van Gogh, as well as their father. … While we do get more insight into the sisters’ lives, quite a few pages are dedicated to Vincent.

“The reproductions of art are largely his works. That’s clearly because there’s more of his art to share, yet it takes the reader out of the narrative about the sisters. (The book does include a watercolor piece by his mother, Anna Carbentus, also known as Moe van Gogh. She was an avid gardener and created pieces to capture the beauty of nature.) …

“We learn that Wil has an interest in making her own art and writing. She explored flower arranging and wrote an article for the journal ‘The Dutch Lily’ that was ‘an unconventional guide to flower arranging,’ Verlinden writes (one line speaks of her love for ‘more loosely arranged flowers’). Vincent, for his part, wrote to Theo that maybe Wil could marry an artist; as much as he did love discussing the arts with her, it can be deduced that he didn’t exactly see her being a professional artist herself.

“She eventually focused her efforts on the National Exhibition of Women’s Labour, which was organized to shed light on women’s contributions to the economy, particularly through the production of goods. But Wil would also end up struggling with mental health. She spent more than three decades of her life at a psychiatric institution, where she passed away.

“Lies wrote poetry and would go on to publish multiple books — including one centered on the life and work of Vincent. There’s also a fourth sister, of sorts, in the text. Johanna Gezina Bonger (Jo), Vincent’s sister-in-law, who helped organize exhibitions of his work after he died in 1890.  

“Ultimately, if you approach the book as a fan of Vincent van Gogh’s work, it will feel like a deeper dive into his place within the family, such as his struggles to prove himself as an artist to his parents and his complicated relationship with his sisters — an argument with Anna likely drove him from the family home in 1885 and he was disappointed that his other sisters, especially Wil, didn’t come to his defense. … But as with any under-highlighted history, we can only hope future research will tell us even more.”

The Van Gogh Sisters, by Willem-Jan Verlinden (2021), is published by Thames & Hudson and is available at Bookshop.org.

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Thomas Armour Youth Ballet
An unusual ballet company in Miami provides ballet, reading, math and etiquette classes along with access to mental health professionals as needed.

In the fall, my younger granddaughter will start ballet lessons in Rhode Island. “I’m going to be on the stage,” she announced to my neighbor. I’m not sure what, at age 4, ballet classes mean to her, but they have a mighty big aura.

In Miami, an unusual ballet company has been growing an even bigger aura. Thomas Armour Youth Ballet offers dance lessons, yes, but as I learned from this Miami Herald article by Rodolfo Roman, its goals extend well beyond dance.

“When sports journalist Claudia Chang Trejos faced a difficult period in her life, an after-school ballet program helped her overcome obstacles.

“Now, her daughter, Glades Middle School student Sophia Chang Trejos, 14, is following her mother, attending the after-school program at the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in South Miami.

“The program provides ballet, reading, math and etiquette classes along with access to mental health professionals [and] delivers professionally taught dance classes in multiple genres, at little or no cost to 500 students ages 5-11.

” ‘When she started, I was going through a nasty divorce,’ Claudia said. ‘We were broke. I had no one to help me out with Sophia, so this was a place she could go to, and go with her peers. I went to work and I had a peace of mind.’ …

“ ‘Ballet is not for everybody,’ said Sophia, who credits the program with her getting into the New World School of Arts, the Miami-Dade arts magnet high school, where she will start in the fall.

“ ‘You can start when you are 4 and love it, but when you grow, the technique gets harder and that’s when people quit. What I like about ballet is it’s a different way to train a person. I like the music and the way people are when you are dancing. It is like a movie.’ …

“Director Ruth Wiesen said the program’s goal is to be a vehicle of success.

“ ‘Every now and then, I step back and I am shocked we are able to see these kids succeed and coming back to Miami,’ she said. ‘That is the biggest thrill. They come back, settle down and act like role models.’ …

“No matter what her future holds, Sophia said the program will always have a place in her heart.

“ ‘I plan on coming back when I am older, and teach classes to give back,’ she said.”

More at the Miami Herald, here.

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Photo: Pearl Mak/NPR
Girard Children’s Community Garden in Washington, D.C. was created on a vacant lot and is now a thriving community space for neighborhood kids.

Most of us know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but many city children have few opportunities to find that out for themselves. A chain of community gardens in Washington, DC, provides anecdotal evidence that green space reduces stress, and now a controlled Philadelphia study gives more scientific proof that that is exactly what’s going on.

Rhitu Chatterjee reports at National Public Radio, “Growing up in Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Rebecca Lemos-Otero says her first experience with nature came in her late teens when her mother started a community garden.

” ‘I was really surprised and quickly fell in love,’ she recalls. The garden was peaceful, and a ‘respite’ from the neighborhood, which had high crime rates, abandoned lots and buildings, she says.

“Inspired by that experience, years later, Lemos-Otero, 39, started City Blossoms, a local nonprofit that has about 15 children-focused community green spaces across Washington, D.C. She wanted to give kids from minority and low-income communities easy access to some greenery. …

” ‘Having access to a bit of nature, having a tree to read under, or, having a safe space like one of our gardens, definitely makes a huge difference on their stress levels,’ says Lemos-Otero. ‘The feedback that we’ve gotten from a lot of young people is that it makes them feel a little lighter.’

“Now a group of researchers from Philadelphia has published research that supports her experience. The study, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, found that having access to even small green spaces can reduce symptoms of depression for people who live near them, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

“Previous research has shown that green spaces are associated with better mental health, but this study is ‘innovative,’ says Rachel Morello-Frosch, a professor at the department of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn’t involved in the research.

” ‘To my knowledge, this is the first intervention to test — like you would in a drug trial — by randomly allocating a treatment to see what you see,’ adds Morello-Frosch. Most previous studies to look into this have been mostly observational.

“Philadelphia was a good laboratory for exploring the impact of green space on mental health because it has many abandoned buildings and vacant lots, often cluttered with trash, says Eugenia South, an assistant professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of the study. …

“South and her colleagues wanted to see if the simple task of cleaning and greening these empty lots could have an impact on residents’ mental health and well-being. So, they randomly selected 541 vacant lots and divided them into three groups. They collaborated with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for the cleanup work.

“The lots in one group were left untouched — this was the control group. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society cleaned up the lots in a second group, removing the trash. And for a third group, they cleaned up the trash and existing vegetation, and planted new grass and trees. The researchers called this third set the ‘vacant lot greening’ intervention.”

You can read what happened at National Public Radio, here.

Photo: Pearl Mak/NPR
Girard Children’s Community Garden will be celebrating 10 years this year. The garden signs are in both English and Spanish.

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As in other cities nationwide, relations between communities and police are often tense in Boston, but here is a small effort that focuses on reducing arrests and getting help for people who are troubled.

Evan Allen writes at the Boston Globe, “When Officers Michael Sullivan and Jeff Driscoll and senior crisis clinician Ben Linsky head out on their beat in Mattapan, they seek out the most vulnerable citizens: the drug-addicted, the homeless, and the mentally ill. Theirs is the only unit of its kind in the city, and its mission since it was started in February is to help, not arrest, people [with problems]. It’s part of a broader effort in the Police Department to work with the community. …

“Sullivan, Driscoll, and Linsky, who make up Mattapan’s ‘Operation Helping Hands,’ spend two nights a week freed from dispatch calls. Instead, they get to know the people on the streets, figure out what services they need, and try to provide them.

“ ‘You’re one part social worker, one part cop, and one part older brother,’ Sullivan said. …

“The number that [Police Chief William] Evans is most proud of is arrests: for the past year and a half, officers have been locking up fewer and fewer people. The city saw a 15 percent reduction in 2015, followed by the 10 percent drop so far this year.

” ‘When I came on the job, you measured what kind of an officer someone was by quantitative statistics. How many arrests. How many moving violations. We don’t do that anymore,’ Evans said. ‘I think our officers get it: It’s not about throwing people behind bars, it’s about getting them services and opportunities.’

“Driscoll, a 39-year-old father of two, has been on the force for 10 years, all of them in Mattapan. Before that, he served for several years in Watertown. He and Sullivan, a 32-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy, who joined the force three years ago, both grew up in police families, wanting to be officers. When Mattapan Captain Haseeb Hosein decided to start Helping Hands, they were an easy choice.

“ ‘With everything that’s going on in this country, the biggest thing is trust and fear. So how do we break those two barriers down? I think we break it down by building relationships,’ Hosein said. ‘They’re really good guys who understand the environment that we’re in, that we need to go the extra mile.’ ” More.

Getting people services that really create lasting change would be ideal, but who can cavil with de-escalating potential blowups? Ensuring that you don’t make matters worse than they are already is surely an important step.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
“Operation Helping Hands,” made up of two officers and a crisis clinician, is the only Boston Police unit of its kind.

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In this story from radio show Studio 360, we learn that music is intriguing to animals, at the very least arousing their curiosity and perhaps stimulating and soothing them.

“Laurel Braitman is a historian of science and the author of ‘Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves.’ She’s particularly interested in the mental health of animals in captivity.

“ ‘If their minds aren’t stimulated, they can end up with all sorts of disturbing behaviors,’ she says. Braitman wondered if music — so often soothing to people, but usually foisted on animals without their permission — could help counter their symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“That led Braitman to arrange a series of concerts for all-animal audiences: gorillas in a Boston zoo and a small herd of bison in Golden Gate Park. Recently, the bluegrass band Black Prairie played for the residents of Wolf Haven wolf sanctuary in Tenino, Washington. …

“Can we say that they liked it?

“Researchers are trying to answer this question in controlled experiments where they observe whether animals move toward or away from speakers, depending on the music.

“Dr. Charles Snowdon of the University of Wisconsin collaborates with a composer, David Teie, who writes music tailored for certain species. They base their compositions on sonic frequencies the animals use in nature. Their music for domestic cats features tempos of purring or suckling kittens; small monkeys called cotton-top tamarins, on the other hand, got music that sounds remarkably like nails on a blackboard. ‘It is pretty godawful if you ask me,’ Snowdon says. ‘But the tamarins dig it.’ ”

More here.

Music for Wolves: Black Prairie from Aubree Bernier-Clarke on Vimeo.

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John-E-tughole

An article by Gretchen Reynolds at the New York Times “Well” blog details new research on the stress-reducing effects of walking in nature.

Reynolds writes, “City dwellers [have] a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers …

“Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

“But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health? That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University.

In his “new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person’s tendency to brood. … Such rumination [is] strongly associated with increased activity in a portion of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.”

The results: “As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged. But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.” More here.

As we used to chant to our overexcited dog when we picked her up after a grooming, “I’m calm, you’re calm.”

Try out this Derek Wolcott poem for your walk in the woods. It is read on SoundCloud by my husband’s college classmate, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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