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In Case You Missed It – April 10, 2015

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Welcome to In Case You Missed It, a weekly roundup of news articles related to issues of psychology, health and mental health, social justice and the public interest that you may be interested in.

We collate these articles from multiple news and commentary websites.

Make sure to also check out these APA publications:

Monitor on Psychology – our monthly magazine

APA Access – our monthly member newsletter and

In the Public Interest – the Public Interest Directorate’s monthly newsletter.

This week we look at stories covering the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in South Carolina, how the experiences of first generation in college students illustrate class diversity, APA’s support of President Obama’s call for a ban on so-called “reparative therapy” for LGBT youth and more.

Michael T. Slager, a white police officer in North Charleston, SC, was charged with murder on Tuesday after a bystander’s video surfaced of him shooting Walter L. Scott, an apparently unarmed black man, in the back while he was running away. Slager, 33, alleged that he had feared for his life because Mr. Scott had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday, however, the video contradicts his account. Tphe North Charleston mayor announced that Officer Slager will face murder charges on Tuesday evening. The shooting comes on the heels of high-profile instances of police officers’ using lethal force against unarmed men and women in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. The deaths have set off a national debate over whether the police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men. For more, learn what psychologists are doing to improve relations between police and communities of color.

First Generation students unite – The New York Times

What is it like to be the first in your family to go to college? On many of the nation’s most prestigious campuses, first-generation-in-college students are organizing and speaking up about who they are and what’s needed to make their path to a degree less fraught. As the nation’s racial and ethnic makeup has grown more mixed and socioeconomically varied, “first gen” has become a way to identify and talk about class diversity. First-gen students cut across racial and ethnic lines. Not all are poor, but many are, including a majority of those at elite colleges. Of the 7.3 million full-time undergraduates attending four-year public and private nonprofit institutions, about 20 percent are the first in their families to go to college. When students from undereducated families matriculate at elite higher education institutions, their experiences are varied and complicated. Colleges may unwittingly project upper-middle-class values that make first-gen students who don’t think they fit in less likely to reach out for help and more likely to suffer emotionally and have lower grades.

Thirty-four year old “Ariane” is from the Philippines. She became a housekeeper in Hong Kong for a family from India, who then took her to Los Angeles to work for their extended family. In the U.S., she was forced to work long hours and never allowed to go anywhere alone. After her visitor’s visa expired, she felt trapped in her new ‘undocumented’ status and agonized about seeing her young daughter again who remained in the Philippines. In a major announcement last week at the headquarters of the immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced that the Obama administration will expand access to the special T and U visas available to victims of sex or labor trafficking. Secretary Perez rejects any criticism for helping those in the country illegally. “I stand very proud along with law enforcement across this country to be able to help people who are in these shoes. They are victims of crime,” Perez said. With this change in her status, Ariane is planning to see her daughter soon, for the first time in five years. Learn more about the psychological impact of trafficking on women and girls.

According to a new report released by DC based think tank Urban Institute earlier this week, more than half of inmates in jails and state prisons struggle with a mental illness, particularly depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. However, only one-third of state prisoners and one out of six jail inmates in that large group reportedly receive mental health services upon their release. We have a national criminal justice system that has shortchanged millions of mentally ill inmates. The report points out that there may be some hope in mental health courts and other diversion services. Such options could provide mentally ill offenders with alternatives to incarceration that tackle the root of why they committed crime in the first place. The Urban Institute research team said mental health courts, many of which have popped up since the turn the turn of the century, have some moderate success. For more info, check out our Monitor article on America’s status as “Incarceration Nation” – the country with 25% of the world’s prisoners.

The American Psychological Association expressed strong support for President Obama’s call for a society that accepts young people in their gender and sexual development, rather than rejecting them, labeling them as bad, or suggesting that they should change. APA has previously voiced its concerns about the scientific and ethical basis of efforts to change sexual orientation and about the way the promotion of such efforts by some individuals and organizations contributes to the social stigma that harms gender and sexual minorities. “So-called reparative therapies are aimed at ‘fixing’ something that is not a mental illness and therefore does not require therapy. There is insufficient scientific evidence that they work, and they have the potential to harm the client,” said APA 2015 President Barry S. Anton, PhD. “APA has and will continue to call on mental health professionals to work to reduce misunderstanding about and prejudice toward gay and transgender people.” In 2009, the APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation concluded that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation due to a lack of evidence that such change is possible and the potential for such efforts to harm the patient’s mental health. They also authored APA’s resolution on this topic. For more on this issue, check out this KCRW interview with Dr. Clinton Anderson (Director, APA’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns) on gay conversion therapy.

What do you think of these stories? Did we leave anything out?

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