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In Case You Missed It – May 22, 2015 – Racial double standard in Waco coverage, suicide

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In this week’s In Case You Missed It (a roundup of articles related to psychology, health, mental health and social justice collated from multiple news and commentary websites) we cover the racial double standard in media coverage of the Waco shooting compared with Baltimore, launching of a new Police Data Initiative, the sharp increase in suicide rates among Black children and more.

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What could be an iconic photo in the making drew some sharp contrasts between law enforcement treatment of perpetrators in Waco (potentially guilty of the murder of 9 people) and treatment of individuals in Baltimore following Freddie Gray’s death, contributing to conversations in news outlets, blogs, and social media comparing law enforcement treatment and media coverage of these two events.

Launching the Police Data Initiative – White House Press Release

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has just announced the launch of the Police Data Initiative, which came out of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  The Task Force saw great potential for using data and technology to improve policing outcomes and build community trust.  President Obama traveled this week to Camden, NJ, one of 21 cities currently participating in the Police Data Initiative, to highlight their progress in improving community policing efforts.  Broad goals for all the police departments participating include using open data to increase transparency, build trust, and support innovation; and using technology to improve early warning systems, identify problems, increase accountability, and decrease inappropriate use of force.

“I grew up in the hood in Miami in a poor neighborhood. I came from a community in which drug use was prevalent. I kept a gun in my car. I engaged in petty crime. I used and sold drugs. But I stand before you today also — emphasis on also — a professor at Columbia University who studies drug addiction.”

These are the words Dr. Carl Hart, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, used to launch his TEDMED talk on his addiction research. His research findings have shown that addicts will opt for attractive alternatives to drugs if given the opportunity, despite the popular perception of the do-anything-for-another-hit drug fiend. These findings speak to Dr. Hart’s larger critique of America’s War on Drugs, which has disproportionately targeted low-income African American communities with punitive policies.

Do schools failing to address trauma in their students provide poor education? The plaintiffs in a new class action lawsuit against the Compton Unified School District in Los Angeles say “yes”. The lawsuit will test whether “complex trauma” qualifies as a disability under federal law, which would require school districts to offer special academic and mental health services. If successful, it could vastly expand support for scores of struggling students, especially in low-income, high-crime minority neighborhoods.

Who are “elder orphans”? They are single or widowed seniors with no children or larger support system. They often find themselves alone with no help when they need care the most. New research suggests about 22% of Americans 65 years and older are in danger of becoming, or already are, elder orphans. Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, who is chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System, estimates that nearly one in four older Americans could be orphans based on medical and nursing journal articles examining the prevalence of childless or friendless elders at the local level.  Based on 2012 U.S. Census data, about one third of Americans age 45 to 63 are single, and in a position to become “orphans” as they age.  APA’s Life Plan for the Life Span helps older adults and their families think about health and health care, legal and financial matters, work life and retirement, psychological issues, and social roles and resources.

Head Start turned 50 this week and it is estimated that the program has benefited 32 million Americans, some of whom went on to become doctors, lawyers, mayors, Grammy-winning musicians, poets, professors – and even members of Congress.  However, a GOP budget proposal pending in Congress aims to cull 46,000 children from Head Start’s ranks despite the program’s long record of success. When Head Start was first introduced in 1965, the idea of providing comprehensive health, nutrition and education services to children in poverty was revolutionary, if not radical. The program seeks to erase socioeconomic deficiencies faced by many children. Research has shown that for every dollar spent on Head Start, our economy gets $7 to $9 back and that those who get an early childhood education are four times more likely to earn a college degree; more likely to be consistently employed; and less likely to have used public assistance programs.

The suicide rate among black children (ages 5 to 11) has nearly doubled since the early 1990s, according to a new study. The findings, measured from 1993 to 2012, were so surprising that researchers waited for an additional year of data to check them, but the trend did not change. The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, found that the rate had risen so steeply among black children — to 2.54 from 1.36 per one million children — that it was substantially higher than the rate among white children by the end of the period. The rate for white children fell to 0.77 per million from 1.14. What could be behind the sharp rise? The researchers had no easy answers, but offered a few possible explanations including that black children are more likely to be exposed to violence and traumatic stress and more likely to experience an early onset of puberty, which can increase the risk of depression and impulsive aggression. But it was not clear whether those characteristics had changed much over the period of the study and would account for the sharp rise.

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

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