Mental Health Care Outreach and Social Media

If you work in the mental health field, you are a natural born communicator. Can we all agree that there is no counseling without a true command of language? After all, psychiatrists, counselors and social workers must all be well versed in BOTH, the spoken and written word to succeed within their chosen career fields.

Counseling sessions are based on active listening skills and the ability to successfully organize and summarize what the client shares. In addition, everything learned from each client session must be converted to accurate, comprehensive and concise progress notes. The data is often admissible in legal proceedings, so the mental health professional must be able to use an economy of words which express a multitude of thoughts and details. Let’s also just remind everyone that professionalism and field credibility also requires neatness, flawless spelling and grammar and attention to proper syntax.

So, where does Social Media enter in to a discussion about listening, thinking, talking, writing and detail orientation?

Social Media Represents the “New World” of Opportunity for Everyone

Social Media is an important form of communication these days. It is becoming a communication tool of choice for many mentally ill clients, especially when they wish to communicate – anonymously – with others to avoid positive

identification and attached stigma. Mental Health professionals are increasingly spending their counseling time instructing their clients in the safe and productive use of Social Media, for this purpose. The chief goal is ALWAYS to protect the vulnerable from exploitation.

The mental health professional is also using Social Media as a way to gain additional professional knowledge as well as to network with others in his own field; including the many that live and work a great distance away.

There are also new opportunities for degree work and certification through online universities and professional organizations, respectively. There are moderated and open forums for career-related discussions on a variety of professional topics developed to advance the field of mental health care.

Plenty of collegial relations and friendships have been forged in the online world, often leading to one-to-one telephone conversations and live meetups. Face-to-face meeting have always been the goal of Social Media, which is designed as an enabler and not a replacement for physical human interaction.

Job information has been exchanged and employment interview offers are often tendered online. And, then there is the research that keeps the mental health care professional up to date on the changes taking places in his field from day to day. Some of the research and anecdotal contributions are the product of practitioners, just like you and me, who choose the Internet as a place to publish our work and share it with the world. We no longer need to wait for third parties to publish what we write.

Forget the Yellow Pages. You Must be Active in Social Media to

Succeed

There is another area in which the worlds of mental health care and Social Media often come together – marketing and outreach. Can any nonprofit or private business afford not to avail themselves of the benefits offered through Social Media? I think not. Why? Because, the collective Social Media audience is huge and diverse. We need the kind of visibility and name recognition that the Internet can lead us to.

Most everyone that we need to connect with is already online, with more and more people showing up daily. Facebook, alone, is already at or nearing 600 million users. Confidently, there is no one on earth that does not know – at least – a single person with a Facebook profile.

Marketing and outreaching others in Social Media need not take a huge amount of resources, either. In fact, the entire effort can be limited to just a few platforms and a limited amount of posts on a consistent basis. This is resource allocation, well positioned.

Are you LinkedIn?

All professionals in any field belong on LinkedIn. Create a profile with your credentials, contact information and over time, as many business references as you can gather. Take some time to join some professional groups and pose and answer career-related questions among the group members. There is a lot to learn from others and much one can share to prove his field expertise. It is such expertise that builds professional credibility and helping relations over time. Such relationships are invaluable when it comes to creating all sorts of professional opportunities including business partnerships, client referrals and employment offers. Do not discount the value of LinkedIn as a premier Social Networking platform for mental health care professionals.

Are you Facebooking?

Facebook is another place where the people we need and wish to “talk” to are a great deal of the time. Sure, it is a place where one must be especially careful not to embarrass himself among his friends or professional colleagues, but it is a place where using good posting discretion can balance the fun with the serious. The common denominator is “value.” Bring value to others and garner their respect and loyalty.

Facebook does have a business side, too. The Facebook business page offers a place to create and foster community, client and professional relations through providing value to some and offering an outlet for others to do the same. A few well placed posts about happenings in the mental health care field on your Facebook business page and a few more quality posts and comments on the pages of others you seek to have an audience with and you are on your way to growing a successful Facebook presence. Just remember that on Social Media, it’s not all about you. Value for others, FIRST. You have the right to pitch your own endeavors about 15% of the time. Do not try and sell in Social Media; work harder to impress. Being respected and liked will get you the opportunities you are looking for.

Have you Blogged, Today?

Blogging is also a great tool to become better known. Show you are an expert in something and share it wherever you can. One or two 400 – 500 word blog posts per week, can quickly establish a professional as an expert that others want to hear from regularly. Invite others to write for your blog, too. Guest bloggers are refreshing and help give the impression that your blog is important enough for others to take the time and contribute to. Their followers will come to read their posts and have a chance to read yours. Often newspaper and magazine writers read the blogs, so don’t be surprised when you receive offers to publish your contributions in their print and online publications. This is good for you and your business, because their readers are probably your own target audience.

When did you last Tweet?

Do you need to tweet? Twitter can be effective if you can develop a targeted and convertible following. Building such a dedicated following takes much work. You want to create a following of credible mental health care gurus; respected field publications; a pool of mainstream field nonprofits and for-profit; federal, state and local government leaders; supportive local businesses and potential client groups. Retweeting others and replying to their tweets is just as important as tweeting your own materials. Again, you must limit tooting your own horn to about 15% of your tweets. Tweet value and seek to connect with others. If you can build relations and take them off-line, you are succeeding.

Are you in Constant Contact with your Primary Audience?

Lastly, look into using an E-mail service such as Constant Contact to keep your audience up to date. Send out a monthly newsletter; issue announcements such as new hires and business expansions; announce your Social Media presence: and even create event invitations and holiday E-cards for your contacts. The more you can get your name in front of others, the better it is remembered. Just don’t overdo it. Strike a balance by using all of your Social Media tools, timely and appropriately.

This is a very exciting time for mental health care professionals. Their appropriate use of Social Media can do many wonderful things for them; their professions; their businesses and organizations; and the clients they serve.

Importance of Health and Media Literacy

Although research suggests that children’s eating habits are formed even before they enter the classroom – children as young as two may already have dietary preferences based on their parents’ food choices – health education can play a vital role in helping establish lifelong healthy patterns early.

Research shows that health education has a positive impact on health behaviors as well as academic achievement, and that the most effective means of improving health literacy is ensuring that health education is included in curriculum at all levels of education.

U.S. schools educate 54 million students daily, and can provide not only an outlet to promote healthy behaviors for children and adolescents, but a place for them to engage in these behaviors, including eating healthy and participating in physical activity.

The U.S. is in great need of an improvement in health literacy. In a 2007 UNICEF study, our country ranked last out of 21 industrialized countries in overall child health and safety. Approximately one in five of our high school students are smokers, 80 percent of students do not eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits per day, and more than 830,000 adolescents become pregnant each year. Approximately two thirds of the American population is estimated to be overweight or obese.

Furthermore, our understandings of health and health-related behaviors are often highly influenced by the media and media images – which can lead to inaccurate assumptions and negative health behaviors and attitudes.

The importance of media literacy as applies to health education

Self-esteem patterns also develop in early childhood, although they fluctuate as kids gain new experiences and perceptions. Because media messages can influence unhealthy behaviors, especially in adolescents, a comprehensive health education program must include not only health knowledge, but media literacy as it relates to psychological and physical health behaviors as well.

“To a large degree, our images of how to be comes from the media. They are [a] crucial shaper of the young lives we are striving to direct,” writes resource teacher Neil Andersen, editor of Mediacy, the Association for Media Literacy newsletter.

Media awareness, Andersen explains, can help teach students techniques to counter marketing programs that prey on their insecurities to promote negative behavior, can explode stereotypes and misconceptions, can facilitate positive attitudes and can help students learn how to absorb and question media-conveyed information.

Because our perceptions of ourselves and others develop early, and because we live in such a media-inundated world, it is important that we address the conflicts inherent in media values versus our own values with our children and adolescents first, in a factual, positive, and coherent way.

A comprehensive (age-appropriate) health program would therefore teach about these various issues at different stages of development. Pre-adolescence and adolescence are especially pertinent stages in an individual’s growth for discovering themselves and their place in the world, and it is during this vital time that media literacy is absolutely key to an influential and positive health program. Issues must be addressed that affect positive health behavior and attitudes, especially in teen girls, including:

• Digital manipulation of the body in advertisement – Almost all of what we see in media has been altered or digitally manipulated to some extent.

• Objectification of the body in media – Since the 1960s, sexualized images of men in the media have increased 55 percent, while sexualized images of women increased 89 percent, according to a University of Buffalo study. There are also 10 times more hypersexualized images of women than men and 11 times more non-sexualized images of men than of women.

• Average women versus models – Models today are 23 percent skinnier than the average woman, versus 9 percent skinnier in the 80s.

We live in a pop-culture that not only promotes a hyper-skinny-is-best attitude, but also discourages average or healthy body ideals and individuals from feeling good about simply pursuing healthy dietary choices – they feel they must resort instead to drastic (and quick) weight loss measures that put unhealthy stress on the body.

For example, a study released in 2006 by the University of Minnesota showed that 20 percent of females had used diet pills by the time they were 20 years old. The researchers also found that 62.7 percent of teenage females used “unhealthy weight control behaviors,” including the use of diet pills, laxatives, vomiting or skipping meals. The rates for teenage boys were half that of girls.

“These numbers are startling, and they tell us we need to do a better job of helping our daughters feel better about themselves and avoid unhealthy weight control behaviors,” concluded Professor Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. Over the five-year period that the study was conducted, moreover, researchers found that high school-aged females’ use of diet pills nearly doubled from 7.5 percent to 14.2 percent.

What teaching health and media literacy can do

When a colleague asked Doctor Caren Cooper, a Research Associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, what the opposite of media was, she paused only briefly before answering, “Reality, of course.”

“We each need logic tools to realize that all media is a representation of reality – if we don’t bring this realization into our consciousness, we are apt to forget and let our own reality become distorted: fostering a culture of over-consumption, eating disorders, sexual violence, and climate change deniers,” she explained.

Teaching health education comprehensively in today’s rapidly changing world is important for fostering skills that students will carry with them for the rest of their lives, including:

• Developing positive body affirmations – Accepting their bodies, accepting other’s bodies, and showing respect for one another. A good exercise would be to have them write down good things about each other – without the words beautiful, or descriptions of size, as well as what they love about themselves – both physical and character traits.

• Understanding the importance of eating right – And that it’s not about “dieting.” Perhaps the biggest misconception is that as long as a person loses weight, it doesn’t matter what they eat. But it does, and being thin and being healthy are not the same thing. What you eat affects which diseases you may develop, regardless of your size, and diets that may help you lose weight (especially quickly) can be very harmful to your health over time.

• Understanding the importance of exercise – People who eat right but don’t exercise, for example, may technically be at a healthy weight, but their fitness level doesn’t match. This means that they may carry too much visceral (internal) fat and not enough muscle.

“Given the growing concern about obesity, it is important to let young people know that dieting and disordered eating behaviors can be counterproductive to weight management,” said researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. “Young people concerned about their weight should be provided support for healthful eating and physical activity behaviors that can be implemented on a long-term basis, and should be steered away from the use of unhealthy weight control practices.”

We must also teach them:

• How to reduce stress by engaging in activities and other outlets.

• The importance of sleep.

• The importance of vitamins.

• The importance of not always being “plugged in” – The natural environment has great health benefits, and too much technology may even be hazardous to our health.

“We’re surrounded by media images for such a large portion of our daily lives, it’s almost impossible to escape from it,” explained IFN representative Collete during an interview with EduCoup. “We get the majority of our information today through media, be it music, TV, the internet, advertising or magazines, so it really is incredibly important for us as a society to think about the messages we receive from the media critically.”

Decoding the overload of overbearing messages, then, is pertinent to the health of our minds and bodies, and teaching these skills early will help kids to practice and maintain life-lengthening and positive behaviors for the rest of their lives.

The Power of Social Media For the E-Patient

The field of healthcare has undergone drastic changes with the introduction of internet and its other related concepts. It has given rise to the internet savvy patient who is now able to get information which had remained inaccessible for years with just a click of the mouse. The healthcare is now patient centered and is looking to improve based on the feedback available from the patients and/or their caregivers. The patients who access the internet for various healthcare related services have been aptly termed as e-patients. With the introduction of newer internet concepts such as web 2.0 individuals are now able to interact live with others in different corners of the world.

Available Social Medias

The internet has now become quite active and the most accessed service across the whole world. In the field of healthcare it has enabled patients to interact with other patients and caregivers to obtain additional information that were missed out by the healthcare provider. Such discussions have become possible with the applications such as forums, chats, blogs and many more. Some of the popular social media concepts include: Facebook, Friendster, Flickr, YouTube, Blogger, and MySpace. Applications such as these have opened up newer avenues for discussing about healthcare related matters and also about other related issues.

Power of social media

In the last few decades the healthcare industry was focused on providing better facilities for the doctors as they held the key to success of the industry. However, the scenario has now changed completely wherein the healthcare industry has become patient centered. With the information about diseases and the treatment options available freely over the internet the patients are more capable of understanding the options and give a well understood confirmation for treatment. Additionally patients are also able to question the healthcare provider if anything should go wrong in the procedure as they are well aware of the risks and complications associated with such procedures.

The patients suffering from long term or chronic diseases are seen actively participating in online communities or forums where discussion about a disease is going on. Based on their experience about such disorders and the treatment methods they are able to guide others regarding these subjects. Such patients also create their own websites wherein they answer the queries of other patients suffering from the same disorder. Chronic disorders such as diabetes and cancer can often lead to a high amount of depression or frustration. Participation in some online forums has increased the confidence of such individuals and helped them to lead a normal life.

In conclusion, the introduction of concepts such as social media has resulted in dual benefits to the patients. On one hand it has made the healthcare providers more responsible for their actions and on the other hand it has provided emotional and psychological support to millions of individuals who are suffering from long term disorders.

How Media Drives Obesity in Children and Simple Counter Tactics

One the most important indicators of the state of health of Americans today may be the ever increasing rate of overweight and obese children. The Institute of Medicine has found that one-third of American children are either obese or at risk for obesity. The Center of Disease Control has found that, since 1980, the proportion of overweight children ages 6-11 has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the increase in childhood obesity represents and unprecedented burden on children’s health. “If we don’t deal with children, this could be the first generation that will live sicker and die younger than its parents,” states Dr. James S. Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which recently announced an unprecedented effort to reverse childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.

Obesity or being overweight is not only harmful to the self-esteem and mental health of youngsters in a society that places such high value on thinness, but there are serious physical health concerns as well. According to Dr. Melissa A. Kalt, Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine/Pediatrics, overweight kids are set up for premature health risks such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even poor behavior in school like inattentiveness, disruptiveness, truancy, and low grade scores.

Some of the environmental factors that are thought to contribute to obesity are: over consumption of fast food, simple carbohydrates, soda, or other high calorie, high fat foods; larger and larger portion sizes; lack of exercise and/or more sedentary lifestyles; under consumption of whole foods, fruits and vegetables. However, what may be underlying all of these factors or at the very least exacerbating the issue is children and media.

Facts:

According to the Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity of the Federal Communications Commission, children today spend many hours each day watching television and are influenced by the programming and advertising they see.

The Kaiser Family Foundation states that young children cannot distinguish between programming content and advertising.

The U.S. Congress, Children’s Television Act of 1990 reports, by the time the average child is 18 years hold, he or she has spent between 10,000 and 15,000 hours watching television and has been exposed to more than 200,000 commercials.

Once research study documents that obesity in children increases the more hours they watch television. (Crespo, 2001)

Another research study shows that children who watch more than three ours of television a day are 50 percent more likely to be obese than kids who watch fewer than two hours. (Tremblay, 2003)

Another researcher reports that children who use a lot of media have a lower activity level which is linked to a higher rate of obesity (Vandewater, 2004)

According to the 2004 report “The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity” by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “during the same period in which childhood obesity has increased so dramatically, there has also been an explosion in media targeted to children: TV shows and videos, specialized cable networks, video games, computer activities and Internet Web sites.” And “much of the media targeted to children is laden with elaborate advertising campaigns, many of which promote foods such as candy, soda, and snacks.”

The Advertising Coalition reports that $10-$15 billion is spent annually on kids’ food advertising.

One study documented approximately 11 food commercials per hour during children’s Saturday morning television programming, estimating that the average child viewer may be exposed to one food commercial every 5 minutes (Kotz, 1994)

Another study found that children’s food choices were significantly impacted by which ads they saw, i.e. either an ad for fruit or an ad for candy (Gorn, 1982)

Other researchers found that for each additional hour of television viewed per day, daily servings of fruits and vegetables decreased among adolescents possibly due to television advertising (Boynton-Jarret, R, 2003)

While many researchers and studies are still establishing the role of media in child obesity and overweight issues, (the direct link between advertising and obesity has not been officially established), the advertisers certainly know that TV ads can influence children’s and family consumer choices. For example, fast food outlets alone spend $3 billion in television ads targeted to children. And according to “Advertising, Marketing and the Media: Improving Messages from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, food and beverage advertisers collectively spend $10 billion to $12 billion a year to reach children and youth.

So, what’s a parent to do to counteract unhealthy advertisements and the big dollars behind them? Here a few pointers on helping children be more healthy and fit:

First, educate them on the factors contributing to being overweight or obese:

1. Too much “fat foods” (fast foods, simple carbs, soda, energy drinks, cereal etc.)
2. Larger than life portion sizes
3. Not enough movement or exercise
4. Not enough whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, whole grains etc.)

Second, reduce poor food choices in the home. Refuse to buy the sodas and sugar cereals or insist that these only be indulged in after a healthy meal.

Third, make whole food choices easy for them to prepare (i.e. pre washed, cut up fruits and veggies; oatmeal; smoothies; whole wheat bread; pre-cooked healthy snacks/meals like cubed chicken breast, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, in single serving size containers. Make it tasty and easy (see green smoothie recipe below).

Fourth, encourage them to exercise (i.e. refuse to drive them to school; sign them up for sports; play with them outdoors; get a dog and go for daily walks). Make it fun.

Fifth, limit television hours per day. And teach them how they can mute the commercials or “tevo” the show and fast forward through the commercials.

And finally, teach them that being fit and healthy means eating healthy foods and exercising, in direct contrast to how television shows and advertisements portray super skinny people eating chips and drinking soda, it’s just not true. And educate them on the fact that advertisers make their money by portraying beautiful people eating junk food.


EASY, YUMMY recipe for “green smoothies”:

Give Your Kids a Great Dose of Fresh, Raw Servings of Fruits and Vegetables
(shhhhh, tastes so good, your kids won’t even know there is spinach in there!)

1. Put about 2 cups water in the blender
2. Add a few handfuls of spinach or kale or chard, blend until smooth
3. Add fruit, 1-2 bananas and 1-2 C frozen blueberries or mixed berries or fruit etc.
4. If you must, add a small amount of sweetener of choice.
5. Smoothie will be purple and yummy and you’d never know there were healthy greens hiding in the mix, ENJOY!

(Go for a green smoothie over a soda! Children who drink just one soft drink a day are 60 percent more likely to become obese, according to a 2001 study by Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital.)

Total Cholesterol Health – A New Concept

Most of us have been told by doctors, drug companies, and the health media that the key to lowering the risk of heart disease is to reduce our LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is characterized as the villain that gunks up our arteries and causes heart attacks. Well, this is only partly true; but at best, it is a gross oversimplification of the cholesterol problem. At worst, it’s a myth that lulls us all into a false sense of security about our cardiovascular health by leading us to feel safe once we’ve dropped our bad cholesterol count.

A broader view of cholesterol is needed which encompasses 6 key elements affecting heart disease risk: LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, Triglycerides, Oxidized LDL cholesterol, Homocysteine, and Inflammation. This view takes into account the entire process in which cholesterol is transformed from a harmless substance into dangerous plaque buildups in the arteries. Here are summaries of each element….

1. LDL (stands for low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is NOT bad by itself. In fact, it’s vital to life. Without it, none of us would live more than a day. Cholesterol is used by the body to create various hormones, digestive enzymes, and sheathing for nerve cells. Also, almost 80% of cholesterol is produced by the liver. Only 20% comes from our food. So, for the most part, cholesterol is not this “bad stuff” that comes from outside our bodies.

2. HDL (good) cholesterol, unlike LDL, is desirable. You want more of it in your body because it transports bad cholesterol back to the liver for processing.

So, we should NOT be focusing on just getting rid of all the cholesterol we can. We should be trying to achieve Total Cholesterol Health in which HDL (good) cholesterol is high enough, and LDL (bad) cholesterol is in a healthy range. But, there’s still much more to cholesterol health than this.

3. Triglycerides are fat storage cells in your blood that increase when you eat more fatty or processed foods, drink too much alcohol, or don’t get enough exercise. Basically, your risk of heart disease goes up as your triglyceride count rises. So, you want to lower your triglycerides as much as you can. The cholesterol count done by your doctor measures triglycerides.

4. Oxidized LDL cholesterol is at the core of the problem. If LDL gets oxidized by what’s known as free radicals (unstable molecules with extra electrons that are produced normally by the body), it can set off a chain of metabolic events that leads to plaque formation in the arteries. And when plaques increase enough, they can cause blockages which can rupture and lead to heart attacks, or even to strokes. Research has shown that the less oxidized LDL cholesterol you have, the lower your risk of heart disease.

5. Homocysteine is a byproduct in our bodies produced when an essential amino acid called methionine is broken down. It is common in dairy products, canned foods, meat, and highly processed foods. The more of these foods you eat, the more homocysteine will be produced. The body can deal with this problem up to a point. B vitamins (B6, B12, Folic acid) are used to convert homocysteine back into a harmless substance. But, if there is either too much of it being produced, or the body is deficient in these B vitamins, homocysteine will increase.

How is too much homocysteine a problem? Basically, it can damage the inner walls of the arteries starting the process leading to the buildup of plaque. Also, it can trigger LDL cholesterol to oxidize. The higher the level of homocysteine, the greater the risk of heart attacks. There’s no level in the blood that’s considered safe.

6. Inflammation is at the center of a lot of research related to heart disease. Inflammation is a normal process in the body that is critical in dealing with injuries. Once the injury is repaired, the inflammation ends.

However, when the inflammation process attacks healthy cells and tissues for whatever reason, big health problems can result. If this continues indefinitely, a “chronic” inflammation results, such as what can occur in our arteries if the formation of plaque goes on long enough. Although, it is not known for sure how inflammation triggers plaques to rupture causing heart attacks, it IS known to be a serious indicator of heart health problems.

In addition, inflammation is believed to be the core reason for many degenerative diseases including arthritis, Alzheimers, fibromyalgia, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer.