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Mental Health

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Hazing among High School Athletes




Hazing incidents among high school athletes have been increasingly common in recent years. Unfortunately, students and the broader community sometimes view hazing rituals as part of a tradition or naive school pranks. However, these dangerous behaviors can lead to serious injuries, and in some cases, death. Hank Nuwer details some of the earliest accounts of a hazing deaths in the United States which includes Edward Turnbach who became a victim on September 19, 1885 at A Hazelton, a high school in Pennsylvania.

Most recently, the Washington Post, reported an alleged incident involving several Ooltewah High School basketball team members in Tennessee.

There he found a 15-year-old freshman player covered in blood, urine and feces, Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston told ESPN. Two sophomore players were holding the boy down, while a third teammate, a senior, shoved a pool cue up his rectum. The freshman was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to repair his bladder and colon, which had been ruptured by the cue. The three alleged assailants were arrested and charged with aggravated rape. Read More

In light of current trends, professionals, survivors, students and athletic officials recognize the urgency of this social justice issue. Let’s look at how is hazing defined.

Michelle Chaney, M.D., MScPH from The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at the Massachusetts General Hospital, defines hazing as “any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.” In an article for the

Aside from the emotional and physical trauma sustained by the survivors of these occurrences, the statistics on hazing in high school athletics are equally compelling. One major academic study regarding high school athletic hazing is the Alfred University study (Hoover & Pollard, 2000). The results validate the prevalence of hazing in high school athletics and other student groups. In August of 2000, Alfred University conducted a research study titled, “Initiation Rites in American High Schools: A National Survey”. Using data from 1,541 respondents, results indicated the following:

  • 48 percent of high school students who belonged to groups conveyed being subjected to hazing activities.
  • 71 percent of the students subjected to hazing indicated negative outcomes, such as physical altercations, injuries, conflicts with parents, low academic performance, bullying, decreased appetite, insomnia, difficulty concentrating or emotional issues.
  • 36 percent of the students stated that they did not feel comfortable reporting hazing mainly because “There’s no one to tell,” or “Adults won’t handle it right.”
  • Only 14 percent replied they were actually hazed, but 48 percent mentioned they took part in behaviors associated with hazing. And 29 percent admitted they participated in possible illegal activities in order to belong to a group.
  • Regarding males, 48 percent were exposed to degrading hazing behaviors. 24 percent said they abused substances and 27 percent were involved in risky hazing behaviors.
  • Females were found to be regularly involved in various types of hazing at extreme levels: degrading hazing, 39 percent; substance abuse, 18 percent; and risky hazing, 17 percent.

These numbers highlight the frequency and range of severity of hazing incidents among high school students. They also give insight into the hazing culture. It also explains that some students are hesitant to speak up because they feel powerless or they lack confidence in the adults around them.

Many factors contribute to the cultural climate of hazing such as a belief that hazing practices are normal, incident under reporting, victim blaming and perpetrators sometimes receive modest sentences or no penalties whatsoever. According to the article “Bullying and Hazing in Youth Sports”, the author states that hazing is frequently exculpated as, “kids being kids”. Given that hazing rituals have existed since the 1600s, Psychologist Susan Lipkins argues that a substantial change in the world view of hazing would need to occur in order to increase personal and organizational accountability. Lipkins is the author of the book“Preventing Hazing,” which is a great comprehensive resource for anyone impacted by or concerned about this issue.

As a community, there are numerous ways to address hazing among high school students and athletes. The following are suggestions for national, state and local level involvement.

For prevention strategies to work, the National Federation of State High School Associations has:

  1. Created domestic policies around anti-hazing efforts.
  2. Designated a representative to generate a dialogue with athletic officials, parents and students about hazing and prevention.
  3. Created a website, ( headed by Kim Novak, that provides like-minded professionals with training to impact the cultural climate around hazing. Organizational best practices recommend that schools take direct measures through anti-hazing task forces and organizational restructuring if necessary.

What can sports programs do?

Sports programs can develop team building activities to foster unity in addition to mentoring programs with upperclassmen, who assist their younger peers to reduce hazing incidents.

Nancy Rappaport, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, advocates high school administrators to do the following steps:

  1. Concurrence on what behaviors constitute hazing.
  2. Effective procedure application for addressing hazing incidents with clear outcomes.
  3. Guideline review with faculty, staff and students to promote awareness and incident reporting.
  4. Continuous policy analysis will decrease hazing incidents.

Michelle Chaney emphasizes that parents can help by:

  1. Informing their children about the risks of hazing.
  2. Urging teens to investigate the backgrounds of organizations before joining.
  3. Motivating teens to diversify friendships beyond extra-curricular activities.
  4. Encouraging teens to inform their peers their state’s anti-hazing laws. A great start to their research could be

Another opportunity to stay proactive is to participate in social justice activities. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)  and in September is National Hazing Prevention Week, which is launched by Community involvement in anti-hazing activities increases awareness and continues the conversation throughout the year.

In many cases, the alleged actions of the accused are not viewed as rape, sodomy or sexual assault by school administrators or the community at large. Erin Buzuvis, Professor of Law at Western New England University, writes about one case, Doe vs. Rutherford County, Tennessee, Board of Education, 2014, the school district believed that the alleged actions of the accused student athletes (“non-consensual anal penetration”) were not sexual in nature. Buzuvis elaborates that, according to Title IX, the court decided the event met the requirements for formal accountability.

Three main findings were presented by the court. First, the court established that the alleged actions were interpreted “as a sexual act that is a severe violation of an individual’s body and personal privacy.” Second, the court decided satisfactory proof had been presented to infer that school personnel were aware of the alleged activities.  Lastly, the court discovered adequate indication of conscious apathy by school officials involving a breach of procedure. Dr. Edward F. Dragan adds that if a Title IX allegation is submitted involving hazing and sexual harassment, litigant and offender representatives must investigate the nature of the behavior, how many participated and the level of mental trauma endured. Also, Dragan shares that a determination must be made as to whether or not school officials followed protocol in the case. Title IX has an important task in the legal aspects of hazing situations.

One valuable asset not shown in any of these cases is school social workers. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), school social workers comprise 5 percent of the roughly 500,000 social workers in the United States. Furthermore, the NASW notes that critical thinking skills equip school social workers to develop and implement interventions such as violence and suicide prevention programs. Also, the NASW expresses school social workers utilize an array of theories and resources to provide students and community members with trauma, informed, care promoting restoration after a crisis. It is uncertain if their absence in these cases were due to a lack of awareness or another unknown factor.

By recognizing the long-standing tradition of hazing in our high school programs and implementing prevention policies across the board, we can eliminate future cases. Through increasing awareness and community outreach, we can empower survivors and teach youth the positive aspects of extra-curricular activities (i.e. fun, friendship and critical thinking skills). Acknowledging the problem, supporting youth and their families and encouraging accountability can transform hazing ethos and promote healing.

Tiffany Thompson has an MSW from Spalding University, Louisville. She has strong interests in education, social justice, children and youth, specifically in foster care. Fond of volunteering, she is an educational support tutor for the Every One Reads program.

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Colin Kaepernick and How Self Care Must Go Pro




For years, permanently injured players have been left to figure out how they will financially support their families and how they will carry on with their lives after committing years to football. Currently, the NFL is settling numerous lawsuits from former players who claim that their disabilities resulted from injuries on the field. But that’s not the only controversy stirring in the NFL.

In Fall of 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. At the time, many believed the media would quickly move on to another more trendy story. Afterall, he wasn’t chanting or picketing. He was simply kneeling. But as weeks passed, white anger slowly unveiled itself, and patriotism took the main stage. Critics saw Kaepernick’s quiet gesture as a radical protest. Yet, he still knelt game after game.

Kaepernick proved his physical ability early in his professional career by leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. At that time the public didn’t know that Kaepernick had a metal rod placed in his left leg prior to his rookie year. Still, he attended and did well in practices. But in 2015, he injured his left shoulder and would later report injuries to his thumb and knee.

Working with such disabilities would prove challenging to most people, particularly for professional athletes who are required to demonstrate physical grit day after day. When Kaepernick’s scoring record took a hit, questions arose as to whether he was worth his contract. But Kaepernick saw himself as more than just damaged goods. He had something else to offer: a perspective on the value of black lives in America.

By kneeling, Kaepernick demonstrated ownership of his body, a black body that has been endangered for a time that is too long to measure. That is a radical act of self-care. The concept of self-care, for a long time, was viewed as a luxury accessible to an elite few. And, self-care is publicly declaring that your life matters beyond what your performance on the football field.

In a recent interview, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy said he thinks that Kaepernick was released because he’s not a great player, not because he didn’t stand for the anthem. He added that from the perspective of a team owner, Kaepernick isn’t worth the distraction if he can’t play well. However, star quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton came out in support of Kaepernick. Both stated he should be starting in the NFL, but he isn’t due to his protest of the national anthem.

I’d argue that even when athletes play well, there is a general discomfort with them expressing resistance to racism. They usually are told to stick to the game, proving once again that a working, non-resistant black body is most favorable (and profitable) in this society.

The NFL has a longstanding history of utilizing bodies for financial gain, in particular, black bodies. It is a marketplace for bodies. Bodies that can be negotiated and sold and traded in the name of increasing revenue. I hear sports fans say often that certain teams don’t win because the owners ‘don’t want to spend the money’. However, Kaepernick was recently released from his contract, something for which he seemed prepared.

According to the New York Times, NFL players are becoming permanently disabled after suffering head traumas. Those injuries have caused concussions, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Now, some players’ wives have created at least one space, in the form of a private Facebook group, where they share their experiences and gain strength from each other as they become caregivers and advocates for men who once were larger than life. I believe that this generation of athletes will begin to demand more than money for play. They will demand the right to safety and self-care, and they will begin to plan for their legacies and quality of life off the field.

Athletes are human and imperfect. For many, they are heroes which must be a compliment, but it must also be a lot of pressure. This next generation of athletes will need to employ a high degree of self-care if they want to have a productive career and higher quality life after retirement.

Athletes inspire us because of their consistency and their unmatched desire to win. I’ve never met an athlete who thought second place was good enough. They want to be the best. Their drive is a metaphor for how many of us want to live our best lives.

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Self Help Tips and Advice For Social Workers



There is no denying the positive impact social workers have on hundreds of families and individuals throughout their career. They will tell you about the rewarding experiences they have helping others in need. Unfortunately, for every success, there is at least one case in which they could not help. Social workers see the best and the worst of society every day, and even the strongest among us can crack under the pressure. That is why self-care is so important. Being mindfully aware of your needs as well as the needs of those around you can keep you healthy and able to be there when you’re needed.

What is Self Care and How Can You Do It Every day?

Self-care is a practice that becomes a lifestyle. Understand and commit to the idea that it is not something you do once, it is something you do every day. The key is to be mindful and aware.

It is important to be mindful of where you are and what you are doing as you go about your day. Whether you are in a meeting or at the grocery store, notice how you are feeling in the moment. This can range from listening to your body and noticing your state of health to recognizing an emotional situation in your life.

Become aware of your breathing. When we are feeling stressed, emotional, or run down, we forget how to breathe. Our breath can become fast and shallow which deprives our bodies of the oxygen it needs. Pay attention to your breathing and focus on slowing it down. Allow the air to fill your abdomen, not just your lungs. You will find that mindful breathing exercises calms your thoughts, allows for greater clarity, and lessens your anxiety.

Now That You Are Aware, How Do You Improve?

It’s one thing to be mindful and aware of how you are feeling, but doing something about it is another matter. Improving your physical and emotional state requires some life changes as well.

Many social workers have the stress relieving habit of smoking or grabbing an unhealthy snack from the vending machine. It makes us feel like we’re taking a moment for ourselves. Instead of grabbing a cigarette or a bag of chips, try an e-cigarette starter kit or grab a granola bar. This gives you a moment away while making healthier choices through controlling the nicotine and sugar you intake. The idea is not to deprive yourself but to make small changes that will make you feel better over time.

Changing the way you approach daily tasks is another life change that will give you some added peace of mind. For decades we have been taught to multitask but all we’ve learned is how to start tasks but not finish them in a timely manner. By focusing on one task at a time you’ll allow yourself to finish a job before moving onto something else. This creates a sense of accomplishment and boosts your confidence at the job you are doing.

Maintaining Your New Found Awareness

Creating a support system is important when attempting to care for yourself. By relying on your friends and family you are willingly accepting love and nurturing that you simply cannot give to yourself. When meditating on an issue in your life doesn’t result in answers, one of the best things we can do is turn to our support system for help. It’s not necessary to face every challenge alone and often times, they can see from a perspective that you cannot. You may also find that the more willing you are to receive care from others, the easier it becomes for you to provide care for the people you’re working to help.

Self-care is difficult for those who spend their lives taking care of others. By allowing yourself the care you need you will find that it not only feeds your soul but it will improve your ability to care for the people around you.

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Mental Health

National Survey Reveals the Scope of Behavioral Health Across the Nation




The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report provides the latest estimates on substance use and mental health in the nation, including the misuse of opioids across the nation. Opioids include heroin use and pain reliever misuse. In 2016, there were 11.8 million people aged 12 or older who misused opioids in the past year and the majority of that use is pain reliever misuse rather than heroin use—there were 11.5 million pain reliever misusers and 948,000 heroin users.

“Gathering, analyzing, and sharing data is one of the key roles the federal government can play in addressing two of the Department of Health and Human Services’ top clinical priorities: serious mental illness and the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. “This year’s survey underscores the challenges we face on both fronts and why the Trump Administration is committed to empowering those on the frontlines of the battle against substance abuse and mental illness.”

Nationally, nearly a quarter (21.1percent) of persons 12 years or older with an opioid use disorder received treatment for their illicit drug use at a specialty facility in the past year. Receipt of treatment for illicit drug use at a specialty facility was higher among people with a heroin use disorder (37.5 percent) than among those with a prescription pain reliever use disorder (17.5 percent).

The report also reveals that in 2016 while adolescents have stable levels of the initiation of marijuana, adults aged 18 to 25 have higher rates of initiation compared to 2002-2008, but the rates have been stable since 2008. In contrast, adults aged 26 and older have higher rates of marijuana initiation than prior years. In 2016, an estimated 21.0 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment and of these 21.0 million people, about 2.2 million people received substance use treatment at a specialty facility in the past year.

Rates of serious mental illness among age groups 26 and older have remained constant since 2008. However, the prevalence of serious mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts has increased among young adults over recent years. Among adults aged 18 or older who had serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year, the percentage receiving treatment for mental health services in 2016 (64.8 percent) was similar to the estimates in all previous years.

“Although progress has been made in some areas, especially among young people, there are many challenges we need to meet in addressing the behavioral health issues facing our nation,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “Fortunately there is effective action being taken by the Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with initiatives to reduce prescription opioid and heroin related overdose, death, and dependence as well as many evidence-based early intervention programs to increase access to treatment and recovery for people with serious mental illness. We need to do everything possible to assure that those in need of treatment and recovery services can access them and we look forward to continuing work with federal and state partners on this goal.”

“Addiction does not have to be a death sentence – recovery is possible for most people when the right services and supports in place, including treatment, housing, employment, and peer recovery support,” said Richard Baum, Acting Director Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The truth is that there’s no one path to recovery because everyone is different. And frankly, it doesn’t matter how someone gets to recovery.  It just matters that they have every tool available to them, including peer recovery support and evidence-based treatment options like medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.”

NSDUH is a scientific annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older.  NSDUH is a primary source of information on the scope and nature of many substance use and mental health issues affecting the nation.

SAMHSA is issuing its 2016 NSDUH report on key substance use and mental health indicators as part of the 28th annual observance of National Recovery Month which began on September 1st. Recovery Month expands public awareness that behavioral health is essential to health, prevention works, treatment for substance use and mental disorders is effective, and people can and do recover from these disorders.

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