Category Archives: Mental Health Issues

How to Comfort People During Covid-19

“The coronavirus won’t be going anywhere for a long time — and neither will our fears about it…There’s a lot to be scared of. But when people share their fears with you, what do you say?” A. Goldfarb, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Credit- Eric Mower and Assosciates

Excerpt: What to Say When People Tell You Their Coronavirus Fears, Anna Golfarb, The New York Times

“It may feel as if you’re offering comfort with a comment meant to lift their spirits — ‘You’ve got this!’ “’ know you’ll be fine!’ — but to those who are aching, these rah-rah sentiments can sound like you’re bulldozing over their pain, leaving little room for understanding or vulnerability.

Responding to someone’s expression of distress with an unhelpful, cheerful attitude is what the psychotherapist Whitney Goodman calls dismissive, or toxic, positivity.

An empathetic response reassures the other person that you’re seeing the situation from their side and sharing in their suffering. A dismissively positive response subtly shifts the burden of coping back onto the person who is expressing the negative emotion: If you tweaked your attitude, you’d feel better…At its root, dismissive positivity is a response from someone who feels uncomfortable in the situation aiming to make you feel better and quell your concerns, said Nicolle Osequeda, a psychotherapist. But it often ‘results in someone feeling unheard, frustrated, unsupported and alone.’Just because you say, ‘You’ll be fine!’that doesn’t mean that’s actually going to happen…‘That’s not how the world works,’said Ayanna Abrams, a licensed clinical psychologist. ‘That’s not how our bodies work. That’s not how our brain works.’

So here’s what to say — and what not to say — when people express their fears and worries to you right now.

Steer clear of fixing or reframing negative emotions.

Saying something like, ‘The vast majority of people who are infected recover,’ doesn’t help somebody manage their concerns in the moment, Dr. Abrams said.

Don’t minimize the other person’s fears. Saying things like, ‘You have nothing to worry about,’ does not make anxiety magically disappear… Nix the word ‘should.’ Statements with the word ‘should’ sound supportive, but they aren’t.

That’s because we are telling people what to do or how to feel, saidSonia Fregoso, a licensed marriage and family therapist…Instead, we should reflect, validate and be curious. A better way to phrase your concern is by using reflection, validation and curiosity, and in that order, Ms. Fregoso said. Mirror the emotion you hear in your friend’s voice. Fear, sadness and worry are all common emotions people are feeling right now…If you’ve said the wrong thing, you can still repair.

Once you realize what dismissive positivity statements sound like, you may realize you’ve botched the job as a confidant. It’s not too late to do some damage control. Dr. Abrams suggests reaching out and being transparent about missing the mark. Say something like, ‘Hey, I noticed when we were talking earlier, it didn’t seem like you were connecting with what I was saying. I realize I slipped into cheerleader mode too quickly. Can we try again? How are you doing now?’

If you’re at a loss for what to say next time you feel compelled to slip into cheerleader mode, she suggests asking the person directly what they would find helpful. Recruit them as an ally so you can face the issue together.

 

~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

“European diplomats and foreign policy experts say that a Joe Biden presidency would restore the United States’ strained alliances with Europe.” Business Insider

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions: Examine the titles of the post and the actual article.  Examine any photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas  that you  and your group members think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. It’s hard to lift someone’s spirit in times like these.
  2. Many people are aching.
  3. People are also vulnerable at this time.
  4. Responding to someone’s expression of distress with an unhelpful, cheerful attitude is dismissive.
  5. An empathetic response reassures the other person that you’re seeing the situation from their side.
  6. If you tweaked your attitude, you’d feel better.
  7. At its root, dismissive positivity is a response from someone who feels uncomfortable in the situation.
  8. Try not to minimize the other person’s fears.
  9. Try not to give unsolicited advice.
  10. Nix the word ‘should’ when giving advice.

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Try not/no to gave/give unsolicited advice. Unless/useless the other person explicitly ask/asks you for suggestions on/in managing his/he or she/her concerns, you shouldn’t offer/off your two cents. Most likely, people are just looking/look for a/an ear, Dr. Abrams said. They’re looking for a/an heart, nobody/somebody who can meet/met them in the experience and then they can better figure it out on their own.”

Reading Comprehension: Identify The  Speakers

Directions:  Have students read the following quotes from speakers in the article to  see if they can identify the speakers.

  1. Responding to someone’s expression of distress with an unhelpful, cheerful attitude is dismissive, or toxic, positivity.”
  2. At its root, dismissive positivity is a response from someone who feels uncomfortable in the situation.”
  3. “That’s not how the world works. That’s not how our brain works.”
  4. Offering counsel like, ‘You should just practice self-care’ or ‘You shouldn’t be so negative,’ is not helpful.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Have you had to comfort anyone since the covid-19?
  2. What advice did you give the person?
  3. List 3 things that one should not say to people in distress. List 3 things to say that are helpful to people in distress.
  4. What is one important  thing Dr. Abrams warns against when attempting to help a person who has fears?
  5. According to Sonia Fregoso what is the one word you should “nix”  when offering advice?
  6. After reading this article, would you change the way you give comfort and advice to people? If yes, explain how you would change.
  7. What new information have you learned from this article?

 

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas  you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things  that  you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Children With Disabilities Will Suffer More This Covid-19 Summer

“The kids who most need social interaction this summer won’t be getting it.” H. Levine, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit- Keith Negley, NYT

Excerpt: As the Country Opens Up, Children With Disabilities Are Getting Left Behind, By Hallie Levine, The New York Times

“My 12-year-old daughter, Jo Jo, blossoms over the summer. For her, it’s a time for camp, pool trips with friends, bonfires… Last summer, she began going to the salon for monthly manicures…These events are a rite of passage for any preteen, but they’re particularly important for Jo Jo.

She has Down syndrome, which means she has an extra 21st chromosome that has led to overall developmental delays. For her, these regular social interactions are crucial. But this summer will be dramatically different. Like all kids, she’s been stuck at home since mid-March. Over the last couple weeks, many of those kids have started venturing out, meeting up for bike rides and beach excursions or other outdoor activities. Their parents talk about sending them to day camp, and setting up unofficial ‘quarantine bubbles.’

But Jo Jo and her two neurotypical brothers — Teddy, 10, and Geoffrey, 9 — remain at home, probably for the rest of the summer. Jo Jo is at high-risk for Covid-19 complication… Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled intellectual disability as a high risk condition for flu.

An intellectual disability itself isn’t a risk factor for Covid-19 but kids with developmental disabilities often have other underlying medical conditions that could be… In addition, many kids with intellectual disabilities depend on in-person physical, occupational and speech therapy year round to prevent regression. For example, Lisa Kinderman, a psychologist in Seymour, Ill., is grappling with whether it’s safe to resume physical therapy for her daughter, Lija. A 6-year-old with cerebral palsy, Lija cannot walk or talk and has been hospitalized twice in the last year for respiratory ailments…Unfortunately, there’s no way to gauge a child’s risk of Covid-19, especially as we’re still learning so much about this disease in kids, stressed Brian Skotko, M.D., director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.But there are a few things parents can do to get a ballpark sense of risk.

He suggested using your child’s past experience with infections as a guide for how they might experience Covid-19. If a child like Jo Jo has come down with flu or pneumonia in the past but recovered without urgent medical care or hospitalization, then ‘you should feel more comfortable gradually re-entering the community, he said. For each step, talk it over with your pediatrician…Social distancing can be equally tricky. ‘Wearing masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, being able to tolerate a Covid-19 test — these may all eventually be required for kids to resume school or other activities,’ Skotko said. These are challenging for any child, let alone one with intellectual disabilities. One way to teach these concepts is through social stories, individualized short stories that pair simple language with pictures often used for children with social-communication disorders such as autism.

Skotko also recommended teaching social distancing through color coded circles for older kids.  For example, red for strangers, orange for people you would normally wave to, green and yellow for casual and close friends, and blue for people it’s OK to hug, like parents or siblings.

“I have almost a blind faith in crisis in the American people getting it right”  ~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

Latest Presidential General Election Polls 2020:

“Joe Biden’s lead against Trump in the 2020 election is growing wider, polls show — With the 2020 election now less than five months away, polls show former Vice President Joe Biden pulling further ahead of [Trump].”  Kevin Breuniger, CNBC June ,2020

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Ask students  what they already know about people with disabilities.  Next, have students generate ideas or words that may be connected to the topic of the article.  Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Colorful Brainstorming chart from Live It Magazine

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Monthly manicures  are a rite of passage for any preteen.
  2. The author’s daughter has Down syndrome.
  3. Some children are born wth extra chromosomes.
  4. Kids have started venturing out, meeting up for bike rides and beach excursions or other outdoor activities.
  5. Studies suggest that death rates from pneumonia were up to 5.8 times higher in 2017 among those with intellectual disabilities.
  6. Some kids like JoJo take medicine that suppresses their immune system.
  7. The immune system is vital to every person alive.
  8. It’s very tough for the author  to gauge if any activities — even outdoor ones — are safe for Jo Jo or her brothers.
  9. Many physicians will meet with medically fragile kids first thing in the morning.
  10. Parents of  intellectually challenged children must grapple with  explaining the COVID-19 to them and why it prevents them from doing fun activities.

 

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. C D C has labeled intellectual disability as a high risk condition for flu.
  2. A typical virus hits her hard.
  3. This winter she test positive for the flu.

 

II

  1. Gone to the salon for monthly manicures is fun.
  2. For her, these regular social interactions are crucial.
  3. But this summer will be dramatically different.

III

  1. We have to brought the world to her.
  2. Unfortunately, there’s no way to gauge a child’s risk of Covid-19,
  3. There are a few things parents can do to get a ballpark sense of risk.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions:  Have students read the following quotes from speakers in the article to  see if they can identify the speakers.

  1. Weighing when, and how, to re-enter the community without putting your child at risk is so much harder.”
  2. “What’s just a mild cold for a typical kid lands Lija in the I.C.U.”
  3. Unfortunately, there’s no way to gauge a child’s risk of Covid-19, especially as we’re still learning so much about this disease in kids.”
  4. That doesn’t mean you should neglect routine medical care, especially with underlying medical diseases that need to be monitored. In addition, “the usual childhood diseases are still around.”
  5. Masks can be particularly challenging, because many kids with intellectual disabilities have sensory processing issues that make it hard for them to tolerate a mask on their face.”
  6. “You don’t want to make this all about the child with the more complex medical needs, because you don’t want to ramp up anxiety, or even resentment.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Have  students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards,  students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Dr. Brian Skotio names some things parents can do to tell if there are risks for infection for certain activities. What are they?
  2. What is one activity  that JoJo’s mom won’t let her do  right now? Why?
  3. Name one thing that doctors cannot check virtually with a patient.
  4. In what ways can the concept of social distancing be taught to children with intellectual disabilities?
  5. According to Leah Booth, why is wearing a mask a special problem for many kids with intellectual disabilities?

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

How We Can Achieve Social Unity, With Social Distancing

“To combat the coronavirus, Americans need to do more than secure their own safety.” E. Klinenberg, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

A discarded medical glove on a subway grate in midtown Manhattan in New York City on Tuesday.Credit…Damon Winter:The New York Times

Excerpt: We Need Social Solidarity…By Dr. Eric Klinenberg, The New York Times

“Social distancing — canceling large gatherings, closing schools and offices, quarantining individuals and even sequestering entire cities or neighborhoods — seems to be the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But it’s a crude and costly public health strategy.

Some of the homeless people who camp near Washington’s Union Station feel isolated as foot traffic has decreased. (Michael S. Williamson:The Post)

Shuttering shared spaces and institutions means families lose child care, wages and social support.  What’s more, it’s insufficient to protect the older, sick, homeless and isolated people who are most vulnerable to the virus. They need extra care and attention to survive, not society’s back.

I learned this firsthand while studying another recent health crisis, the great Chicago heat wave of 1995. In that event, as in so many other American disasters, social isolation was a leading risk factor and social connections made the difference between life and death.

Tents of one of the many homeless men and women are set up at Dupont Circle in Washington. (Astrid Riecken for The Post)

In Chicago, social isolation among older people in poor, segregated and abandoned neighborhoods made the heat wave far more lethal than it should have been. Some 739 people died during one deadly week in July, even though saving them required little more than a cold bath or exposure to air-conditioning. There was plenty of water and artificial cooling available in the city that week. For the truly disadvantaged, however, social contact was in short supply. Good governments can mitigate damage during health crises by communicating clearly and honestly with the public and providing extra service and support to those in need…It’s chilling, how familiar this seems. And it’s disturbing, how little we’ve heard about helping the people and places most threatened by the coronavirus, about the ways in which, amid so much isolation, we can offer a hand.

Coronavirus concerns empty public spaces around the world-Boston Globe

In addition to social distancing, societies have often drawn on another resource to survive disasters and pandemics: social solidarity, or the interdependence between individuals and across groups.

A Flowershop Offeres Free Flowers To everyone.

This an essential tool for combating infectious diseases and other collective threats.

Solidarity motivates us to promote public health, not just our own personal security. It keeps us from hoarding medicine, toughing out a cold in the workplace or sending a sick child to school…Social solidarity leads to policies that benefit public well-being, even if it costs some individuals more. Consider paid sick leave.

A Brookline Principal reads bedtime stories to her young students

When governments guarantee it (as most developed democracies do), it can be a burden for employers and businesses. The United States does not guarantee it, and as a consequence many low-wage American workers, even in the food service industry, are on the job when they’re contagiously ill.”

Related Articles:

5 Ways to Help Your Community Combat Coronavirus (While Still Social Distancing)

“Instead of isolating, you can help your neighbors and community in these ways.” By Ria Misra, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about the Coronavirus.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Brainstorming Map by rentonschools.us

 

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many people are kept in quarantine.
  2. Entire cities or neighborhoods are being sequestered.
  3. But it’s a crude and costly public health strategy.
  4. Shuttering shared spaces and institutions means families lose child care, wages and social support.
  5. What’s more, it’s insufficient to protect the older, sick, homeless.
  6. Good governments can mitigate damage during health crises.
  7. Amid so much isolation, we can offer a hand.
  8. Societies have often drawn on another resource to survive disasters and pandemics: social solidarity.
  9. Societie have also drawn upon the interdependence between individuals and across groups.
  10. We should not be hoarding medicine, toughing out a cold in the workplace or sending a sick child to school.

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Social distancing  seems to be the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  2. But it’s a crude and costly public health strategy.
  3. We need to protect the older, sick, homeless and isolated people.

II

  1. Good governments can mitigate damage during health crises.
  2. Its chilling, how familiar this seems.
  3. It’s disturbing, how little we’ve heard about helping the people.

III

  1. Societies have often drawn on social solidarity to survive disasters.
  2. Solidarity motivates us to promote public health.
  3. Solidarity is a essential tool for combating infectious disease

 

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.Ifa statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false theymarkit F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. The Coronavirus is only in China and the U.S.
  2. Social distancing and canceling large gatherings,  is not the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
  3. Keeping people separated seems to be a crude and costly public health strategy.
  4. Shuttering shared spaces and institutions means families lose child care, wages and social support.
  5. Young people who are most vulnerable to the virus.
  6. The author references  another health crisis that occurred in New York.
  7. According to the author, solidarity is an essential tool for combating infectious diseases.
  8. Social solidarity leads to people being lonely.
  9. The scientists expect the coronavirus to be over in 3 months.
  10. The United States does not guarantee paid sick leave, and as a consequence many low-wage American workers, even in the food service industry, are on the job when they’re contagiously ill.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Graphic Organizers: Finding The Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Enchanted Learning to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

 

Topic organizer. By Enchanted Learning

 

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. How has the coronavirus outbreak affected you, your friends, family and community?
  2. Do you feel that we need more compassion and solidarity during this crises?
  3. Name several  good things that solidarity motivates us to do for others.
  4. According to the article who are the most vulnerable people?
  5. It’s stated that, “As Covid-19 spreads, we’ll continue to see more people asked to work remotely or from home, more school closings, more canceled events, and other measures associated with social distancing.”
  6. Do you have  plans of how you intend to remain in touch with family and friends. In addition, make a list of things you, your friends and family could do to help others in need.
  7. After reading this article name at least one thing new that you’ve learned about the Coronavirus situation. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas you’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things  that  you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you  would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

5 People Who Made Positive World Changes in 2019

“In a year of many dispiriting headlines, Fixes still found the better angels of human nature at work.” T. Rosenberg, The New York Times

Note: Fixes is a column from the New York Times that looks at solutions to social problems and why they work.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt: Five Who Spread Hope in 2019-By Tina Rosenberg, The New York Times

“O.K. so Time magazine has Greta Thunberg. But many other individuals also changed the world for the better in 2019. Here, for a second year, is a list of five whose contributions Fixes wrote about.

Scott O’Neill fights tropical disease.

Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program, with a cage of Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes in his Melbourne laboratory. Credit- Shaney Cameron

There’s a new weapon in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases.

Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe epidemics of dengue fever. Now, the disease is endemic in 100 countries, infects 400 million people a year and is intensifying rapidly.

Like Zika and chikungunya, dengue is spread by the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and no workable vaccine or cure has been found.

The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack: spray pesticide, eliminate breeding grounds and help people ward off their bites. But these strategies have failed to control dengue. The world is desperate for something new. Scott O’Neill leads a team that is doing just the opposite — adding millions of mosquitoes to areas affected by disease. Professor O’Neill directs the World Mosquito Program, which is based at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which block their ability to transmit disease. Wolbachia occurs naturally in most insect species and is harmless to vertebrates and humans. When enough Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are released, they take over the whole population…In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Wolbachia zones had 76 percent fewer cases of dengue than other areas. Wolbachia has also led to reductions in disease in Brazil and Vietnam.

Kimberly McGrath heals trafficked children.

Kimberly McGrath coordinates foster care services at the Citrus Health Network in Hialeah, Fla. Credit- Maria A. Cardona for The New York Times

What happens to a child who is exploited commercially for sex? Kimberly McGrath is changing the answer to that question. Historically, trafficked children have been arrested for solicitation and sent to juvenile court…’The core understanding was that these were defiant, rebellious youth who would rebel in a family,’ Dr. McGrath said. In 2013, Florida officials asked Dr. McGrath, who coordinates foster care services at the Citrus Health Network in South Florida, to come up with a different response.

She started from the premise that these children were not defiant criminals. A vast majority had been abused, which made them more susceptible to the manipulations of traffickers. And they had never gotten help to recover from that abuse.

Dr. McGrath and her colleagues looked at what had worked for other traumatized children and adapted it to trafficked children. They educated not just therapists and social workers, but also foster parents…’When foster parents are equipped and prepared to deal with their special needs, children thrive in family-based environments,’ she said. “They really are just traumatized kids.’

Dr. Dixon Chibanda transforms global mental health care.

Dr. Dixon Chibanda turned benches into destinations for therapy. Credit- Markus Schreiber:Associated Press

Depression occurs everywhere. By some measures, it’s the world’s most debilitating disease. But treatment is not everywhere. Even in New York City, less than 40 percent of people with depression get treatment. In poor countries, it’s closer to zero percent.

So what can be done in places with no public mental health care and only a tiny number of mental health professionals? As with medical care, the answer is training nonprofessionals. Every health clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, has a ‘friendship bench‘ in its yard. It’s an ordinary wooden bench. Seated on it is a community health worker with a few weeks’ training in problem-solving therapy. Patients go to the bench, talk to the health worker about their problems and come up with possible solutions. They go home and try them, and return.

The friendship bench was invented in 2006 by a psychiatrist, Dixon Chibanda, after a patient committed suicide. He had asked her to come see him at Harare Central Hospital, but she lived in another city and didn’t have bus fare.

Dr. Chibanda decided to bring treatment for depression to Harare’s health clinics. At first he wanted to train nurses and put offices inside the buildings, but the nurses had not enough  time and clinics had not enough space. But what seemed like a setback is what has allowed the program to spread.

Now, there’s a bench in the yard of every government-run health clinic in Harare, and the practice is spreading throughout Zimbabwe and to other African countries. In a different form, the strategy has also reached New York. Research shows that friendship benches are effective at treating depression.

Dr. Rebekah Gee makes medicines affordable.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, Louisiana’s health secretary. Credit- Tom Williams:CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

Louisiana is doing two things no other state is doing about hepatitis C, which kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined. One is that the state is suddenly treating more people.

Hep C is curable — but the drugs are astronomically expensive. Even the cheapest generic version in the United States costs $24,000 for a course of treatment. (In India, the same drug is $550.) Because of the price, state Medicaid programs ration the drugs. In 2018, Louisiana treated 1,200 people… Louisiana could do that because of the second innovation: The drugs were made a lot less expensive. In July, the state began buying hep C medicines in a new way. Just as you pay Netflix a flat fee for all you want to watch, Louisiana now pays Asegua Therapeutics $58 million per year for all the hep C medicine the state can use.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, Louisiana’s secretary of health, adopted the scheme from Australia, where it has allowed Australia to treat seven times as many patients for the same money. Louisiana is the first state in America to do the same. The State of Washington is about to start as well. Other states are likely to follow.

Phil Keisling deepens democracy.

Illustration by Jeffrey Henson Scales; photographs by Marcin Jastrzebski and Digiphoto:iStock, via Getty Images

There’s a lot of attention, and rightly so, paid to Republican efforts to suppress voting. But there’s also a movement in both parties to expand voting. It abandons the traditional polling booth in favor of voting at home

It’s one of the most effective ways to increase turnout — possibly the best way.

Increasingly, other states are following the path first set by Oregon, which mails every voter a ballot. Voters fill it out at their leisure and mail it in or drop it off at a ballot center.

In next year’s elections, all voters in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Hawaii will vote at home. California will soon follow. Large parts of North Dakota and Nebraska vote at home. In last year’s midterms, 69 percent of all votes in the West were cast by voters who received ballots in the mail.

Phil Keisling was Oregon’s secretary of state, in charge of elections, when Oregon began home voting in 1998. Now he leads the Vote at Home Institute.

The institute asserts that it saves taxpayers money (some election officials disagree). It argues that because the approach uses paper ballots, it’s secure against hacking… Home voting probably doesn’t affect turnout in big elections. But it does in local elections, races at the end of the ballot, ballot propositions and judicial elections.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

Pre-reading Exercises

 

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Have  students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe epidemics of dengue fever.
  2. The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack: spray pesticide.
  3. What happens to a child who is exploited?
  4. Historically, trafficked children have been arrested for solicitation.
  5. Depression occurs everywhere.
  6. So what can be done in places with no public mental health care?
  7. Louisiana is doing two things no other state is doing about hepatitis C.
  8. Hepatitis C kills more Americans than all other infectious diseases combined.
  9. There’s a lot of attention, and rightly so, paid to Republican efforts to suppress voting.
  10. Increasingly, other states are following the path first set by Oregon, which mails every voter a ballot.

Source: New Oxford American Dictionary   

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

Many other individual also changed the world for the better in 2019.

The normal public health response to mosquitoes is attack.

The mosquitoes the program releases are infected with Wolbachia bacteria.

II

The friendship bench was invented in 2006.

There’s a bench in the yard of every government-run health clinic in Harare.

Louisiana is treating more people for hepatitis C.

III

Because of an price, state Medicaid programs ration their drugs.

In next year’s elections, all voters in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah and Hawaii will vote at home.

Turnout for these elections can be in the single digits.

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctlyidentify all of the speakers wins.

  1. “People who understand dengue and live in transmission areas are horrified and scared.”
  2. “Now we know they really are just extremely traumatized youth.”
  3. I started to realize that psychiatry in an institution is not the way to go. We have to take it to the community.”
  4. “Why couldn’t we change health care in this country?”
  5. “For millions of citizens, especially those with uncertain work schedules, family obligations and other daily demands, the traditional polling place has now become the most powerful voter suppression tool of all.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Which of the profiles do you find most inspiring or heartwarming? Why?
  2. Do they make you more hopeful and optimistic about the world?
  3. Do they inspire you to make a difference? How?
  4. Have you observed other ordinary heroes of 2019 in the news?In your community? Describe them.
  5. What qualities make it possible for individuals to affect change?
  6. Do you think you made a positive difference in the lives of others in 2019? Explain how.
  7. Has anyone made a difference in your life this past year? 

 

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

The Importance of Positive Relationships For Children

“Traumatic events and toxic relationships during childhood can cast long shadows, often damaging mental health well into adulthood.” K. Lazar, The Boston Globe

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Evan Wilcox (left) and Nick Sisler in 2011 (left) and 2019. Photo- Nic Antaya for the Boston Globe

Excerpt:  Positive relationships can buffer childhood trauma and toxic stress, By Kay Lazar, The Boston Globe

“But a growing body of research suggests sustained, positive relationships with caring adults can help mitigate the harmful effects of childhood trauma. And specialists say pediatricians, social workers, and others who work with kids should take steps to monitor and encourage those healthy relationships — just as they’re careful to screen for abuse and neglect.

Otherwise, ‘we will miss attempts to help people recover or heal,’ said Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician and researcher at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

In the latest contribution to this research, a study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics, Sege and his coauthors found that supportive childhood relationships dramatically reduced the likelihood of developing depression and other mental health problems in adults.

The researchers studied several types of relationships, including bonds within families, between friends, and those in the community.

The survey included seven specific questions to measure how nurturing those sustained relationships were. Respondents were asked how often as a child they felt able to talk to their family about feelings, felt their family stood by them in difficult times, enjoyed participating in community traditions, felt a sense of belonging in high school, felt supported by friends, had at least two nonparent adults who took genuine interest in them, and felt safe and protected by an adult in their home…Dr. Renee Boynton-Jarrett, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, said the growing recognition of the power of positive relationships to foster resilience will help busy physicians remember to ask about promising family, school, and community relationships. Armed with that information, a pediatrician can make more useful recommendations, she said. For instance, Boynton-Jarrett said some families facing particularly challenging episodes might be open to the suggestion that they reach out to relatives or friends for help.

‘Maybe mom has a significant mental health condition, but that child has two aunts who are very engaged, and a grandmother who is also very engaged,’ she said.

If a child seems to lack solid relationships with adult relatives, doctors might suggest parents or guardians look outside the family for support systems that can take root. Caregivers who help kids find these supportive relationships can often see children reap the benefits in real time.

In 2007, Trudy Wilcox was worried about her 8-year-old son, Evan, a lonely third-grader in Cambridge who struggled with speaking, reading, and writing and who was being bullied at school. Wilcox was overwhelmed, often traveling to Virginia to visit her frail parents while also trying to get Evan more assistance in school with his severe learning disability.

She knew she needed help, so she reached out to the mentorship program Big Brothers Big Sisters, which paired Evan with Nick Sisler, a gregarious, hockey-loving freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…The MIT hockey rink became Evan’s oasis. He would tag along with Sisler and fist-bump with all the players as they came off the ice. The players would invite him onto the ice after practice, cheering him on as he gingerly skated down and shot a goal — golden memories seared in his psyche a decade later…What started as something Sisler signed up for to fulfill a volunteer requirement at his college fraternity has blossomed into a 12-year-long friendship.

Sisler, now 30 and the founder of a Boston software company, has taught Evan how to shave and how to lubricate a bicycle chain. He’s also helped him learn how to make friends.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay also provided another trusted confidante — a ‘match support’ person who regularly checked in with Sisler, Evan, and his mother, offering guidance and feedback…

Today, Evan is majoring in math, and he hopes to become a researcher. His conversation skills are still a work in progress. He and Sisler recently grabbed a pizza together and then headed to one of the last Red Sox games of the season…Looking through the researchers’ lens, Evan was lucky: Though he was lonely and bullied at school, he had seven sustained, caring relationships — with his mother, Sisler, his match support person, and his four math teachers.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions: Have  students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Traumatic events can damage a child.
  2. Toxic relationships can harm a child’s mental health.
  3. Positive relationships can help mitigate the harmful effects of childhood trauma.
  4. A  child’s bond with family members is especially important.
  5. Childhood experiences, such as neglect, or severe family dysfunction can cause trauma.
  6. The relationships should be nurturing for children.
  7. Doctors should pay closer attention to early childhood adversity and toxic stress.
  8. There is a growing recognition of the power of positive relationships.
  9. Some programs encourage collaboration between community groups and families to help children.
  10. Evan had a severe learning disability.

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Supportive childhood relationships reduced the likelihood of developing depression.
  2. The researchers studied several type of relationships.
  3. The survey included seven specific questions to measure how nurturing  relationships were.

II

  1. Respondents were asked how often as a child they felt able to talk to their family about feelings.
  2. Armed with that information, a pediatrician can make more useful recommendation.
  3. Trudy Wilcox was worry about her 8-year-old son, Evan.

III

  1. Nick Sisler was a  freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  2. The MIT hockey rink became Evans oasis.
  3. Sisler, now 30, is the founder of a Boston software company.

 

Reading Comprehension

Identify The  Speakers

Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article. The first group to correctly  identify all of the speakers wins.

  1. “…specialists say pediatricians, social workers, and others who work with kids should take steps to monitor and encourage those healthy relationships — just as they’re careful to screen for abuse and neglect. Otherwise, we will miss attempts to help people recover or heal.”
  2. “This thinking is catching on…These positive experiences may give kids a flashlight to shine into the future.”
  3. “The growing recognition of the power of positive relationships to foster resilience will help busy physicians remember to ask about promising family, school, and community relationships.”
  4. “I am Evan’s sole parent. We don’t have extended family in the area, and I saw Nick as a friend for Evan, someone who could provide fun, which wasn’t my strong suit,”
  5. “I felt less lonely…He’s a friend who would be beside me all the time.”

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. Have you ever helped a young child who had problems such as a family member or a friend?
  2. For those with children, do you feel that you provide a nurturing and supportive relationship with your child/children? How do you accomplish this?
  3. What were the seven specific questions included on the survey to measure how nurturing a child’s sustained relationships were?
  4. Who is Trudy Wilcox and why was she worried?
  5. What was the name of the program Wilcox contacted?
  6. Who is Nick Sisler?
  7. Are you familiar with  The Big Brothers and Sisters organization? Have you or someone you know worked with them? If so, please describe the experience.
  8. Would you be interested in joining an organization that helped troubled children? Why or why not?
  9. After reading this article name at least one new idea that you’ve learned. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.

Group Project

Directions: In groups use the web to find out additional  information about the mentorship program Big Brothers Big Sisters.

  1. How does one become a mentor?
  2. Are there limits on the age of the children accepted into the program?
  3. How long can a child remain within the program.
  4. If possible arrange a trip to visit a Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in your vicinity.

ANSWER KEY