Maryna Lialko had raised the girls alone after their father left the family, their grandmother, Nina Lialko, said.

“She was devoted to these two girls,” she said.

Kateryna was discharged this fall from Ohmadyt hospital, where she received psychiatric and physical therapy, and the girls are now in Kyiv living with their grandmother and aunt.

The aunt, Olha Lialko, said she has seen a shift in their personalities. Kateryna is increasingly turning inward; she speaks very little and struggles to maintain eye contact. Yuliia still can’t fully comprehend the loss.

“Katya is very closed; she keeps it all to herself,” Olha Lialko said. “Yuliia is missing mom a lot. She needs attention, she likes to cuddle.”

The family is trying to help the girls process their loss. And occasionally they see glimpses of the girls they knew before the war.

They dye their hair wild colors and play with makeup. They fight as only sisters can, and cling closely to each other for company.

But no one knows what will come next for them. Their life is on hold. They attend school online and have few friends in the new city. The family is unable to return home to Donetsk but unwilling to commit to staying in Kyiv.

“It will be very difficult for them to live without her,” their grandmother said. “This life has no sense at all.”

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Three Women of Bucha: Their Deaths and Lives

BUCHA, Ukraine — One woman was badly beaten and shot through the eye. Another, held captive by Russian soldiers, was found in a cellar, shot in the head. An 81-year-old grandmother was discovered hanging in her garden, perhaps killed, perhaps driven to suicide.

They were three victims among hundreds during the Russian occupation of Bucha in the spring. Bucha, a suburb of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, quickly became the main focus of atrocities by Russian soldiers before they withdrew from the area.

The crimes gained worldwide attention. But these women were unknown, their deaths unseen and unexplained.

reported at the time on the Russian brutality and came across these cases. So we went back to Bucha, the place of so many deaths, to learn about these three women — to find out about their lives and who they were.

We found that each woman, in her own way, was a fighter, struggling to survive weeks of hunger, cold, bombardment and shooting, yet tragically vulnerable to the ruthless violence of an occupying army.

Many of the circumstances of their last days remain unclear, but for their families and Ukrainian officials, there is no doubt that they were victims of Russia’s aggression against their country.

Oksana Sulyma, 34, was in Bucha only by chance.

A former public servant, she lived in Kyiv with her 5-year-old daughter, but had visited Bucha to stay with friends only 48 hours before the war began in February. Within days, Russian troops had stormed the wooded suburb and roads and transport links had been cut. Oksana was stuck, said Oleksiy, a childhood friend, who asked that only his first name be used for privacy.

She had grown up and lived much of her adult life in Bucha. Her grandmother lived in an apartment near the center of town. Oksana had moved to Kyiv only after divorcing her husband several years ago; she wanted to be closer to her parents, who helped look after her daughter.

Her mother, Larysa Sulyma, agreed to provide a few details of Oksana’s life for her to be remembered by.

“She was a very bright child,” her mother said. She learned French during an exchange visit to France, completed a degree in sociology at the National Aviation University in Kyiv, and later worked at the Ministry of Infrastructure.

“She was very vivacious,” her mother added. She shared photographs of her daughter on a beach in Crimea, where she used to vacation every year before Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. “She loved life, she loved to travel.”

In early March, Russian troops set up bases and firing positions in Bucha and began to impose greater control on the streets. They searched houses, confiscated cellphones and began detaining people and killing.

Oksana was last seen by friends on March 10 at Shevchenko Square, her mother said. The square, marked by a statue of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, is a popular meeting place.

Her mother posted a message on Facebook on March 15 expressing concern. Oksana had experienced mental health issues, and anxiety at the onset of the war may have exacerbated her condition, her mother wrote.

“Her behavior may have manifestations of anger, aggression or incompetence,” her post said. “If anyone knows her whereabouts, please call.”

Anna Noha, 36, had lived most of her life in Bucha and had no intention of leaving.

She had friends and family in the town, and even when her former partner and half sister fled the occupation in early March, she chose to stay. Anna hung out with friends in the basement of her two-story building, sometimes venturing into the streets, visiting her father and rescuing cats.

“She was very independent, very active,” said her stepmother, Tetyana Kopachova, 51. “At the same time, she was very kind, very helpful. She chopped wood all winter for me.”

Anna’s father and stepmother were dog breeders and kept 11 Central Asian sheepdogs in cages on their property in the center of town. Anna would come around to help.

She had always been a tearaway, her stepmother said. She married young, divorced, had a teenage daughter. She had served time in prison for dealing drugs, but had since given that up, her stepmother said.

Anna was also a survivor. Her former partner was abusive and she came over to their house for a couple of nights with a friend, nursing bruises, Ms. Kopachova said.

Her parents pressed her to stay, but she left again on March 13, promising to find dog food because they were running out. She never came back.

Lyudmyla Shchehlova, 81, also did not want to leave Bucha. A retired epidemiologist, she had lived for almost 40 years in a cottage styled like a wood cabin, nestled amid pine trees.

The house had belonged to her husband, also a physician, and together they had raised a daughter, Olena, and later their grandson, Yevhen.

His grandfather was the soft one, Yevhen, 22, recalled in an interview. His grandmother was strict, “It was like good cop, bad cop,” he said laughing. “She taught me a lot,” he added.

Ms. Shchehlova was Russian by origin, and her bookshelves were full of Russian classics. Since her husband died a few years ago, she had lived alone, surrounded by her books and family photographs, with Ralph, a German shepherd, and a cat for company.

Her daughter, Olena, lived in a neighboring suburb, Irpin, and wanted her mother to join her there when the war started, but the roads were blocked by the fighting. Within days, the electricity and telephones went down. She tried to call her mother on March 7, her birthday, but could not reach her.

When the bombardment worsened sharply in their neighborhood, Olena and Yevhen fled on foot across a destroyed bridge toward Kyiv.

The last time Yevhen spoke to his grandmother, she was weeping but was happy that they were out of danger. “She said everything was fine,” he said.

By mid-March, the atmosphere in Bucha was growing uglier. New Russian units had taken over control and reprisals against civilians grew.

For several days around March 18, a lot of killing occurred in Bucha.

Russian troops had occupied School No. 3 on Vokzalna Street, and they were firing mortars from empty land behind it. Soldiers smashed their armored vehicles through garden fences and camped in people’s homes.

At some point, Oksana Sulyma was apprehended and taken to a house on Vokzalna Street. The house backed up to School No. 3, which she had attended as a girl. Oksana was found there in April, imprisoned in a potato cellar, shot in the head. She was wearing only a fur coat.

The police found bullet casings by the trap door of the cellar and determined she was killed on March 17, a week after going missing. Her passport and ID card were later found by the Ukrainian police near the railway tracks.

Russian soldiers had been living in the house, sleeping on mattresses in the living room and heating water for washing. In a bedroom upstairs, women’s clothes and underwear were strewn about and the police found a used condom. An official familiar with the case said there was evidence that Oksana had been raped.

Around the same time, Anna Noha moved to an apartment a few blocks away, just west of Vokzalna Street. Her windows had been blown out by the shelling and it was freezing, so a friend, Vladyslav, took her and a former classmate, Yuriy, to stay with his mother, Lyudmyla.

Anna brought coffee and tea with her and asked Lyudmyla if she could also bring an abandoned cat, a beautiful longhaired Siamese, that she had found.

“She seemed very kind,” said Lyudmyla, who asked that only her first name be used. “That’s why I gave her shelter.”

On the evening of March 18, the three friends cleaned the apartment and took out the trash, Lyudmyla said. They said they would have a smoke while they were outside. They never came back.

Lyudmyla later learned from neighbors that Russian troops had detained them by the trash bins and marched them with bags over their heads into the basement of a nearby 10-story building. Neighbors said Anna had shouted out “Glory to Ukraine.”

A week later, Lyudmyla was gathering firewood with a friend when she found their bodies. First she saw Anna and Yuriy, lying in the garden of an unoccupied house. Later she found her son, Vladyslav, inside a shed. They had been beaten and each was shot through an eye. Anna was so badly bludgeoned that her face was unrecognizable, Lyudmyla said.

“She was cheerful, strong,” Lyudmyla said of Anna. “Maybe she suffered for her outspokenness.”

By March 19, only two residents, Ms. Shchehlova, the 81-year-old retired epidemiologist, and Mariya, 84, a former factory worker, remained on their narrow lane.

Soldiers occupied a house at the end of the lane, Mariya said. “There were 15 of them in that gang and they made such trouble here,” she said. Someone stole bottles of alcohol from her fridge while she dozed in an armchair, she said.

A builder, Bogdan Barkar, 37, was out scouring for food one day and came across Ms. Shchehlova in the alley behind her house. “She had tears in her eyes,” he said. He sensed she was being threatened by someone. “Just come by in two days and see if I am alive or not,” she told him.

Some days later, Mariya said she heard Ms. Shchehlova arguing with someone and saw a strange man in her yard. But weak from hunger and fearful, Mariya did not intervene.

It was only days later when the Russians withdrew from Bucha that Mariya’s son came back and discovered Ms. Shchehlova hanging from a tree, a ladder propped against the trunk.

The police recorded it as a suicide, but few who knew Ms. Shchehlova believed she could have done it herself. She was religious and knew it to be a sin, said her neighbor Valentyn Melnyk.

Her grandson Yevhen cut the ropes down from the tree and said he doubted that she would have been able to tie them on the high branches. But he was resigned to his doubts.

“I am a realist,” he said. “How is it possible to find out what happened if all the neighbors left, and she was alone at that moment?”

The grief and loss remains overwhelming. His mother, a refugee in Sweden, wept at missing her mother’s funeral.

Anna Noha’s father, Volodymyr Kopachov, died on July 7, soon after burying his daughter. He lies beside her in Bucha City Cemetery in the section reserved for victims of the war.

Oksana Sulyma’s parents made separate visits to the cellar where she died. Weeping, her mother distributed sweets to the neighbors.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Europe Looks at Italy’s Giorgia Meloni With Caution and Trepidation

BRUSSELS — The victory in Italian elections of the far-right and Euroskeptic leader Giorgia Meloni, who once wanted to ditch the euro currency, sent a tremor on Monday through a European establishment worried about a new right-wing shift in Europe.

European Union leaders are now watching her coalition’s comfortable victory in Italy, one of its founding members, with caution and some trepidation, despite reassurances from Ms. Meloni, who would be the first far-right nationalist to govern Italy since Mussolini, that she has moderated her views.

But it is hard for them to escape a degree of dread. Even given the bloc’s successes in recent years to agree on a groundbreaking pandemic recovery fund and to confront Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the appeal of nationalists and populists remains strong — and is spreading, a potential threat to European ideals and cohesion.

said in a Twitter message: “In these difficult times, we need more than ever friends who share a common vision and approach to Europe’s challenges.”

Europe’s concerns are less about policy toward Ukraine. Ms. Meloni has said she supports NATO and Ukraine and has no great warmth for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as her junior coalition partners, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, have evinced.

Still, Mr. Berlusconi said last week that Mr. Putin “was pushed by the Russian population, by his party, by his ministers to invent this special operation.” The plan, he said, was for Russian troops to enter “in a week to replace Zelensky’s government with a government of decent people.”

Italian popular opinion is traditionally sympathetic toward Moscow, with about a third of seats in the new Parliament going to parties with an ambiguous stance on Russia, sanctions, and military aid to Ukraine. As the war proceeds, with all its domestic economic costs, Ms. Meloni may take a less firm view than Mr. Draghi has.

Mr. Kupchan expects “the balance of power in Europe will tilt more toward diplomacy and a bit less toward continuing the fight.” That is a view more popular with the populist right than with parties in the mainstream, but it has prominent adherents in Germany and France, too.

“These elections are another sign that all is not well with mainstream parties,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and spell a complicated period for the European Union.

Even the victory a year ago of Olaf Scholz in Germany, a man of the center left, was ensured by the collapse of the center-right Christian Democrats, who had their worst showing in their history, while in April, France’s long-dominant center-right Republicans fell to under 5 percent of the vote.

“People in Brussels are extremely anxious about Meloni becoming an E.U. prime minister,” Mr. Leonard said. “They’ve seen how disruptive Orban can be from a small country with no systemic role in the E.U. Meloni says she won’t immediately upend the consensus on Ukraine, but she could be a force for a much more virulent form of Euroskepticism in council meetings.”

One or two troublemakers can do a lot of a damage to E.U. decision-making, he said, “but if it’s five or six,” it becomes very hard to obtain coherence or consensus.

When the leftist, populist Five Star Movement led Italy from 2018 to early 2021, before Mr. Draghi, it created major fights inside Brussels on immigration and asylum issues. Ms. Meloni is expected to concentrate on topics like immigration, identity issues (she despises what she calls “woke ideology”), and future E.U. rules covering debt and fiscal discipline, to replace the outdated growth and stability pact.

But analysts think she will pick her fights carefully, given Italy’s debt mountain — over 150 percent of gross domestic product — and the large sums that Brussels has promised Rome as part of the Covid recovery fund. For this year, the amount is 19 billion euros, or about $18.4 billion, nearly 1 percent of Italy’s G.D.P., said Mujtaba Rahman, Europe director for the Eurasia Group, with a total over the next few years of some 10.5 percent of G.D.P.

“Draghi has already implemented tough reforms to satisfy Brussels, so there is no reason for her to come in and mess it up and agitate the market,” Mr. Rahman said. But for the future, there are worries that she will push for an expansionist budget, looser fiscal rules and thereby make the more frugal countries of northern Europe less willing to compromise.

For Mr. Rahman, the bigger risk for Europe is the loss of influence Italy exercised under Mr. Draghi. He and President Emmanuel Macron of France, “were beginning to create an alternative axis to compete with the vacuum of leadership now in Germany, and all that will be lost,” Mr. Rahman said. Italy will go from a country that leads to one that Europe watches anxiously, he said.

There was a sign of that anxiety just before the election, when Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, warned that Brussels had “the tools” to deal with Italy if things went in a “difficult direction.” It was seen as a hint that the European Commission could cut funds to Italy if it were deemed to be violating the bloc’s democratic standards.

Mr. Salvini, seeing an opportunity, immediately responded: “What is this, a threat? This is shameful arrogance,” and asked Ms. von der Leyen to “respect the free, democratic and sovereign vote of the Italian people” and resist “institutional bullying.”

Instead, Mr. Stefanini, the former diplomat, urged Brussels to be patient and to engage with Ms. Meloni. “The new government should be judged on facts, on what it does when in power,” he said. “The real risk is that by exaggerated overreactions the E.U. makes legitimate concerns self-fulfilling prophecies.

“If she’s made to feel rejected, she’ll be pushed into a corner — where she’ll find Orban and other soulmates waiting for her, and she’ll team up with them,” he continued. “But if she’s greeted as a legitimate leader, democratically elected, it will be possible for the E.U. to do business with her.”

Luuk van Middelaar, a historian of the bloc, also urges caution. European leaders know two things about Italian prime ministers, he said. First, “they are not very powerful at home, and two, they tend not to last very long” — since World War II, an average of about 18 months.

“So they will wait and see and not be blown away,” Mr. van Middelaar said. If she lasts longer, however, she could energize other far-right Euroskeptics in other big countries like France, he said, “and that would make a real difference.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Teen Suicide Crisis: Colorado Parents Work To Reduce State’s High Rate

Parents are sharing their tragedies in hopes of reducing suicide in Colorado. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for kids and young adults in the state.

Vicky Goodwin says February 4, 2021, is the day her world changed forever. 

“It was a Thursday morning. I got up, took my dog for a walk. I remember walking in,” she said. “Then, I walked down the hall to Jonathan’s room and opened the door, and he wasn’t in his bed, and I walked into his room and then I found him.”

Jonathan Goodwin was just 15. 

“Jonathan was incredibly bright, funny, quirky, a wonderful friend. He was a twin. He and his brother were really close,” Goodwin continued. 

But for reasons he kept hidden, Jonathan took his own life. His mom says nobody knows why. 

“It doesn’t matter how it happens. It doesn’t matter if there were signs or if there weren’t signs,” Goodwin said. “It’s just, you know, losing a child is as bad as every parent thinks that it would be.”

In the U.S., the rate of young people dying by suicide increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018. Researchers say trends are especially alarming among Black youth. 

In Goodwin’s home state of Colorado, suicide is the No. 1 cause of death for kids and young adults.

COVID-19 turned life upside down. Teens — already under the usual adolescent pressures of life, school, social media— are now dealing with a year-and-a-half of chronic pandemic stress. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Children’s Hospital Colorado Clinical Child Psychologist Jenna Glover said. “I’ve never seen this number of children who need help in mental health services. And I’ve never seen this many kids be in acute crisis.”

It’s gotten so bad that in 2021, for the first time in its 117-year history, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “state of emergency” for youth mental health. 

“We’re seeing lots of kids come in with depression and anxiety, really nervous about starting the school year,” Glover continued. “So, real sense of hopelessness and not knowing how to solve their problems other than, ‘I just got to get out of this.'”

Experts say the reasons behind the nationwide jump in teen suicide over the last decade are varied and hard to pin down. Social media, money or family problems, even fear of school shootings and worry about climate change can all add up.  

Making it worse, says Glover, is a shortage of professional help. 

“There are not enough mental health services,” she said. “Catching kids early on — screening them in pediatrician offices, screening them at school and when they have just the beginnings of symptoms, getting them into preventative programs, and doing immediate intervention, so they don’t show up at the emergency department — we just need more of that.”

Short of professional help, experts say one of the most effective ways to prevent suicide is to talk about it. 

“It is the most common myth that asking about suicide will increase it,” Glover said. “What we know is asking about suicide will absolutely decrease the risk of it and it keeps your kids safe.” 

If teens are reluctant to talk to adults, the hope is they’ll talk to other teens. 

Marin McKinney is a teen ambassador for a suicide prevention group called Robbie’s Hope, giving advice to other kids and adults, too. 

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Marin said. “And a lot of us … we do go through bad days and tough situations. But there’s always someone out there who wants to listen and talk to you. … I would tell a parent to not overreact or overcomplicate the situation.”

Kari Eckert and her husband started Robbie’s Hope after losing their son in 2018. 

Their home in Golden, Colorado, is now headquarters for an all-out effort to get kids and adults help to prevent suicide. They do everything from producing free guides on how to talk about it to lobbying state lawmakers for new laws.  Several states, including Colorado, now allow teens to miss school to take a mental health day.

 “Just really really good tips and it’s written by teens. … Kids bring this to the table and say, ‘It’s important to me. I shouldn’t have to lie about why I can’t be in school today,'” Eckert said. “We aren’t just about saying that teen suicide is a problem. We want to bring resources to this … We want to reduce teen suicide rates by 50% by 2028. That’s a big goal.”

For now, Goodwin is taking things day by day, hoping that being open about her tragedy helps other parents to not feel so alone.  

“I guess focusing on something positive, focusing on the gift that we have — the gift that we had — with him makes the hard days a lot easier,” she said. “Secrets are toxic. And we felt that the only way that we could make losing a child worse is by passing that burden on to our other children, and being open and choosing to talk about it has been, I think, good for all of us. We just want to help one family.”

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How Disability Misunderstandings And Stigma Impact Mental Well-Being

Disability experts say it’s common for doctors to misunderstand bodily autonomy, which can impact a person’s mental health.

CDC data shows about 26% of Americans live with a disability, whether it’s physical or mental.  

 Conditions like anxiety, spinal injury, ADHD, amputation, depression, cerebral palsy — these are just some examples.  

 Advocates say there’s a lot of misunderstanding about a person who has a disability. And that stigma not only runs deep — it can also have a huge impact on that individual’s mental health. 

Twenty-eight-year-old New Yorker Chloé Valentine Toscano knows beauty, from walking in fashion week to her Instagram reels to publishing in magazines like Allure. 

“I’m a writer. I’m someone who likes the color pink. I like butterflies. I like learning a lot about anyone and anything,” she said. “I think we all have differences, and I want to understand differences. … For me, beauty is just being open-minded,” she said.

She also has fought face-to-face with ugly mental health struggles caused by doctors who didn’t understand disability.  

“It is a journey,” Valentine Toscano said.

She lost motor function from her elbow down in 2014. She adapted and spent years living with — as she calls it — dead weight. She got into paralypmic swimming and started her career.  

Then, after years of researching and soul searching, she chose to amputate her arm. 

“I know amputation can be very traumatic because some people, a lot of people,will experience it through trauma,” she said. “But that wasn’t where I was in my case. So, it wasn’t traumatic talking about it, but it was traumatic playing a game with the yeses and the nos.”

Valentine Toscano spent three years fighting to get her procedure. She says some surgeons told her any elective amputation was too risky, even though she was healthy. Other rejections came after her surgery had been approved and scheduled. 

“The answer I got from one, he said, ‘Well, some people just need to learn to live with what they’ve got.’ That made me feel like someone else who wasn’t in my body was telling me what was better for me,” she said. “It felt very frustrating to have it and very offensive to have someone say that.”

Bodily autonomy — or the right to control what happens to your body — is a common struggle in the disability community. And disability experts say misunderstanding that is common, and can cause undue stress as well as impact a person’s mental well-being.  

In Valentine Toscano’s story, it happened a few times. 

She recounted that in one appointment: “I cried, I broke down and I felt like the minute I expressed that emotion, he sent me in for a psych evaluation, which felt like I was being punished for expressing emotion.” And then she described the examination, saying: “She was asking me, she said, ‘Do you find that you’re unattractive because of your arm and that you would be more attractive without it?’ And I was like, ‘It’s not about that at all. It’s never been about that.’ … I felt angry and belittled and just, not heard, because I was asking for one thing and being evaluated for something that wasn’t even remotely there.”

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Linda Mona has spent the past two decades working on disability and how it relates to health care.  

“If you haven’t been exposed to it personally — you have not been exposed to it through being a family friend, a lover, whoever that might be — And you’re not called to do it professionally and you don’t see it around you, you don’t think about it.”

She says, unfortunately, Valentine Toscano’s experience is all too common. Mental health experts with lived experience or expertise in disability are rare. 

“It can be quite challenging to find somebody,” Mona said. “The other thing to think about is the steps that come before that, which is that it’s very hard for people to access education if they have disability, let alone graduate school. And internship and fellowship…”

Sixty-one million U.S. adults, which is about one in 4, have some type of disability, according to the CDC.  

A 2021 anonymous survey of graduating medical students showed 7.6% identified as having a disability.  But data collected directly from medical schools show that only about 4% of medical students disclosed their disability.  

That stigma against disability —physical or mental — runs deep. 

From 1867 to 1974 U.S. cities had laws governing who could be in public. Codes included fining or jailing those deemed “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or anyway deformed.”

Mona says it’s federal bias favoring able-bodied people.

“You’re best at home. You’re best tucked away. Or, you’re best institutionalized out of the way of anybody else who is displeased with the way that you look,” she said.

She adds structural stigmas fueled misconceptions about disabled people’s decision-making about their own bodies. 

NEWSY’S LINDSEY THEIS: When we talk about bodily autonomy, what type of impact cannot have long term on someone’s mental well-being?  

LINDA MONA: Trying to bring that in and make your choices can have a huge effect on your mental health in the long run. … It also happens a lot with pregnancy and people with disabilities. Right? So, you know, somebody has some kind of cognitive mental difference or physical difference. There’s, you know, constant questioning about, you know, ‘you want to be pregnant? You know what that’s going to do to your body?’ … I don’t think anybody thinks those types of decisions are a simple decision. They’re complex. But you have to trust that somebody has made that made that decision with that context in mind and not assume that they’re uninformed.

In summer 2021, Valentine Toscano had her amputation surgery. She calls it a dream come true.  

“I just felt happy,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I got this is like a huge step in my life. It just felt like one of those, like, huge dreams. I got there. I got a huge part of my personality back immediately.”

Valentine Toscano uses a prosthetic, as needed. It’s bright pink and purple with a lot of glitter.  

“If I could have decided to have been born with an arm with butterflies and sparkles on it, like right out of the womb, I would have picked that,” she said. 

 Valentine Toscano said her prosthetic cost $13,000.

“It’s something that’s very expensive,” she said. “I was fortunate to have it covered by health insurance. But that’s not something everyone has.”

Valentine Toscano continues to advocate and write, sharing her experience now from two different sides of disability. She’s also writing a book on the side.  

She says the ability to share those stories in her voice and having others listen is not only good for her well-being, it’s truly beautiful.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Advocates, Patients Push For Mental Health Resources In Mississippi

The state is trying to figure out how to provide mental health patients with more community-based options.

Melody Worsham is a mother, teacher and volunteer who says she’s fought a 30-year battle with a disease that mental health professionals were supposed to help her with but instead left her feeling humiliated.  

“I live with PTSD, with psychotic features. And as soon as someone hears the word ‘psychotic,’ they think I am that person that’s in some sneaky little dark closet and I’m doing some sneaky little back-channel thing on social media, and I’m about to pull out an AR-15 and get on the rooftop somewhere,” she said. “I don’t have a dangerous bone in my body … It angers me so bad because it puts a barrier up to people asking for help because it’s that automatic.”

Worsham penned an open letter to the state’s attorney general pointing to a 2016 Department of Justice lawsuit against the state of Mississippi for unnecessarily institutionalizing adults and children with mental health disabilities.  

A federal judge agreed there should be more community-based options.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Mississippi says even the state’s big institutions weren’t providing the help people needed.  

Sitaniel Wimbley is the executive director of NAMI Mississippi. 

“Prime example: A lot of the facilities are in bigger cities in the state. So, if you live in a rural area, you have to manage getting to the facility,” she said. “Once you get there, you have to make sure you have an appointment. If you have an appointment, there has to be insurance. So, there’s a lot of things that go into actually getting treatment.” 

Now in 2022, the Magnolia State — known for catfish, cotton and Southern charm — is still trying to figure out how to provide patients with the necessary care closer to home.

The good news is changes are on the horizon. For starters, the state is taking full advantage of the new National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.  

“When someone calls 988, they will be either sent to an officer who has to come out — and their person should be trained to help with mental health — or a clinician can come out to that person’s home to try to do an assessment,” Wimbley said. “So, things like that are making a difference.”

Another area program making strides is NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer Program. Jessica James is one of the peers specialists in recovery who’s helping others.

“We have people who live with the mental illness that are in recovery, that are able to help others in their recovery,” she said. 

James is a longtime Mississippi resident who is proud of her accomplishments. She achieved her associate degree with honors, raised two successful kids and has been a peer support specialist with NAMI for eight years. 

For James, it was a long path to get to where she is today.  

“I really didn’t know what was going on with me until it was 2014,” she said. 

James says she suffers from anxiety, depression. 

“I also was told that I may have a little PTSD as well,” she continued.

James recalls one tough day on a job she loved. She’d been missing work but couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed.

“I would have a boost of energy at times,” she said. “But then, all of a sudden, it just seemed like my whole world just went and crashed down.” 

A supervisor called her in an after seeing her doctor’s note  

James says the supervisor dialed the number to make sure the note was real. It was devastating for her.

“I’m seeing her do this in front of me … I felt like I’m being punished for me being sick and like she didn’t care,” she said.

That hopeless feeling didn’t last long, though. She remembered seeing the NAMI promotion table at a health fair she went to with her son. That led to a partnership between the two. 

As a peer, James now helps others push through the mental health issues she faced.

Worsham is also a peer support specialist. Newsy caught up with her during work at the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi.  

“This isn’t about looking at a disease,” she said. “It’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what’s strong with you. That’s our focus with our people.”

She says the program isn’t what you would call “clinical.” It’s actually unique because there are no psychiatrists or licensed therapists involved, and it’s voluntary.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all model. And that’s something that those of us with lived experience, we do understand,” Worsham said. “We are about sitting down and exploring that with you and finding out what your pathway is and what’s going to work. And it might be a Franken-program, you know, you do a little 12-step thing here, or you might have some spiritual thing going on, and then you need a drop-in, you know, meditation.”

A 2019 report by Mental Health America says peer support specialists lower the cost of mental health services and help reduce the rate of hospital recidivism.  

The National Institute for Health Research also found people receiving peer support lowered the risk of being hospitalized by 14% and significantly increased recovery. 

“The state of Mississippi is now starting to focus on it a little bit more and make sure that peer specialists are in every county,” Wimbley said. “I think last year, there were 164 trained to be peer specialists across the state. And then some of those, I want to say between 10 and 12, were actually in jail systems. So, they can now lead others through their mental health journey and say, ‘It’s OK not to be OK.”

As the Magnolia State tries to grow its mental health programs to satisfy the Department of Justice, mental health advocates are helping to cultivate the Peer-to-Peer program to provide help to those in need.  

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

California Woman Gets 18 Months For Kidnapping Hoax

As part of the plea agreement, she has agreed to reimburse law enforcement agencies for the costs of the search for her and her nonexistent kidnapper.

A Northern California mother of two was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for faking her own kidnapping so she could go back to a former boyfriend, which led to a three-week, multi-state search before she resurfaced on Thanksgiving Day in 2016.

Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring under a plea bargain that requires her to pay more than $300,000 in restitution.

Probation officers and Papini’s attorney had recommended that she spend a month in custody and seven months in supervised home detention. But Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb said he opted for an 18-month sentence in order to deter others.

The judge said he considered the seriousness of the offense and “the sheer number of people who were impacted.”

Papini, who was emotional throughout the proceedings, quietly answered, “Yes, sir,” when the judge asked if she understood the sentence. Previously she was in tears as she gave a statement to the court accepting responsibility and admitting her guilt.

“As painful as it is,” Papini accepts her sentence as part of her recovery, defense attorney William Portanova said after the hearing.

Portanova previously said Papini was troubled and disgraced and that she should serve most of her sentence at home. Prosecutors, though, said it was imperative that she spend her full term in prison. The judge ordered her to report to prison Nov. 8.

“Papini’s kidnapping hoax was deliberate, well planned, and sophisticated,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing. And she was still falsely telling people she was kidnapped months after she pleaded guilty in April to staging the abduction and lying to the FBI about it, they wrote.

“The nation is watching the outcome of Papini’s sentencing hearing,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica Alegria and Shelley Weger wrote. “The public needs to know that there will be more than a slap on the wrist for committing financial fraud and making false statements to law enforcement, particularly when those false statements result in the expenditure of substantial resources and implicate innocent people.”

“Outwardly sweet and loving, yet capable of intense deceit … Ms. Papini’s chameleonic personalities drove her to simultaneously crave family security and the freedom of youth,” Portanova wrote in his responding court filing.

So “in pursuit of a non-sensical fantasy,” Portanova said the married mother fled to a former boyfriend in Southern California, nearly 600 miles south of her home in Redding. He dropped her off along Interstate 5 about 150 miles from her home after she said she wanted to go home.

Passersby found her with bindings on her body, a swollen nose, a blurred “brand” on her right shoulder, bruises and rashes across her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles, and burns on her left forearm. All of the injuries were self-inflicted and were designed to substantiate her story that she had been abducted at gunpoint by two Hispanic women while she was out for a run.

The wounds were a manifestation of her “unsettled masochism” and “self-inflicted penance,” Portanova wrote. And once she began, “each lie demanded another lie.”

Prosecutors said Papini’s ruse harmed more than just herself and her family. “An entire community believed the hoax and lived in fear that Hispanic women were roving the streets to abduct and sell women,” they wrote.

Prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence on the low end of the sentencing range in exchange for Papini’s guilty plea. That was projected to be between eight and 14 months in custody, down from the maximum 25 years for the two charges.

She has offered no rationale for her actions, which stumped even independent mental health experts who said her actions didn’t conform with any typical diagnosis.

“Papini’s painful early years twisted and froze her in myriad ways,” Portanova said in arguing for home confinement. With her deception finally revealed, he said, “It is hard to imagine a more brutal public revelation of a person’s broken inner self. At this point, the punishment is already intense and feels like a life sentence.”

But prosecutors said her “past trauma and mental health issues alone cannot account for all of her actions.”

“Papini’s planning of her hoax kidnapping was meticulous and began months in advance — it was not merely the reaction to a traumatic childhood,” they wrote.

After herarrestin March, Papini received more than $30,000 worth of psychiatric care for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She billed the state’s victim compensation fund for the treatment, and now must pay it back as part of her restitution.

As part of the plea agreement, she has agreed to reimburse law enforcement agencies more than $150,000 for the costs of the search for her and her nonexistent kidnappers, and repay the $128,000 she received in disability payments since her return.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Markets Sink Ahead Of Another Expected Interest Rate Hike

By Associated Press
September 19, 2022

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials and for the S&P 500 each tumbled nearly 1% Monday morning.

Wall Street pointed lower before the opening bell Monday ahead of another expected large interest rate hike from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials and for the S&P 500 each tumbled 0.9%.

Britain was observing a day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II. Japan’s markets were closed for a holiday.

Germany’s DAX lost 0.4%, while the CAC 40 in Paris shed 1%.

Markets have been on edge because of stubbornly high inflation and the increases in interest rates being used to fight it. The fear is that the Fed and other central banks might overshoot their policy targets, triggering a recession.

Most economists forecast that the Fed will jack up its primary lending rate another three-quarters of a point when the central bank’s leaders meet this week.

“Fact is, hawkish expectations built on the ‘hot under the hood’ U.S. inflation print means that markets have good reason to be braced for headwinds amid prospects of higher (for longer) rates; and arguably ‘higher for longer’ USD (dollar) as well,” Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1% to 18,565.97 while the Shanghai Composite index shed 0.4% to 3,115.60. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gave up 0.3% to 6,719.90. In Seoul, the Kospi sank 1.1% to 2,355.66.

Japan’s central bank meets Wednesday and Thursday amid rising pressure to counter a sharp decline in the yen’s value against the dollar. That has raised costs for businesses and consumers, who must pay more for imports of oil, gas and other necessities.

However the Bank of Japan has held firm so far in maintaining an ultralow benchmark rate of minus 0.1% in hopes of stimulating investment and spending.

On Friday, a stark warning from FedEx about rapidly worsening economic trends elevated anxiety in markets. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, while the Nasdaq lost almost 1%. The Dow lost almost half percent.

The S&P 500 sank 4.8% for the week, with much of the loss coming from a 4.3% rout on Tuesday following a surprisingly hot report on inflation.

All the major indexes have now posted losses four out of the past five weeks.

FedEx sank 21.4% for its biggest single-day sell-off on record Friday after warning investors that its fiscal first-quarter profit will likely fall short of forecasts because of a drop-off in business. The package delivery service is also shuttering storefronts and corporate offices and expects business conditions to further weaken.

Higher interest rates tend to weigh on stocks, especially the pricier technology sector. The housing sector is also hurting as interest rates rise. Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates climbed above 6% last week for the first time since the housing crash of 2008. The higher rates could make an already tight housing market even more expensive for American homebuyers.

But the rate hikes have yet to cool the economy substantially.

Last week, the U.S. reported that consumer prices rose 8.3% through August compared with last year, the job market is still red-hot and consumers continue to spend, all of which give ammunition to Fed officials who say the economy can tolerate more rate hikes.

In other trading Monday, U.S. benchmark crude lost $2.01 to $83.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It edged up 1 cent to $85.11 per barrel on Friday.

Brent crude oil gave up $1.93 to $89.42 per barrel.

The dollar strengthened to 143.57 Japanese yen from 142.94 yen. The euro slipped to 99.93 cents from $1.0014.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How One Woman Describes Living With Schizophrenia

Michelle Hammer is a New York resident with schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder. She shares her journey.

Michelle Hammer wants you to know schizophrenia. To know the illness is to know her. 

“I go, ‘listen, no couches were harmed in the making of this video.’… People with schizophrenia can have a job or actually speak to people or can do things themselves,” said Hammer. 

Schizophrenia is a brain disease and patients’ symptoms run a spectrum. They can include negative symptoms like social withdrawal or psychosis, when someone is detached from reality. Usually it looks like hallucinations: Seeing or hearing something that isn’t there; or delusions: Fixed false beliefs that a person can’t change. 

For Michelle it began in her teens with paranoid thoughts about her mother. And again at age 18 with her college roommate. 

It would be three more years before she was diagnosed as schizophrenic. 

“Things were up, things were down. And I ended up in the psych ward twice my freshman year and once my sophomore year,” Hammer said.

“Schizophrenia is a very serious psychiatric illness, but we can do a lot to help these people function and have a normal life,” said Dr. René Kahn, the head of psychiatry at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

He says Michelle’s experience is more common for female patients. 

RENE KAHN: Women in general have a better prognosis than men.  

NEWSY’S LINDSEY THEIS: Why?  

KAHN: One of the reasons may be that in women, it starts about five years later than men, meaning that their brain may have developed more and they may have matured more than in men.  

THEIS: What are some of the biggest questions, right now, that are still out there? What are the unknowns that you’re trying to answer, you know, in the immediate future, the next couple of years? 

KAHN: The biggest question still is ‘what is the cause or what are the causes of schizophrenia?’ Because we don’t know, and we really need to find out if we really want to cure the disease or prevent the disease. 

With neither a cure nor prevention, doctors say medication is key for patients. That process is complicated.   

Antipsychotic drugs are available to counter psychosis. But that is only one part of the illness. 

“Finding the right meds probably took me about ten years, and I’ve probably tried about 20 different medications,” said Hammer.  

Today Michelle’s life includes daily meds and frequent psychiatrist televisits to make sure they work and she’s still taking them. It also includes her partner, Carolyn. They married last year. And most recently, a new puppy.  

“People kind of like treat people with schizophrenia — they’re always wondering, ‘who’s your support team?'” said Hammer.  “They don’t think you’re independent at all.”  

THEIS: So no caregiver?  

HAMMER: Yeah.  

THEIS: Just you.  

HAMMER: I can take care of myself. I can do that. I’m a big girl, you know? I’m a big girl. I can do things, you know. I can do things.

THEIS: Does the schizophrenia diagnosis impact how you guys are as a couple in marriage?  

CAROLYN HAMMER: If we’re talking and then like I say something and then I’m like waiting for her to respond, but she’s talking to like somebody else instead, it’s like, not bad it’s just like annoying.  And I’m like, okay, I guess I’m going to say what I have to say again.  

Schizophrenia is rare. About 1% of U.S. adults have the mental illness. Compare that to one in five people who have an anxiety disorder. 

But it reportedly shows up more often in the media. It;’s portrayed negatively and falsely, according to research. 

THEIS: Was that ‘Violence and a dangerous person’ — is that common or is that more of the exception?  

KAHN: It’s absolutely the exception. 

Since 2019 Michelle’s recorded and shared video of her schizophrenic episodes. She wants to debunk the stigma that people with her illness are violent. 

In them, she appears to speak to someone off camera — except no one is there. She describes this as being in another world.

“I am currently under seven medications and I’m still doing that. So if I wasn’t on any medication, I’d be doing that constantly, all the time,” she says. 

She’s also started a business called Schizophrenic NYC. She sells original activist-minded clothing and art. They include colorful rorschach prints and t-shirts with hopeful slogans. 

“I saw a guy on the F train and he was talking to himself in the same mannerisms in which I talked to myself and I was like, you know, what’s the difference between me and him? And the difference is that I have my support team of a family, friends and doctor, and if I didn’t have that, I would totally be in his position,” said Hammer. 

Michelle says it’s a way to give a voice to her community, especially those who otherwise could not. 

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

How Live Storytelling Is Helping People Cope With Mental Illness

Heather Bodie is the executive artistic director at an organization that uses live reenactment to start discussions on topics about mental health.

Live storytelling is an emotionally powerful medium, and one organization in Chicago is using it to get more people to talk about mental health. 

Heather Bodie is the executive artistic director of erasing the distance, a non-profit arts organization started in 2005 that uses live storytelling to foster community discussions about topics like alcoholism, depression, anxiety and PTSD.   

“You’ll notice, even in the last like five years, billboards on the side of the highway or signs on the side of the bus that say ‘talk to someone,’ right? But if you’ve never placed language to what it is that you’re living with, to what it is that’s going on in your body, if you have deep seated stigma and shame around what it means to live with a mental health issue or to be going through crisis, you go sit down and talk to someone, but what are you going to say?” said Bodie. “The stories are performed by professional actors. But the way it works is that people sit down with us and share their own experiences in one-on-one interview style setting for anywhere from like an hour and a half to two hours, we transcribe those interviews, and then shape them verbatim text into two page scripts that we hand to those actors.”

The performances are followed by moderated discussions where audiences can talk about their own experiences and the ways they relate to the stories they just heard. 

It’s not therapy, though Bodie says it can feel therapeutic. And most importantly, it gives audiences the opportunity to learn how to talk about mental health with others. 

“If we can’t talk about it, we can’t take advantage of the resources that can lead to potential healing. So, storytelling helps people understand how to put words to what they live with,” she said. 

Beyond their live and virtual storytelling events, erasing the distance also works with schools, faith organizations and workplaces to reach different audiences — especially those who are new to discussions about mental health.  

“I think that’s our biggest challenge. A lot of times in our public performances, the people who join the room are here for it, right? And I wish, honestly, that more folks who were new to the experience of discussing their mental health showed up to these sorts of things,” said Bodie. 

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<