Saturday, April 2, 2016

How to Help Someone Who's Depressed

Just trying to lift their spirits isn't enough. We explain why, and share answers on the physical signs of depression, symptoms in women, and more.

Daily Inspirational Quote - April 2, 2016

“The way people treat you is a statement about who they are as a human being. It is not a statement about you.”

Personally, it took me a long time to realize the truth of this. As a Pisces and therefore a Water sign I am very much ruled by my emotions and other people’s perceptions of me impacted deeply. Their actions and words could, even unintentionally, make me doubt myself and my abilities and also cause my feelings to be hurt. A big softy really! However, I have come to the realization that everybody has their own story and their own personal dramas in their life, and that sometimes I was just “in the line of fire.” Now, as well as being a lot more confident in who I am, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt in that they are not presently in a good place, so choose to deflect the “fire” and let it go.


Remember to Remember

"When I was in the fourth grade, in the summertime when it would rain, we would always go out on a friend's porch and sit there all in a row, enjoying ourselves just looking out at the world, hearing the rain come down. And once, when I was meditating, I thought, Why not just be inside myself like that, just looking out? And by God, it was just like sitting on the porch, looking out at the rain! That was a moment of being much more whole, much more present, experiencing one's being. Art can bring you there, but if you do art to get there, you won't get there. [laughs] I hate to tell you that, but it's true." Read on for a special interview with the late artist Nicholas Hlobeczy.

Complete. Fools.

By Kristi

It isn’t lost on this sign-seeking girl that Autism Awareness Month begins on a day dedicated to pranks. Joke’s on me; I get it- I’m the fool. Twenty-four hours later, the punch line to the gut persists as World Autism Awareness DAY commences. Ha!

Over the years I’ve gone from praying for those poor families living with autism, to realizing I was one of those families, to hiding out, to speaking out, to finally…selling out. You heard me, autism. This year, you’re nothing but a lame hoax to me.

Today, and for the whole goddamned month for that matter, I choose to ignore you. I refuse to become any more “aware” of you and I certainly won’t be “celebrating” you. I will wake up on April 2 to my beautiful son knocking on my forehead, exclaiming “It’s Saturday, mom. It’s my day.” It will be 6:00 a.m. Who needs beauty rest in our house? Have you not seen what we look like?

J.R. will stand over me, wearing a pajama top that’s a size too small (he never took the hint when I asked him why he adores a belly shirt) along with non matching, severe high-waters. I receive him, donning my husband’s XL tee and sweatpant cutoffs that are way, way too short. Because neither J.R. nor I are very self aware. He’ll want McDonald’s for breakfast, and not because he’s an autistic junk food junkie, but because McDonald’s is fantastic. And you know it.

J.R.’s hotcakes are presented on a styrofoam platter sans the typical accompaniments. Because the cashier knows a boy with discriminating taste when she sees one- certainly not because he’s said to her “GROSS! I do NOT like butter or syrup, dummy” a few trips (or 19) before.  J.R. thanks her by name, the gentleman he is, and pivots tray in hand to stand over a police officer, who just so happens to be plopped in J.R.’s usual spot. It’s not as if he craves the familiar or is obsessive in any shape or form. J.R. just has a knack for scoping out the finest of seating, wherever we go. His future in luxury branding is secure.

The officer certainly doesn’t suspect we’re a “special” family. His eleven year-old stalker stands frozen in front of him, stiffly saluting. Our eight year old is screaming “He is not military, STUPID!” and I am not sure if my husband is rolling his eyes at his kids or the fact that I am still sporting the same crotch cutting shorts I’d slept in. All the officer can do is smile, in recognition of the fact that we’re obviously living the American dream.  And before J.R. can ask him a third opinion question concerning the worldwide smash, Free Willy 4, the officer quietly slips away. I secretly wish J.R. closed with the usual “Try not to shoot at too many criminals today,” because I enjoy an inappropriate comment just as much as the next girl. Now if we were only at Dunkin Donuts…

Breakfast is normally followed by a trip to the park.  Here, J.R. displays his penchant for avoiding all typical types of play- he’s so creative, that kid! Who needs swings and who gives a crap about kicking a soccer ball around when you can scale the rock wall meant to keep children inside the confines of the park?  It must feel wonderful to be ten feet tall. And pacing (okay racing) its perimeter, over and over, has honed an agility in J.R. I’ve never seen in any other child.  And calluses you’d have to shave with a belt sander. The best part? His little brother is right at his heels. J.R. cuts his leg but does not care because in his mind, band-aid application is a fate worse than death.  Boys!

My husband’s and my idea of when we need to leave the park is not at all in sync with J.R.’s timeline.  A tantrum ensues.  A list of demands, then threats are screamed toward us that often include, but are certainly not limited to: I’m going to call the police on you, You’re the worst parents alive, I don’t want to live under your roof anymore, and You can die now. My husband and I laugh, because we are allowed.  He’s acting like a fool just as we surely did when we were kids, not wanting the fun to end.  Are the surrounding parents mortified at all of the behaviors the Vannattas are displaying? Probably. Then they may not want to follow us over to the grocery store.

I look to my husband and nod, as to agree with him that our world is complete.  We could dwell on all of the things our family won’t have, compliments of autism, but we choose not to. Not on this day, not this month, and not this century. Life is about perception, and we stopped wondering years ago if God had “punked” us. J.R. is simply a unique individual with unique challenges, not to mention with a unique idea of what he wants out of life.  You know, just like everyone else.

If we can’t love and accept our son and our LIFE with our son (high jinks included), nobody will. And that is no joke.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Daily Inspirational Quote – April 1, 2016

“Silence is a source of great strength.”

Haven’t we all, at one time or another, had to bite our tongue in order to keep quiet because, we’re in a situation where, if we give vent to what we actually want to say, all hell will break loose? I know I have. Hurtful words said in anger can never be unsaid. Although not easy, taking time to think before we speak in these kind of situations, is the wisest course to take in preventing things from escalating and culminating in a situation that there is no coming back from. This is in no way a sign of weakness but of great strength.


To the Child Who Gets My Little Brother's Heart

On March 2, 2016, Jason Longhurst's 11-year-old brother Eric was hit by a truck while crossing the street. The trauma knocked him unconscious, the damage to his brain quickly stopped his breathing, and it was soon clear that Eric wouldn't survive. Eric's family decided to do that which Eric would have wanted -- donate a part of himself to help others. And what part of him would be Eric's greatest gift to the world but his generous and full heart? In this touching piece Longhurst writes about the lessons learned from his little brother's incredible capacity to love all of life.

Food Frauds That Can Wreck Your Diet

Caesar Salad

Some foods that we think are healthy can be sneaky little diet wreckers. Take Caesar salad, for example. You might think that because it's a salad, it's fine. But just a small bowl has 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat, thanks to loads of dressing.

Food Fix: Use only 1 tablespoon of dressing and 2 tablespoons of tangy Parmesan cheese.

Fresh Smoothies

That berry blend at a smoothie shop can have a whopping 80 grams of sugar, 350 calories or more, little protein, and often no fresh fruit. Fruit concentrates are often used instead of fresh fruit. And sorbet, ice cream, and sweeteners can make these no better than a milkshake.

Food Fix: Get the small cup. Ask for fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, milk, or protein powder to blend in protein and good nutrition.

Energy Bars

Many of these are simply enhanced candy bars with more calories (up to 500) and a higher price tag. Their compact size also leaves many people unsatisfied. A few bites, and it's gone. 

Food Fix: Choose bars that have 200 calories or less, some fiber, and at least 5 grams of protein, which helps provide energy when the sugar rush fades.

Chicken Burrito

With beans and no red meat, what's the problem? About 1,000 calories and plenty of saturated fat -- cheese, sour cream, and the fat in the jumbo flour tortilla all contribute. And when the burrito is as big as your forearm, the serving is just too big.

Food Fix: Share one. Or try a soft taco with fajita-style grilled meats and veggies on a corn tortilla with tasty, low-calorie salsa.

Sugar-Free Foods

Sugar-free food sounds like a no-brainer for weight loss. But it can be a problem if you think you can then have a large order of fries or a big dessert. Upsizing the fries adds nearly 300 calories to your meal. If you eat more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight.

Food Fix: Watch your total calories.

Enhanced Water

Vitamins are commonly added to bottled water and advertised on the front label. But some brands also add sugar, taking water from zero calories to as many as 125.

Food Fix: Refrigerating tap water may make it more appealing. Or try packets of crystallized lemon to add flavor without calories.

2% Milk

Two-percent milk sounds healthier than "whole" milk. But you may not realize that it still has more than half the saturated fat of whole milk. Here's what's in a cup of milk:

Whole milk (3.25%) = 150 cal., 8g fat, 5g sat. fat
Reduced-fat (2%) = 130 cal., 5g fat, 3g sat. fat
Skim (nonfat) = 80 cal., 0g fat, 0g sat. fat

Food Fix: If you like whole milk, blend it with 2% for a while, then 1%, then skim, until you get used to the taste of nonfat milk.

2% Milk Latte

It's tempting to choose reduced-fat milk in a latte and reward yourself with whipped cream on top. But this trade-off still adds up to 580 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat in a 20-ounce white chocolate mocha. That's more than a quarter-pound burger with cheese.

Food Fix: A sweetened, frothy beverage is a diet splurge. Limit the damage with nonfat (skim) milk and no whipped cream. You'll avoid 130 calories and two-thirds of the saturated fat.

Turkey Hot Dogs

The nutritional content of turkey hot dogs varies from brand to brand. It may say "less fat" on the front label, but when you check the fine print on the back, you find there's still plenty of fat left in each sausage.

Food Fix: Compare nutrition labels for the lowest fat content. There are some really good choices now available. Or eat them only a few times a year.

Breakfast Muffins

Muffins beat doughnuts, but they're still mainly sugary little cakes of refined flour. One store-bought muffin can hit 500 calories with 11 teaspoons of sugar.

Food Fix: Go no larger than 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Or look for 100-calorie muffins at the store. Some brands are a surprisingly good source of whole grains and fiber.

Low-Fat Granola

The low-fat version of this crunchy cereal has only 10% fewer calories and is still full of sugar. Plus, the low-fat label can easily lead you to overeat. A study at Cornell University found that people ate 49% more granola when they thought it was low-fat, easily blowing past the measly 10% calorie savings.

Food Fix: Look for low-sugar, whole-grain cereal, and sweeten it with fresh fruit.

Low-Fat Yogurt

Yogurt is a nutrition superstar, rich in protein and calcium. But many yogurts have lots of added sugar. Some brands add 30 or more grams of fructose, sucrose, or other sweeteners. Compare plain to fruited yogurts to see the difference between the sugars that are naturally in milk and added sugar listed on the nutrition facts panel.

Food Fix: Six ounces should be 90-130 calories and under 20 grams of sugar. Avoid sugary "fruit on the bottom" yogurts. Or blend sweetened yogurt with plain, nonfat yogurt.

Multigrain Products

When you see "multigrain" or "seven grain" on bread, pasta, or waffles, flip the package over and check the nutrition label. Even with more than one type of grain, the product could be made largely from refined grains, such as white flour, which have been stripped of fiber and many nutrients.

Food Fix: Look for "100% whole grain" (oats, wheat) as the first ingredient. Or choose the brand with more fiber.

Light Olive Oil

Anything labeled "light" is enticing when you're watching your weight. But often the food is not what you expect. Light olive oil, for instance, has the same calorie and fat content as other types. It's just lighter in color and taste.

Food Fix: Some light foods do help you save calories. Compare the labels in the store.

Iced Tea

The antioxidants in iced tea don't make it a health food. Too much added sugar can turn a tall glass into a health hazard. A 20-ounce bottle can have more than 200 calories and 59 grams of sugar.

Food Fix: Skip "sweet tea" in favor of unsweetened iced tea. Lemon or artificial sweeteners add zing without calories. Herbal and berry teas taste mildly sweet without sugar.

Microwave Popcorn

The word "snack" can be a little misleading on microwave popcorn. One popular brand packs 9 grams of fat into each "snack size" bag.

Food Fix: Compare nutrition labels, and get a lower-fat popcorn that has no trans fat at all. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or low-salt spice blends for added flavor without a lot of fat.

Iceberg Lettuce

This popular lettuce is big on crunch but a big "zero" when it comes to vitamins and flavor. And its boring taste leads many people to overdo it on the dressing and toppings.

Food Fix: Add spinach or arugula to the mix. Crumble 2 tablespoons (100 calories) of blue cheese or feta on top. Then splash the salad with a little oil and vinegar to spread flavor without a lot of calories.

Salty Toppings

Processed artichoke hearts, chickpeas, and olives are just a few of the salt shockers lurking on the salad bar. To avoid getting too much sodium, limit anything that comes out of a can. Also pass up cured meats. Choose beans or tuna, but not both.

Food Fix: Radishes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and other fresh vegetables are low in sodium. Rinse canned beans to remove a lot of the salt.


Cabbage is fine, but coleslaw can be a diet disaster. At one popular restaurant, a small cup (4.5 ounces) has 260 calories and 21 grams of fat -- a third of most people's daily limit -- thanks to the mayonnaise.

Food Fix: Some places make a healthier slaw, so ask for nutrition information. At home, try low-fat mayonnaise or mix with nonfat yogurt.

Banana Chips

Deep-fried bananas don't look greasy, but just one ounce has 145 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 8 grams of saturated fat: about the same as a fast-food hamburger.

Food Fix: Try a fresh banana: four times more food, 0 grams of fat, all for about 100 calories.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

World’s First HIV-to-HIV Liver Transplant Gives Hope to Patients Desperately in Need

Melissa Healy
Los Angeles Times

In a first that gives HIV-positive patients yet another chance for long lives, surgeons at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center have transplanted a kidney and a liver from a deceased donor who was positive for HIV into two HIV-positive recipients.

The groundbreaking transplant surgeries using organs from an HIV-positive donor ends a 25-year stretch during which the organs of HIV-positive people willing to donate them were rejected for use in transplants. The experimental procedure follows the 2013 enactment of the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, which repealed the ban on using such organs for transplantation.

"This is an unbelievably exciting day for our hospital and our team, but more importantly for patients living with both HIV and end-stage organ disease," said Dr. Dorry L. Segev, the Johns Hopkins surgeon who performed the surgeries. "For these individuals, this could mean a new chance at life."

The liver transplant was the world's first involving an HIV-positive donor and recipient, and the kidney transplant was the first such surgery in the U.S., according to the medical center.

"What we had done before was take HIV-negative organs and put them into HIV-positive people," Segev said. "Using an HIV-positive organ adds one degree of complexity, which is now there's a new strain of HIV being introduced into the recipient. The thing we have to do is just make sure that their HIV regimen gets adapted accordingly."

Segev, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, played a key role in lobbying Congress to change the longstanding ban on the use of HIV-infected organs in transplantation.

Under the new law, only transplant recipients who are HIV-positive will be eligible to receive organs from HIV-positive donors. Still, the change is expected to make hundreds and potentially thousands of transplantable organs available each year to HIV-infected people with end-stage diseases of the kidneys, heart, liver or lungs.

While the surgeries at Hopkins involved the use of organs from a deceased donor, experts expect that in the future, some living HIV-positive donors will step forward to offer a kidney for transplantation.

As other transplant centers join Hopkins in performing the procedures, the practice promises to shorten the line for all who await the call that a donor organ has become available.

There are 121,220 patients listed on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network's waiting list, and another name is added, on average, every 10 minutes. Each day, an average of 22 patients die waiting for an organ.

Of the close to 31,000 organ transplants performed annually in the United States, those involving organs from HIV-infected donors will remain a small minority: Experts estimate that each year, 500 to 600 HIV-positive people would die under circumstances that would make their organs available for transplant. As more HIV-infected patients on the waiting list receive organs, uninfected patients will also move up in line.

Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing, said that key questions remain about the new generation of transplants, which are conducted under rules that treat them as research procedures. Among those are whether organs from HIV-positive donors will be as resilient as organs that have come from uninfected donors.

Klassen also said that in matching donors and recipients, physicians will have the added challenge of trying to ensure that an HIV-infected recipient does not get an organ from a donor infected with a more aggressive strain of the human immunodeficiency virus. In most cases, he said, that fit can be assumed if both recipient and donor have taken the same anti-viral medications and done well on them.

But in cases in which a deceased donor's HIV infection is diagnosed at the time of his or her death, that may not be possible, said Klassen.

Still, Klassen emphasized that the new procedures underscore how dramatically the prognosis for HIV-positive patients has changed.

"Certainly for years when HIV first came on the scene, it was a fatal illness: Everybody that got it died," he said. HIV-positive patients were not likely to get listed on the wait list because their prognoses were poor, and the thought of using HIV-infected organs would have been unthinkable, he said. With the success of anti-viral cocktails in treating HIV-infected people, "patients really have good prospects for long-term survival," Klassen said.

"All these changes in transplantation are completely dependent" on those changes, he said. HIV-positive patients, who are higher risk of developing kidney failure because of the disease, have long been eligible to stand in line for transplanted organs alongside uninfected patients.

And at major transplantation centers, surgeons have substantial experience in performing surgeries on HIV-infected patients. Between 2005 and 2015, surgeons in the United States have transplanted donated organs into 1,376 HIV-positive patients, and centers where those procedures have been performed will be the first to gain approval for transferring organs from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients.

Those surgeries have helped physicians work out the medication regimens and other treatment issues that work best for HIV-positive transplant patients.

The two transplant recipients at Hopkins will receive the same follow-up care as patients who do not have HIV, Segev said.

"This is going to be the same as any other liver and kidney transplant," he said. "We'll see them very frequently initially, and that frequency will decrease as they improve and as things get more stable."

While Hopkins is the first transplant center to perform the experimental procedure in the U.S., two others — Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia and Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York — have also applied to perform such procedures as donor organs become available.

As of late Tuesday, five HIV-positive transplant candidates were listed at approved centers for HIV-positive organs, according to UNOS spokeswoman Anne Plaschke. Four were awaiting a kidney and one awaits a donated liver, she said.

Watch Stars Perform in David Bowie Tribute Concerts This Weekend for Charity

It’s been three months since David Bowie the British rock visionary left this world of mortals to venture on among the stars – but he has still not been forgotten.
Tomorrow on March 31st, renowned artists the Pixies, Blondie, Michael Stipe, Patti Smith, J Mascis, The Flaming Lips, and Mumford & Sons will be honoring Mr. Stardust at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The show will be followed by another concert at the Radio City Music Hall on April 1st.
The two performances will be live streamed through Skype for any fans willing to donate a suggested contribution of $20 (or £15). All proceeds will be going to a selection of arts-based charities in memory of the late musician.
Tickets were sold out in a matter of hours with VIP package prices ranging as high as $3,000.
Tune in Friday night at 8:00PM EST on the concert’s website to donate and join in the jamming.
Join fans worldwide in a virtual memorial, a fitting send-off, for our favorite Starman.

Why Don’t Students Take Social-Emotional Learning Home?

By Vicki Zakrzewski

New research suggests we need to take account of how diverse groups of students view and apply SEL skills.

The intentions of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs are good—and so are the results. With outcomes like increased academic success, improved relationships with peers and teachers, and decreased risky behavior, few could deny that implementing SEL in schools is a win-win situation.
But recent studies have found that there’s no guarantee that a student will use SEL skills outside the classroom, a finding that requires us to ask the obvious question:  “Why not?” And perhaps even more importantly: “What is our ultimate purpose in teaching SEL?”
When I look at the approaches to emotional expression and management, empathy, relationships, decision-making, and conflict in most SEL curricula, they make a lot of sense to me. But perhaps that’s because I’m coming from the dominant white, Western, individualistic culture that created the curricula and, hence, decided which values, behaviors, and beliefs are appropriate to teach and practice.
New research is trying to push SEL beyond those cultural boundaries. The authors of one study interviewed a diverse group of urban and rural middle schoolers in a research-based SEL program to find out if they were applying those skills to life outside of school. The findings reveal that contextual factors mattered greatly as to whether or not the skills were used. For example, one boy mentioned that he would not empathize with a student who was being bullied if that student had bullied others in the past. Another student felt that aggression was the only solution out on the streets.
Other mitigating factors included students’ values and beliefs—and whether they felt an SEL skill was relevant and would actually work in a given situation. One girl thought that the strategies of staying calm and taking deep breaths when facing a bully would encourage rather than hinder a bully.
These and many other examples from the study show that, when teaching and designing SEL programs, we need to take into account factors such as students’ cultural values and beliefs about emotional expression and social interaction, along with exposure to racism, prejudice, and violence—all of which affect whether and how a student will use SEL skills. This research strongly suggests that we need to widen the lens in how we view and teach SEL.

How SEL might look to different cultures

Before considering these differences, I want to share two caveats. Most of the research compares individualistic cultures—e.g., U.S., UK, Australia—with collectivist ones, like China, Korea, or Japan. (Some research indicates that African-American and Latino-American cultures contain elements of collectivism, too.) This gives us a start in understanding our differences, but it’s still limited. Also, the differences between the cultures are not black and white: Elements of both cultures are found within each one.
For example, individualistic cultures view the self in relation to the individual, where a person’s goals, achievements, and rights matter the most. Thus, personal expression, autonomy, and high-arousal emotions such as enthusiasm and excitement are valued, as is being aware of and managing one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Children are encouraged to articulate their emotions as a way to build healthy self-esteem, and to exhibit self-confidence and assertiveness. In resolving a conflict, the norm is to express one’s desires and work out a win-win solution. All of these qualities mirror much of what is taught in SEL programs.
In contrast, collectivist cultures define the self in relation to others and uphold group harmony as the most salient value. Thus, cooperation, interdependence, and relationship skills are highly valued, and success is viewed in terms of family, not the individual. Emotional reserve and feeling calm and content are more the norm, as is humility and making sacrifices for the happiness of others. People are expected to defer to those of higher social standing, which helps to circumvent conflict. When conflict does occur in more-rigid social hierarchies, people will often just duck or disengage.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from these differences is that there is more than one way to live in this world—and both have their strengths and limitations.
So, imagine the inner challenge students from a collectivist culture might face in learning to resolve conflict by asserting themselves and their individual needs using “I-messages” (“I feel sad when you say that to me…”), when they’re taught at home to preserve group harmony by avoiding conflict. Or asking them to talk about their emotions or highlight personal successes, both of which could cause major discomfort because of the focus on the individual rather than the group.
Dena Simmons, Director of Implementation of the RULER program at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, cautions educators of the mismatch between the social-emotional skills (and their underlying values) being taught in school and those at home.
“When you tell a student that there is one way to do this skill and this is the right way,” she explains, “and then if what they do at home is different, then there’s a disequilibrium. A process of self-hatred is started because everything the school does is basically saying, ‘You’re not right.’”
For educators who have multiple cultures in a classroom, each one falling somewhere on the individualist-collectivist continuum, being aware of and engaging in conversations with students about the various approaches to social and emotional practices can help validate students’ experiences and humanity. These kinds of discussions can also serve as a springboard to growing students’ understanding and acceptance of each other—perhaps a more powerful SEL tool than any other.
SEL programmers, too, have a role to play in helping teachers navigate the cultural aspect of SEL. Mary Hurley, Coordinator for SEL and Leadership Development in Oakland Unified School District—one with tremendous cultural diversity that is also part of CASEL’s Collaborating Districts Initiative—says that SEL programs need to be flexible and in reciprocal relationship with the school and community that they’re in.
“It can’t be a rigid one-size-fits-all scope and sequence that doesn’t take into account the cultural context,” she says. “Schools need to work in partnership with these programs, designing the professional development and addressing which program elements are core and which can be modified to fit cultural differences.”

Using SEL to surface social tensions

In addition to cultural differences, SEL programs and the educators who use them need to take into account the society in which students live and the impact this has on students’ likelihood of using SEL skills. It also pays to question a school’s purpose and methods for teaching these skills.
One of the great misfortunes of our world is that issues of racism, prejudice, power, and privilege still exist—and are quite rampant, as situations such as the U.S. primaries and the refugee crisis in Europe glaringly reveal.
Multiple studies show that continued exposure to racism can have a profoundly negative physical and psychological impact on people, including heart disease, difficulty sleeping, shame, guilt, hopelessness, acting-out behavior, self-blame, and various other symptoms.
SEL can help—but only if educators approach students with respect and self-awareness.
Racism involves imposing control over someone less powerful, often by communicating to the victim that he or she is unworthy, lazy, or deserving of harsh treatment. Consider that every day many of our youth (and adults) face a world that tells them, “You are not worthy and valuable,” which, according to Dr. Kenneth Hardy, expert in working with traumatized and oppressed populations, “makes it hard for youth to know who they really are—and easy to believe they are what others say.” In turn, this internalized messaging, he writes, “impairs the ability to advocate for oneself.”
This is where SEL can make a profound difference, because it has the potential to create a safe classroom environment in which students and educators can have open, honest, and validating conversations about the reality of what students face everyday. It also can provide students with emotional tools to counter negative messages and stand up against racism in their communities.
“When SEL is taught in context,” says Mary Hurley, “it highlights the strengths and challenges that an individual or community are bringing to the table.”
To illustrate this, Mary describes a fifth-grade classroom that regularly engages in class meetings as taught by the Caring School Community SEL program:
We have a video of a student who is talking about how he manages being teased or bullied, but he distinctly draws a line between how he handles it in school versus how he handles it walking to and from school. At school, the SEL skills he was taught are appropriate, but he has to manage himself differently outside school in order to be safe.
Instead of ignoring or trying to fix the student’s dilemma, the teacher turned it back over to the students asking them what they thought. According to Mary, some agreed with him and others told him that he needed to be able to walk away and calm down.
“It surfaced the tension, it didn’t resolve it,” she explains. “I was thrilled that the students felt comfortable enough to say what they did, which demonstrates that context really matters.”

SEL and the hidden wounds of racism

SEL can also serve to address the difficult issues of racism, privilege, and power at an even deeper level. And this is where we have to consider the question of what our purpose is in teaching SEL in the first place.
For instance, is it to be used as a band-aid for fitting the student into a particular academic mold determined by the dominant culture? Or can it help educators and schools understand and prevent the violence children experience when their authentic selves, cultural identities, and experiences are not acknowledged?
To illustrate, in classrooms with students who face racism and prejudice every day, self-management, one of the key components of SEL, often becomes anger management.
“Many youth of color suffer from the race-related trauma of rage,” explains Kenneth Hardy, “and youth of color are often prescribed anger management intervention, while rage from the hidden wound of racial oppression remains unaddressed.”
This can play out in the classroom when teachers use SEL as classroom management—getting the students to be quiet and compliant, rather than acknowledging and discussing the harsh realities they face in the world.
But getting to this level is challenging and requires educators who are willing to do the difficult emotional inner work of addressing the underlying issues of race in order to skillfully bring this to students…and then reflecting on who is in their classrooms and understanding the narrative and experiences of the students.
Dena Simmons addresses this with teachers who are using the RULER program. “We have educators do reflection on their own power and privilege and how that shows up in the classroom and how that may inadvertently cause violence to students,” she explains. “And we ask them to consider what identity and what baggage they might be bringing into the classroom.”
In addition, at least two SEL programs, Facing History and Ourselves and Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, tackle issues of racism and prejudice directly.
Ultimately, seeing SEL through a lens of culture, racism, prejudice, power, and privilege creates a very complex picture—and it needs to occur in classrooms and schools with students from all backgrounds, not just those who are impacted the most by these issues.
But while there are no quick fixes or easy answers—I’ve only scratched the surface—there is a great opportunity here: To grow in our awareness and understanding of ourselves, our students, our schools, and our society—and perhaps to make some long awaited and urgent changes.
Deep gratitude to Dena Simmons from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Mary Hurley from Oakland Unified School District, and Linda Lantieri from Inner Resilience for sharing their insight and wisdom on this topic.