As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of vaccination has become increasingly clear.
As social workers, we play a vital role in promoting vaccination and ensuring that our clients and communities have access to the information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their health. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has been at the forefront of this effort through its Connect to End COVID-19 initiative, and fighting for policies that are important in the battle against COVID-19, and aid to those in need. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of COVID-19 vaccination, the role of social workers, clients in vaccine decision making, and the resources available through Connect to End COVID-19.
The Importance of Covid-19 Vaccination:
The COVID-19 virus is highly transmissible and can lead to severe illness and death. As of today, over 1.1 million Americans have died from COVID-19. The virus continues to take the lives of more than 250 people per day in the US and causes Long COVID in up to 30 percent of infected individuals. Additionally, the virus can cause new mental health disorders and exacerbate pre-existing ones, even in those who have had mild or asymptomatic infection. Fewer than 70 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and under 18 percent have received the recommended, updated booster dose that was approved in September 2022.
Most of the people who have died of COVID-19 were unvaccinated, including many who became infected after the vaccines were available. Some subgroups with lower vaccination rates, such as those with certain pre-existing medical or mental health conditions, older adults, pregnant people, and certain racial/ethnic groups, are at a higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. A key reason for this is vaccine hesitancy, which is a delay or refusal to receive a vaccine. Vaccine hesitancy is related to a variety of psychosocial factors and exacerbated by misinformation, which continues to circulate.
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect ourselves from severe illness and death from COVID-19. This is particularly important for certain vulnerable populations, who are at a higher risk of severe outcomes. As we continue to live with the pandemic, it's crucial that as social workers, we all do our part to promote vaccination and ensure that everyone has access to accurate, science-based information about the vaccines. This includes providing education regarding the vaccine, as well as addressing barriers to vaccination, and advocating for policies that promote vaccination.
As social workers, we have a unique role to play in this effort. By providing accurate and up-to-date information about the vaccine, removing barriers to vaccination, and advocating for policies that promote vaccination, we can help to protect ourselves, our clients, and our communities from COVID-19.
What is the NASW and how do they promote COVID-19 vaccination?
The NASW is the largest professional association of social workers in the United States, with over 110,000 members. The organization's mission is to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies that impact the communities in which they serve.
One of the ways that the NASW promotes COVID-19 vaccination is through the Connect to End COVID-19 initiative. It is partnering in this national effort with the University of Texas/Austin School of Social Work, and the effort is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The initiative provides a variety of free resources for social workers and the public, including fact sheets, webinars, virtual trainings, and podcasts. A key focus is equipping social workers to talk with their vaccine hesitant clients about the vaccines, using modalities such as Motivational Interviewing. The webinars and trainings provide free CEUs. To learn more, go to https://www.socialworkers.org/Practice/Infectious-Diseases/COVID-19-Vaccine-Confidence
The Role of Social Workers in Promoting Vaccination
As social workers, we have a unique role to play in promoting COVID-19 vaccination. We work with a wide range of clients and communities, from vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, to marginalized groups such as people experiencing homelessness and individuals from racial and ethnic minority communities.
One of the most important things we can do as social workers is to educate ourselves and our clients about the vaccine. This includes providing accurate and up-to-date information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, as well as addressing common concerns and myths about the vaccine.
We can also work to remove barriers to vaccination by connecting our clients with resources such as transportation to vaccine clinics. We can also advocate for policies that promote vaccination and ensure that everyone has access to the vaccine.
In conclusion, vaccination is a crucial tool in the fight against COVID-19, and social workers play an important role in promoting vaccination among the public. The NASW provides many resources to help social workers in this effort. It's important that we all get vaccinated to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. We encourage everyone to talk to their healthcare providers about vaccination, and to take advantage of the resources available through Connect to End COVID-19. Together, we can help to bring an end to the pandemic and protect the health and well-being of all
Everyone walks through life a little differently, no matter how similar their circumstances may appear. For many people, racism is a significant part of everyday life. It crops up in seemingly mundane interactions and rears its ugly head in unexpected places. As with any consistent presence, racism has a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of millions of individuals.
La’Tesha Sampson wears many hats; from licensed clinical social worker, to entrepreneur, to philanthropist, to volunteer, La’Tesha does it all. She is the CEO and Founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services, where she leads a team of therapists working with individuals, couples, and families. For over two decades, La’Tesha has been serving disenfranchised communities through her professional and philanthropic ventures. Despite her achievements, she too experiences everyday racism. As a woman in power and an educated social worker, La’Tesha knows that even small acts of racism have a huge impact.
Racism Is a Source of Trauma
“Racism is an unacceptable yet ubiquitous source of trauma,” she explains. “It leaves racialized people questioning their self-worth and even their own realities.” Acts of racism suggest to racialized people that they are lesser in some essential way that they cannot control. As if that were not painful and traumatic enough, the effect is compounded by a cultural trend that dismisses the pain of those on the receiving end. It was just a joke, it is not a big deal, or it happens all the time. These may sound like excuses, but they are key indicators that there is a real cultural and societal problem when it comes to everyday racism. They shift the responsibility from the attacker to the attacked in a way that is so common and so frequent that the victim begins to wonder if the slurs they encounter are true — if they really are lesser than because of the color of their skin.
Racism is common yet unpredictable. You never know when it will surface or how. “The repeated exposure to the trauma of racism exacerbates its effect,” says La’Tesha. “Stress, low self-esteem, and anxiety are common and can lead to more complicated issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure, increased risk for disease, and more.” If left unchecked, the effects of racism on mental health can be severe.
The status quo needs to change when it comes to racism and the world has seen some movement on this front as of late. Black Lives Matter is on more people’s lips and the injustices faced by racialized communities are receiving more attention on news platforms and in politics. When it comes to acts of everyday racism; however, larger movements are not enough to protect individuals in the moment. “If you experience or witness racism, call it out,” La’Tesha advises. “Give it a name and say that it’s not okay.” For many victims, this simple act of calling racism what it is prevents them from later questioning their reality. Particularly as a witness, it’s important to let victims know they are not alone by acknowledging their trauma.
The Bottom Line
It can be easy to misconstrue a reaction to racism as explosive or more intense than is called for. But, the truth is that calling racism out is not an overreaction because racism is too prevalent, too traumatic, and too impactful to diminish. It is not just a joke. It is not no big deal. Racism has a tangible negative effect on the mental and physical health of the individuals that endure it on a regular basis.
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A thorough and desperately needed discussion about systemic racism in America is finally taking place in the media, in our workplaces, and in our public and private conversations.
These discussions often focus on the social and economic impacts that racist policies and conscious and unconscious racial biases have on black society. What they rarely address are the devastating mental health effects that racism can have on people of color.
Dr. La’Tesha, who is the President and Founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services, says that racism can manifest in numerous symptoms that are often associated with post traumatic stress disorder.
Those symptoms can include depression, anger, sleep disorders (which can result from a heightened sense of danger), loss of appetite, and apathy. These and other symptoms don’t only manifest from personal racial attacks either. They can also develop from witnessing racism through third party sources like the media, making their prevalence particularly widespread.
That could at least partially explain the greater PTSD rates observed among minority groups in America. According to the National Survey of American Life, 9.1% of African Americans have PTSD compared to 6.8% of non-Hispanic white Americans. Elevated rates of PTSD were also observed in other minority groups, including Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.
How much of the disparity is caused by racism against minority groups isn’t known however, as other factors are likely contributing to the increased rates of PTSD, including a greater prevalence of violence in minority communities.
How People of Color Can Manage Racism
Dr. La’Tesha, who is also the CEO of Erase the Divide, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that aims to help bridge the digital divide in minority communities, says people of color need to carefully consume media given the risks associated with being exposed to acts of racism.
That’s especially true now given the robust discussion of racism that is taking place, revealing many of the harms that people of color regularly endure. While being informed is important, your mental health is even more important.
In her interview with Thrive Global, Dr. La’Tesha recommended limiting time spent on social media and consuming news, and to stick to reputable news sources. She also encouraged readers to develop a daily routine to help keep them grounded amid these unprecedented times.
Dr. La’Tesha, who has overcome the damaging effects of racism in her own life to become a highly respected and successful entrepreneur, therapist, and philanthropist, says several reliable psychotherapy treatment methods exist for dealing with PTSD and other associated conditions that can be caused by racism.
These include PTSD therapy, which helps patients reframe past traumas and thought processes and restore their self-esteem. Another effective treatment that falls under the cognitive behavioral therapy umbrella is Stress Inoculation Training, which teaches techniques to overcome negative thoughts and reduce anxiety.
Racism is a sad reality that people of color in America live with and it can take a devastating toll on them. And while instances of racism need to be called out, that doesn’t mean reactions to it need to be overly emotional and stressful.
Dr. La’Tesha recommends people of color adopt more of a stoic’s approach in their reactions, putting racism in its proper context as a completely ignorant and unjustified attack, no different than any other absurd comment that isn’t worth having an emotional and potentially damaging reaction to.
Taking racism to heart and having an emotional response to it is precisely what the racist wants after all. By managing their reactions, people of color can destroy any power that racism could ever hold over them and live a happier, healthier and more confident life.
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In this episode of More Than Matters with Dr. La'Tesha, a passionate conversation takes place with Jus Jamaal surrounding all things Black Lives Matter, being black and gay in America, discrimination within the LGBTQ community, and encouraging the black youth to feel free when coming out to their parents.
Jus Jamaal has dedicated over twenty years to the community where he currently serves as a social worker in the Great Atlanta area. He has an extensive resume that includes juvenile justice, working as a parole officer, working in the criminal justice field, he has assisted with the HIV/AIDS population, he is a LGBTQ activist, a proud member of the fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, and a proud out black gay man.
"Once you know who you are, you act accordingly" - Dr. La'Tesha
Dr. La'Tesha is proud have the partner spotlight for July with blackgirlhealth.com.
Yes, Black Lives Matter. But now it’s time to go beyond that.
It’s time to take the conversation to the next level and focus on the fact that each and every Black Life “More Than Matters”
In her new podcast “More Than Matters” Dr. La’Tesha, a LCSW, life coach, professor, and author surpasses the obvious fact that systemic racism exists and rigorously examines the impact it has had in current time and historically, in this country and all around the world.
In each episode, Dr. La’Tesha who has spent over 20 years of her life dedicated to serving disenfranchised communities here and around the world, explores the severe and damaging impact racism has on Black lives and uncovers the steps that need to be escalated to eradicate the culture of hatred and inequity. Dr. La’Tesha, a powerful voice in the anti-racism movement, is joined by a wide variety of guests from many fields and together they discuss topics ranging from disparities in mental and physical healthcare, economic opportunity and wellbeing, to professional and educational challenges created by bias to dealing with micro-aggression and full-blown blatant prejudice. “More Than Matters” provides listeners with the helpful information and advice and empowers them to be their own advocate and that of their loved ones. Subscribe to our channel More Than Matters on YouTube and Libsyn
Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services will be closed, Friday, June 19, in observance of Juneetenth.
Juneteenth, also known as Liberation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, where federal orders were read in Galveston, Texas freeing enslaved people.
While the Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in 1863, Texas hadn't complied with the order. Some say this occurred because the federal orders abolishing slavery traveled slowly. Others say there was a lack of Union Army enforcement in remote areas like Texas, and this allowed slavery to persist.
According to J.R. Lockhart,
"In many ways, Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for black people."
The century after the end of the war was met with the continued suffering of Black people in America. Lynching, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, limited economic opportunities and racist laws.
We still have a long way to go.
This year, spend some time educating yourself about the significance of Juneetenth and celebrate the contributions of Black Americans in our nation- there is no America, without Black people.
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Written by: Dr. La'Tesha Sampson
There are many important discussions that parents should have with their children at various stages of their development. One topic that receives far too little attention due to its difficult and somewhat taboo subject matter is mental illness, which is affecting children in greater numbers than ever before.
Dr. La’Tesha Sampson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the CEO and Founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services, says that rates of depression and mental illness among children and teens are at an all-time high, some of which is being driven by excessive screen time and social media use.
This is especially true in the age of coronavirus, as today’s youth have had to adapt to stay at home orders and government mandates. With nowhere to go and little to do, the pandemic has exacerbated screen time concerns, which was already at worrying levels and which have been shown to contribute to negative mental health outcomes.
The dialogue about mental illness needs to start early says Dr. Sampson, who says that not enough young people are receiving the help they need to tackle their mental health issues, noting that suicide has become the third-leading cause of death among the 15–24 age bracket.
Understanding Mental Health
Any discussion about mental health with your children should begin by stressing that mental illnesses are nothing to be feared or ashamed of, nor are they abnormal. It’s important to emphasize that more individuals will experience at least one form of mental illness in their lifetime than those that won’t.
Dr. La’Tesha Sampson recommends discussing some of the most prevalent conditions (such as depression and anxiety) and highlighting some of the symptoms that commonly indicate the presence of one of these conditions (including social withdrawal, low energy, emotional outbursts, and addiction issues) so children can take some measure of control in monitoring their own mental states.
Empowering Children to Take Control Over their Mental Well-Being
Furthermore, you can empower your children to take greater control over their mental health by encouraging them to take proper care of themselves. Detail the important role that exercise and healthy eating can play on mental health, including the connection between certain vitamin deficiencies (especially zinc, B-6, B-12, D-3, folate, and the Omega 3 fatty acids) and some mental health conditions. With any luck, doing so may provide them with just enough incentive to make healthier decisions later on.
And of course, you’ll need to have that difficult screen time conversation with them, pointing out to them that even a couple hours of TV a day has been shown to lower kids’ self esteem and negatively impact their school performance.
Lastly, La’Tesha Sampson encourages addressing the term mental illness itself, which could also cause stigmatization among kids, implying that there is something wrong with them that needs to be fixed. Instead of a sickness, equate it instead with simply being a different mental state that may not be “normal”, but which doesn’t likewise imply “deficient” or “broken”.
This will be particularly important to address when it comes to kids with autism or other lifelong disorders, who may feel especially vulnerable to the use of that term.
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Written by: Dr. La'Tesha Sampson
The year 2020 is likely to go down as one of the most challenging in recent memory. The COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 100,000 Americans and left the economy reeling and many without work.
More recently, protests and riots have erupted across the nation over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, leading to unprecedented backlash and even some pressure to defund police departments.
All of this has occurred while stay-at-home orders have forced millions to remain primarily in their homes for weeks and months on end, sometimes with little to no direct contact with friends, family, and loved ones outside their household.
The constant uncertainty has left many people struggling to remain positive says La’Tesha Sampson, the President and Founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services. Self-reported cases of anxiety and depression have jumped considerably as we struggle to adapt to our new reality.
Dr. Sampson, who is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and published author believes that facing and overcoming challenges like those we are dealing with now provides an opportunity for accelerated personal growth.
In particular, she says it’s a rare chance to develop some of the following skills that can bolster your peace of mind and level of contentment in every moment, regardless of external events.
Meditation comes in many forms, all of which have displayed remarkable results when it comes to lowering anxiety and boosting feelings of positivity. If you don’t know where to begin, La’Tesha Sampson recommends starting with loving kindness meditation, during which you cultivate feelings of love and compassion for yourself and others. Studies have found this form of meditation can boost emotional intelligence, decrease anxiety and anger, and help smooth over marital issues.
Practicing mindfulness has never been more important than now, when our days seem to blur together into a repetitious slog of the same few media topics and looking at the same walls of our living space. Mindfulness teaches us to keep autopilot off and better appreciate the incredible gift of consciousness and awareness that we possess.
Consciously breathing probably seems rather unnecessary, considering it can be done unconsciously. Our unconscious breathing tends to be short and shallow though, which sends stress signals to our brain and lowers our white blood cell levels. Taking a few minutes to practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing confers some major benefits according to LaTesha Sampson, including lowering our heart rate, blood pressure, and stress. It’s a practice you use anytime, anywhere, and also helps bring you into a more mindful state.
Social Media Usage
Lastly, social media has been a great tool for staying connected and monitoring the latest news to try and make sense of the world. However, too much media doom and gloom and excessive exposure to the toxic vitriol commonly found on social media can quickly warp your perception of reality.
La’Tesha Sampson recommends setting limits on your social media time and to use that time with greater purpose by actively seeking out the information or posts you’re interested in while avoiding all of the surrounding distractions like comments, ads, and other posts.
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Written by: Dr. La'Tesha Sampson
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