High School Warriors Against Suicide

“The truth is, we all struggle. We need you. Together, we rise.” — Arlee Warriors.

Can we prevent suicide? The Arlee Warriors high school basketball team thinks so.

In Montana, which records the highest suicide rate in the United States, the Arlee players dedicated this month’s statewide high school basketball tournament to suicide prevention. To spur their cause, the Warriors made a moving video sending support to people struggling with thoughts of hopelessness and encouraging others to fight for them.

The Warriors of Arlee, where half the town’s population of 600 is Native American,  are pretty amazing at basketball, too. On March 3, Arlee High School won a second straight state title, defeating Manhattan Christian School 66-58.

Arlee Warriors, you inspire us, on and off the court!

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]


“This Would be a Nice Place for a Rape”

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are widespread occurrences at American universities and colleges. Student outrage over a case at Harvard University is spotlighting an equally disturbing problem: how some campus administrators have tolerated sexual abuse by powerful academicians, and thereby perpetuated broadly unsafe conditions for students, staff, and even junior untenured professors.

Harvard’s handling of the case of political scientist Jorge Domínguez, a leading expert in the Latin American studies field, was exposed in an important February 27 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle reported on the stories of women who charged that Domínguez exercised his power as a star tenured professor over three decades to physically harass and/or pursue sexual relationships with them.

In one chilling incident, as Domínguez and Terry Karl, an untenured female professor in his Government Department, walked through a wooded campus area returning from an event, Domínguez allegedly told Karl, “This would be a nice place for a rape.”

The Chronicle reports in detail on how Domínguez’s constant advances eventually forced Karl to leave Harvard in the mid-1980s for Stanford University, where she earned tenure and served as director of the Center for Latin American Studies for more than a decade.

Karl reported the harassment to Harvard administrators, who at one point actually found Domínguez guilty of serious misconduct and imposed temporary penalties—stripping him of administrative duties. Yet, afterwards, Harvard kept promoting Domínguez—to vice provost for international affairs, and director of the prestigious Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

According to the Chronicle, a total of 18 female professors, students, and staff members have now come forward with allegations of Domínguez’s sexual misconduct. On March 4, more than 35 years after Karl first reported Domínguez’s behavior to Harvard administrators, the university placed Domínguez on leave and announced an investigation into the allegations. On March 6—a week after the Chronicle story appeared—Domínguez resigned from Harvard, ending a 45-year career on the faculty.

Harvard President Derek Bok, and Henry Rosovsky, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, expressed concern and sympathy for Karl, but the university’s handling of Domínguez at the time struck her as inadequate and laughable.

The Chronicle reported on how Karl’s problems at Harvard had generated serious concerns among fellow Latin American-studies scholars. In 1984, a dozen of them from various universities wrote to Bok and Rosovsky, saying they could not recommend that any of their students attend Harvard until there was “absolute assurance that they will not face undue risk of harassment.”

In his dismissive response, Rosovsky told the scholars that their letter “displays a degree of moral arrogance that is unusual even by the unfortunate standards prevailing in the academic profession. It pretends to a detailed and objective knowledge of what happened here that you plainly do not have.”

In a 1991 essay in support of Anita Hill, who accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, Karl argued that filing a sexual harassment complaint often “pits a person against an institution that is predisposed to defend the accused.” Referring to her own harassment case, without mentioning Domínguez by name, she wrote that she had felt “forced to choose between pleasing this man or losing everything I had worked for.”

As the Chronicle reported:

Karl believes Harvard administrators played down her many complaints, attempting to mollify her rather than dealing with a difficult situation head-on. Harvard refused, as some universities still do, to publicly name the person responsible. They also let him stay, and promoted him, which sent a signal that Karl believes discouraged others from coming forward. If they hadn’t done that, “then these women who experienced harassment in the 1990s and 2000s, it wouldn’t have happened, or they would have known that someone would be punished if they were harassed,” she says. “That’s the great enabling. It’s why the silence is so terrible.”

The Chronicle report on Harvard’s handling of the Domínguez case stirred immediate outrage among alumni, faculty, and students. Hundreds signed an open letter to Harvard President Drew Faust demanding that the university apologize:

When students arrive at Harvard, they are told that the university ‘is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy educational work environment’. Over the past three decades, Harvard has failed to live up to this commitment. The Chronicle has reported that at least three women informed human resources of misconduct by Jorge Dominguez. In these cases, as in others, Harvard has not kept its promise to protect those most at risk. The burden of responsibility to hold abusers accountable does not lie with the victims. It lies with those in positions of authority. We feel an apology is necessary to rebuild trust and to show that the university unequivocally supports those who come forward.

We have all been shocked by the allegations against Jorge Dominguez. Now we call on you to take bold and immediate action to address the power structures that have left junior faculty, students, and staff vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The signatories expressed their solidarity with Karl and other women who came forward and spoke to the Chronicle: “We respect and admire the courage it requires to share your story.”

More than 200 undergraduates led by 59 students in the Government Department wrote an angry letter to the Government faculty, calling the university administration’s failure to take appropriate action against Domínguez “reprehensible” and making a series of demands addressing the underlying problems:

We feel deeply betrayed by the fact that he was allowed to continue teaching at this university, putting students, faculty, and staff at risk for so long despite the fact that he was censured for sexual harassment thirty-five years ago.

Both Domínguez’s crimes and the department and the administration’s failure to take action for years are reprehensible. But they are also telling signs that the Government Department (and Harvard at large) are home to misogyny, rape culture, and exploitative power dynamics– problems that run much deeper than any single perpetrator of sexual or gender-based violence or any single failure to act to keep our community safe.

More than 100 Government graduate students, in their own letter to the faculty, expressed anger over the administration’s response to the Chronicle story. The letter followed a meeting between graduate students and Government Department Chair Jennifer L. Hochschild:

“We went into the meeting hoping for answers. We left disappointed, disillusioned, and, for many of us, angry. The meeting communicated a message of equivocation, powerlessness, and an unwillingness to commit to addressing this issue or instituting any significant changes within the Department.”

“Keying into Emotions”

“I can share it with my family.” — Amelia Erikson on how baking cupcakes brings her happiness and helps her open up about her mental illness.

Michayla Savitt hangs out with Amelia Erikson, a 2016 psychology and neuroscience graduate of Ithaca College with bipolar II disorder, in Episode 8 of The Scoop on Mental Health. In “Keying into Emotions,” Amelia shares stories about the evolution of her mental illness starting in childhood, and how she devised personal ways of coping without medication—including the happiness she feels when baking cupcakes. “The other great thing about that is I can share it with my family,” she explains. “If I’m in a little bit of a happier mood while baking, it’s a really good time to be talking to them and sort of explaining how I have been feeling.”

8pod“Keying into Emotions” [Episode 8] Listen

Amelia Erikson shares stories of her bipolar II disorder and how she copes with the symptoms without the aid of medications.

Guns, Children, and Trump

Nothing better illustrates America’s abysmal failure to address the persistent public health crisis of mass shootings than the empty proposals put forth by the nation’s president in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day.


President Trump meeting with students, parents, and teachers at the White House

Arm our teachers, President Trump tweeted. Put an end to “gun free” schools and make them “hardened targets” instead. Arming teachers has been an idea pushed by the National Rifle Association, which donated $11 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign, since the killing of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

Responding to the Florida shooting, in which a 19-year-old former student killed 17 children and adults with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Trump repeatedly blamed “sicko” and “maniac” individuals for school shootings. He said he supported implementing comprehensive background checks “with an emphasis on mental health”; raising the gun-purchasing age to 21; ending sales of “bump stocks” that enable automatic fire; and arming “weapons talented teachers.”

Trump tweeted on February 22: “If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved.” In another tweet, Trump said: “A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people.” He proposed that armed teachers be given a pay bonus for their additional service.

Trump’s proposal to arm teachers—along with his accompanying insinuation that mental illness rather than lax gun control is the prime cause of school shootings—triggered an outcry from leading educational groups and medical associations. A summary of statements reacting to the Parkland shootings and Trump’s comments:

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García:

“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms. Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff.

“Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.

“We owe it to the students and school personnel, who’ve lost their lives at schools and on campuses across the country, to work together so that we can thoughtfully and carefully develop common sense solutions that really will save lives.”


AASA (The School Superintendents Association) Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech:

“Subsequent to the Sandy Hook shooting, the AASA Governing Board in July 2013 adopted a Position Paper on School Safety that says: ‘If we hope to prevent future tragedies at schools, we must comprehensively address both school safety and gun safety. Increased mental health services, community supports for youth, and new attitudes about violence in our entertainment must all be part of this approach. We must be willing to spend the time and resources necessary to make sustainable changes. AASA hopes that school leaders find ways of enhancing their current school safety procedures as outlined above, but we know federal funding is critical to ensuring schools remain the safest place for children to be.’


The National Association of School Psychologists:

“The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) strongly opposes arming teachers as a strategy for preventing gun violence on school grounds. NASP joins virtually every other organization representing school and safety professionals in recognizing that arming school staff is wrong. Doing so places an unrealistic, unreasonable burden on America’s educators, has the potential to cause more harm from unintentional or inaccurate discharge of firearms, and can undermine the sense of safe, supportive learning environments.

“Equally important, the time and costs associated with training and arming school staff diverts critical human and financial resources away from strategies known to help decrease violent behaviors such as improved access to mental health services, effective threat assessment practices, properly trained school crisis response teams, and creating welcoming, inclusive school communities for all students.

“We need laws and policies that keep guns out of the hands of those who would hurt themselves or others and limit access to weapons intended to cause mass destruction in a short amount of time.

“Our nation must focus on the approaches that genuinely safeguard the well-being of our children and the school staff who work to educate, empower, and protect them every day. Putting more guns in schools is not one of those approaches.”


The National Association of School Resource Officers Executive Director Mo Canady:

“NASRO strongly recommends that no firearms be on a school campus except those carried by carefully selected, specially trained school resource officers (SROs), who are career law enforcement officers with sworn authority, deployed by employing police departments or agencies in community-oriented policing assignments to work in collaboration with schools.

“There are several reasons for this recommendation:

—Law enforcement officers who respond to an incident at a school could mistake for an assailant a teacher or any other armed person who is not in a uniform.

—Anyone who hasn’t received the extensive training provided to law enforcement officers will likely be mentally unprepared to take a life, especially the life of a student assailant.

—Firearm skills degrade quickly, which is why most law enforcement agencies require their officers to practice on a shooting range frequently (as often as once per month), under simulated, high-stress conditions. Anyone without such frequent, ongoing practice will likely have difficulty using a firearm safely and effectively.

—In addition to maintaining marksmanship, ongoing firearms practice helps law enforcement officers overcome the physiological response to stress than can reduce the fine motor skills required to accurately fire a weapon.

—Anyone who possesses a firearm on campus must be able to keep it both ready for use and absolutely secure. Law enforcement officers receive training that enables them to overcome attempts to access their weapons.

—Discharging a firearm in a crowded school is an extremely risky action, with consequences that can include the wounding and/or death of innocent victims. Law enforcement officers receive training and practice in evaluating quickly the risks of firing. They hold their fire when the risks to others are too high.”


Joint statement by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American Psychiatric Association:

“This senseless loss of life has become all too common in our country, ending lives, shattering families and disrupting the fabric of another community forever branded by this act of violence.

“Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is growing in frequency and lethality, and it is taking a toll on our patients. We urge our national leaders to recognize in this moment what the medical community has long understood: we must treat this epidemic no differently than we would any other pervasive threat to public health. We must identify the causes and take evidence-based approaches to prevent future suffering.

“Today, our organizations call on the President and the United States Congress to help prevent gun violence in the following ways:

—Label this violence caused by the use of guns a national public health epidemic.

—Fund appropriate research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the FY 2018 omnibus spending package.

—Establish constitutionally appropriate restrictions on the manufacturing and sale, for civilian use, of large-capacity magazines and firearms with features designed to increase their rapid and extended killing capacity.”


American Psychological Association President Jessica Henderson Daniel:

“While law enforcement is still piecing together the shooter’s motives, some public figures and news reports are focusing on his mental health. It is important to remember that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. Framing the conversation about gun violence in the context of mental illness does a disservice to the victims of violence and unfairly stigmatizes the many others with mental illness. More important, it does not direct us to appropriate solutions to this public health crisis.”

“Changing the Tape”

“That’s got me through the hardest moments.” — Mental health advocate Dayna Altman on how helping others has helped her deal with her own mental disorders.

In Episode 7 of The Scoop on Mental Health, Michayla travels to Boston to meet Dayna Altman, who’s pursuing a career in public health inspired by the people who helped her through her own mental health challenges. In “Changing the Tape,” Dayna talks about both losing and gaining control with a mental illness, and the multiple advocacy projects that have come out of her experiences. As she tells Michayla: “Planning, helping other people, it’s what drives me, it’s what I love, it’s what I want to do the rest of my life. I think that’s got me through the hardest moments.”

“Changing the Tape” [Episode 7] Listen

Dayna Altman speaks about coping with her mental illness by telling her story openly and encouraging others to tell their truths as well.