2013 has been a very busy year so far for PAR’s volunteer team!

PAR staff members and their families kicked off a chilly January with a children’s clothing drive for the Redland’s Christian Migrant Association, a group that serves migrant farm workers and their families here in Florida.

In February, PAR staff members helped organize the annual “Stars and Pars” golf tournament and auction to benefit The Children’s Home in Tampa. The Children’s Home provides a spectrum of social services for families in crisis including foster care, adoption, emergency shelters, child abuse prevention, and more.

What’s a corn-hole toss? Here at PAR, it’s an excuse to come together, test our pitching arms, laugh a lot—and raise funds to support Suncoast Hospice. A not-for-profit organization that serves local families, Suncoast Hospice helps those living with chronic and terminal illnesses, nearing the end of life, or experiencing grief. This year’s “toss,” held in February, helped raise funds—and awareness—for this vital community resource.

In March, several members of the PAR team gathered for a special breakfast in support of the PACE Center for at-risk girls. At the breakfast, recent PACE graduates described how their lives have been truly turned around by the caring, supportive environment at PACE. PAR is delighted to support this wonderful organization.

And let it be known throughout the kingdom (the animal kingdom, that is!) that the Tampa Bay Humane Society “Bark in the Park” trophy has been returned to its rightful place, here in the lobby at PAR! Once again this year, PAR claimed the title of top fundraising team at this annual Humane Society event.

Every April, a team from PAR dedicates one Saturday to Paint Your Heart Out, an organization that helps our elderly neighbors to maintain their homes with a fresh coat of paint. The PAR team takes things a step further, planting shrubs and doing some light landscaping chores to help spruce up the homes even more.

And while one part of the PAR team was painting houses…another team was heading out for the annual Walk for Autism Speaks! This year’s event was a huge success, raising thousands of dollars for autism research.

If you happened to drive past PAR headquarters in April, you would have been greeted by a gorgeous blue “pinwheel garden.” Each pinwheel in the garden represented a person who provided a voice and advocated for children who have been abused or neglected. PAR was proud to be a 2013 Hillsborough County Partner in Prevention during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Several staff members also volunteered this spring at the Dress for Success (DFS) annual sale. Dress for Success helps women who are re-entering the workforce by providing appropriate professional clothing. Later this summer, the PAR team will be heading up a clothing drive for DFS.

In May, PAR recognized Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day by co-sponsoring the “Breakfast of Champions” for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, a leading advocate for children and families in the Tampa area. On the national level, PAR partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on a virtual event for children’s mental health awareness; this year, the event focused on resiliency and social connectedness as important factors in children’s mental health.

Several members of the PAR team also attended and supported the Hillsborough Family Justice Center fundraising luncheon. The Family Justice Center provides hope and support to victims of domestic violence.

Throughout the year, a growing team of volunteers from PAR deliver Meals on Wheels (MOW) to some of our elderly, house-bound neighbors. For many MOW recipients, the smiling faces that accompany their lunch may be the only visitors they receive during the day, so we all try to spend a few minutes checking in with each our MOW friends.

Florida Blood Services continues to send the Bloodmobile to the PAR headquarters parking lot every eight weeks because they know that the PAR team is a regular source of “the good stuff” that saves lives every day. We are particularly proud of several staff members who were first-time donors in 2013!

These are just a few of the many Community Service projects that PAR is honored to support. For more information, photos, and a list of organizations and activities that PAR supports throughout the year, visit the Community PARtners page on the PAR Web site.
The class of 2013 doesn’t have it easy when it comes to finding a job. The recession has resulted in cut-backs, layoffs, and hiring freezes at many U.S. companies—and, although the recession has technically ended, recovery is slow. A recent Reuters article forecast a tough road for students hoping to join the workforce this summer: Employers will hire just 2.1% more new graduates this year than they did last year, and of 500 hiring managers surveyed by staffing firm Adecco, 58% said they won’t hire any new grads at all.

Meanwhile, it costs more than ever to get that degree: College costs have risen by 6-7% per year for the last few decades—twice the rate of inflation—and, according to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, more than 40% of 25-year-olds have student loan debt—in 2004, that rate was 25%.

“In addition to the substantial share who are officially unemployed, a large swath of these young, highly educated workers have either a job but cannot attain the hours they need or want a job but have given up looking for work,” said Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The numbers back her up: Among college graduates ages 21-24 who aren’t enrolled in grad school, the unemployment rate is 8.8% and the underemployed rate is a staggering 18.3%.

So what’s a bright, eager 22-year-old armed with a diploma to do? Be detailed, be prepared, and look into every option. Some people find that their chosen field, which may have had a decent hiring rate four years ago, has undergone a change in terms of worker saturation. Others may graduate not fully knowing how their degree will translate into the real world. Grads should think creatively about how the skills and knowledge gained during college—including things learned outside of class—could be applied to unexpected fields or careers.  (PAR’s Self-Directed Search family of career inventory tools, designed to match personality types with career fields, can help with this step.)

Resumes should include any experience that might apply to the position, including internships, leadership positions in clubs, and volunteer work. And that resume should be nearly flawless—43 percent of hiring managers surveyed by Adecco said resume spelling errors resulted in “automatic disqualification.” Most colleges have career centers staffed with people who will look over a resume and provide constructive feedback. Grads should prepare for interviews by researching the company exhaustively and knowing how they’ll respond to standard interview questions. Likewise, they should have some questions ready for the interviewer. “The worst thing you can do, if they ask you if you have any questions, is to say ‘no,’” said Vicki Hardin, associate director of Career Services at University of West Georgia.

And one more thing: Young grads should be realistic, both about the length of their job search and about the job they’ll end up with. Grads probably will not be hired by the first company they send their resume to, and they’re “not going to be making $100,000 on [their] first job. Any kind of experience is better than none,” said Hardin. Patience and a healthy dose of humility are required for this journey.

Did you have a hard time finding a job out of college? Or do you have children who will soon encounter this problem? How have you found jobs in the past? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

 
Figures on the rate of unemployment among veterans can be confusing as media outlets report only parts of the story. Although the overall unemployment rate among vets has dropped slightly in recent months, a March 2013 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that for U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the rate is 9.9%, about 2% higher than for the general population. In short, more than 200,000 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now unemployed (see the Harvard Kennedy School’s Research Roundup for a summary of recent studies on veterans and unemployment).

As a result of their military service, veterans often face additional obstacles that contribute to difficulties as they look for work. Conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other physical and mental disorders are common among veterans. A recent study found a direct correlation between depression and unemployment rates among veterans; the good news is that improved depression status (following treatment at VA hospitals) was associated with an increased likelihood of becoming employed.

The U.S. government, the Department of Defense, and other public and private institutions offer some support for veterans seeking civilian careers. For example, the revised G.I. Bill focuses on retraining, and tax credits are now available for employers who hire veterans. However, many veterans’ organizations are calling for more help for young vets transitioning from active duty.

For veterans, active-duty military personnel, and the career counselors who work with them, PAR is developing a new component of the popular Self-Directed Search® (SDS®) designed specifically to support the transition from a military career to a civilian career. Scheduled to release in July, the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder™ matches an individual’s military occupation code with civilian career possibilities. Used with the SDS, this new tool will help veterans explore their interests and capitalize on the skills they developed in the military. Finding a good job is one of the most important factors in a veteran’s successful transition to civilian life, and the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder provides a starting point for that search. To learn more, visit the SDS Web site and look for updates about the release of this new addition to the SDS product line.
On May 9, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held a virtual event in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

The event focused on telling the stories of young adults who have had substance abuse or mental health issues and have developed ways to overcome their challenges. This is an especially important group for SAMHSA to focus on, as nearly 30 percent of young adults ages 16 to 24 years have had a mental health condition in the past year. PAR was a proud sponsor of this important event.

Watch the virtual event, visit SAMHSA online, or comment below to get involved!
In 1949, Mental Health Month was founded to bring attention to the importance of mental health issues in America.

President Barack Obama issued a decree on April 30 in honor of this month. He stressed the idea that people should reach out if they feel they are in need of help. “For many, getting help starts with a conversation,” he stated. “People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness -- it is a sign of strength.”

Furthermore, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius released a statement emphasizing how everyone has a role in building awareness. “All of us – including teachers, parents, neighbors, and friends – have a role to play in helping to increase awareness and breaking down the stigma around mental health. Now is the time to bring conversations about mental health into school auditoriums, community centers, houses of worship, and kitchen tables across the country. Together, we can bring mental illness out of the shadows.”

For more information on how you can build awareness in your community and participate in National Mental Health Month, visit Mental Health America.

How are you honoring Mental Health Awareness Month?
A million hours a year are being spent waiting for approval from insurance companies before doctors can hospitalize suicidal or mentally ill patients, according to the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Unlike medical emergencies, psychiatric emergencies require permission from a patient’s insurance company before an individual can be admitted. Dr. Amy Funkenstein, a child and adolescent psychiatry resident at Brown University, coauthored the study that produced this number after becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of time she was spending on the insurance approval process. The study found that the approval process takes 38 minutes per patient on average – meaning that the 1.6 million psychiatric admissions per year translate into 1 million hours of time described by Dr. Funkenstein as “wasted.” Although half of the insurance approvals were obtained in less than 20 minutes, 10 percent of authorizations took longer than one hour, and one authorization took five hours. The patients in need of admittance most commonly presented with suicidal ideation, though a few were diagnosed as being homicidal.

Despite the amount of time spent on the authorization process, very few cases are being denied (just one case of the 53 included in this study was not authorized by the insurance company). The study evaluated a sample of 53 patients at the Cambridge Health Alliance Psychiatric Emergency Department in Massachusetts over a three-month period.
Researchers have found that college roommates of students who demonstrate vulnerability to depression are more likely to develop that vulnerability themselves over time. The research, conducted by psychologists Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame, was published in the April issue of Clinical Psychological Science.

Haeffel and Hames examined “cognitive vulnerability,” which they call “a potent risk factor for depression.” Those with cognitive vulnerability tend to interpret stressful life events as the result of factors over which they have no control; they see these events as a reflection of their own deficiencies. Cognitive vulnerability is normally quite stable in adulthood; however, the researchers wanted to examine whether it might be “contagious” during periods of major life transitions—like starting college.

The research involved 103 randomly assigned roommate pairs who had started college as freshmen. When they arrived on campus, the participants completed an online questionnaire that included measures of cognitive vulnerability and depressive symptoms; they completed the same survey twice more, at 3-month and 6-month intervals, when they also answered questions about stressful life events.

The results showed that freshmen who were assigned to roommates with high levels of cognitive vulnerability were likely to “catch” their roommates’ vulnerability to depression. Perhaps even more significant, when the vulnerable mindset “rubbed off” on these students, it affected their rates of future depressive symptoms. Students whose cognitive vulnerability increased over the first 3 months of college had nearly twice the level of depressive symptoms at 6 months than those whose vulnerability didn’t change.

On a more positive note, the study also found that a healthy mindset was also contagious. “Those assigned to a roommate with a more positive thinking style developed a more positive style themselves whereas those assigned to a roommate with a negative style became more negative,” Haeffel said in a recent interview with Time.com. The research does not suggest factors that make one roommate’s style more likely to influence the other.

“Our findings suggest that it may be possible to use an individual’s social environment as part of the intervention process, either as a supplement to existing cognitive interventions or possibly as a stand-alone intervention,” the authors say in press release from the Association for Psychological Science, the publisher of the journal in which the study appears. “Surrounding a person with others who exhibit an adaptive cognitive style should help to facilitate cognitive change in therapy.”
Think Google is simply a tool for information searches? It’s becoming an increasingly thought-provoking instrument for researchers, especially when search patterns are analyzed.

A team of researchers led by John Ayers at San Diego State University examined Google search data from 2006 to 2010 and found an intriguing pattern linking mental illness queries and seasons. After combing through search data for mental-health terms like schizophrenia, bulimia, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others, they found that all mental health queries followed seasonal patterns, with peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer.

When comparing search data in the United States to search data in Australia, where the seasons are reversed, the seasonal data held up – both Americans and Australians searched for information on these terms more during their respective winters than summers. In fact, mental health queries in the U.S. were found to be 14 percent higher in the winter and 11 percent higher in Australia during its winter.

Queries about specific disorders also had their own seasonality – queries about eating disorders, schizophrenia, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder were higher in winter, while searches for anxiety seem least affected by seasons, varying just 7 percent in the U.S. and 15 percent in Australia between summer and winter months.

Although the researchers emphasize that Google searches are just searches for information and do not necessarily reflect a diagnosis, this may shed important light onto how the prevalence of mental illnesses change during seasons. Furthermore, while most studies rely on participants to answer truthfully, Web searches do not have that same hurdle – they may have the advantage of reflecting patterns, providing real-time monitoring of mental health problems, and surveying population trends.

For more information about this study, see the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Chronic infection—already known to be associated with heart disease—has been linked to cognitive impairment, according to a recent study by Dr. Mira Katan and colleagues from the department of neurology at Columbia University.  The researchers tested 1,625 subjects, with an average age of 69, using the Mini-mental State Examination (MMSE); they also tested each member of the group for their infectious burden (IB), that is, their degree of exposure to five common viruses and bacteria.  The researchers conclude that “A measure of IB associated with stroke risk and atherosclerosis was independently associated with cognitive performance in this multiethnic cohort. Past infections may contribute to cognitive impairment” (Neurology, March 26, 2013).

The link between IB and cognitive impairment was stronger among women, those with lower levels of education, those without health insurance or Medicare, and those who did not exercise.  The reasons for the association are less clear, according the Dr. Katan.  “Another mechanism might be that these pathogens are neurotoxic, directly affecting the nerves,” she said in March 29 New York Times interview.  “We’ve found a common pattern but we cannot prove causality.”

Although further study is needed, the results could lead to identifying individuals who are at risk of cognitive impairment—and taking action to lower that risk.
With smart phones becoming ubiquitous, many researchers are finding that mobile apps are becoming an important part of research. But citing a mobile app can be tricky – after all, it does not fit into the guidelines for traditional software and it is not the same as a printed product. Here are a few things you should know when citing a mobile app:

  • Instead of an author, and app has a rights holder. The rights holder may be an individual, but it may also be a group or a company.

  • Use the publication date of the version you used, even if previous or updated versions are available.

  • If you are only using an entry, article, reference, or portion of the app, that can be noted just as you would in a print reference. That information simply goes at the beginning of the reference.

  • List how you accessed the app – whether you downloaded it from the Apple Store, Google Play, or another Web site.

  • Don’t put a period at the end of the Web address.


Here are some examples:

Rightsholder, A. B. (year). Title of App (Version 1) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://webaddress.com

Article Title. (year). In Title of App (Version 1) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://webaddress.com