Men's Mental Health Movement, Nature Prescriptions Heal Medical Patients, Repairing the Brain With Psychedelics
Inspiring News Articles
June 30, 2023
Hey wonderful friends,
Explore below key excerpts of inspiring news articles with information on "Men's Sheds" groups in the U.K. using woodworking to bring men together for mental health support, the healing power of nature being prescribed to patients by an increasing number of doctors, emerging research on how psychedelic drugs repair the brain, and more.
Each inspiring excerpt is taken verbatim from the media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, click here. The key sentences are highlighted in case you just want to skim. Please spread the inspiration and have a great one!
Quote of the Week: If news is not really news unless it is bad news, it may be difficult to claim we are an informed nation. ~~ Norman Cousins, journalist and editor
Woodworking and Hugs: Inside the Mental Health Movement for Men
June 12, 2023, Reasons to be Cheerful
In 2002, Chris Morgan lost his wife to cancer. A British army veteran who had put in 24 years of service as a gunner in the Royal Artillery, he was already struggling with PTSD when she passed away, and the grief from the loss triggered a breakdown. In despair, Morgan contemplated taking his own life. Instead, Morgan retreated to his shed. “It was my woodworking shed that was my safe place. And although I may not have done too much woodworking, it was just being in there that I knew helped,” Morgan shared. “In fact, it saved my life.” In 2008, he held an impromptu spoon carving class for a group of visiting wounded soldiers. The spontaneous seminar became a weekly workshop, and ultimately evolved into a dedicated permanent woodworking seminar that has been known as Veterans Woodcraft since 2016. Veterans Woodcraft is one of 3,000 so-called Men’s Sheds scattered across the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Kenya and South Africa. The concept began in Australia in the 1990s to help tackle isolation and loneliness in predominantly older men. Men’s Sheds UK chief officer Charlie Bethel ... says that of all the impacts he’s seen from Men’s Sheds in his five-year tenure, suicide prevention is the one that stands out the most. In a recent survey of 178 of the UK’s 600 Men’s Sheds, 25 percent of respondents said they had definitely saved a member’s life, and 14 percent felt confident they had. Bethel hopes to set up a further 1,900 Men’s Sheds across the UK over the next 10 years.
Note: Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
With Green Prescriptions, Getting Healthier Is a Walk in the Park
May 29, 2023, Reasons to be Cheerful
Scientific research has long established the healing powers of the outdoors, but now programs promoting regular visits to nature — known as green or nature prescriptions — are nourishing the health of people and parks across the globe. Green prescriptions were pioneered decades ago. In 1982, doctors in Japan began encouraging therapeutic so-called “forest bathing,” or Shinrin-yoku, which is now available in 62 certified forest-therapy bases. In New Zealand, green prescriptions — so-called Rōngoa Kākāriki — have become a formal part of the health care system. Canada last year launched its first nationwide green prescription program. Today, 4,000 green prescriptions have been written by over 10,000 physicians ... in all 10 provinces. The benefits of spending time in nature are as established as a centuries-old oak trunk, and include reduced stress and improved sleep, happiness, attention, memory and creativity. In one 2015 study, researchers in Canada found that adding 10 more trees to a city block improved perceived health and well-being as much as increasing people’s income by $10,000 or making them seven years younger. Time in nature even impacts the very functioning of our bodies: a study by a professor at University College London found that contact with microbes in the environment strengthens our immune systems, improving the resilience of our skin, airways and guts.
Note: Read more about the fascinating "hope molecules" that get released when we exercise, which can act as a powerful antidepressant for improved mental health.
New research illuminates how the human brain creates its own psychedelic drugs
February 20, 2023, Salon
The World Health Organization estimates that ... depression and anxiety rose by more than 25 percent in the first year of the COVID pandemic, adding to the nearly one billion people who were already living with a mental disorder. One of the principal ways mental health disorders are thought to manifest is through severed connections between neurons — the winding, spindly cells in our brain and throughout our body essential for interpreting info from the external environment. Certain antidepressant drugs seem to work by increasing serotonin levels, an important neurotransmitter that the brain uses to send signals between neurons. They can help regrow neuronal connections ... only the effect seems to be slower, less dramatic [and] can come with significant drawbacks. In contrast, psychedelics can promote this kind of regrowth in as little as 24 hours, often less. Many experts believe psychedelic drugs ... act like Miracle Grow for neurons, helping them flourish like a dense forest. Pretty much the only reason drugs have a psychoactive effect on us at all is because they closely resemble chemicals our body already produces. Most psychedelic drugs like LSD, DMT and psilocybin are structurally similar to serotonin, so they can act on serotonin receptors, but in a slightly different way. You can think of it like clumsily-made lockpicks that still work in a lock designed for a specific key. But even the slight differences can have profound effects, specifically, altered perception of time and space and intensified colors and sounds.
Trafficking Victims Are Becoming Anti-Trafficking Warriors
April 6, 2023, Reasons to be Cheerful
School for Justice empowers girls who have been victims of child trafficking by helping them attain degrees and jobs through which they can defend other trafficking victims. The school collaborates with local NGOs to identify trafficking survivors and helps them gain admission to universities to pursue law, social work and journalism degrees. Along the way, School for Justice provides the girls with an array of supports, and after completion of their studies, assists them in obtaining internships and jobs at law firms. “All the girls are very eager to pursue their education, especially law, and we give them all kinds of support for pursuing their studies and further internships and jobs,” says Rishi Kant, one of the founders of Shaktivahini, the Delhi-based NGO that runs the program. Some become attorneys or paralegals, while others train to become police officers or journalists focused on human trafficking. Along the way, School for Justice helps them cover expenses for hostels, food, medical needs, traveling, internet charges and English communication classes. The program also runs trainings and workshops. Even as it works with trafficking victims specifically, the School for Justice is striving to ignite a broader conversation about the realities of child prostitution. “We should create awareness [among] not only girls, but also adolescent boys, about sex being a part of their life and to not treat it as a commodity available in the market,” says Tapoti Bhowmick, senior program coordinator at the anti-trafficking NGO Sanlaap.
‘Collective strength’: the LRA captive restoring dignity to survivors in Uganda
August 3, 2021, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
When Victoria Nyanjura was abducted from her Catholic boarding school in northern Uganda by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, she prayed to God asking to die. She was 14 when she was taken, along with 29 others, in the middle of the night. During the next eight years in captivity she was subjected to beatings, starvation, rape and other horrors. Nyanjura gave birth to two children. After a dramatic escape one rainy night, Nyanjura was able to return to her family with her children, go back into education and start the process of healing. Now, her work has helped push through a major law reform in Uganda. She coordinated the Women’s Advocacy Network, made up of more than 900 women who were also survivors of the war in northern Uganda. Together they launched a petition in 2014 asking the Ugandan parliament to address the challenges they faced as they tried to rebuild their lives. The petition asked for free healthcare and better access to services, funding to support children born in captivity, training for teachers on how to work with trauma and a review of laws that require information on paternity, among other things. Officials listened to their accounts and demands for change, and in 2019 the government passed a transitional justice policy to remedy the plight of survivors. “I need to tell the story of change,” [Nyanjura] says. “I want to make people smile, and use my voice to see global change in stopping violence.”
‘Everything is natural and tastes so good’: microfarms push back against ‘food apartheid’
June 10, 2023, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
In South Los Angeles, Crop Swap LA volunteers and staffers harvested bags of freshly picked produce from the front yard of a residence. “Everything we’re growing is nutrient-dense and the food remains in the neighborhood,” says Jamiah Hargins, who founded Crop Swap LA in 2018 as a small monthly swap of surplus produce. After spending years in finance and consulting, Hargins decided to create a local food distribution system to address the fact that his neighborhood was a food desert, meaning most residents have little access to healthy food. It’s now one of many Bipoc-led groups across the US that are reclaiming their agricultural heritage and redefining the local food movement by growing on traditional farms and unconventional spaces such as yards, medians and vacant lots as a way to increase food security and health in their own communities. There are similar groups run by communities of color across the US. After the Chicora-Cherokee community in North Charleston, South Carolina, was left without a grocery store for more than 10 years, Fresh Future Farm stepped in. Founded in 2014, the non-profit transformed a vacant lot into a flourishing urban farm that grows bananas, sugarcane, meyer lemons, satsuma oranges, collard greens, okra and tomatoes, among other crops. Two years later, it opened a sliding scale grocery store on the same property – the first one in the area in 11 years. The non-profit also teaches home gardening classes, which is inspiring a new crop of home growers.
Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution
February 16, 2011, New York Times
Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, [Gene Sharp] grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man. But for the world's despots, his ideas can be fatal. For decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution – most notably "From Dictatorship to Democracy," a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages – have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt. When Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement was struggling ... its leaders tossed around "crazy ideas" about bringing down the government. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp. When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago ... among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp's "198 Methods of Nonviolent Action," a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to "protest disrobing." Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop ... said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp's work into Arabic, and that his message of "attacking weaknesses of dictators" stuck with them. He has concluded that advancing freedom takes careful strategy and meticulous planning, advice that ... resonated among youth leaders in Egypt. Peaceful protest is best, he says – not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. "If you fight with violence," Mr. Sharp said, "you are fighting with your enemy's best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero." He was struck by the Egyptian protesters' discipline in remaining peaceful, and especially by their lack of fear. "If people are not afraid of the dictatorship, that dictatorship is in big trouble."
Note: For powerful and inspiring information on the military/industrial complex and what we can do to make a difference, click here.
From Finland, an Intriguing School-Reform Model
December 12, 2011, New York Times
Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish educator and author, [said that in] his country, ... teachers typically spend about four hours a day in the classroom, and are paid to spend two hours a week on professional development. At the University of Helsinki, where he teaches, 2,400 people competed last year for 120 slots in the (fully subsidized) master’s program for schoolteachers. “It’s more difficult getting into teacher education than law or medicine,” he said. Dr. Sahlberg puts high-quality teachers at the heart of Finland’s education success story. Ever since Finland, a nation of about 5.5 million that does not start formal education until age 7 and scorns homework and testing until well into the teenage years, scored at the top of a well-respected international test in 2001 in math, science and reading, it has been an object of fascination among American educators and policy makers. Finlandophilia only picked up when the nation placed close to the top again in 2009, while the United States ranked 15th in reading, 19th in math and 27th in science. In Helsinki, the Education Ministry has had 100 official delegations from 40 to 45 countries visit each year since 2005. Dr. Sahlberg said a turning point was a government decision in the 1970s to require all teachers to have master’s degrees — and to pay for their acquisition. Finland scorns almost all standardized testing before age 16 and discourages homework, and it is seen as a violation of children’s right to be children for them to start school any sooner than 7, Dr. Sahlberg said.
Note: The US continues to push for more testing, while Finland shows that less testing and homework gives better results. For an excellent article on this in the Washington Post, click here. For more astounding facts on Finland's education success, click here.
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