Category Archives: Health

Promoting Human Rights Through Science: What do we do, What can we do, and What’s right to do?

Screenshot of title page

Screenshot of the title page of the article. Please go to the article itself for full description.

“Promoting Human Rights Through Science.” That’s the title of a new article, available today from Science Magazine. (Ironically, unaware of this, today I wore my “March for Science” t-shirt to the office as a “casual Friday” thing.)

Promoting human rights through science
Lauren Segal, Ryan Dz-Wei Chow, Brijesh Kumar, Jenny Nguyen, Kun-Hsing Yu, Jennifer Chen, Emre Ozan Polat, Kaitlyn Elizabeth Porter, Michelle Kelly-Irving, Israel Bimpe, Kristy A. Winter, Runxi Zeng, Majid Ahmed, Dustin Ray Saalman, Joshua Isaac James, Michal Kosinski, Easton R. White, Fernanda S. Oda, Hope Bretscher, Perrine Hamel, Swati Negi, Ali Jawaid
Science 06 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6359, pp. 34-37
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1083
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/34

I know for myself, it has always been important to me to have my work include opportunities for advocacy for others, a chance to make a difference, to better lives. In the Dentistry Library, we worked to support outreach, information, education, research, and clinical work in the last major social healthcare frontier in the USA. In my job as the Emerging Tech Informationist I am able to be part of the conversations around adopting and developing new technologies and keep the questions in mind of how patients and the public are being included, and how technologies create new disabilities even as they create new opportunities. As a researcher, I work to the best of my ability to ensure that my work has the potential to not only inform interesting questions, but to empower others to apply our work and methods in their own environments. I try to publish in open access journals, I try to use open source tools. I try to make my methods crystal clear and replicable. I try to share my data. I try to partner, widely, and sometimes that means compromising and negotiating and educating around issues of intellectual property, access, openness, transparency, and so forth.

In today’s SCIENCE article, these are the human rights they highlighted:

Right to food
Right to health
Right to be remembered
Right to information
Right to education
Right to privacy
Right to a healthy environment
Right to culture

Of course, by far the most populous section was “The Right to Health,” with discussions of communities, cultural context, disparities, vaccines, delayed diagnosis, disasters, social determinants of health, health literacy, and policy loopholes that can be exploited in ways that undermine health rather than promote it. Powerful stuff.

We need to push this out, especially those of us on social media. This is the sort of thing that directly impacts on how the public view science and scientists, and thus has the potential to downstream impact on funding. But that can’t happen unless the public is aware of this, so it’s important to get this out beyond the Academy. It’s important for us to expand upon this, to tell our own stories of why human rights matter to us, why science matters to us. Just as with poets, and pop singers, and athletes, most of us aren’t doing this to get rich, and most of us won’t get rich. Most of us do research because we want to make a difference, we love the science and research and learning new things, and we see exciting opportunities when we place those side by side. How can we help the general public see that in each of us, and in science overall?

More important, can we use articles like this, stories like these to engage with the public in conversations around these topics. Are the rights mentioned here the ones that are actually important to the people around us, and to our society at large? If so, how do we tell those stories so that they see we’re there, too? If not, why not? Is there something people need to know that they don’t? Is there something they know that we don’t? I’m a big fan of the Cochrane Collaboration’s efforts to include patients on the research teams, not only to inform the process and to support “translation” of findings into practice, but perhaps most importantly to shape what questions are asked and studied, to help assure that these are the problems that really matter. Making the stories of science and scientists widely available and engaging with the public around them is the first step in entending that model into all of science. You can help. Share this article, talk about it, challenge it, ask questions, ask for more.

Comics, Graphic Medicine, and Creating Stigma Awareness: A Panel

Comics, Graphic Medicine, and Creating Stigma Awareness

Last week I mentioned this year’s Investing in Ability events, and that I’m involved with one. Well, this is it! Friday afternoon you can join us to talk about “Comics, Graphic Medicine, and Creating Stigma Awareness.”

The panel includes:

* Susan Brown of the Ypsilanti District Library, who coordinates their Graphic Medicine collection;
* David Carter of the Duderstadt Library, who coordinates the University of Michigan Libraries’ Comics and Graphic Novels collection;
* Anne Drozd of the Ann Arbor District Library on their comics, webcomics, and related collections and activities; AND
* Lloyd Shelton, of the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Each of the librarians will talk about how stigma, stereotypes, and bullying are portrayed in their collections, with Susan focusing on Graphic Medicine, Dave on mainstream comics, and Anne on indie and manga. Lloyd will respond to they stories they highlight from the point of view of a person with disabilities. This promises to be a phenomenal event, and I hope you can join us:

October 16, Friday
Hatcher Library, Gallery (map)
3pm-5pm

The event is in an accessible location, and will be audio-recorded.

Health Professions Education Day & Taubman Library Grand Opening

I just wanted to say how button-busting proud I am of last week’s Health Professions Education Day and the Grand (re)-Opening of our library. There was an enormous amount of content related to both, so I made them into two separate Storify. The #HPEDay collection includes a rich overview of the innovative and collaborative approach to health education across all seven of the University of Michigan schools and colleges (dentistry, kinesiology, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, and social work), with rich visionary insights into professional ethics and leadership. Profound, and worth a slow deep exploration. The Taubman Health Sciences Library re-opening collection includes many images from tours of the new building which was designed to support these visions. Enjoy!

If you have specific questions, feel free to post them below, and perhaps they can trigger additional blogposts that go into more detail about specifics.

[Updated Sept22 to correct list of participating schools & colleges.]

Since Katrina, Part One: #SinceKatrina, #Katrina10, #Katrina10Years

Katrina Memorial

It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina changed my life, in many ways. I want to talk about health information challenges then and now, how the information landscape has changed, but that will come in Part Two. For today’s post, I want to honor many of the other voices and conversations around this anniversary. The hashtags collecting these are:

#Katrina
#Katrina10
#Katrina10Years
#SinceKatrina

People are telling the stories of what happened then, remembering, grieving, sharing anger and hurt that has barely faded. Others are analyzing again what went wrong. A few are celebrating survival and growth. Many are looking to the lessons learned and what must happen to prevent this happening again. There are many worthy stories, opinions, ideas, and ideals here. I’ve selected just a few.

STORYTELLING: THEN & NOW | HEALTH & MEDICAL | HISTORY, MUSEUMS, EDUCATION, & LIBRARIES | RESILIENCE, LOSSES, & LESSONS LEARNED | PROGRESS & NEW TOOLS

STORYTELLING: THEN & NOW

HEALTH & MEDICAL

HISTORY, MUSEUMS, EDUCATION, & LIBRARIES

RESILIENCE, LOSSES, & LESSONS LEARNED

PROGRESS & NEW TOOLS

The WORST Thing About Depression is …

Pic of the day - Not a Happy Musical

There is a fantastic, passionate, profoundly honest, deeply wrenching effort going on RIGHT NOW to try to take the stigma out of depression. What I’m talking about is the movement gathering under the hashtag #TheWorstPartOfDepressionIs. People are telling their stories, and the stories of those they love, with and without names, but always with bald-faced honesty. They describe the ways in which expectations, interactions, judgments, sensations, and experiences serve to compound what is already a paralyzing destructive illness. Here are just a few of these amazing tweets.

* THE BLOGGESS

* EXPECTATIONS

* INTERACTIONS

* JUDGMENTS

* SENSATIONS

* EXPERIENCES

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

At The Movies: Tactile Art & Tech for Autism

David Chesney is Back. This Time With Sean Ahlquist (Art & Architecture) and Sile O’Modhrain (Music). The project being highlighted this time is designed to use a flexible stretch “coloring book” to provide a kind of engaging biofeedback to children with autism regarding the amount of pressure they are using. This would have been fantastic to have when my son was small.

David Chesney: “The research that I do here at the University of Michigan is at the intersection of technology and childhood disability.”


Tactile Art | MichEpedia | MconneX https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQU7ZhMvH2k

University researchers and students create device designed to aid in Autism therapy https://www.michigandaily.com/news/university-researchers-and-students-different-fields-study-create-device-designed-aid-autism-th

More videos about the project from Dr. Ahlquist.

Social Sensory Surfaces Research Project from Sean Ahlquist on Vimeo.

Social Sensory Surfaces Research Project https://vimeo.com/125392278

Stretch|PLAY from Sean Ahlquist on Vimeo.

Stretch|PLAY https://vimeo.com/125633678

Social Sensory Surfaces: http://taubmancollege.umich.edu/research/research-through-making/2015/social-sensory-surfaces

Related work from Dr. Chesney on his work with autism.


Software Engineering Class Hacks Autism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUT-Chcffqc

Digital avatars help children with autism – w/video http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/digital-avatars-help-children-autism/21463/snapshot/

Hacking Autism and University of Michigan https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2012/05/01/hacking-autism-and-university-michigan

Video games help autistic students in classrooms http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-05-31/video-games-autism-students/55319452/1

More interesting projects by Dr. Chesney & his students.


Untapped Resonance: David Chesney at TEDxUofM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO9HSiUMylE


Engineering with Grace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDjYoyYfUQE
Engineering with Grace: Software class aims to help one teen communicate: http://ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/slideshows/21712-engineering-with-grace-software-class-aims-to-help-one-teen-communicate
Computer Science with Soul: http://dme.engin.umich.edu/grace/


Provost’s Seminar on Teaching – Presenter David Chesney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDSwN1MEfnY

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part Two, “Our New Technology”

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

To continue the series on “what I did for #ADA25,” I’d like to talk about the very exciting event here in town last week, in which Ann Arbor sets the stage for a national high speed rail system, and access for persons with disability is at the core of making this possible.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

AMTRAK

The event was the ribbon cutting for the new disability-accessible platform at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station.

“New disability-accessible platform opens at Ann Arbor Amtrak station” http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/07/new_disability_platform_opens.html

The event started out with the mayor, Chris Taylor, describing the importance of the University of Michigan Health System and hospitals in providing advanced health care to the residents of the State of Michigan, and how critical accessible rail transport is for supporting this.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley noted, “Acceptance & awareness are important, but inclusion is a game changer.”

Richard Bernstein, Judge of the Michigan Supreme Court, waxed eloquent, clearly joyful and delighted with this innovation. You can hear his full remarks on Soundcloud.

Joe McHugh (Amtrak’s Senior Vice President) described this as “the flagship of our new technology,” continuing with the vision and possibilities that would come from this.

Joe really meant technology, too! The new boarding platform is retractable, and extends toward the train when in use. The Amtrak press release describes it as “The platform mechanically extends toward the train, bridging the gap created when a level-boarding platform is needed. This next generation of passenger-focused technology will allow America’s Railroad® to deliver a modern passenger railroad that is accessible to all.” That wasn’t the limit of the tech, either. In addition to designing the platform, the interactive portions of the tech, they also had to design manual tech to support the process in case of problems with the automated portions or for situations that require special extra support.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

As with all ribbon-cutting events, the actual story started long long before. Or stories, I should say. This event sprang from the intersection of many stories, many people’s experiences. There are the local folk who fought for a better way to take the train, and helped make people aware of the reasons why it should start HERE. There were wheelchair passengers who complained about being put on a jack, hoisted into mid-air, and left dangling in the rain while the station staff try to get the logistics sorted out. There were the Amtrak staff who helped people with luggage, moms with strollers, elderly folk climbing the narrow stairs into or out of the Amtrak cars.

The story that resonated most powerfully with me was told by Richard Devylder, the U.S. DOT’s Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation.

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y

Richard was born without arms or legs. The combination of his experience, his intelligence, his connections with the community of persons with disabilities all help to inform his position and influence change. And when the opportunity presents itself, he absolutely will go for the brass ring.

That’s kind of what happened one day a few years ago. Richard described a room full of transportation higher ups. He asked, “Well, do you want to see high speed rail in the United States?” Yes, yes, yes, they all did. The next thing Richard said? “Then you have to find a way to let people like me board the train in less than 15 minutes.” BOOM.

That was one story. He had another good one. Richard described one day when he was trying to get on the train, and a ramp had been set up to allow him to board. But he couldn’t even get on the ramp because it was so crowded with people. Elderly with walkers. Parents with strollers. People with heavy rolling bags of luggage. Part of him thought, “Hey, why are all these people blocking my ramp?” Immediately he realized it is because all of them also needed a ramp, and the one provided for him was the only one there. BOOM #2!

We need ramps for boarding trains absolutely as much as we need curb cuts. The next ADA25 story I’ll be telling is about a group of people in virtual worlds. They were pretty impressed when I told them about this new Amtrak platform. Then they asked, “But why did it take 25 years? And why is there only ONE in the entire United States?” More on that in the next post.

The actual ribbon cutting, with Gary Talbot as the honored local person who pushed the hardest to make this happen.

And then people could board!

#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y
#ADA25 Amtrak New Accessible Technology #a11y


Updated to include Gary Talbot’s name.

#ADA25! Tech + Touch + Targets: Part One, “I couldn’t type a hug.”

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act. I want to describe three technology events that happened around the theme of celebrating this milestone! These three stories include high speed rail, robots, assistive communication devices, virtual worlds, web accessibility, exoskeletons, 3d printing, and more. That’s the tech. But the touch is just as important, if not more so, and the question of what’s left that needs doing is the idea of defining and meeting our targets. Let’s get started.

WHITE HOUSE

First, President Obama celebrated, of course, with many people. One was Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind graduate of the Harvard Law School. The President would type words to talk with her, and she would listen with her hands on a machine that translated the typing into Braille. “I couldn’t type a hug,” he said.

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

Alice Wong, of the Disability Visibility Project, attended the event through her telepresence robot, and wrote about it later, here.

Screenshots from the White House video of President Obama Celebrating ADA25

The White House has made available both the highlights video (under 3 minutes) and the complete event (about 1.5 hours).


President Obama Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the ADA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZCQT-DYVNY


President Obama Speaks at the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUI-TUFlteU

Towards the end of his remarks, President Obama described the how his father-in-law’s experience with multiple sclerosis helped to shape his passion for reducing barriers for persons with disabilities, and his awareness of how access to necessary resources can help people grow into their potential, and how that helps all of us.

“And just an aside on this, for a long time, he would not get a motorized wheelchair because he had gotten this disability at a time when they weren’t available and it was expensive, and they weren’t wealthy, and insurance didn’t always cover it. And it just gave you a sense of — Michelle and I would talk sometimes about how much more he could have done, how much more he could have seen — as wonderful as a dad as he was, and as wonderful as a coworker as he was, he was very cautious about what he could and couldn’t do — not because he couldn’t do it, but because he didn’t want to inconvenience his family and he didn’t want to be seen as somehow holding things up.” Remarks by the President on The Americans With Disabilities Act https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/20/remarks-president-americans-disabilities-act

What Patients Think about Clinical Trial Engagement (#patientchat)

At the Doctor's Office

I had really wanted to participate in this Twitter chat today (#patientchat), on how patients find clinical trials, decide to engage with them, what resources they use, their expectations, and their concerns. I missed the chat, but it is archived in Symplur, so I was able to scroll through, search, dig, prowl around, and find my favorite bits. Since I went through all of that, I thought I’d share it. I’d recommend reading more deeply in the transcript for anyone in clinical trial research or recruitment, patients with basically any kind of diagnosis (as Mighty Casey eloquently said), people interested in translational medicine (where patients play a crucial role), as well as clinicians. Evidently, patients consider clinical trial recommendation from the primary care clinicians to be an obligation, not an optional part of providing care. Who knew? I bet we could automate relevant clinical trial notifications in EHR and as part of clinic visit prep. Why not? Explore below and see what other surprises and creative nuggets appear.

Where the Weird Things Are

So, when I got back from my trip to MLA, I went to work, and this weird thing happened.

See what I mean? And it did feel weird. I was talking to someone today about why it felt weird, and it’s basically because I’m not doing anything that special, nothing that I don’t know perfectly well people all around me are also doing. So why not give them ALL awards, eh? The parable (or parallel) I have is weddings, graduations, and such. They aren’t for YOU. The marriage is for you, but the wedding is for your friends and family. The degree and what you do with it is for you, but the graduation ceremony is for your friends and family. Right? The award is less about anything I’ve done, at least in my mind, and more about saying in a public way that all of you who are doing the same kind of cool things, YAY for you! YAY for us! Keep doing it, that’s the kind of stuff we want in our community. Does that make any kind of sense?

Ironically, I had just returned (at about 1:30AM that morning!) from a conference in Austin, where the slogan is, “Austin. Keeping it weird.” I had officially heard about the award that morning, and a bunch of colorful ideas flooded into my mind. I thought I’d say a few words, and that idea got … well … I got carried away. Evidently, whatever I said was OK, because some folk told me, “Whoa! You went all “The Moth” on us!” Other people came up afterwards and said, “Me, too.” Since then, individuals have been telling me they were hearing others talking about it. And I was asked to try to write some of it down and blog it. I’m kind of murky on what exactly I said, but I do still have the approximately 25 words of notes that I scribbled down in the morning. So here goes, not trying to remember word-for-word, but generally trying to keep the same tone and feeling.

JUST A FEW WORDS

I just got back from Austin, where the local badge of pride is reflected in the slogan, “Keeping it weird.” I was looking at tshirts to bring back to the family, and noticed one that I just had to get for myself. (I was actually wearing it at the celebration, but no one could see it becauseI had other garments over it.) The one I had to get was a parody-slash-mashup of Where the Wild Things Are.

Wild Things

The tshirt said, “Where the Weird Things Are.” Of course, I had to get it! Books, right? Right!

Where the weird things are

So they told me that morning that I was going to get the Diversity Award today. I was thinking about weirdness, who’s weird, what does it mean to be weird, how does weirdness tie in with diversity. There was a trending hashtag on Twitter, #DescribeYourselfIn3Words. My first reaction was, “Well, that’s not very diverse! Three words isn’t very much to describe any of us. But I tried. I did it twice. That’s six words. I suppose that’s probably cheating? Here’s what I called myself.

#DescribeYourselfIn3Words: Militant Moderate Librarian

First, I said, “Militant moderate librarian.” To me, this describes my identity, that I am a librarian down to the bone, deep in my soul, and my view of what it means to be a librarian: unbiased by intention and determination. It’s a LOT of work.

#DescribeYourselfIn3Words: Inspire, Be Inspired

Next, I said, “Inspire, be inspired,” which I see as my job description, and I know that many of us working here in this library system feel the same way. I adopted that one from Hugh McLeod, “Gapingvoid.” I saw this years ago, when I was new to being the Emerging Technologies Librarian, and had just gotten my income tax refund, so indulged (HUGELY, this was a BIG indulgence for me) and bought it. It hangs on my wall right now, where I will see it every single day. It means a lot to me.

Gapingvoid: Inspire, Be Inspired

So, while three words aren’t very many, especially in the sense of describing an entire complete unique quirky diverse individual or community, but maybe they can serve as a kind of mission/vision statement, or emotional touchstone.

Library Diversity Celebration: Walk in my shoes.

The theme of today’s event is “Walk in My Shoes.” I’ve been walking around, looking at the displays, reading the signs, reading the stories. They’re pretty amazing. The grandmother who was a ballerina? I love that one. James’ story about the shoes that make you more wonderful when you believe in them? Powerful! Here are my shoes.

My Shoes

Down at the conference in Austin, someone told me they are great classic librarian shoes. Yeah. Boo hiss. I wasn’t too happy, either. I told him these are not so much librarian shoes as medical prescription shoes. I have foot orthotics, and foot pain. I wear these shoes because the orthotics fit into them and because they don’t hurt as much. Before I wore foot orthotics, I had some beautiful shoes. Purple, green, red. Hightops colored like blueberries and lined with soft terrycloth. Deep purple Converse hightops my daughter gave me for my 50th birthday. Spiked heels striped with earth tones. Elegant flats decorated with clip on red and black accents. Tennis shoes that belong in a Brooklyn Museum: Rise of Sneaker Culture, decorated and carved with geisha, comics, flowers, leaves. Leaving footprints that reveal an ukiyo-e kiss.

New Green Shoes: StitcheryNew Green Shoes: Light and Shadow

I love my old shoes. Sometimes I loved them so much that they would wear out, the sole would tear off, and I would save them for years trying to find another pair. Now, I wear old lady librarian shoes, the same pair, all day, every day. And I have a closet of beautiful shoes I can’t wear, but can’t bear to give away, at least not yet.

Curiously, shoes are how I first got into diversity. Really! How many of you remember Highlights Magazine for Children? It had a very distinctive style of art work, and the stories were all educational and/or morally uplifting.

chatold woman with fishbowl and goose

My parents always had a subscription to this, as long as we had kids in the appropriate age ranges, and we had a lot of kids. It must have been when I was very young, just learning to read, when I saw a story about learning to “walk in another man’s moccasins,” only they called it the “in the skin game.” I thought this sounded fantastic, fascinating, amazing! The story asked the children to stop and imagine what the other person in the story might be feeling, where they came from, what their family was like, what was going on that wasn’t visible that made them act the way they did. The story came to an end, but the game didn’t. I found it so deeply engaging and fascinating, I kept doing it. People watching. Trying to understand. Evidently, I never really learned to turn it off!

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about what is called Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma (IGTT). Sometimes it’s called Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma (TGTT).

Google Scholar Search: (“intergenerational transmission of trauma” OR “transgenerational transmission of trauma” OR “inter-generational transmission of trauma” OR “trans-generational transmission of trauma”)

Briefly, the idea is that a predisposition to experiencing traumatic events is passed along from parent to child, like a baton in a race, handed on from generation to generation.

“The idea that a parental traumatic experience could reach the second generation soon gained consistency. Clinical studies reported a wide range of affective and emotional symptoms transmitted over generations: distrust of the world, impaired parental function, chronic sorrow, inability to communicate feelings, an ever-present fear of danger, pressure for educational achievement, separation anxiety, lack of entitlement, unclear boundaries, and overprotectiveness within a narcissist family system.” (Braga, Mello, Fiks, 2012)

Most of the research on this idea has been done in easily identifiable communities which have experienced severe trauma in a generational context. African American families that experienced slavery. Jewish and Polish families of Holocaust survivors. Native American or First People families. Families of war and combat veterans. Refugees. With domestic violence it’s harder to identify a research study cohort, but they’re looking at this, too.

All around the room heads were nodding. How many of us have families that have experienced trauma? How many of us have families that have NOT experienced trauma?

When the research first started, they believed that the process of transmission, of passing along the trauma, came from children imitating the behaviors and beliefs of the parents, or that the parents (consciously or unconsciously) taught the children maladaptive ways to respond to the world, based on their own experiences of trauma. Now, researchers are starting to believe it runs deeper than that. Research is leaning towards the idea that significant trauma of these sorts can literally rewrite our genes, and can change what genes are preferentially passed on to our children. I’ll do another blogpost about this, but just try searching epigenetics of trauma to dip into the literature.

The gist of the idea is that the experience of trauma causes changes to many of our body’s systems, most importantly the immune system, hormone levels (especially cortisol), as well as the brain and nervous system. To put it even more briefly, trauma early in our life or our parent’s lives can make us more likely to get sick physically later, to develop mental illness, and to respond to life in ways that make us more likely to experience trauma ourselves. The changes to the brain either make it so people over react to potentially threatening environments, or under-react. Either way, it puts them (us?) at heightened risk through a response that is out of sync with the actual threat level.

Our friends and colleagues who come from cultures rich in traumatic pasts may still be experiencing things in their own lives that were shaped generations ago. Does that mean that IGTT gives everyone with a familial history of trauma a “get out of jail free” card for responsibility for our own actions? Not exactly. Yes, we have to understand how this shapes trauma across generations, and shapes the actions of people now. Sometimes I’ll ask people, “Be a little more understanding of this lady, she’s in severe pain pretty much all the time, and that’s why she’s a little short tempered. Be patient.” That idea applies here, too. None of us know what the other person is going through, what they have gone through, what their parents or grandparents went through. I wonder how my life might have been different if my mother hadn’t been badly abused as a child, if her mother hadn’t been subjected to extreme prejudice and poverty through racism, if my dad’s dad hadn’t had addictions, and so forth. I might have been a completely different person. I expect most of us have something in our family histories along these lines. There are tales that are not passed along, at least verbally, but they still show in our genes. It can hurt you, even if you never knew it happened.

The good news is that our genes and our family history can ALSO foster resilience! And that for the epigenetic changes we’ve been passing along from generation to generation, we CAN begin to break the cycle. Here are some things that seem to be helping in some communities (with more details and sources coming in another blogpost):

a nurturing social environment;
especially giving added nurturing early in life;
providing safe places and spaces;
giving future at-risk parents support and training in parenting before they become parents;
teaching resilience, appropriate responses to stress and threat;
teaching how and when to trust, building social decisionmaking skills;
giving and modeling genuine healthy attachments, love, and caring;
identifying and dealing with the trauma;
and sleep.

We’re still learning what works, and what works best. To me, it sounds like a big part of the issues of IGTT tie directly into the vision and missions of diversity initiatives in corporations and enterprises all across the world.

Know the problem.
Say the problem.
Change the things that made the problem.

Isn’t this one part of why we have diversity initiatives? Partly to try to fix the problems, partly to stop perpetuating the problems, and partly because there are so many wonderful people and wonderful possibilities that we miss out on when we aren’t including different points of views and different kinds of people. All three of those impact on the day to day life for all of us. Fixing the problems helps reduce crime, improve health, reduce costs, improve creativity, and ultimately improve resilience across our entire society.

To tie this all up, where are the weird things? Well, not just in Austin, that’s for sure. We are all of us weird, just some of us are more weird than others. And that’s ok, as long as we accept it, and make a safe space for everyone. So.

Where the weird things are?

Here.

Here, is where the weird things are.
Us, we are the weird things.

My New (Gapingvoid) Tshirt! (And my job description) 150529