Chapter News

Marc

LET US BE A LIGHT TO THE WORLD!

As I write this column, my family, along with Jewish families worldwide, is celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. This holiday celebrates the victory of a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, who were able to defeat the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who were trying to prevent the Jews from practicing their religion. After their unexpected victory, the Jews wanted to reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but only had enough oil to last one day when it would take eight days to get more of this holy oil. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days.

Jewish families who celebrate Hanukkah, light candles in their Menorah for eight days, sing Hanukkah songs, spin a dreidel with their children and eat potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream, among other activities.

Jewish families often put their lighted Menorah in the window of their residence so others can see it.

The lighting of the Hanukkah candles has symbolism that certainly applies to our role as social workers. Some of its messages are:

1) Stand up for what you believe in

2) A little light goes a long way-your individual efforts can make a huge difference in the world

3) Go public with your messaging

As social workers, we serve as “lights” to our clients, agencies, our community and world. We are taught to be advocates and stand up for ethical practice and social justice. We are the conscience of our agency and our community, often without support from our superiors and many in our community. We lead efforts for social justice.

We shine our light by serving as role models for our clients and are there for them in their darkest moments. Whether we are helping troubled adolescents, protecting vulnerable children, helping challenged families, serving victims of domestic violence or sexual assault or helping clients in a hospital or nursing home, we offer hope and light to our clients.

As social justice advocates, we often struggle against seemingly impossible odds to fight against oppressive policies and promote humane policies.

We are leaders in our communities, state and nation against policies that harm diverse communities, our clients and the general welfare of our society.

After another day of setbacks for social justice in our country, one of our NASW-WI interns asked me, “How do you keep hopeful?”

My answer was three-fold:

One, we speak out and advocate because it is the right thing to do and we know we must do so regardless of whether we think we can be successful at the moment.

Two, we know if we don’t speak out, it only means it will take even longer for needed change to come.

Finally, as social workers we are always hopeful for our clients and our social justice work and believe change is always possible. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice”.

So, I want to take this time to thank all of you for being a light to your clients, community and world despite so many obstacles and challenges. You all give hope to me, our social work community, our clients and our world.

By Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

Dawn

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

According to Wikipedia, Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus which means "pleasing, thankful".  It is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, to the giver of said gifts. Gratitude in the simplest form is the “state of thankfulness” or the “state of being grateful”.  Dopamine and Serotonin are two important neurotransmitters in our brain that are responsible for our emotions.  They make us feel good by enhancing our mood immediately, which makes us feel happy from the inside.  Practicing Gratitude daily can help these neural pathways to strengthen and eventually create a permanent grateful and positive nature within us, which builds our inner strength.  This is helpful in fighting stress (Gratitude: A Tool To Reduce Stress, North Dakota Behavioral Health Services).  Gratitude is scientifically proven to have benefits on a person’s physical and mental well-being.  In Psychology Today, the article, 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude: You'll be grateful that you made the change (and you'll sleep better), written by Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of the best- selling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do” identifies seven scientifically proven benefits of Gratitude. (Psychology Today, April 3, 2015)

The benefits are:

1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. According to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs - a major factor in reduced self-esteem - grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience, following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for - even during the worst times - fosters resilience.

As I reflect upon the last 20 months, I think about how blessed my life is.  Despite how COVID -19 has impacted my life; the social injustices that occurred in our country; and other life changes, I am grateful and thankful for my health, my family, my cat, Dixie, my church family, my sorority sisters, my friends, my home, my job, my clients, my colleagues, and professional networks.  I am grateful and thankful to serve as NASW-WI’s Board President and to have attended, in-person, NASW-WI’s 47th Annual Conference, the first hybrid conference for the organization.  The conference was awesome!  I am also thankful and grateful for the civic-minded Boards, Councils, and committees I serve on that advocate for the rights of those who are vulnerable or often seen as “voiceless”. 

As we enter into the joyous holiday season, let us remember the importance of Gratitude.  I wish you and your family a joyous, happy and safe Holiday Season!

Marc-Herstand

NASW WISCONSIN CHAPTER STATEMENT ON THE ACQUITTAL OF KYLE RITTENHOUSE

The Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers is greatly concerned about the community impact of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on all five felony charges. We believe this acquittal could send a message in our state and across the country that it is appropriate for private citizens of all ages to take a gun to a protest, public event, or other potentially volatile situation.

As social workers we understand the stages in human development, and we are well aware of research that shows that the reasoning part of a brain is not fully formed until the mid-20’s.1 To allow a 17-year-old to carry a military assault rifle into a volatile situation is a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, allowing any private individual to carry a loaded weapon into a public setting and act as a surrogate police officer is a serious mistake. Individuals can behave in harmful ways under stressful situations, and having access to high-powered firearms in these situations can have deadly consequences, as we learned in this case.

On average, 621 Wisconsinites die by guns every year. Gun deaths have increased 17% from 2010 to 2019. This represents an increase of 103 gun deaths over this period in Wisconsin. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in Wisconsin, the rate of gun suicide increased 6% and gun homicide increased 48% from 2010 to 2019, compared to a 13% increase and 26% increase nationwide, respectively.2

Instead of encouraging and allowing Wisconsin residents and visitors to our state to carry guns whenever they see fit, we need to pass laws that can reduce gun violence; including requiring background checks on all gun sales, passing an Extreme Risk Protection Order and passing legislation requiring a waiting period for the purchase of handguns.

The riots and violence in Kenosha where Kyle Rittenhouse killed two individuals and injured a third were ignited by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an African American father.To avoid similar tragedies, police officers need continuous training in de-escalation tactics and racial bias.There also needs to be much stronger accountability measures for law enforcement officers who violate police standards in injuring or killing members of our community.These changes could lead to more trust between the police and the diverse communities they serve.

Dawn-Shelton-Williams

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

Autumn(Fall) is one of my favorite times of the year.  The change of season from Summer to Fall is marked by changes in nature.  The temperature begins to cool down and the leaves begin to change from green to bright beautiful colors of red, yellow, and orange!  Fall also makes me think about the concepts of change and transformation.  Change and Transformation that are observed both in personal and environmental spaces of a person’s life.  I read an article about the Seven Symbolic Meanings of  Autumn by Kirsten Nunez (2016).  The article focuses on how to embrace change that comes with the Autumn season.  In the article, she talks about what she learned about the Seven Symbolic Meanings associated with the Autumn Equinox. She talks about Autumn as a time for self -reflection, change, and reconnection. The Seven Symbolic Meanings identified in the article are:

Change  

Mystery

Preservation

Protection

Comfort

Balance

Letting Go

Heraclitus, the Greek Philosopher, is referenced for the first symbolic meaning of Autumn(Fall) which is Change. Heraclitus stated that “The only constant is change”.  Fall reminds us that our minds, bodies, and surroundings are always changing.  We experience this as we begin to observe the changes in nature in Fall.  The temperature begins to cool down and the leaves on the trees begin to change from green to bright colors of red, orange and yellow!   Since change is constant, it is a good reminder to us to embrace experiences as they happen.  It is important to embrace them in the present.  Life is short and we do not know what it will bring to us from minute to minute.  Mystery is described as the outcome that comes from the day to day changes in Life. Change in life brings on new mysteries.  I like to view the new mysteries as new opportunities in life.  Preservation is the third symbolic meaning in the article.  Fall represents the preservation of life and its basic necessities.  The author discusses that during Fall, animals begin to store food and find safe places for hibernation for winter. Farmers begin to harvest crops for food for the winter.  As the weather begins to change(falling temperatures), we tend to spend more time in the safety and comfort of our homes.  This is a good time for us to reconnect with ourselves.  As Summer switches to Fall, we focus on Protection.  Protection is viewed from a physical lens.  We begin to dress in warmer clothes to protect ourselves from the cooler temperatures and focus more on taking care of ourselves so that we do not get sick. The fifth symbolic meaning of Autumn is Comfort.  As the temperature drops, we tend to look for ways to find comfort within our homes.  This is a good time to reflect on what makes us happy and what makes us feel safe.  Balance is the next symbolic meaning of Autumn in the article.  Day and night are the same length during the Autumn Equinox.  Ancient cultures associated the Autumn Equinox with the concept of Balance in life.  During Autumn, the author describes us harmonizing with the earth and drawing from the balance within ourselves. The last symbolic meaning of Autumn in the article is Letting Go.  When we look within ourselves, what can we let go?

Although the article focused on the 7 Symbolic Meanings of Autumn (Fall), I thought about how these meanings can be integrated within social work practice.  As social workers, we deal with change and transformation on a daily basis.  We are skilled in dealing with social issues on the micro and macro levels to help people who are often seen as “invisible” or “voiceless” in society.I challenge you to think about the concepts of Change; Mystery; Preservation; Protection;  Comfort; Balance; and Letting Go, and how you integrate these concepts into your social work practice as you help others and how do you integrate them within your personal life as a social worker.

By Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW