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February 14, 2013

Helping Kids & Adults Heal From Trauma: There’s No Clear Path

By LINDSEY TANNER

AP Medical Writer

Chicago (AP) Shootings and other traumatic events involving children are not rare events, but there’s a startling lack of scientific evidence on the best ways to help young survivors and witnesses heal, a government-funded analysis found.
School-based counseling treatments showed the most promise, but there’s no hard proof that anxiety drugs or other medication work and far more research is needed to provide solid answers, say the authors who reviewed 25 studies. Their report was sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

According to research cited in the report, about two-thirds of U.S. children and teens younger than 18 will experience at least one traumatic event, including shootings and other violence, car crashes and weather disasters. That includes survivors and witnesses of trauma. Most will not suffer any long-term psychological problems, but about 13 percent will develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including anxiety, behavior difficulties and other problems related to the event.

The report’s conclusions don’t mean that no treatment works. It’s just that no one knows which treatments are best, or if certain ones work better for some children but not others.

``Our findings serve as a call to action,’’ the researchers wrote in their analysis, published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

``This is a very important topic, just in light of recent events,’’ said lead author Valerie Forman-Hoffman, a researcher at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

She has two young children and said the results suggest that it’s likely one of them will experience some kind of trauma before reaching adulthood. ``As a parent I want to know what works best,’’ the researcher said.

Besides the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, other recent tragedies involving young survivors or witnesses include the fatal shooting last month of a 15-year-old Chicago girl gunned down in front of a group of friends; Superstorm Sandy in October; and the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado, whose survivors include students whose high school was destroyed.

Some may do fine with no treatment; others will need some sort of counseling to help them cope.Studying which treatments are most effective is difficult because so many things affect how a child or teen will fare emotionally after a traumatic event, said Dr. Denise Dowd, an emergency physician and research director at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, who wrote a Pediatrics editorial.

One of the most important factors is how the child’s parents handle the aftermath, Dowd said.

``If the parent is freaking out’’ and has difficulty controlling emotions, kids will have a tougher time dealing with trauma. Traumatized kids need to feel like they’re in a safe and stable environment, and if their parents have trouble coping, ``it’s going to be very difficult for the kid,’’ she said.

The researchers analyzed 25 studies of treatments that included anti-anxiety and depression drugs, school-based counseling, and various types of psychotherapy. The strongest evidence favored school-based treatments involving cognitive behavior therapy, which helps patients find ways to cope with disturbing thoughts and emotions, sometimes including talking repeatedly about their trauma.

This treatment worked better than nothing, but more research is needed comparing it with alternatives, the report says. ``We really don’t have a gold standard treatment right now,’’ said William Copeland, a psychologist and researcher at Duke University Medical Center who was not involved in the report. A lot of doctors and therapists may be ``patching together a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and that might not add up to the most effective treatment for any given child,’’ he said.

Cat Stars Of The Internet: How Did This Happen?

By LEANNE ITALIE

Associated Press

New Yoek (AP) They frolic in empty boxes and stick their heads under faucet streams of water. They dance on tippy toes and fly through the air with Pop-Tarts. They play piano wearing little frocks and get tickled to distraction to the delight of millions on YouTube.

I speak, of course, of the cat stars of the Internet, a place filled with felines and their wacky uploading humans since the dawn of bandwidth. Now, after years of viral viewing, they’re coming into their own in lucrative and altruistic ways.

The first Internet Cat Video Film Festival drew a Woodstock-esque crowd of more than 10,000 — people, that is — to a Minneapolis art museum in August. Police closed a span of highway clogged with cars trying to get to the Walker Art Center for the free outdoor slate of 80 videos culled from 10,000 submissions that covered the simple, funny moment to polished animations and works made by trained filmmakers.

``People were spilling out into the streets. It kind of took our breath away. You hit the people that are the cat lovers but you also get people who just like sharing something on the Internet, and it kind of reaches across age groups,’’ said the museum’s Scott Stulen, who worked on the festival and helped curate entries.

Corporate kittydom is happy with the higher profile for the cat meme, which actually goes back to the `70s, when swapping VHS tapes was big and the word meme was barely known. It means, by the way, all the crazy, viral themes that spread online faster than you can say nom, nom, nom (cat-vid speak for the sound of a cat eating.)

Grumpy Cat, ‘Tard’

In addition to the Walker’s free night in cat video heaven, Fresh Step litter sponsored Catdance, an evening of felines on screen that coincided with January’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. A fan-voted winner among five scripted finalists, 10 films were commissioned at the launch of the program, will earn $10,000 after online voting ends later this month.

In November, Friskies gave a lifetime achievement statue to angsty existentialist Henri, le Chat Noir, at the brand’s own awards ceremony and donated 250,000 cans of cat food to shelters around the country. Henri, the troubled Tuxedo, won another statue in Minneapolis and will soon begin a collaboration of food-focused videos with Friskies.

Oh, and Henri’s putting out his first book in April.

Roly poly Maru, the megastar in Japan with millions of views for nearly 300 videos since 2007, has three books and a calendar, among other swag for sale. The squishy-faced, often blissed-out Scottish fold who loves boxes and bags was used by Uniqlo when the Japanese brand launched its San Francisco store in October. Maru chose boxes, called ``Lucky Cubes,’’ stuffed with giveaways for human contest winners.

Not to be outdone, Simon’s Cat, a funny feline in a series of line-drawn animated videos out of London, has a book and an online store, as does Henri, who lends his fame and some of his dollars to cat charities.

Even the funny faced Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, coughs up some bucks to animal welfare groups, while captions for her still photos fly around the Internet and she sells T-shirts off her website. She put out some videos after her existence as a living, breathing and not digitally altered feline was questioned, according to her site.

So why cats?

Cats are fluffy and unpredictable and usually kept behind closed doors, which lends them allure and appeal that other common pets — I’m talking to you, dogs! — don’t seem to have when it comes to vapid, funny or deranged video. At least that’s what cat fans think.

Maru, adorable Japanese cat

``Cats are going to do what they want to do and that’s one of the reasons that we love them,’’ said David Kargas, a Fresh Step spokesman who worked on Catdance.

These days in the cat video game, acts of charity are expected as much as laughs, said William Braden, the Seattle filmmaker who morphed a pampered family cat named Henry into the French-speaking Henri for a 2006 film school project. Cranking out Henri videos and managing the black-and-white long hair’s growing projects are now Braden’s full-time job.

``On the one hand you’d be stupid not to do charity because fans are sensitive,’’ Braden said. ``On the other hand, for the love of God, I make a living doing this... . How horrible would I be if I didn’t give a little bit of it away?’’

The gravy train for cat vid makers is a long one not likely to dead-end any time soon. Consider the ad revenue from YouTube and other social networks and personal websites. But while commercial ads are often included on the sites, so are fans looking to help cats in need.

On the Facebook page of Simon’s Cat, for example, people post to find homes for wayward cats. The Facebook page of Oskar the blind cat, who hit it big on YouTube as a kitten when he came home to his older buddy Klaus, raises awareness that disabled cats can make great pets.

Animator Simon Tofield, creator of Simon’s Cat, said from London that his first video, ``Cat Man Do,’’ changed his life. Inspired by his cat Hugh, one of several he shares his life with, the first video was his attempt to teach himself the computer program Flash. It features the hungry, googly eyed cat character trying to annoy his owner awake, wonking him with a baseball bat at one point.

The video was put on YouTube four years ago and received millions of views overnight, Tofield said. More than two dozen videos later, Simon’s Cat views have exceeded 300 million.

``Before Simon’s Cat launched, I was working as a freelance animator, which could be frustrating as you would never know when the next job would come in,’’ Tofield said. ``Although I was drawing, which I love, it wasn’t as enjoyable as what I’m doing now by drawing and creating my own characters.’’

Nobody knows the cat meme better than Ben Huh, who with a group of investors bought the I Can Has Cheezburger site in September 2007. The site, now an empire of sites for Huh, allows users to generate captions on cat photos using LOLcat speak, a language with spelling and syntax all its own.

Huh has none of Braden’s guilt about making money off of funny cats on the Internet. He recently starred in his own Bravo reality show, and sees a healthy future ahead as cat memes spread and merge with other content.

``People are mixing and matching and the content can’t be put into neat little boxes anymore,’’ said Huh, noting that Grumpy Cat’s still photos pop up just about anywhere nowadays. ``That’s the irony. That has caused the Cat Internet Industrial Complex to continue to grow.’’

Henri, le Chat Noir: http://www.henrilechatnoir.com

Simon’s Cat: http://www.simonscat.com

Maru Greatest Hits VI: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uDuls5TyNE

Internet Cat Video Festival: http://www.walkerart.org/openfield/programs/internet-cat-video-film-festival

Catdance: http://www.freshstep.com/promotions/catdance-festival

 


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