• Helping veterans through outreach

      Ebersole, Rodney B.; Daku, Mike; Boldt, Frank; Duke, Rob (2017-12)
      The present Master's project seeks to develop a better understanding of Veterans and what they are going through. Research methods include extensive data on the high suicide rates of Veterans. Veteran and service members are in need of a service to them that will address the issue of suicide and what can be done to help and eliminate this problem. The programs that need to be designed to help needs should be in locations that have Veteran populations so as to serve them with their needs. Ultimately, Veterans Affairs (VA) officials have boosted their mental health personnel and suicide hotline staff in recent years, but at this time their data does not reflect it helping Veterans getting the help that they so desperately need.
    • Historical trauma and approaches to healing among Choctaw American Indians

      Woods, Ashley; Rivkin, Inna; Gifford, Valerie; Lardon, Ce'cile; David, E.J.R. (2018-08)
      Native Americans have experienced a number of historically traumatic events that are believed to contribute to the development of behavioral health symptoms that negatively affect Native American quality of life across generations. Despite the trajectory of trauma experienced in some Native American communities, Native Americans exhibit extraordinary resilience and cultural strengths. Stress and coping models have been developed to explain how historical trauma is related to current health disparities among Native Americans and how enculturation may serve as a buffer against the negative effects of historical trauma. However, these models apply meta-theories to understanding historical trauma rather than tribally specific conceptualizations of historical trauma and historical trauma responses. Therefore, it is important to understand tribally specific manifestations of historical trauma so that intervention and prevention efforts are culturally appropriate. Choctaws are one of the largest Native American groups in the United States. They have experienced a history of forced removal and relocation from traditional homelands, yet the Choctaw Nation itself exhibits continuous growth and success as a tribe. This study used a qualitative, phenomenological, and community based participatory research (CBPR) approach to explore how Oklahoma Choctaw American Indians experience historical trauma and define well-being and enculturation. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with Choctaw American Indians in three different age categories 18-29; 30-49; and 50 and over to examine generational differences in how concepts of historical trauma, enculturation, and well-being are conceptualized. The theoretical construct of historical trauma was informed by themes of assimilation and colonization; resurgence of the Choctaw identity; awareness of historical losses and affective responses; forms of coping; current barriers to accessing Choctaw Nation services; and varying degrees of cultural involvement among tribal members. The theoretical construct of well-being was described in terms of physical health, faith, family, and culture. The theoretical construct of enculturation included pride in heritage, having Choctaw blood, being involved, and social connectedness. Choctaw participants reported social problems related to substance abuse and a sense of diminishing social connectedness to other tribal members. Recommendations on how to upscale behavioral health treatment and strengthen community ties are described. Adapted measures of historical trauma and enculturation for use in future research endeavors with Oklahoma Choctaw American Indians are also provided.
    • Resilient spirits

      Apok, Charlene Renee; Brooks, Cathy; Carroll, Jennifer L. L.; Jones, Jenny Bell; Carothers, Courtney; Ramos, Judith (2016-05)
      The following is a report of a project, "Resilient Spirits", which took place in Nome, Alaska. This project aimed to highlight stories of healing through survivorship. This work focuses on the assets within Alaska Native culture, community, and people. Development of strategies to address violence need to include healing. The project selected a mixed methodology of talking circles and photovoice to highlight the themes of healing, strength, and resilience. These methods served to engage participants in a culturally appropriate manner, in a safe space, and could be utilized at their comfort level. The first phase of the project was the introductory talking circle. It was used to discuss the themes and set up the photo activity. The second phase, photovoice, was chosen as a project activity to assist in sharing stories. Participants used digital cameras in their everyday lives to represent what healing and strength looked like from their perspective. The final third phase was another talking circle. It was a time to reflect on the first talking circle and the process of photovoice. From the unique combination of talking circles and photovoice, stories emerged on healing where there is often silence. Photographs provided a rich illustration of a sense of holistic healing and strength. Knowledge on healing and strength can be found within our Alaska Native communities. Healing is a renewable resource and experienced inter-generationally.
    • Resources, support, and advocacy for Alaskan secondary school students who identify as LGBTQIA+

      Nickell, Jasmine L.; Gifford, Valerie; Dahl, Heather; Wilson, Hilary (2017-05)
      This comprehensive literature review presents findings associated with the needs of students in grades 7-12 who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and/or asexual (LGBTQIA+). In addition, the roles of school counselors, faculty, and staff in addressing these needs are discussed, and policy decisions and legislation supporting safe and inclusive environments are examined. A comprehensive guidebook is included which explains the legislative process that can be used to promote systems change in order to address these needs. The legislative proposal in this guidebook would mandate Alaskan school counselors receive proper training, resources, and guidance to appropriately support and advocate for students who identify as LGBTQIA+. Although there are legislative bills currently being introduced to the Alaska Legislature that support more inclusive anti-discrimination state-based laws, Alaska has yet to pass such a bill and its efforts remain inadequate concerning the institution of state law preventing bullying, discrimination, and violence in schools based on a student's gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual.
    • Vitamin D, cognitive function, and oxidative stress: clues to overtraining syndrome?

      Jerome, Scott P.; Reynolds, Arleigh J.; Duffy, Lawrence K.; Sheppard, Dani K.; Watts, Phillip B. (2018-05)
      Overtraining syndrome (OTS) is characterized by an unexplainable drop in athletic performance. It affects primarily elite, endurance athletes, though sub-elite athletes are also affected. Although the deterioration in performance is often the most pronounced and troublesome symptoms for athletes, others range from severe fatigue and insomnia to depression and lack of mental concentration. There is no known diagnostic tool except for ruling out all other possible explanations for the abnormal performance. The only known remedy for OTS is rest. Some recover within months while others take a year or more. Some athletes never fully recovery and never return to pre-OTS performance levels. The exact mechanism behind OTS is unknown. Consensus has been reached among exercise science professionals that 1) an imbalance between stress load and recovery leads to OTS; 2) OTS exists on a spectrum of possible outcomes from different exercise/rest ratios; and 3) exercise is only one part of systemic stress that can lead to OTS. In addition to physical exercise, other factors such as environmental conditions, family dynamics, schoolwork, job stressors, and social pressures all contribute to the total stress load on the body. A severe and sustained imbalance between stress and rest is a likely contributor to OTS in athletes. I investigated biomarkers and psychological markers that, in concert, could be used to identify athletes who are at the greatest risk for developing OTS before the onset of symptoms. I examined vitamin D, cognitive function, and oxidative stress status in university cross country skiers in addition to athletic performance status during the competitive ski season. This study's results support three primary conclusions. First, collegiate endurance athletes are more prone to vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency than their sedentary counterparts. Second, collegiate cross country ski racers in the circumpolar North are unlikely to maintain adequate vitamin D during a competition season. Furthermore, vitamin D levels are likely to drop in the post-season, recovery period. Third, cognitive function is likely to be significantly higher in the post-season than during the competition season. Fourth, those who experienced a drop in performance during the competition season are more likely to show signs of oxidative stress. These findings may help to produce a screening tool for OTS.
    • "We did listen": Successful aging from the perspective of Alaska Native Elders in Northwest Alaska

      Boyd, Keri M.; Gifford, Valerie M.; Whipple, Jason; Lewis, Jordan; David, Eric John (EJ) (2018-05)
      Alaska's older adults are growing faster in proportion to the overall population creating concern regarding how adequate care will be provided in the coming years. Statewide, rural community members are looking for innovative, culturally appropriate ways to promote successful aging for their growing population of elders, allowing them to age in their home communities. This qualitative, phenomenological study sought to establish a deeper understanding of how Alaska Native Elders in Northwest Alaska understand and experience successful aging to inform program development and service delivery. The present project was embedded within a larger community-based participatory research study and conducted in collaboration with community members and an Alaska Native Elder Advisory Committee. The 14 community-nominated Elder participants universally identified engagement with family and community, self-awareness and care, and a sense of gratitude as essential elements of successful aging. Elders who age successfully listened to and learned from their Elders, enact their traditional values and practices, and pass their wisdom and knowledge to future generations. The results provide a culture and context specific understanding of successful aging that will help communities develop Elder-centered programs and service delivery and contributes to field of successful aging by presenting a perspective of successful aging that is not currently represented in the literature. Finally, by recording the Elders' knowledge and stories of successful aging this project also helped preserve some of the traditional cultural knowledge held by Elders in this region to be shared with generations to come.