By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor, Sarah Beauchamp, Assistant Editor, Katie Kervin, Assistant Editor
work and director of veteran student services at Saint Leo University in Florida.
“We thought it would make sense to have a conference after the book's publication,” Ruben said, “to meet the needs of veterans that are returning en masse from the wars over in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The idea came to Ruben when he sat in on a local presentation by social workers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who explained that they would need help once veterans started returning in large numbers. “They said, ‘It won't work if we keep referring them to mental-health practitioners,'” Ruben said, “'because a lot of them don't know how to deal with vets.'”
To alleviate some of the burden placed on the VA, Ruben and his colleagues decided to convene a conference that would better prepare area social workers, educators, and other mental-health professionals to work with vets. The three-day meeting is divided into two tracks: one for civilian practitioners who will be treating and providing services for veterans, and another for social-work educators looking to expand their course offerings. The educator track will be “modeled somewhat” after the content and format of the Handbook of Military Social Work, Ruben said.
“We're going to focus on what [educators] could do to better prepare future practitioners to work with this population,” Ruben said. “What kinds of courses they should teach, what internships would work, and how to work with vets coming back to school.” Ruben expects 75 to 100 practitioners from Texas and approximately 50 social-work professors from around the country to attend the conference, which he says will be the first of its kind in the city of Austin.
On the third and final day of the conference, educators and practitioners will reconvene for a panel presentation by spouses of veterans. “We'll be addressing [veterans’ families'] needs throughout the conference,” Ruben said, including a six-hour workshop focusing on families and children of military personnel and veterans.
Other sessions will concentrate on traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide prevention, helping veterans transition into civilian life, military culture, and ethical dilemmas in working with military personnel. “It's real clear to me that the social-work profession is having a very strong response to this need,” Ruben said. “A lot of social workers, their ears are perking up right now.”
In his research for the book, Ruben found that very few university programs offered much in the way of veteran-specific social-work education. He hopes the conference will beef up the extent to which they prepare students for working with veterans. “And we're hoping that more practitioners here in central Texas who currently don't feel particularly motivated or capable of working with veterans, will now feel more confident about doing so,” Ruben said. “They might seek out further continuing education, or this might just be a start for some to get moving in that direction.”
Aside from attendees learning the basics when treating veteran trauma at the 2013 Military Social Work Conference, they'll also be educated on military culture. Co-editor Jose Coll writes in the Handbook of Military Social Work: “A key tenet in the social-work knowledge base today is the need for social workers to be culturally competent with regard to the target population they serve.” That includes recognizing unique stigmas. “Both enlisted persons and officers in the armed forces are indoctrinated to believe that mental-health issues and psychological problems are sources of weakness.… This culturally driven value can serve as a potential obstacle in the therapeutic process.” PCMA Convene
One Young World Summit
By Sarah Beauchamp, Assistant Editor
At One Young World, a better future starts by inspiring and empowering the next generation of leaders.>>
It was equal parts awe-inspiring, intimidating, and energizing,” said Anne Marie Toccket, director of the Pittsburgh Hostel Project and an attendee at the 2012 One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh on Oct. 18-22 — the first time the annual conference for young leaders was held in the United States. “It was [incredible] being around some of the most brilliant minds I've ever encountered from every corner of the world.”
The conference brings together “ambassadors,” ages 18 to 30, who are committed to making an impact in their communities, and who must apply to attend. “They share their vision, views, and ideas,” said Kate Robertson, co-founder of One Young World, the London-based charity that organizes the summit, “to create practical and achievable commitments for positive change.” Approximately 1,300 ambassadors from 183 countries attended the 2012 summit, which kicked off with a Q&A with former President Bill Clinton. “It's the largest gathering of its kind,” Robertson said, “and the only event that brings together [this] many countries in one place, other than the Olympics.”
The summit's discussions are divided into seven key subject areas: education, global business, health, human rights, leadership and governance, sustainable development, and transparency and integrity. “Each of the plenary sessions throws up extremely interesting viewpoints,” Robertson said, “and moving stories from the delegates and also the counselors.”
The counselors are inspirational leaders carefully selected by One Young World Summit organizers to mentor attendees. At the 2012 summit, they included former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and Pakistani poet, writer, and journalist Fatima Bhutto. “The key to One Young World,” Robertson said, “is that following the summit, the ambassadors will action real change in their own countries and communities and, using the lasting connections One Young World enables them to maintain, on a global scale.”
Since the summit's inception in 2010, “four million people have been directly impacted by the work of One Young World Ambassadors,” according to the One Young World website. Gaining inspiration and vital connections from the summit, delegates have gone on to engineer more than 125 projects and initiatives involving more than 100 countries. “Projects range from polar expeditions to raise awareness of climate change,” Robertson said, “to initiatives to bring electricity to remote villages in rural India, to campaigns that aim to tackle unemployment and encourage entrepreneurship.”
One particularly meaningful campaign that emerged from the 2011 summit in Zurich, Switzerland, is “Wake Up Call,” the “brainchild of delegates who announced that Feb. 21, 2012, would be an international day of action,” according to Robertson. Their initiative inspired young people around the world, many of whom did not attend the summit, to “call on their political and business leaders to wake up and take action on specific areas of concern,” Robertson said — including job creation, environmental cleanliness, political accountability, and equal rights. On the big day, young people in more than 80 countries hit the phones, streets, and keyboards to make their case. In Mexico, they called on presidential candidates to address questions from Mexican youth. In Algeria, they asked President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to limit presidential terms to five years, and to integrate young people into the election process. In Nepal, they requested that the minister of local development implement a policy to make the country's capital city, Kathmandu, more easily accessible for the physically disabled.