Healthy Living in Tough Times – Community Forum

“You are a part of a community, and we can work together as a community to solve our personal and collective problems.” Dr. Michael Tolwin spoke to a small crowd at the Mike Balkman Council Chambers on Tuesday, May 1 at the Culver City Parks and Recreation Commission presentation entitled “Healthy Living in Tough Times.” The PRCS Commission thinks that mental health is a vital part of having a good time. They invited a panel of local health experts to discuss the mental aspects of health, featuring Dr. Tolwin, Kathleen Lally-Arenas, RN and Harry Mitterbauer, an exercise physiologist.
The moderator, local physician Dr. Ira Diamond, led the forum with enthusiasm, “I’m happy to be a part of this; I feel that the subject matter is very important. In our community, there are people who are in pain, who struggle, and financial issues are a great part of that.”

Unemployment in California is still in double digits; this is very stressful. Citing the foreclosure rate and other factors that lead to homelessness, the fact that we are generally thought of as a middle-class city overshadows the reality that we have poverty issues in Culver City. The audience was sparse, but it illustrated the fact that just getting out on a Tuesday evening might be stressful. Getting a babysitter, putting gas in the car; all that costs money. Those who watched on Channel 35 or got the webcast may have benefited from the panel’s advice in the most economical way.

Kathleen Lalley-Arena, a nurse with the CCUSD, spoke about “Identifying Stress in School-Age Children.” Citing the lack of breakfast as a lack of preparedness to start the school day, the issue of nutrition was one that came back several times during the presentation. “Some kids are called ‘frequent fliers’ for their numerous visits to the nurses’ office,” Lally-Arena was sympathetic to the kids trying to negotiate stress. “You don’t have to be an adult to have a panic attack, this level of stress can happen to anyone.”  Overcrowding in housing can lead to cleanliness issues, and environmental triggers for allergies. Children are always affected by the stress going on in their parents and caregivers lives, and giving them a way to be heard can helpful in letting them know that they are safe and cared for.

“Open communication channels,” she encouraged. Focusing on the Culver City Youth Health Center Health services, Lally-Arenas lauded the mental health services available to the kids in the schools at no cost.

Dr. Michal Tolwin began by asking the audience “Is it more stressful to go through it alone, or to use a network when dealing with financial or other stressful issues?” Tolwin advised “Go to the internet and find a support group – There are sections for everyone, support groups for any topic you can think of out there.”

Tolwin also counseled, “Respond to the stress as a challenge. It’s not an easy thing to do, but that’s the way to go.”

He spoke of the need to identify the stress, and noted “When we don’t handle the stress well, we get ill. Mental illness is often a precursor to physical illness.” Depression can happen when one feels helpless or hopeless, and can manifest in physical illness.”

Tolwin also called on the need for community. “It is very difficult to see yourself in an objective manner. Ask another person close to you to identify some of your stressors.” Putting into action the importance of being part of a group, Tolwin added that Culver City offered a lot of ways to get connected.

Harry Mitterbauer, an exercise physiologist , spoke about how so many people using exercise to deal with stress kept him professionally busy. “You don’t need a gym to exercise. Taking a walk is enough just to release endorphins that will change the way you feel.”

After taking questions from the audience, the panel was thanked by the commissioners. The next Community Forum on health and obesity issues, is scheduled for July.


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