Economic pressure often translates into family pressure. Stress can result in withdrawal from the community. Maintaining individual health is key.
Those were just some of the take-home lessons offered at an all-day conference on the economy hosted by the Davis Community Church on Saturday.
Called “Living in the New Economy,” the Saturday conference drew on a number of local and state experts, from the fields of economics, health care, education and psychology, among others.
According to speaker Dr. Katherine J. Conger, much of the stresses are felt around the family and the home. Conger is associate professor, Division of Human Development and Family Studies, at UC Davis. She spoke of the negative pressures economic hardships can have on family life, as well as tools families can use to successfully ease those pressures.
According to Conger, these legitimate factors can often create a kind of “cascade effect” whereby economic problems trickle down as problems in the home.
“Parents get distracted by financial concerns, and aren’t able to give as much attention and loving care that the kids may need,” Conger said. “Pretty soon kids maybe stop going to their parents as much, or at all.“
Through case studies of families undergoing difficult economic times, Conger was able to learn more about the mechanisms that translate those hard times into home life, as well as come up with ideas on how to make the pressures more tolerable.
“Couples able to maintain or provide high spousal support for one another,” Conger said, “were less depressed and better able to weather economic setbacks.“
Conger also found that families with better developed communication and problem-solving skills imparted those abilities on to the children, helping them develop crucial skills moving forward.
“The lesson we learned is that we can diminish the cycle of disadvantage for the next generation,” Conger said.
One of the minds behind the conference’s creation was Freddie Oakley, Yolo County clerk-recorder. She said one of the origins of the idea for the conference came from a seasonal job of hers.
“The seed was compassion for suffering,” Oakley said. “I’m a regular cook at the Davis Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter, where I cook for local homeless people all winter long.“
Oakley added that she sees the greatest impact on these homeless people at the end of winter. The shelter stops cooking, but the homeless people remain.
“Some of them are even employees at UC Davis, who are having trouble meeting the demands of first and last month [rent],” Oakley said. “This meltdown of the world’s economy will create more people under stress, some under very serious stress.“
Keynote speaker Kim Stanley Robinson addressed the changes the nation is undergoing, from the “old” economy to a “greener” economy with improved environmental practices.
“This is a vision of Davis 100 years from now – a utopian vision, where we make better use of our land, and recognize the importance of sustainable agriculture,” said Robinson, a futurist author who was recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 2008 “Heroes of the Environment.“
Robinson emphasized that the goal was to continue moving away from farming practices that depended so heavily on oil and other natural resources.
“UC Davis has had a lot to do with the change so far, and in this future vision, Yolo County would be a demonstration of that change,” Robinson said.
State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) held a small panel discussion of health care experts to discuss the impact the slowing economy has had on our ability to receive good medical services.
One of her panelists was Dr. Steve Mayberg, director of the California Department of Mental Health. Mayberg admitted that when the economy shrinks, health services have to get cut, and this can have an extremely negative impact on the people.
“When economic stress happens people can withdraw from the community, which only exacerbates the situation,” Mayberg said.
Laura Bibelheimer, deputy Yolo County supervisor, agreed that this is very trying on patients and health providers, but said she is encouraged by the Obama administration’s plans for health care coverage.
“All I can hope for,” Bibelhaimer said, “is that we maintain our own health and mental health while we weather this storm.“
Oakley felt confident that this conference and others like it would have a positive impact.
“Most of our participants today are decision makers and opinion makers,” Oakley said. “And there is a core group of people listening in there that have a real sense of community responsibility.“
TOM MORRIS can be reached at email@example.com. XXX