New Americans and Depression

There is so much more depression than just feeling sad. Depression is not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Depression is pushing your loved ones away from you. Depression is forcing yourself to smile and say the words “I’m fine” over and over in hopes that you will eventually start to believe it yourself. Depression is a condition that reportedly affects 1 in every 10 Americans at one point or another in their life. Over 80 percent of those who show symptoms of depression are not receiving any kind of treatment.

Now, imagine yourself living in another country. This is your home, your culture and your lifestyle. Now, imagine yourself deciding, for whatever reason, to journey to a foreign country with a different culture, customs and lifestyles all on your own. With a language barrier blocking you from being able to connect with those around you and not having your family there can get you feeling down. After a while, after being hopelessly optimistic, you start to feel sadder each day. You decide that leaving your house is not worth it.

There are nine different forms of depression. The first is simply named major depression. About 7% of the adult United States population suffers from this mental health condition at any given time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). If you’re experiencing major depression, you may feel and see symptoms of extreme sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, irritability, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep or eating habits, feelings of guilt, physical pain, and thoughts of death or suicide. For an official diagnosis, your symptoms must last for more than two weeks. In some instances, a person might only experience one episode of major depression but the condition tends to recur throughout a person’s life. The best treatment is usually with antidepressant medications but talk therapy may also be used to treat these symptoms of depression. On the bright side, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of people with major depression respond well to treatment.

About 2% of the American population has a form of depression that is less severe than the one listed above, although it is still very real. This type of depression is called dysthymia. Dysthymia is a type of depression that causes a low mood over a long period of time, sadness, trouble concentrating, fatigue and changes in sleep habits and appetite. This depression usually responds better to talk therapy than to medications, though some studies suggest that combining medication with talk therapy may lead to the greatest improvement. People with dysthymia may also be at risk for episodes of major depression.

85% of new moms feel some sadness after they deliver their newborn baby, however up to 16% of women have a sadness serious enough to be diagnosed with postpartum depression. This type of depression is characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, fatigue, loneliness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, fears about hurting the baby and feelings of disconnect from the child. It can occur anywhere from weeks to months after childbirth, and most always develops within a year after a woman has given birth. Treatments to postpartum depression may include a combination of talk and drug therapy.

If you would you prefer to hibernate during the winter than face those cold, dreary days and tend to gain weight, feel blue or withdraw socially during the season than you could be part of the 4 to 6% of people in the United States that are estimated to have seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. Although most people find themselves in winter funks, SAD is diagnosable by symptoms of anxiety, increased irritability, daytime fatigue and weight gain. This type of depression occurs during the winter season, which is likely caused by the lessening of natural sunlight and ultimately lifts in the spring. Symptoms of SAD can range from usually mild to severe. SAD can be treated with light therapy and artificial light treatment.

Atypical depression may be one of the most common types of depression. Some doctors believe that it is commonly underdiagnosed and is less well understood than major depression. A common sign of atypical depression is a sense of heaviness in the arms and legs, like a form of paralysis. However, after a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (JAMA Psychiatry) found that oversleeping and overeating are the two most important symptoms of diagnosing atypical depression. People with the said condition may also gain weight, be irritable and have relationship problems. These symptoms can be most effectively treated with talk therapy sessions.

Psychosis, a mental state characterized by delusions, false sights or sounds, commonly known as hallucinations, does not get associated with depression. However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 20% of people with depression have episodes so severe that they see or hear things that are not actually there. People with this mental illness may become catatonic, not speak or not leave their beds. Treatment may require a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. Ten studies have shown that it may be best to start with an antidepressant alone and then add the antipsychotic drug if the doctor deems necessary. However, a recent study has shown that the combination of medications was more effective than either drug alone in treating psychotic depression.

If you experience periods of extreme lows and are quickly followed by periods of extreme highs, you could be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Also can be referred to as manic depressive disorder considering the symptoms can alternate between mania and depression. Symptoms of mania include high energy, excitement, racing thoughts and poor judgement. Symptoms may also include a cycle between depression and mania a few times per year or much more rapidly. This disorder affects about 2 to 3% of the population and has one of the highest risks for suicide. Bipolar disorder has four basic subtypes; bipolar one, characterized by at least one manic episode, bipolar two, characterized by hypomanic episodes, which are milder, along with depression, cyclothymic disorder and other specified bipolar and related disorder. Those who suffer with bipolar disorder are typically treated with mood stabilizers.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, is a type of depression that effects women during the second half of their menstrual cycles. Symptoms include depression, anxiety and mood swings. Unlike premenstrual syndrome, PMS, which affects 85% of women and has milder symptoms, PMDD affects about 5% of women and is much more severe. PMDD can be severe enough to affect women’s relationships and her ability to function normally when symptoms are active. Treatment may include a combination of depression drugs as well as talk and nutrition therapies.

Situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder, is triggered by a stressful life-altering event. Such events could include job loss, death of a loved one, trauma or even a bad breakup. Situational depression is about three times more common than major depression and medications are rarely needed. The reason why medications are rarely needed is because it tends to clear up over time once the event has ended. However, that does not mean this should not be ignored. Symptoms of situational depression may include excessive sadness, worry or nervousness and if they do not go away they may become warning signs of major depression.

All of these types of depression can diagnosed to a New American. The most common type of depression that they suffer from is situational depression. They are taken away from their culture, daily lives and everything that they knew back in their native home and are suddenly forced to adapt to a completely new environment. Thankfully, there are organizations in Erie that can help those who suffer from any kind of depression.

With a quick Google search, you are opened up to 13 different pages of counselors that specialize in depression all in the Erie area. There is hope for the new members of America that find it difficult to get out of bed every day and adapt to their new lives. With their will, determination and support from those around them they will be able to get the help they need and be a functioning member of society and make a name for themselves here in the United States.


Meet Sai Lakshmi Balaji

Behind every great story, there is an inspiration that kicks it all off. The focus on these posts, personally, has been on education or lack thereof for new Americans. The story was inspired by Sai, a woman that works at Sam’s Club and was mentioned very early on in the first story. When I initially spoke with her, I had no idea how big of a piece she would have within the grand scheme of things. However, during our first meeting, she pointed out that a major problem with immigrants coming over to the U.S. was the lack of education they were getting in their home country or the fact that they were not getting proper education here, which led to dropping out of school. While some people can thrive and become successful without education, most need it and it is a very important aspect in ones life because it can lead to better opportunities and help build a stable future.  Continue reading

Literacy Green Bay

When taking a look back, the problem that these new Americans face, according to the statistics shown, is they are not getting the proper education needed. Whether that is due to dropping out of school, bad teaching habits, or just not getting the right education from their homeland, it is very apparent that something has to be changed. One thing pointed out was the fact that the teachers had to have a really good understanding of how to teach new Americans the curriculum in a way that would be understood. However, this cannot necessarily be the full answer to the problem because every teacher has a different teaching style and approach in the classroom. When these students are having a difficult time in school, they resort to dropping out. Even after dropping out, they still need to have ways to get properly educated for life outside of the classroom, especially if they need to learn English.  Continue reading

Meet Ansumana Kombo Gbembo


“I like doing it, it is a gift to me, even if I do not get paid for it, I like doing it for myself”

Ansumana Komba Gbembo grew up in a war driven, British-colonized Sierra Leone where gun shots were second nature. He was raised as an English and Creole speaker in a family that valued their time together and were never “too busy” to sit down and merely enjoy each others company.

Ansumana finished high school while war was taking place around him during 1995 through 1997. Because of the unfortunate circumstances, his parents did not have the means to send him to college. His family would eventually migrate to New Guinea to flee the war. He attended an institute that provided education and safety for the refugees. During his time at the institute, Ansumana participated in a sewing class and soon developed his passion for it.

Ansumana and his family moved to Gambia in 1997. He lived there with his family as a refugee. In 2007, he applied for asylum and on September 15th 2009 he would find himself in The United States facing a brand new life without family or friends. He had to leave his family and the only life he knew behind but he was in good spirits.

“I had all the courage to be here. I came by myself and I am fighting for my brothers and sisters to make it over here”, said Gbembo.

The United Nations separated the traveling refugees between Britain and The United States and he was chosen to go to the United states. After traveling through three different countries, he landed in New York City where he stayed in a hotel for one night and was then transported to Erie, PA where he now lives.

“I used to have nightmares in Gambia because of the war and when I came here to Erie, they were gone.”

After settling in the states, Ansumana used his gifts as a tailor and designer and made a living out of them. He professionally makes custom designs for both men and women ranging from clothing to household items. He also offers sewing lessons. Gbembo is active in his community. He has taught a number of sewing classes at community centers such as the Betney Outreach Center and Erie’s Multicultural Resource Center (MCRC). He has also participated at “Erie Day” consecutively from 2012-2014, where his works were displayed and vended to the public.

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Ansumana used his love and passion for design and fashion as a way to network and make connections in Erie. He plans to never give up designing and tailoring because he has recognized what it can do for his life. Fashion has allowed him to take care of himself while on his own in Erie and become the professional that he is. His profession and skills can also one day help to take care of his family. The cultural difference between American style and traditional African wear, makes Ansumana’s work a unique asset to the Erie community.

“I noticed that people in Africa prefer to wear clothing that they make, but Americans just go buy what they want to wear. We figure in Africa, if you want to wear it and you can make it, why not make it?”, said Gbembo.


Although he was placed in Erie without his own say so, he is happy and grateful for the time he has spent and the opportunities he has been given thus far. However, from time to time he is reminded of the war zone he wants lived in. It’s hard to forget something so notable in a lifetime. Sometimes if he hears a gun shot or stories of violence in his area, he is reminded of his history. Gbembo advocates for those who want to hear the stories of others and learn about their history. He is a motivationally driven entrepreneur who loves to tell his story.

Ansumana Komba Gbembo is active on Facebook under his full name. Visit for inquiries and more photos of his work.







Mr. Italy was Born in Erie

PatPat Cappabianca is a man that has done many things in his life, and been many things in his life. Now 83, Pat has accomplished more than he ever thought was possible. He has been a teacher, a councilman, a principle, administrator and civil servant among other things. He has seen many things and been many places in his life but no matter where he goes you can always bet where he’s going to end back up. In his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania.

As Pat grew up the Great Depression was coming to a close and World War II was just beginning. He still remembers where he was when Pearl Harbor was bombed when he was 7 years old. “My parents would tell me as I grew older that things were very tough then [the depression], but the Italians always managed.”

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Baseball invites Immigrants to Dominate

By Karlee Dies

Comedian Trevor Noah talks Sports in America

The crowd is cheering. The aroma of hot dogs, popcorn and excitement fill the area. The teams are playing their heart out. Memories are being made. Some of the greatest memories come from sports. American sports are known for great fans, great games, and great athletes.

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The International Institute of Erie Gives Hope

“The International Institute of Erie really helps people, you should give them a call”, said Pat Cappabianca a retired teacher, administrator and former city councilman.

For those of you that don’t know the International Institute of Erie, or the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, or if that’s too much of a mouthful you can call it USCRI for short. The USCRI have for over 100 years have “advanced the rights and lives of those who have lost or left their homes.”

What they mean by that is imagine for a second if you would your sleeping in your bed your safe place the one place that everyone should feel secure and instead of waking up to your alarm clock everyday you wake up to the sound of gun shots. They keep getting closer and closer with every passing day. One day it gets too close and you have to go and you come over to America, no money, no family, nowhere to live. USCRI gives these people many things but above all they give these people hope.

60 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced meaning uprooted. Less than 0.1 percent of those 60 million people will get the chance to start a new life. That’s where USCRI comes in.

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Places with language barrier

by Taylor Buffington

Based on what I have picked up there are some places in the Erie area where New Americans may struggle with English. East High School in Erie is a place where learning English is probably a big deal. Learning a new language is probably harder on kids than it is on adults. East High School has so many students that probably need some help.


East High School is a high school located in Erie, Pennsylvania and it has many students who are learning English. I did an internship with a program that took place at East High and in the main entrance of the building there are maps from many countries around the world. During the time of my internship I was curious as to why those maps were there. The map were of far off countries like Iraq and Ethiopia. Upon taking advanced electronic journalism I would learn why the maps were there.

I learned that East High is well known for having cultural diversity. East High has approximately 900 students and of those 900 students 300 of them are English language learners. School can be a very hard place to fit in even for students who already speak English. It is quite hard to imagine how much harder it is for the students who can’t speak English. It is great that students have opportunities to learn English and that there are some people out there that are willing to lend a hand to students who need help learning English.

How to learn English

by Taylor Buffington

In the Erie School districts there are some programs that help the students learn English due to English not being their native language. It is rather difficult to learn English it is maybe the hardest language in the world to learn. Lots of times children are not exactly here in the United States by choice. There are many cases in which children have no choice, but to come here to the United States and they can’t speak English well at all. Some school district do offer programs where that can be helpful.

The Erie public school system has a comprehensive educational program for English language learner (ELL). The main goal of the ELL program is to give students the necessary skills to function successfully in an English speaking environment. In the ELL students are provided with instructions in order to help develop the best skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. They are also required to learn science, social studies, mathematics, and language arts.

Seeing students who struggle is quite possibly one of the hardest things there is to watch. In the United States there are many different things that students will struggle with. There are some students who just have a very hard time learning things, but there are also others who just aren’t able to speak English at all. That seems that would be the ultimate challenge as a student when you don’t even know what it is you are learning.

There are many reasons why students don’t learn English. Some of the reasons are it is too difficult, it is expensive, it takes too long and those are just a couple of the reasons. Many of the New Americans that come to the United States are not here by choice and they don’t exactly have a lot of money. It seems many things that are needed in this world are quite expensive. It being difficult seems to be pretty common because nobody wants to do anything that is difficult. The fact that it also takes a lot of time is a good reason. Learning a new language is something that takes a very long time and is not something that can just be done instantly. New Americans don’t exactly have a lot of time on their hands so learning a new language is a great challenge. There are also some New Americans that just don’t see a need in learning a new language.

With some organizations out there to help learn a new language they are some things New Americans definitely need to take advantage of. These programs are something that is needed in order for the New Americans to assimilate and feel more welcome here in the United States.