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.”

Continue reading

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.

Coming to the U.S.A by Taylor Buffington

Many New Americans leave wherever it is they are from and come to the United States in search of a better life. New Americans come to the United States from all over the world. Some of them even come from as close as our neighboring countries like Canada and Mexico. There are some situations when New Americans come to the United States and they have no idea how to speak the language or what our customs are like. As someone with a small learning disability I have learned that learning some things can be rather difficult. I can only imagine how these New Americans feel trying to learn all kinds of new customs.

According to, there is a high level of violence in Juarez Mexico. Due to that high level of violence many families are moving to El Paso, Texas which is right over the Mexican border in order to get away. Granted these people come to the United States in hopes of possibly having a better life. When an immigrant comes to the United States they can’t speak English and therefore can’t communicate with others at all. In many schools around the country there are students who don’t speak English very well and it seems as though they just can’t fit in no matter how hard they try. Many people would feel terrible for those kids because there is nothing that can be done to fix those kind of problems. However, there are students and teachers who really want to help those students.

English is quite possibly one of the hardest languages to learn it can take a lot of time to learn it. Knowing the right method is a good thing to know when trying to accomplish a task. There are many different kinds of methods a person could use. Some New American adults still attend school to try to get a better job and a better life for their family. Life tends to throw people curveballs quite a bit. It can be assumed that these New Americans do get quite distracted by certain things. One of the last reasons for it being so hard to learn a new language is because it is very expensive to learn. Taking classes can cost a lot of money. The Rosetta Stone program which is another way of learning a new language which can be quite expensive. It cost $399. The Rosetta Stone is a decent way of learning a new language, but it seems with it there are very limited options of what you can learn. There are many reasons for why New Americans are not able to learn English.


One case featuring New Americans that is a little more local is happening in Erie Pennsylvania at one of the high schools. According to the East High School web site, there are 900 students in the high school and close to 300 of those students are English language learners. Last semester I did an internship that took place at east high school. In the main entrance they had maps of many countries from around the world. I was curious as to why all of those maps were there. Later I learned east high has a very diverse group of students.

New Americans lack of English seems to be one of the top problems. Language barrier is definitely a problem. It is even seen today among some of the professional athletes that come from other countries who need a translator to help them speak English in there interviews because they have a difficult time trying to speak or they just can’t do it.

The Erie public school systems offer some programs to help English language learners. This is a good way of learning. The main goal of the English language learners program is to help the students be successful in an English speaking environment. The students are provided an instructor to help develop skills in things like mathematics, science, speaking, reading and listening.

Some of the people to talk to in this scenario about the schools are the people who work in the Erie school systems. Some of the things to ask them about are the kinds of programs that are available for the students who are English Language Learners.

Somehow someway New Americans are going to have try to make the best of what they can with the language they speak. Coming here to The United States is quite challenging. I wish for the best in all of the New Americans in the United States.

Being a New American has a lot of challenges just like everything else in life. Coming to a world where everything is unfamiliar is quite the challenge for any human being on the planet. Many of the New Americans don’t come to The United States by choice. Hopefully there are some ways in the future to help make coming to The United States easier and better.

Global Citizens, Connectivity, and a Strategy


The issues surrounding immigration might someday be moot. Increased connection is a trend across the globe as more people either join the human race or flee wars or simply get on the internet.

Those trends may someday force the world to dismantle cultural constructs of discrimination and embrace its citizens in a boundless community.

Countries like the United States with vast resources may have the tendency to build walls and/or bureaucratic barriers.
Perceived fear and consequential isolation prevent a more rounded understanding of those whose main struggle is simple survival.

The adage that one person cannot know what it is like to be another person without first walking a mile in his shoes may be more appropriate now than ever and certainly matches the tenor of the video below.

This production compiles several individual Ted Talks featuring professionals in separate fields and from different parts of the globe whose messages interlink to form a single line at the ticket booth of global unification.

Below the video is information about each of the speakers featured. The music for the production was provided by

Angelic Dass speaks about the beauty of human skin in every color. Her Ted Talk bears the same title.
Dass is a world renowned photographer who discusses discrimination in her speech but also describes her remarkable work.

Joshua Prager, a writer, journalist, Fullbright Scholar, and a Nieman Fellow, gives advice from historical writers in a video called “Wisdom from Great Writers on Every Year of Life.”

Astro Teller speaks about the unexpected benefit of celebrating failure. He has been the Captain of Moonshots at what is now called “X.” It used to be called Google X. He attended Stanford University and received his Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University. These institutions built a foundation for his success as an author, scientist, inventor, speaker, entrepreneur, business leader, and intelligent technology expert.

Shivani Siroya speaks about a smart loan for people with no credit history, yet. She is the CEO and founder of InVenture Capital, a special kind of organization that takes microfinance to the next dimension and helps hard working people in underdeveloped nations achieve greater financial stability and success. There is a body of links to articles about her ideas and accomplishments cached at her Crunchbase profile.

Hugh Evans is a humanitarian from Australia who gives the call to be a global citizen in his speech “What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?”. He is the founder of It looks like he’s pretty active on Twitter.
He is also the founder of the Global Poverty Project and is calling for the end of extreme poverty by 2030.

Parag Khanna talks about how megacities are changing the map of the world. His position is that the world is more connected now than in the past but not as connected as it is about to be. Khanna wrote a book called Connectography and is a leading global strategist. He is a CNN Global Contributor and Senior Research Fellow in the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Immigration Misconceptions

By Drew Patrick

It seems like over the past few years that more and more people are having strong opinions over refugees. Weather that seems to be linked to the presidential political cycle, the More knowledge being learned about it this topic, or actual experience you can definitely see the difference in the world. however with that being said a lot of misinformation is being given.  The most obvious misinformation that has been given has been in terms of politics. Many refugees do not have a voice in politics and with immigration laws running on this misinformation their voice is not being heard.  These people have been relocated to  Erie and that’s a big change. Many people outside of these communities have fear. They watch news on how there have been some terror groups who have hidden inside the blanket of being a refugee. Many refugees enjoy the safety of the United States, however just like when visit somewhere else, you just want to be safe at home.

Erie is one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the country. This is helped by Erie’s relatively low Cost of living. According to the Pennsylvania Refugee Resettlement Program, 526 refugees from 17 countries were recorded as arriving in Erie County from January through November of last year, 19 percent of the 2,772 refugees who have resettled in the state during that time period.

Most people think of Syrian refugees when they think of refugees anyway but the truth is that most refugees are not from Syria. Over one-third of the refugees come from the East Asia section of the world.But another third of the refugees come from  the African continent. And a quarter of Refugees come from the China, Vietnam and, Indonesia area of the world. When we look at Pennsylvania alone Syrian refugees are actually 8th down on the list. Most of the Pennsylvania refugees are actually from the Himalayan area, with Bhutan having the most refugees in Pennsylvania. That is followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is has the second most refugees from that country. The first Middle Eastern country on the list is Iraq in 6th place. Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz stated that he believes most of the Syrian refugees where young men. This is however just not true.  Of the Syrian refugees an overwhelming number of them are women and children.


Now that we know where the majority of the refugees come from, let’s talk about politics. Erie Pennsylvania seems to be a hotbed for Refugees the Little Italy area of Erie has become that hotbed for “New Americans.”  A lot of misconceptions on the refugee population includes of course, money. Erie received a lot of the refugees not on accident. They returned the preferred community status and receive federal money through the Office of refugee resettlement to welcome the refugees in Erie. The cost of living, housing and transportation were among the better options. Not a penny came out of the Erie budget to help these refugees. So in terms of money Erie has done a very good job of not completely attacking the taxpayer for these refugees.Through the organization is where most refugees coming over get set up for their jobs.


Looking at the political landscape in Pennsylvania to go along with that, Pennsylvania currently has a Democratic governor in Tom Wolf. Despite this most of Congress, House of Representatives and shove it, all Republican. Many of those Congress Republicans are not in support of the refugees due to fear. Hear that stems from the 2015 Paris attacks where some of the culprits were refugees to the country. This fear has completely clouded judgement that many Congress members think about the refugees. With this political climate so cloudy most refugee related issues never get salt as Pennsylvania seems to be stuck in a stalemate when it comes to talking about this issue. The biggest evidence of this is the way Pennsylvania has handled its state budget. With constant bickering and fighting between Congress  and the governor,  a budget has struggled to be passed for 2015 and seems to be struggling to pass a 2016 budget as well. Wolf stated  that during this time of crisis with Syria and their refugees that Pennsylvania would still participate in letting Syrian refugees into the country. He was met with almost immediate backlash from the Republican representatives in the House And many of them signed petitions to get  this decision overturned. So far Wolf has stayed true to his word and has not turned his back on letting refugees into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Many people have heard that in this day in age the United States is taking in more and more refugees from different countries. This however is false as in 2009 The ceiling for amount of refugees allowed into the country was 800000, with 75000 being reported.Those numbers have shrunk significantly since 2009 and last year the ceiling was 70000 and was matched by reported refugees, this according to Immigration  Also 2013 was the first year that the United States reached that ceiling number with 70000.


But who represents the refugee population in Pennsylvania? That’s a hard question as there are no representatives or senators in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who were refugees. So where is the voice for these New Americans? Expecially on the local Erie  level. Erie City Council consists of seven members as well as three members who are elected( which includes Mayor). Of these members the ones that mostly deal with issues that involve new Americans are Casimir Kwitowski Who served on the Little Italy revitalization process, Melvin Witherspoon who deals with the Erie Housing Authority,  and Sonya Arrington, Which part of the Erie Human Relations Committee as well as the Multicultural Center. However, the Sisters of Saint Joseph Neighborhood Network is the most pertinent voice in Erie.  But even these Erie people and organizations struggle to encapsulate all New Americans.

With Political turmoil at an all time high it’s the innocent refugees who suffer.