6 Useful Tips to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

People these days are often so busy with work and their responsibilities that sometimes they forget to take care of their mental and physical health. 

However, if you keep this up, you risk your chances of burning out and developing certain illnesses that may be hard to treat later on. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your mind and body stay in top condition, especially during these troubling times when the world is currently under a global health crisis. 

Apart from avoiding the development of serious ailments and conditions, one of the benefits of keeping yourself strong and healthy includes saving yourself the trouble of paying for expensive hospital and doctors’ fees. 

With this in mind, you can do more activities while prolonging your life expectancy in the process. Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that you stay healthy. 

De-stress

Stress can come from an abundance of factors that you face in your everyday life. If you do not find ways to remove stress from your body, it can contribute to the development of serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Luckily, there are many ways you can try to de-stress, such as listening to relaxing music, lighting a scented candle, meditating every night, or even treating yourself to a massage. 

Exercise regularly

Breaking a sweat regularly keeps your body in good shape and allows you keep your muscles from going stiff. At the same time, you can maintain a healthy weight range and boost your strength, which can affect your overall appearance as you age. 

Watch your diet 

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that your body stays healthy and gains the necessary nutrients to function properly. Eating a variety of foods that are right in minerals and vitamins can be beneficial, especially for those at a higher risk of developing genetic illnesses such as diabetes. 

Take a break

Overworking yourself will do you no good and only put your health at risk. Always remember to take a few short breaks during the day to refresh your mind and stretch out your body. By doing so, you also allow yourself to perform better and reduce the amount of time you need to recover at the end of your shift. 

Get checked 

Apart from maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly, make it a habit to regularly get yourself checked out by your doctor. While you may feel fine, this is a good way to know if your body has developed any early signs of complications that can be prevented quickly. In most cases, going for a check-up annually or bi-annually is recommended. 

Talk to a counselor

Keeping yourself mentally healthy is another way to look out for yourself and prevent problems from escalating. When certain situations seem to be too difficult for you to handle, seek out a professional counselor to talk to about your concerns and gain guidance on what you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The majority of people today find that regularly keeping up with an exercise routine and a balanced diet is too tedious. In most cases, people succumb to the convenience of modern-day creations such as instant cooked foods filled with unhealthy preservatives while spending most of the day sitting down on the couch glued to the television or our phones. 

If you do not change your lifestyle into a healthier one, you risk major consequences later on in life that you may regret. Never wait until a doctor tells you that you need to exercise more and keep a good diet. Start taking care of your health today.

How Does Sex Therapy Rescue Your Love Life? – 6 Incredible Ways

It is not a great topic to reveal that many people suffer from various sexual issues. Sex is an important aspect of people’s lives, and dealing with it may be challenging at times.

There are a variety of sexual disorders that make it difficult for people to connect with others. Certain sexual dysfunctions can disrupt relationships and negatively impact an individual’s overall happiness.

Many sexual problems are linked to mental health problems. Some of these challenges will be physical, but knowing how to approach things differently from a mental perspective can help improve the situation. If you’re concerned about your sexual life, a sex therapist may be able to help.

Understanding Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is a form of counseling in which couples or individuals can talk to a mental health professional like a sex therapist, marriage and family counselor, social worker, psychologist, or healthcare practitioner about their sexual health difficulties.

Practitioners of sex therapy aim to assist their clients in identifying and treating issues relating to their sexual health and dysfunction. Contemporary sex therapy tends to stress a few different directions:
• Being mindful (being aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and emotions)
• Psychotherapy (using talk therapy, not just medication)
• Inclusiveness (adapting sex therapy to be more inclusive of different sexualities)
• Couples-oriented (looking at the role of partners, not just the individual)
• Attitude-shifting (changing an individual’s perception of sex)

How does a Sex Therapist Improve Your Life?

There are a variety of issues that counseling may assist with. Many sexual disorders are resolved with the proper use of therapy, and people will move on toward a more fulfilling sexual life.

Sex is an important aspect of people’s lives, and dealing with it may be challenging at times. There are a variety of sexual disorders that make it difficult for people to connect with others. Certain sexual dysfunctions can disrupt relationships and negatively impact an individual’s overall happiness. These include:

1- Problem With Sexual Arousal

Many people seek sex therapy because they are experiencing sexual arousal issues. For people in committed relationships, sexual arousal disorders may be quite challenging, and it might be frustrating not to perform sexually for someone you care deeply about.

A sex therapist can assist with male erectile dysfunction or female painful intercourse problems. Collaboration with a sex therapist is an effective strategy for figuring out what’s causing these issues. A person’s ability to experience arousal is frequently affected by a condition.

2- Conflicted About the Relationship

A partner who is suffering sexual dissatisfaction is a common example. In this case, it’s best to go to counseling on your own first to understand yourself and your sexual concerns better, then invite your partner in.

3- Lack of Desire

A person who is suffering sexual boredom is a frequent example. In this instance, it’s best to go to counseling on your own to understand yourself better and your sexual difficulties, then bring your partner in.

4- Lack of Motivation

An increasingly frequent condition happens when people lack interest in sexual fantasies or behavior and suffer pain or relationship troubles. Treatment entails several steps.

Therapists help clients recognize negative attitudes toward sex, investigate the causes of such attitudes, and develop new perspectives on sex. Clients may be asked to keep journals of their sexual thoughts, view romantic videos, or construct fantasies when the focus switches to conduct.
Therapists also address any relationship problems.

5- Traumatic Sexual Experiences From The Past

Patients benefit significantly from sex therapists’ ability to help them come to terms with prior sexual events that may be affecting their sexual desire or performance.

Sex therapists have expertise in working with rape and sexual assault victims. It can be a difficult journey, but various therapeutic strategies can help. It will take time to talk about the issues and re-establish your comfort level.

6- Intimacy Issues

Another prevalent sexual condition that prevents people from getting close to one another is intimacy difficulties. During sexual intercourse, some people seek an intimate sexual engagement yet have difficulties doing it. Many people are ashamed of getting intimate with another person to avoid having sexual relations altogether. It can make the individual with whom they interact feel incompetent, resulting in general discontent.

A qualified therapist may help persons with physical difficulties and other concerns interfering with intimacy between two adults in a relationship. It may include individual treatment and also couples counseling.

Maintaining a deep and emotionally intimate sexual connection with one’s partner as the relationship progresses and changes may be a big issue for certain relationships. However, with the right treatment and skilled sex therapists, some sexual issues are quickly resolved.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1- What does a sex therapist deal with?

Generally, sex therapists listen to concerns and offer therapy and instruction. They assess if the issue is psychological, physical, or both. They also collaborate with other medical and surgical experts to treat the medical causes of sexual problems.

2- What are the four critical principles of sex therapy?

The new sex therapy’s basic foundations include:
• A solid understanding of physiology, endocrinology, and metabolic function.
• Psychotherapy should be used only when organic factors have been excluded or identified
• Treatment of couples as a unit by dual-sex therapy teams,
• An intensive short-term program

3- Is sex therapy regulated?

Sex therapy requires no additional regulation since the language of the existing practices acts in marriage and family counseling and psychology cover most of the activities now constituting sex therapy and thereby limit the practice to licensed counselors.

For more information and how to locate a licensed sex therapist, use the search directory on Psychology Today.

Hate Sites Using the Wider Abortion Argument to Spread Racism and Extremism

By Anthony Crider; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 20:37, 9 April 2018 (UTC) – Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally, CC BY 2.0,

White supremacists are using the debate around women’s reproductive rights to promote racist and extremist agendas, finds a new study released today – following news on Friday that millions of women in the US will lose the constitutional right to abortion.

US white nationalists are heading on to a Neo-Nazi website, ‘Stormfront’, in order to recruit more people to their way of thinking. Whilst online they describe abortions by white women, as ‘murder’ and look to “weaponize” the procedure. However, the extremists reason abortion by non-white women as ‘acceptable’ or even ‘desirable’ because, they argue, the procedure could solve threats to white dominance – including the “urgent need to limit third world populations”.

The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Information, Communication & Society, come following a detailed computer-aided analysis of more than 30,000 posts, spanning over two decades on the site.

The study authors warn that their evidence highlights how white extremists “weaponize” abortion arguments to attract recruits, using the political debate as a gateway argument that invites them to dive deeper into white male supremacy ideology.

“Our study shows that science, medicine, and conspiracy theories meet on the dark corners of the internet,” says lead researcher Dr. Yotam Ophir at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA.

“The result is the creation and spread of dangerous racist and misogynistic ideas. These are often born in extremists’ platforms, but have spilled over into mainstream politics and discourse.”

Abortion rights are a fiercely contested issue in the US. On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned its 50-year-old Roe v Wade decision, in a judgment that therefore entitles individual states to ban the procedure.

Specifically, in this research, Dr. Ophir and his team wanted to better understand how white nationalists not only use abortion debates online to further their cause, but also apply different moral standards to whites and non-whites.

By analyzing posts made between 2001 and 2017 on Stormfront – a discussion board founded by former Ku Klax Klansman, Don Black – the authors found a marked difference in the way far-right extremists conceptualized abortions for whites versus non-whites.

Abortions among white women were described as ‘murder’. Using an entire topic labeled ‘avoid abortions’, Stormfront users accused white women considering terminations as being “deeply unethical” and even “treasonous” to the white race and their gender role. For example, talking about abortions among white women, a user stated that “abortion is the worst thing of all, it is killing a child. Killing a child is worse than bringing him/her up without a father. Adoption is always an option”.

Whereas with non-white women, posts often excused abortion: in order to limit non-white populations.

The authors say that such discourse could be used to recruit members and to “normalize extreme, racist ideologies”.

To protect the public, Dr. Ophir says people, including children, need better tools to navigate the “misleading information environment that is the 21st century”.

Additional themes identified on Stormfront included “The Great Replacement conspiracy theory” – a supposed plot to replace white people with non-white immigrants that is said to have inspired the Buffalo grocery store killings suspect.

Something, which Dr. Ophir and colleagues argue needs more attention from the mainstream press, as they are concerned there is a spread of the ‘great replacement conspiracy’.

“Potential solutions should not end with social media and the internet. We also need to pay more attention to the rise of such conspiratorial thinking among television channels like Fox News and prominent political figures,” he says.

Stormfront posts analyzed by the team were supplied to the researchers by the Southern Poverty Law Center and by other academics.

The site is focused on propagating white nationalism, antisemitism, and islamophobia, as well as anti-Hinduism, anti-feminism, homophobia, transphobia, Holocaust denial, anti-Catholicism, and white supremacy. As of 2015, the Stormfront website was estimated to have more than 300,000 registered members.

6 Useful Tips to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

People these days are often so busy with work and their responsibilities that sometimes they forget to take care of their mental and physical health. 

However, if you keep this up, you risk your chances of burning out and developing certain illnesses that may be hard to treat later on. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your mind and body stay in top condition, especially during these troubling times when the world is currently under a global health crisis. 

Apart from avoiding the development of serious ailments and conditions, one of the benefits of keeping yourself strong and healthy includes saving yourself the trouble of paying for expensive hospital and doctors’ fees. 

With this in mind, you can do more activities while prolonging your life expectancy in the process. Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that you stay healthy. 

De-Stress

Stress can come from an abundance of factors that you face in your everyday life. If you do not find ways to remove stress from your body, it can contribute to the development of serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Luckily, there are many ways you can try to de-stress, such as listening to relaxing music, lighting a scented candle, meditating every night, or even treating yourself to a massage. 

Exercise regularly

Breaking a sweat regularly keeps your body in good shape and allows you keep your muscles from going stiff. At the same time, you can maintain a healthy weight range and boost your strength, which can affect your overall appearance as you age. 

Watch your diet 

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that your body stays healthy and gains the necessary nutrients to function properly. Eating a variety of foods that are right in minerals and vitamins can be beneficial, especially for those at a higher risk of developing genetic illnesses such as diabetes. 

Take a break

Overworking yourself will do you no good and only put your health at risk. Always remember to take a few short breaks during the day to refresh your mind and stretch out your body. By doing so, you also allow yourself to perform better and reduce the amount of time you need to recover at the end of your shift. 

Get checked 

Apart from maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly, make it a habit to regularly get yourself checked out by your doctor. While you may feel fine, this is a good way to know if your body has developed any early signs of complications that can be prevented quickly. In most cases, going for a check-up annually or bi-annually is recommended. 

Talk to a counselor

Keeping yourself mentally healthy is another way to look out for yourself and prevent problems from escalating. When certain situations seem to be too difficult for you to handle, seek out a professional counselor to talk to about your concerns and gain guidance on what you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety. 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The majority of people today find that regularly keeping up with an exercise routine and a balanced diet is too tedious. In most cases, people succumb to the convenience of modern-day creations such as instant-cooked foods filled with unhealthy preservatives while spending most of the day sitting down on the couch glued to the television or our phones. 

If you do not change your lifestyle into a healthier one, you risk major consequences later on in life that you may regret. Never wait until a doctor tells you that you need to exercise more and keep a good diet. Start taking care of your health today. 

Women Sleep Less than Men, New Survey Finds

When it comes to quality of sleep among Americans, men seem to outperform women, a new survey from the Better Sleep Council has found. The male participants of the survey often bragged about getting adequate amounts of sleep, while the women were considerably less likely to get a good night’s rest.

The Sleep Gap between the Sexes

The survey found that a vast majority—84 percent—of female participants found that sleep is important to their health. However, compared to men, the women fell short of getting recommended amounts of sleep each night. The male participants earned a positive 72 percent score for sleeping well at night. This is only slightly above the 70 percent score average American adults of both sexes received from the researchers. Overall, both men and women were lacking enough sleep.

The researchers found that men got better sleep because they tended to engage in more positive sleep habits. More than a third of the male participants slept alone, thus reducing distractions. More men minimized stress levels, followed strict bedtime rituals including on weekends, and didn’t consume caffeinated drinks after lunchtime, leading to overall better sleep than the women.

Women experienced considerable barriers to uninterrupted sleep—mainly their loved ones. Women were more likely than men to let kids or pets sleep in their beds. Such distraction-causing bedtime habits caused women to miss sleep more. Women were also considerably more likely to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Mounting Evidence for a Sleep Epidemic among Women

Other surveys have also found women to lack more sleep than men. A 2007 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that women are more likely than men to suffer from sleep disorders. Women with children are often the last to go to bed at night, resulting in less sleep.

Both men and women require at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, according to guidelines set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep deprivation is linked to a number of adverse health conditions among both sexes, including increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and mood disorders like anxiety.

A study of 71,000 female nurses who regularly got less than 5 hours of sleep at night found that the sleep-deprived women were more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular problems compared to those who slept 8 hours a night. Women who are most likely to lose sleep were corporate women, who worked long hours at the office and commuted a lot, often losing out on sleep in the process. It’s estimated that more than a third of American working women are seriously sleep-deprived.

Why Women Sleep Less

Scientific research indicates several reasons why women lack sleep compared to men. As mentioned above, lifestyle is a major contributing factor. Women often work long hours and when they come home, they are tasked with looking after children. Working mothers don’t go to sleep until their children are asleep and the school bags for the following day are packed. Women prioritize the needs of the family over their individual need to sleep well.

Other biological factors may also play a role. Female sex hormones tune body clocks to wake up earlier compared to men. The menstrual cycle can also play a role, particularly menopause. Pregnant women experience sleep disturbances, which can continue even after the baby is born (mostly because of the crying baby).

Certain diseases, such as restless leg syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and obstructive sleep apnea, can keep women awake at night as well. Another factor is the bed partner, which is likely to be a male who snores and moves around a lot in their sleep.

Medical professionals recommend that women address this issue head-on and actively sleep at least 20 minutes more than the healthy 7 hours a night. Developing good sleeping habits is at the forefront of tackling this particular gender-oriented problem.

Little Difference Between Gun Owners, Non-Gun Owners on Key Gun Policies, Survey Finds

A new national public opinion survey from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds widespread agreement among gun owners and non-gun owners in their support for policies that restrict or regulate firearms.

The survey measured support for 24 different gun policies and found minimal gaps in support between gun owners and non-gun owners for 15, or 63 percent, of the policies. For 23 of the 24 policies examined, the majority of respondents supported gun restrictions or regulations, including requiring a background check on every gun sale (universal background check) and prohibiting a person subject to a temporary domestic violence restraining order from having a gun for the duration of the order.

The survey was fielded in January 2017 and is the third National Survey of Gun Policy conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Researchers used National Opinion Research Center’s AmeriSpeaks online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The study sample included 2,124 adults (602 gun owners, 1,522 non-gun owners) ages 18 years and older.

The findings will be published online in the American Journal of Public Health at 4 P.M. EDT on May 17, 2018.

In 2016 in the U.S., firearms were responsible for more than 38,000 deaths and over 116,000 nonfatal gunshot wounds treated in hospitals. The U.S. continues to debate measures at both the state and federal levels that seek to address gun violence.

The policies with the highest overall public support and minimal support, by gun ownership status included: universal background checks (85.3 percent gun owners, 88.7 percent non-gun owners support), license suspension for gun dealers who cannot account for 20 or more guns in their inventory (82.1 percent gun owners , 85.7 percent non-gun owners support), higher safety training standards for concealed-carry permit holders (83 percent gun owners, 85.3 percent non-gun owners support), improved reporting of records related to mental illness for background checks (83.9 percent gun owners, 83.5 percent non-gun owners support), gun prohibitions for people subject to temporary domestic violence restraining orders (76.9 percent of gun owners, 82.3 percent non-gun owners support), and gun violence restraining orders, which are commonly referred to as extreme risk protection orders or Red Flag laws  (74.6 percent of gun owners and 80.3 percent non-gun owners support).

“Policies with high overall support among both gun owners and non-gun owners may be the most feasible to enact, and some have strong evidence to support their ability to reduce gun violence,” says lead author Colleen Barry, PhD, MPP, Fred and Julie Soper Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Widespread claims that a chasm separates gun owners from non-gun owners in their support for gun safety policies distracts attention from many areas of genuine agreement—areas that can lead to policy solutions and result in the prevention of gun violence.”

The survey also found several points of disagreement between gun owners and non-gun owners. Nine of the 24 policies examined had greater than 10-point support-gaps. However, more than half of gun owners still favor several of these policies to restrict or regulate guns. These include: requiring that a person lock up guns in the home when not in use to prevent access by youth (58 percent of gun owners and 78.9 percent of non-gun owners support), allowing information about which particular gun dealers sell the most guns that are then used in crimes to be available to the police and public (62.9 percent of gun owners and 73.4 percent of non-gun owners support), requiring a person to obtain a license from local law enforcement before buying a gun (63.1 percent of gun owners and 81.3 percent of non-gun owners support), and allowing cities to sue gun dealers when there is evidence that the dealer’s practices allow criminals to obtain guns (66.7 percent of gun owners and 77.9 percent of non-gun owners support).

Two survey questions on concealed carry were new in the 2017 survey. Results show that 25.1 percent of respondents (42.6 percent of gun owners, 19.3 percent of non-gun owners) believe a person who can legally carry a gun should be allowed to bring that gun onto K-12 school grounds, and 84.7 percent of respondents (83 percent of gun owners, 85.3 percent of non-gun owners) believe that a person who can legally carry a concealed gun should be required to pass a test demonstrating they can safely handle the gun in common situations they may encounter.

“There is data supporting the efficacy of many of the policies with wide support among both gun owners and those who don’t own guns,” says study co-author Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “Relatively few states have these laws in place. This signals an opportunity for policy makers to enact policies which are both evidence-based and widely supported.”

“Public Support for Gun Violence Prevention Policies among Gun Owners and Non-Gun Owners in 2017” was written by Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, Daniel W. Webster, ScD, MPH, Elizabeth Stone, BMus, Cassandra K. Crifasi, PhD, MPH, Jon S. Vernick, JD, MPH, and Emma E. McGinty, PhD, MS. All researchers with the exception of Elizabeth Stone are with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Ms. Stone is with the Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Life After Addiction Treatment: How to Fill the Void During Recovery

The first year of recovery is difficult to manage. Triggers lie everywhere and applying the skills you learned in rehab is easier said than done. When a recovering addict first begins life after their addiction, they may discover a void left from their past life. Whether the void is their past experiences, low self-esteem, or avoiding bad feelings, addicts typically used drugs or alcohol to fill that void.

Now in the absence of those unhealthy “coping” mechanisms, addicts now face those voids alone. Maintaining recovery requires an addict to learn how to fill their life with positive things and not go backwards into their old ways.

The certified counselors at Cold Creek Behavioral Health have put together a list of recovery and coping skills in handling life after treatment.

Recovery Skills

Rehab isn’t the end of addiction, it’s only the beginning of recovery. Once an addict leaves treatment they soon realize that life and all the factors that brought them into their addiction are still there waiting for them.

Although you can’t change everything, you can learn how to handle things better and develop behaviors that’ll help you maintain your recovery.

Learn to Mourn

As strange as it may sound, it’s important to begin your recovery by first mourning the loss of your past addiction. Since your past addiction had been with you for a very long time, it’s important you mourn the loss of it. This can require not only giving up the addiction but saying goodbye to bad friends, places, and the unhealthy habits that led to your addiction. From where you used to hang out to who you were with regularly and on, it determined a lot of your day.

It’s important you recognize that loss but also recognize that although it was something you did—it didn’t define you. Recognize that loss and move past it. Then you can move on and maintain your recovery day to day, drug-free.

Avoid High-Risk Situations and Triggers

Some common high-risk situations are described in treatment as the acronym, HALT:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

Recognize Your Emotions

Of course, you can’t always avoid HALT situations, but you can be more aware of them. If you take better care of yourself, you’ll be able to recognize your emotions before they send you spiraling. By develop healthy habits, use support groups, and more, many of these situations will be far and few between, rather than consistent occurrences.

Steer Clear of Boredom

For an addict, feeling a sense of boredom is dangerous. This is because it allows your mind to wander and not stay focused on maintaining your recovery. This can even go as far as triggering a relapse. For that reason, it’s important that you stay busy.

Fill your day with activities you enjoy. Find new interests. Keep busy. This will keep you busy and far from the feeling of boredom. It also helps you develop healthy habits. Remember: a routine is critical to helping you stay abstinent.

Fill Your Life with People and Love

A great way to start filling that void is to re-establish old friendships that may have been lost on your path of addiction. Surround yourself with supportive people both help you and make you feel cared for and loved.

Recovery is also a good time for an addict to mend fences with family and friends. Doing this will also help make you feel better about yourself because you’ll be righting your wrongs and maintaining your recovery.

Healthy Habits and Activities Are Crucial

There are many activities you can pick up on the road to recovery, as well. Some of these healthy activities include:

  • Making a to-do list so you can feel a sense of accomplishment as you mark things off.
  • Relaxing and trying to stay stress free
  • Playing video games to relax your mind
  • Reading
  • Doing crossword puzzles
  • Start becoming more proactive by starting a blog or doing volunteer work
  • Play sports
  • Take a class
  • Learn to coo

Other Coping Skills

Some other skills that are very helpful in maintaining your recovery include:

Stress Management

Learn how to handle your stress in healthy ways. Use tools listed above to help tackle your stress one day at a time.

Honesty

Make sure that you are completely honest with yourself and others. One of the key components of drug addiction is creating a culture of deceit—combat that with complete honesty and integrity.

Therapy

Maintaining a regular schedule of therapy sessions can really improve your chances of staying clean—especially in the first year.

No matter what you do, staying busy with some type of constructive activity and surrounding yourself with healthy relationships is a key component to staying sober and not letting old triggers creep back into your life. Maintain realistic expectations and remember: getting and staying sober is a process, a marathon; it’s not a sprint.

How to Prevent an Addict from Relapsing

Preventing a relapse is typically harder than it was getting sober. The reason for this is because maintaining recovery spans a lifetime. There is always a chance that a trigger lies right around the next corner and without support in defeating that trigger, an addict can start their former patterns all over again.

Tips for Helping a Recovering Addict

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help. For example:

Finding a support group where the addict feels comfortable, can also provide a great deal of help. Being part of a group where members have gone through the same trials and tribulations helps an addict feel less alone in his or her struggle, and more like there is somewhere he or she belongs.

Family support is also of the utmost importance. The family structure is one of the key ways recovering addicts maintain their recovery, but it can also be a trigger source for some. Making sure you’re being as supportive as possible can help them immensely.

Just being around for non-judgmental listening can help tremendously. If an addict feels they can go to you for help when they are feeling triggered will help them in more ways than one and usually helps avert any crisis.

How to Develop an Individual Grief Plan

Story’s Angel of Grief

My Mother always said that my Daddy was “a fool born on April fools”. This was the running joke all of my life.  April 1 came along this year and it was not a joking matter. I was heartbroken and devastated that I could not hear my father’s voice or see his smiling face on his birthday.

Earl, My Pearl, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on June 20, 2016, after suffering several months of abdominal pain, significant weight loss, and limited mobility. He passed away peacefully on September 9, 2016, at 4:30 am. This process was very difficult for all of us to watch, yet, we were there every step of the way and handled it as gracefully as possible.

I worked as a hospice social worker for several years prior to my father’s diagnosis. Our journey was still difficult but I was familiar with the language and processes pertaining to the end of life which afforded me the opportunity to assist my mother in talking with our team of doctors and making decisions. She found comfort and security in that and this made me proud. I saw this as an attempt to make this living nightmare a little less scary and slightly bearable.

My hospice experience also somewhat prepared me for being around death. I spent time with my Daddy after he passed away and I combed his hair prior to his wake with an unusual calm.  These were tender moments that I will forever cherish.

I faced a dilemma as my Daddy’s birthday approached. My 8th wedding anniversary was a few days prior to Daddy’s birthday.  My husband wanted us to go away to celebrate the weekend of April 1st.  My plan had been to spend the morning at the cemetery with my mother.

After discussing it with my spouse and my mother (my voices of reason) I came to the conclusion that my father would not want me weeping at his grave on his birthday. He would prefer me to go away, live life, and celebrate with my husband whom he was very proud of and admired. So, we continued with our anniversary plans although I did not know what April 1st was going to be like.

I was committed to getting through my Daddy’s first birthday in Heaven without ruining this special weekend that my husband had so thoughtfully planned.  So, I allotted uninterrupted time and space for my grief and I planned activities to pull me out of those dark places that have the ability to consume us if allowed.  I planned for my grief.  Sound weird; keep reading.  I hope my experience assists you in your process.

On the morning of April 1st, I woke up, and attempted to post a memorial birthday wish to My Pearl on my Facebook page and the tears began.  I went into the bathroom and cried hard for at least an hour if not more.  I wasn’t simply misty eyed or a little teary; this was the ugly cry that people try not to do in public.

My husband tried to console me but I asked him to allow me to handle this on my own.  I allowed the tears and emotions to flow without beating myself up for crying like a 37-year-old baby.  I did not attempt to suppress my feelings which is typically our natural response.  I went through the sadness of being Daddy’s little girl without her Daddy.  I experienced the “maybe I could have done more” routine that we wallow in sometimes.  I felt the guilt of not choosing to be graveside on his 75th birthday.

I felt horrible for abandoning my mother in her grief even though I knew she wanted me to continue with my celebration.  It went on and on and I allowed it until it ran its course naturally. Once I was completely done, I sat in silence for a while and then cleaned myself up.  I felt weak, somewhat limp yet refreshed. My husband and I went to a lovely breakfast at our hotel; we changed our clothes and went to the gym together.

After that, I took a long hot shower and allowed myself to air dry across the crisp white comforter on our king size fluffy bed.  I then turned on some relaxing beautiful music.  I did not sleep, I simply allowed myself to be in total and complete relaxation for the remainder of the afternoon.  Our friends met us for cocktails and a show and it turned out to be an amazing and wonderful trip overall.  I planned for my grief, I executed, and came through my Daddy’s first birthday relatively unscathed and empowered.

Make an appointment to grieve.

When we go to the doctor, we have an appointment.  You have called ahead, maybe weeks in advance, to make the appointment.  You have your appointment time, you see the doctor to discuss your health, meds, etc within your allotted amount of time (usually not over an hour) you say your goodbyes and you leave.  Think of your grief in that way.

I set my grief appointment for first thing in the morning because we were on vacation. We had nothing pressing planned that morning and we had guests meeting us in the evening. Whatever your day is going to look like, carve out space and time to be alone with your grief and make it happen.

This is important because if you allow the grief to have its way, it will show up throughout the day and consume you for the better part of that day and possibly beyond.  Take control of your grief by making an appointment, letting it present as it may, then, as you do with other appointments, say your goodbyes and leave it.

Don’t take “walk-ins”.

It is very difficult to walk into your doctor’s office and see them without an appointment. Apply this to your grief.  Say you had your appointment, you successfully followed all of the steps, and are moving on with your day.  If grief shows up outside of its appointment time, turn it away:  “Look grief, your appointment was 8 am. We saw you and dealt with you then.  I will see you at your next scheduled appointment.” Acknowledge your grief but do not allow it to consume you outside of your appointment.  Commit to having power and control over the grief.

Plan to grieve alone.

Our family members and close friends mean well in trying to assist us in our grief, especially around holidays and special events that we would normally share with our deceased loved ones.  Unintentionally, they can often be a hindrance, sometimes a crutch in our process. Additionally, we may subconsciously modify our grief in order to accommodate them and their level of comfort.

This appointment is not the time for such modifications.  Maybe we will cry but suck it up and move forward prematurely because they might feel like we have cried long enough.  Or maybe they, meaning well, will say the cliché things that people say when one is grieving in an effort to help ease the pain and stop the flow of tears:  “it will be ok” or “time heals all wounds” and my all-time favorite “he’s in a better place”.  We know that those things are true.

However, do we want to hear those things in our time of grief?  NO!!!  We are thinking “it won’t be ok because I can’t live without him”, “nothing will heal these wounds” and “the best place is here with me”.  None of those clichés are needed or welcomed for that matter, at this point in the process.  Again, you have to allow space and time for this process without guidance from well-meaning family members and friends.   It has to run its own natural course.  Friends and family have a more appropriate role in the next steps of this process.

Plan activities that you enjoy.

I knew that if I had grieved and simply remained still, I would have wallowed in a sad, hurtful place all day.  Therefore, I moved on to an enjoyable breakfast and then a workout with my husband to take my mind to better places.  It’s not that you’re getting busy suppressing your feelings. Because of your grief appointment, you have dealt with your feelings and emotions head on and very appropriately.

You’re merely creating a beautiful welcomed distraction in order to move on with your day.  After the grief appointment, it is imperative to get up and get busy living.  This has to be planned for and executed.  At this point, your family and social support system could play a huge, meaningful role without hindering your process.  Remember, do not take walk-ins!

Take some time for relaxation and self-care.

My self-care was a long hot shower followed by resting to nice music.  Your self-care may look like a spa day, a long jog through your favorite park, a scenic hike, cooking an elaborate meal, or a shopping trip.  Whatever makes you feel well, do it!  Think of this as a special gift from your loved one on this special day; it’s your reward for bravely facing your grief and taking control of your grief process.  I firmly believe that the ones that we loved and lost enjoy seeing us live happily and well despite their absence.

Be Grateful.

My father was here for all of my major life events: all of my graduations and performances, he moved me into my first apartment, he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, he was there during my pregnancy and formed a sweet relationship with my daughter…with all of that being said, how can I wallow in sadness?  I am so grateful for having a father that was present until he passed away.

Others have not been as fortunate and I acknowledge that. For that reason, I choose on his birthday, holidays, and any day of the week to be grateful for him and his life rather than focus on his absence.  I am also grateful that he did not suffer long after his diagnosis.

As a hospice social worker, I saw patients and families suffer for months and months; having their hopes of recovery dashed with the horrible news that their cancer had spread and there were no further options.  This was not our case.  We had our ups and downs but God was merciful and ended my father’s battle 3 months after he was diagnosed.  For that I am grateful. My gratitude list could go on and on.  My point is that in our sadness and on those birthdays and holidays, we have to immerse ourselves in gratitude in order to make it through.

The preceding technique is not the catch all or fix all for your grief issues around holidays and special occasions. This is merely a formula that worked for me and I was compelled to share it in the hopes of helping others.  If you are experiencing complications, or ongoing grief issues, please, seek help from a mental health professional.

Individual sessions, grief support groups, and other therapeutic interventions to deal with grief may be necessary depending on your individual needs.  Remember, death is inevitable for all of us.  However, being proactive in our grief process and planning for the same may assist and make facing holidays without your loved one bearable and beautiful.  It happened for me; that’s my hope for you!

The VMAs Spotlights Suicide Prevention Anthem 1-800-273-8255

MTV – VMAs

National Suicide Prevention Month begins on September 1st, and MTV officially kicked off suicide awareness with a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Logic along with Khalid and Alessia Cara at the VMAs. The song’s title just happens to be the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the performance also included a group of suicide attempt survivors who came on stage wearing shirts with the number to the suicide helpline.

The song begins from the perspective of someone who wants to die and feels there is no one there to care about what happens to them. The opening hook for the song states, “I don’t want to be alive, I just want to die today, I just want to die.” Some may take an issue with the beginning of the song, but it can not be understated the importance of identifying those feelings in order to seek help.

A recent study which included 32 children’s hospital across the United States revealed an alarming increase in self-harm and suicidality in children and teens ranges from ages 5 to 17 over the past decade. Also, the School of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham released a recent study stating, “Children and young people under-25 who become victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.”

The second hook starts with “I want you to be alive, You don’t gotta die today, You don’t gotta die.” The song moves from a place of darkness to a place of support. When someone expresses suicidal thoughts, it is critical to not dismiss their feelings or minimize the weight of the issues preventing them from wanting to live. The Center for Disease control list death by suicide as the number 1 cause of death in the 15-19 age group. According to the National Data on Campus Suicides, “1 in 12 college students have written down a suicide plan as a result of stresses related to school, work, relationships, social life, and still developing as a young adult.”

John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in an interview talked about the impact the song is already having. During his CNN interview, Draper stated, “The impact has been pretty extraordinary. On the day the song was released, we had the second-highest call volume in the history of our service. Overall, calls to the hotline are up roughly 33% from this time last year.”

“I finally want to be alive, I don’t want to die today, I don’t want to die” are the lyrics and the tone in which the songs end. Then, it leads into an incredibly woke statement by Logic, and here is a sample:

“I am here to fight for your equality because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally and that is why we must fight!” – Logic VMAs

The trend for suicide deaths is on an upward climb. A 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control state there were twice as many suicides than homicides in the United States. It’s time we end the stigma and myths surrounding suicide attempt survivors “doing it for the attention.” Suicidal thoughts may be an ongoing struggle instead of a one-off event to prevent. In this case, we need to arm loved ones and at-risk individuals with information as well as tools and resource to manage their mental health status.

Suicide Warning Signs

Another useful resource is the Crisis Text Line in which users can send a text to a trained counselor and typically receive a response within 5 minutes. Texters can begin by texting “START to 741741” to get connected.

Mental Health providers and practitioners are always looking for ways to connect and reach those most at risk for suicidal and self-harming behaviors, and pop culture often has a direct connection to those who are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, a recent study identified a link between 13 Reasons Why and suicidal thoughts in which it found “queries about suicide and how to commit suicide spiked in the show’s wake.”

Unlike Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why”, this song is already showing the opposite effect by increasing queries and online searches about the National Suicide Prevention Hotline versus queries on how to commit suicide. If you have not seen this powerful VMA performance, I urge you to check it out.

Self-Compassion And Self-Care: Being As Kind To Yourself As You Are To Other People

woman-beach

Modern life is stressful – so stressful! Between work, study, maintaining relationships, family obligations, childcare, paying bills, cooking meals, organising a household, taking care of pets, exercising, volunteering, socialising…it’s not surprising how little time we can spend thinking of nice things to do for ourselves!

Self-care can mean a huge range of things to different people.  I’ve talked before about how to make self-care work for you, basically by doing the things you like and find restorative (and not just ticking off a huge list of things that are “supposed” to be good for you, but that you may not actually get much out of).  

As a person who has a habit of setting super high standards and being really hard on myself, this year I’ve been trying to focus more on my “psychological” self-care.  That means doing things like going easy on myself, not overworking, not overcommitting, keeping my boundaries, taking regular “nothing time” and forgiving myself if I don’t get it right all the time too.

I saw a great TEDx talk recently by Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher on authenticity, self-concept, and self-compassion and a practicing Buddhist to boot.

Neff talks about how hard we can find it to be compassionate to ourselves, even when we might be very good at extending compassion to others.  She notes how many people tend to use the “stick” rather than the “carrot” to try and motivate themselves to achieve more.  That is, they beat themselves up for not getting things done, rather than providing an incentive to reward themselves when they do.  Curiously, her research shows that, in fact, those who are more kind and forgiving towards themselves when they do fail tend to feel more motivated and get more done in the long run.

So what does it mean to be self-compassionate?  And why on earth is it so hard to do?  Neff says on her website, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Of course, this doesn’t mean slacking off all the time, never doing things you intend to, and then being okay with it! Neff is clear that self-compassion is not self-pity or self-indulgence.  Rather it is about doing things because you care about yourself and want to make changes in your life that allow you to be healthy and happy and not just because someone else tells you to.

It sounds so simple, but how easy it is really?  I think it’s so much harder to consistently treat yourself in a way that is kind and forgiving, especially if you have a lifetime of practice at beating yourself up about things instead.  It seems much easier to just tick a few things off your “self-care plan” and consider it done unless you don’t get it done, then you get to feel bad about that too.

I think self-compassion is both an attitude towards yourself as well as a skill that you can learn. I’ve certainly found I’ve got better at it with practice and patience.  A lot of self-compassion websites suggest cultivating self-compassion through mindful meditation exercises, and Neff has some great examples on her website if you’re interested to give them a go.  I’ve found some of them useful when I’m really struggling to be kind to myself.

For me though, “pulling myself up” on my self-criticism works really well too.  For example, whenever I notice that I’m self-criticising or thinking about something I should have done better or managed differently, I ask myself, “Would I ever say something that harsh to a friend or a client?”  If the answer is “no”, then I imagine a little script that I would say to someone else. The result is something a little kinder and more understanding with a commitment to learn and try something different next time – and forgiveness if I don’t get it right even then.

I’ve noticed that doing this repeatedly does make me feel a little better about my perceived failings and mistakes which I’m also sure are not as big a deal to other people as they are to me. The trick of course is first to notice those thoughts in order to begin a process to address them.

So what do you think?  Are you into the idea of self-compassion as part of your self-care?

Wilhemina’s War: Women of Color with HIV/AIDS in Rural South Carolina

Wilhemina’s War first aired on February 29th, 2016, and the film chronicles the trials and tribulations of family matriarch Wilhemina Dixon, her daughter Toni who is HIV positive, and granddaughter Dayshal who contracted HIV at birth. Filmed over a period of five years from 2009 to 2014, the feature highlights the stages of caring for loved ones with HIV/AIDS using limited resources. Despite working odd jobs to keep the family afloat, Wilhemina pours her spirit into encouraging her daughter and granddaughter to survive.

This intimate look into the daily life of women of color with HIV in rural South Carolina along with the social and political barriers they faced adds to the appeal of this 55 minute docudrama. Every person in the film whether it be the survivor, activist, social worker, politician, pastor, or resident-is impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Cassandra Lizaire, author of “S. Carolina’s Haley Slams Door on HIV Prevention”, stated that, “Wilhemina Dixon knows this devastation well. A 64 year-old great-grandmother living in the dusty backroads of Barnwell, S.C., she spends her mornings in the field picking peas before the onslaught of the midday sun. Her odd jobs provide for her family of six and she takes pride in making an earnest living. Afterwards, as she sits in the shade of her porch, far removed from the political machinations, I imagine Dixon thinks of her daughter Toni who died of AIDS last year [2011] and ponders the future of her granddaughter Dayshal, who was born with the virus.”

“In South Carolina, we are ranked eighth in the nation in the rate of AIDS. Eighty percent of all women in South Carolina living with HIV/AIDS is black. Eighty percent of all children living with HIV are black. Seventy-three percent of all men living with HIV are black. This is a black epidemic for all practical purposes,” clarified Vivian Clark-Armstead, South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council member in the film, “Wilhemina’s War.

June Cross, in the article “June Cross Tells the Story of a Family Fighting HIV in South Carolina”, chose to develop this documentary to raise consciousness and dispel myths about HIV/AIDS among African Americans in the rural South.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • In 2009, the highest number of adults and adolescents living with an AIDS diagnosis resided in the Southern part of the United States.
  • In 2010, in the South, the Northeast, and the Midwest, blacks accounted for the largest number of AIDS diagnoses.
  • At the end of 2010, the South accounted for 45% of the approximately 33,015 new AIDS diagnoses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, followed by the Northeast (24%), the West (19%), and the Midwest (13%).
  • In 2013, an estimated 776 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in South Carolina. South Carolina ranked 17th among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2013.
  • In 2014, 44% (19,540) of estimated new HIV diagnoses in the United States were among African Americans, who comprise 12% of the US population.
  • In 2014, an estimated 48% (10,045) of those diagnosed with AIDS in the United States were African Americans. By the end of 2014, 42% (504,354) of those ever diagnosed with AIDS were African Americans.

The CDC implies that knowledge of the regions where HIV and AIDS have the greatest impact, informs the equitable distribution of resources for prevention and education in those areas. The CDC also suggests that its approach to the HIV crisis is driven by the 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy introduced by President Obama. The four main tenets of the strategy are to: lower the infection rate, expand healthcare availability and improve the quality of life for those who are HIV positive, lower HIV-related health inequalities, and attain a more organized federal approach to the HIV crisis.

However, Lisa Ko asserts in her article titled, “African Americans Hit Hardest by HIV in the South” that, “As seen in Wilhemina’s War…Governor Nikki Haley’s rejection of billions of federal dollars through the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cutting of $3 million in AIDS prevention and drug assistance programs has resulted in substandard or nonexistent health services, medication, and medical care.” Wilhelmina’s War brings these statistics to life as it exposes the social and political obstacles Wilhelmina and her family encounter while inspiring the audience to advocate for collective change. Wilhelmina’s War can be accessed through the PBS.org website.

To assist the Dixon family and others with HIV in the rural South, June Cross shares the following ways to get involved:

  • Cross has established a GoFundMe page for Dayshal Dicks.
  • Cross suggests that organizations involved with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other social justice efforts connect with local HIV advocates.
  • Finally, making financial contributions to HIV foundations to help them continue their community outreach.

In my previous experience working with HIV positive clients in a residential setting, my goal was to promote a safe, drug and alcohol-free community living environment. As residents, clients could access intensive case management, group and individual counseling, and intensive outpatient addiction treatment for up to two years.  During this period, most clients were empowered to acquire and sustain permanent housing. I learned that the best thing I could do for these clients was to show empathy and treat them how I would want to be treated. The only difference between me and them was time and circumstance.

I encourage social work students, practitioners, other helping professionals, and community activists to watch Wilhemina’s War to increase awareness about the status of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the rural South.

Are We Forgetting About The Sandwich Generation?

By Ed Kashi and Julie Winokaur
By Ed Kashi and Julie Winokaur

When working with elderly patients in health care facilities, it is likely that we may forget about the needs of their adult children aka The Sandwich Generation. The sandwich generation is adult children typically between the ages of 30-50 who are caring for their aging parents while taking care of their own family as well.

Taking care of young children while caring for aging parents puts a great deal of stress on the adult children. In my experience working with families in hospice, I’ve noticed some factors that contribute to the stresses of this generation:

  1. Financial Concerns – Older Americans are living off their fixed income such as Social Security, VA pension, and personal savings which may not be enough to pay for certain expenses. Many retirees can not afford to live in assisted living facilities, or private home attendants, and monthly expenses in their current homes. The children often struggle as they have to figure out how to pay for these expenses if their income is limited as well. This issue is very common for funeral expenses since many retirees don’t have life insurance.
  2. Feuding Relatives – Adult children may have a long history of sibling rivalry which can leave an impact on the care of their elderly parents. One child may agree to hospice care while the other beliefs in aggressive treatment. The rivalry can easily be carried into a facility where we, the social workers usually witness the drama.
  3. Lack of Awareness – You will be surprised how many adult children are not aware of health care proxy, advance directives, or how life insurance works. Some assume that their parents’ insurance will cover everything. Many times I had to inform the children that Medicare does not cover long term costs which brings back to #1 on this list.
  4. Bad Timing– Sometimes adult children may wait till the last minute to make handle their parents’ affairs. Reasons for this occurrence may be that they learn about the resources too late, procrastination, denial, or lax in their own time management. I had adult children asking me how they can get a power of attorney for their parents, and the patient is unresponsive, and near death.
  5. Mom and Dad Are Not The Same –  We know our parents from the time we were born. We are not use to seeing our parents getting older and sicker. Many adult children may not be prepared to watch their parents deal with a debilitating condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease. On the other hand, adult children may have their own personal issues about their parents that was unresolved. These changes can bring emotional distress to the children.

When working in hospitals, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, or adult day programs it’s very common to see these issues surface with this generation. However, social workers who work in private practice or other settings might encounter someone who experiences this as well. Unfortunately, we are unable to prevent adults from getting older and prevent the sandwich generation to face this situation.  We can, however, take some steps to reduce the burden and educate this generation at our place of employment. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Assess All Legal Health Forms –  Many hospital staff is required to ask patients and families about advance directives, and health care proxy. Families should be educated on the advantages of having these forms in place. This can make health care decisions easier for the adult child.
  2. Discuss Available Services –  Be aware of the services in your community which will allow you to share them with your clients. Services include, Medicaid, home care services, senior subsidized housing, and elder law attorneys are some examples of resources for the elderly. It’s very important to be aware of the referral process of these services. For example, filing for food stamps in NYC is entirely different than filing it on Long Island. If we are knowledgeable about the services than the family is well informed of their options.
  3. Review their coping techniques – Caregiving is physically and emotionally stressful. It’s very important that we assess how adult children are coping. Do they have a counselor to who they can speak to? Do they receive support through their place of worship? Are they attending caregiving support groups? What are their personal issues about their parents that they are struggling with? These questions are some of the examples we can ask when assessing their situation.

How social workers intervene depends on the needs of the adult children. In one situation, the child may have all the concrete needs in place but still requires emotional support. On the other hand, there will be another case where the social worker may have to review health care proxy, discuss Medicaid service, and mediate the feuding siblings.

At the end of the day, you could never give too much emotional support to the sandwich generation.

Community Workers Adopt Mobile Technology to Improve Maternal-Child Health

MAMA

As world leaders get ready to meet in New York in September to set a new development agenda for the next 15 years, their discussions will likely focus on maternal and child health. A report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) last May 13, in fact, highlights that progress has been insufficient to improve mothers’ health and reduce child mortality.

800 women still die every day in the world from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, while less than one third of all countries have achieved or will meet the target of reducing child-death rate by two-thirds.

Although the Millennium Development Goals have helped address many important public health challenges, there is still the need to ensure the “world’s most vulnerable people have access to health services,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, in a statement presenting the report.

Local solutions to a global problem

South Africa is a good illustration of these public health emergencies – and of possible solutions. In a country where 30 percent of pregnant women do not access prenatal care, more than 12 percent of the population live with HIV and around 40% of maternal deaths are HIV/AIDS-related, a number of initiatives show encouraging results.

A study published last October by the Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Trust together with the University of California, Los Angeles, and Stellenbosch University in South Africa found that repeated home visits by trained community health workers to neighborhood mothers led to significant health improvements both for mothers and children, including in the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Trained and recruited by the Philani, these health workers – known as mentor mothers – provide a lifeline for families otherwise excluded from the reach of many public health services. In the past 7 years, they have brought healthcare interventions into the homes of tens of thousands of pregnant women and new mothers. They taught them how to rehabilitate underweight children and improve their chances of giving birth to healthy babies, helped obtain state welfare allowances, and assisted in the prevention of preventable illnesses.

Tablets for health workers

Mentor mothers’ work has now caught the attention of some professors at Stanford University (California) who have started a project in February to support them with sturdy tablets pre-loaded with education videos. These videos explain basic health and nutrition facts in a simple and intuitive way, with the aim of helping mentor mothers in their work of expanding access to health knowledge and improving health conditions.

Nomfusi Nquru, one of the twelve mentor mothers testing the project, cannot conceal her excitement about using these tablets. “It is something new and a chance to use technology that I do not get to use,” she said in an interview. “Mothers react excitedly to the videos and seem to pay careful attention to what is being said. Hearing lessons in a different way is something that catches the mothers’ attention and afterwards they ask questions on how to feed their children well and look after themselves in their pregnancies.”

The tablet project is the brainchild of Dr. Maya Adam, a lecturer at Stanford School of Medicine with years of experience in developing digital educational content. After running a successful online course on child nutrition followed by thousands of people around the world, she has now decided to use her experience to help mothers in the developing world. “When we first introduced the teaching tablets, it was quite amazing to see how quickly these mothers picked up the new technology” she says. “In a way we are bypassing the blockage in access to education at least in the short term and providing these women with the opportunity to access knowledge using the technology we have today.”

According to Adam, who has spent years as a volunteer at Philani during her medical school and undergraduate studies, recruiting successful mothers and training them to become community health workers “is a powerful model for passing on good health practices in a way that is sustainable because women are counseling within their own communities. They are not going anywhere and they are not coming in from somewhere else with a solution that will then disappear when they leave.”

Adam hopes that the tablets will facilitate the learning and accelerate the training of new mentor mothers. Initial feedback from the twelve mentor mothers seems to confirm her intuition: responding to a questionnaire prepared by Stanford University, they all reacted enthusiastically to the introduction of the tablets in their work.

“Community health workers can help bridge the gap, in the short term, between what we need in access to healthcare providers and what we have,” says Adam. “If we wait for access to education and healthcare in South Africa to catch up with the need for it in these under-resourced communities, we are going to wait for a long time. By using technology like the tablets we can accelerate that process in communities otherwise cut off from main infrastructures.”

Adam intends to start an evaluation of the project next year, but is already working on a more ambitious goal of creating an open access health promotion library for community outreach workers.

“That’s my dream,” she says. “We are now raising funds for additional tablets, each costing around $170 U.S. dollars, and preparing translations of the videos into Spanish and other languages to extend the reach of this project. The videos are all picture-based, so they can easily be translated and used in other countries. We have the technology, we have the equipment. If we can get support, we can really put our heads down and start creating a comprehensive, multilingual, open access library to promote the health of mothers and children everywhere.”

A promising tool

Stanford University is the latest of a number of projects providing health workers with mobile technology. OpenSRP, for example, is a tablet-based open source platform that allows health workers to register and track the health of their entire clients.

“The use of mobile health technologies is a promising mechanism to ensure that we can better measure health outcomes in order to inform processes intended to improve health along the continuum of care,” says Dr. Lale Say, coordinator of the adolescents and at-risk populations team at the Department of Reproductive Health and Research of the WHO. “Digital technologies like those used in this project have proven valuable for both community members as well as the health workforce to gain access to quality information that can help make timely and well informed health decisions that can impact on the lives of mothers and their children.”

A Harm Reduction Perspective: An Interview with Kenneth Anderson, Founder of Harm Reduction Network (HAM)

HAMS stands for Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. The program’s main focus is to meet clients where they are at to provide, “support for safer drinking, reduced drinking or quitting alcohol altogether.” Instead of a 12-step program, HAMS uses 17 elements to help people make positive changes in their lives. By using a harm reduction approach, HAMS attempts to reduce the negative effects of alcohol or drug use. Thus, as an alternative to abstinence-based programs, harm reduction supports anyone who wants to reduce the harm of high-risk behavior such as overdrinking.

Harm reduction believes that it is easier to encourage individuals to make small changes rather than large changes. Therefore, HAMS believes that it is easier to educate people about how to plan their drinking and drink safely instead of eliminating recreational alcohol use. Harm reduction has the potential to instill massive changes in society and this interview explains how HAMS aims to achieve this goal.

SWH: What is HAMS?

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Kenneth Anderson, Founder of HAM

Founder: HAMS is free of charge program that is committed to making small positive changes in individuals’ lives, which can amount to larger changes in society. HAMS uses evidence-based stages for their 17 elements by assisting people to reduce their high-risk behavior. In addition, since HAMS is committed to harm reduction, the program attempts to avoid the worst harms first, as safety is very important. HAMS also welcomes all individuals no matter how much they drink, which differs from other alcohol treatment programs.

SWH: What programs does HAMS offer?

Founder: HAMS provides support through a chat room, email group and live meetings to people internationally in the United States, Canada, Austria, Australia, and Thailand. The chat takes place at 9 pm Eastern. Approximately 6 to 10 people chat at a time and the group is not formally structured. In addition, approximately 1200 people participate in the email group, and the network averages about 20 messages a day. Live meetings also take place in Brooklyn and Oklahoma. A professionally led group also takes place in San Francisco, which uses HAMS principles.

SWH: What are the 17 elements of HAMS?

Founder: The 17 elements of HAMS include:
1. Do a Cost-Benefit Analysis of your drinking
2. Choose a drinking goal – safer drinking, reduced drinking, quitting drinking
3. Learn about risk ranking and rank your risks
4. Learn about the HAMS tools and strategies for changing your drinking
5. Make a plan to achieve your drinking goal
6. Use alcohol-free time to reset your drinking habits
7. Learn to cope without booze
8. Address outside issues that affect drinking
9. Learn to believe in yourself
10. Learn to have fun without booze
11. Use a chart to plan and track your drinks and drinking behavior day by day
12. Evaluate your progress – honestly report struggles – revise plans or goals as needed
13. Practice damage control as needed
14. Get back on the horse
15. Graduating from HAMS, sticking around or coming back
16. Praise yourself for every success
17. Move at your own pace – you don’t have to do it all at once

Please note that more information about these elements can be found in the HAMS book, How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol

SWH: How are the 17 elements of HAMS different from 12-step programs?

Founder: The 17 elements are optional and can be completed in any order; whereas, the 12-steps have to be completed in succession. HAMS recognizes that individuals can be unprepared when adverse circumstances occur in recovery; therefore, the program allows people to start at any element to clarify ambivalence. However, it is still important that an individual acknowledges that they drink, which is similar to the 12-step program.

SWH: What are your views on other means of harm reduction?

Founder: I believe in harm reduction because it saved my life. I also volunteered at a needle exchange program in Minneapolis in the past. It was a rewarding experience and I learned how to encourage a positive change in individuals by encouraging them to make small changes that could amount to a big lasting change. My experience with harm reduction encouraged me to establish HAMS in January 2007.

SWH: Why do you believe that harm reduction approaches are controversial?

Founder: Many individuals do not understand harm reduction approaches, as many individuals are not aware of the facts. Individuals do not always understand that abstinence is part of the harm reduction philosophy. However, we must continue to education individuals that harm reduction is helping people attain the goal of abstinence by making small changes to reach this goal. Thus, we are not encouraging individuals to use drugs, but do not require a person to maintain abstinence from alcohol.

For more information please visit the HAMS website or email Kenneth Anderson at hams@hamsnetwork.org.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A Different Approach to Anxiety Disorders

Most coping techniques that teach people how to handle their abnormal anxieties focus on skills that reduce, replace, and avoid discomfort. These techniques are many that I have tried for my own anxiety including deep breathing, relaxing music, muscle relaxation, and more.

Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches people to control and change their upsetting feelings and thoughts. On the other hand, Acceptance and Commitment therapy teaches people not to change their thoughts or feelings but to change the way they react to them. The three steps of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are; accept, choose, and take action.

According to Psychology Today,

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life. ACT has been around for a long time, but seems to be gaining media attention lately. Categorically speaking, ACT is a form of mindfulness-based therapy, theorizing that greater well-being can be attained by overcoming negative thoughts and feelings. Essentially, ACT looks at your character traits and behaviors to assist you in reducing avoidant coping styles. ACT also addresses your commitment to making changes, and what to do about it when you can’t stick to your goals. Read More

  1. Acceptance: Acceptance of anxious feelings means learning how to observe and sense them without judgment. Instead, you are able to use compassion and gentleness when confronted with anxiety, fear, worry, panic, and other sensations that may cause discomfort.
  2. Choose: This step is where you decide how you want your life to go. You can ask yourself do I want to remain a prisoner to this anxiety or do I want to live a fulfilling meaningful life?
  3. Take Action: This is by far the hardest step. This involves accepting that in order for things to change you much change your behavior. Taking action means facing your fears and anxieties and making them a small part of your life instead of something that consumes you.

To learn more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy check out the book:  The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by John P. Forsyth and Georg H. Eifert.

Peer Pressure: Tips for Parents

peerpressure

Teenagers do not have an easy time in today’s world. Along with maintaining their academic grades, completing homework assignments on time, learning how to drive a car, and making first attempts at romantic relationships, kids have a lot to think about every day. Many teens succumb to peer pressure during this experimental and confusing time in their lives. Even if you have taught your children about the dangers of drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, her friends may have more influence at times than you do. How can you help your teen make good choices?

Speak Openly to Your Kids

One of the best things you can do, as a parent, to combat peer pressure is to talk openly with your children. Ask them about their friends, their hobbies, and their feelings – anything that can help them understand that you are someone they can trust; someone they can share concerns with. Let your teen know that it is OK to make mistakes, but when it comes to alcohol, those mistakes can be deadly.

If your teen tells you he feels pressured to drink in order to fit in with the clique at school, explain to him that true friends would never encourage him to do something he isn’t comfortable with, especially if it is something illegal, like underage drinking. Talk to your teen about experiences in your own life if possible in which you didn’t go along with the crowd and still achieved happiness and did great things.

Know the Warning Signs

When you suspect your teenager may be headed down a destructive road, you have every right to investigate. Her life may depend on it. As a parent, it is your duty to periodically check emails, text messages, and Internet search history.

Look for conversations about drinking, partying or anything else that may be alcohol or drug related inferences. Pay attention to teen lingo such as, “POS” (parent over shoulder), “PAW” (parents are watching), and “PIR” (parent in the room) that might be used during conversations about covert actions.

Explain the Consequences

One of the biggest concerns you can convey to your teen about drinking is the serious consequences – legally, emotionally, and financially – that drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) can have on her future.

States have various DUI laws addressing drinking under the age of 21.  Young people are usually surprised by the severity of the charges, especially in some states. For example in Florida, one DUI attorney at Katz & Phillips, PA points out that the legal drinking age has been 21 since 1987 and one drink could put a teenage on the wrong side of the law.

“Adults are not legally considered to be driving under the influence in Florida until their blood alcohol concentration reaches .08 percent. If you’re under 21, you don’t have that luxury. You’ll blow over at .02 percent – the legal limit for underage drivers — and you can be charged with a DUI.” ~David Katz

Teenage drinking is a serious issue that could result in a criminal record, license revocation, and even jail time. The more seriously you explain the consequences, the better the chances your child will realize the gravity of this dangerous activity and choose to refrain from it regardless of what his friends are doing.

Why Did Rand Paul’s Filibuster Get More Media Attention Than Wendy Davis

Gender Politics, In Politics? NO WAY! Earlier this week, Senator Wendy Davis of Texas stood up for women’s reproductive rights in her 11 hour filibuster to keep the 45 clinics open in Texas SB 5 would have banned abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. She spoke with authority and on such a controversial topic that it would only seem fitting that the 24 hour news networks would have paid Davis more media attention.

Here is an excerpt from Time Magazine:

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/06/26/wendy-davis-texas-flibuster-puts-the-u-s-senate-to-shame/
(Photo by Bob Daemmrich/Corbis)

You might think that this kind of ticking-clock politics drama would be a magnet for cable news. TV news, after all, devoted considerable coverage when GOP Sen. Rand Paul held a rare one-man-speaking filibuster on the floor of the Senate earlier this year. There was a deadline, an explosive social issue, some charged gender politics in the room. “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” demanded Sen.Leticia Van De Putte with roars from the crowd and rowdy protesters shaking the room with chants of “Let her speak! Let her speak!” Aaron Sorkin, could not have scripted it better, though he may have polished up the dialogue a bit.
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What was it about Rand Paul’s filibuster in the Senate that motioned for such an amplified voice in mainstream media?  Many may remember Rand Paul and his filibuster against John Brennan’s appointment to the CIA. What was it about the filibustering process that made both Senators stop their filibusters? For Rand Paul, it was biological while for Wendy Davis it was a technicality. The longest Filibuster on record is that of Strom Thurmond who was allowed a short recess for a bathroom break in 1977. With this in mind, how does the filibustering process work?

There are a few key rules about filibustering, and the first of which is that the floor must be taken with no sitting or no leaning. Wendy Davis was penalized for this rule because another senator assisted her in adjusting her back brace. The other key rule about filibustering is staying on topic. According to the chamber, she went off topic twice by mentioning the budget for planned parenthood and mentioned a sonogram bill. In Filibustering after a representative has gotten three violations, as Sen. Davis received, she can no longer hold the floor.

These technicalities were not discussed in as great detail in the Rand Paul Filibuster in March of 2013. The standards appear to be different and the media coverage was different.  However, the issue struck a chord with social media advocates and local organizers.

Twitter was tweeting  #standwithwendy

“LET HER SPEAK” the crowd chanted as she left the floor

Her efforts were not in vain! Organizers and protesters chanted for the last 15 minutes and ran out the clock for that final vote.

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