Happy Pride!

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Happy Pride from your friends at myHealth. For many in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus) community, it is a time to recognize those that came before us, those that fought for human rights, freedom of choice, and for passing the laws that allow people to be with their families and those they love.

Pride is a way to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. Pride started in New York in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village which is recognized as the event that helped the LGBTQ+ movement gain momentum (read about Stonewall here https://www.britannica.com/event/Stonewall-riots). Pride is a way for communities to voice their demands for equal rights and protections. It is also a celebration of life and sexuality that brings communities together who are frequently discriminated against and left out of conversations.

The following leaders are only 3 of MANY who have been monumental in improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. We celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of these folks and the MANY others who have had an impact throughout past, present, and future LGBTQ+ lives.

Barbara Gittings

Barbara Gittings was a prominent activist for LGBTQ+ equality. Her work includes, founding the New York Chapter of Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), picketing in one of the first gay rights protests in 1965, and getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses in 1972. Barbara was instrumental in promoting positive literature about homosexuality in libraries through her work with the American Library Association’s Gay Task Force (known today as the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table).

“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”

Andrea Jenkins

Andrea Jenkins is an American policy aide, politician, writer, performance artist, poet, and transgender activist. She serves on the Minneapolis City Council and is the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. She is currently curating the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota; collecting stories of people and their experiences as transgender and gender nonconforming people.

“I’m really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society.”

Sameer Jha

Sameer Jha is a 16-year-old high school student who identifies as a queer, gender-nonconforming. Semeer founded The Empathy Alliance, a nonprofit that works with students and educators to help make schools safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ+ students. As a first generation American, with parents who immigrated from India and Pakistan, Sameer also works to remove the stigma around being queer in South Asian communities.

“As a queer person of color who traces my heritage to a country in which homosexuality is punishable by death, I want to use my privilege as an American citizen with a supportive family to raise awareness and fight for the people who can’t.”

May is Masturbation Month!

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Think back to when you were a teen, maybe even a tween… What myths did you hear about masturbation? Someone who masturbated would lose their eyesight? Maybe you heard a person would grow hair on their palms…. Or it could cause infertility. But these myths are exactly that, MYTHS! Regardless of gender, masturbation is a normal, healthy part of someone’s sexuality!

Masturbation is a personal decision; many people do, others don’t and that’s okay! There are many different reasons why a person may masturbate. It may help release sexual tension, reduce stress, aid in sleep, or simply just for pleasure. Despite what you may have heard in middle school, there are no negative health effects to masturbation. Masturbation carries no risk of sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancy. It can help a person discover their own sexual responses and learn how to communicate those with a partner.

 

When interacting with young people in the community, we leave a chance for anonymous questions about any topic. Some of the most common questions we get are about masturbation, including;

  1. Is masturbation bad?

Masturbation is a perfectly normal and healthy part of someone’s sexuality. There is research that shows healthy

  1. How much masturbation is too much?

There is no right or wrong amount someone masturbates. Some masturbate often, maybe every day or more than once a day, others masturbate less frequently and some will never masturbate at all and that’s okay. All of these are normal. Like anything, masturbation only becomes “too much” if it is taking away from daily activities. If someone notices themselves not hanging out with friends, not doing homework, or skipping out on other responsibilities to masturbate they may want to talk to a mental health counselor or therapist.

 

What messages are your young people getting about masturbation? What messages do you want them to receive? Talking with our young people about masturbation may be an awkward conversations but that’s okay! You can open the door to this conversation by sharing some of the myths you heard when you were a young person. Reassuring young people that masturbation is normal and healthy can help eliminate the fears, myths, and shame often associated with self-discovery.

Get more tips on how to talk to young people about masturbation here:

https://amaze.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ConversationStarters_Masturbation.pdf

https://amaze.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/KeyMessageScripts_Masturbation.pdf

Kicking off the New Year

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When ringing in 2018, it can be helpful to pause, reflect, and put things into perspective.  We often go into a new year making resolutions of certain qualities and characteristics we want to FIX or CHANGE. While this can be a wonderful opportunity to better ourselves, don’t forget, you are already amazing! How often do you focus on the powerful attributes in your world and what makes you happy?

Stop and reflect with me for a minute… What was challenging for you in 2017? What did you ROCK AT? When did you feel the worst or when you weren’t reaching your potential? When did you feel the best and you gave it all you had?

As we travel through life, we have this little backpack we carry around. At times, our bag is filled (with activities, friends, family, school work, relationships, pressures) and contains a lot of weight and pulls us down. At other times, our bags are EXACTLY what we need; they fill us up and make us feel amazing and empowered. The New Year is not about CHANGING everything about ourselves. You are already amazing in your own way! We can however, take the time to decide where and how we want to spend our time and energy. If your bag is full of heavy, unnecessary items that don’t make you happy, NOW is a great time to readjust. Take that bag and dump it out! Look at exactly what you are carrying around, where your energy and thoughts are focused! Figure out what’s REALLY important in your life! If you don’t know where to start, think about who and what is worth your time and your energy?!  What do you need for your next adventure?

Once you’ve emptied and started re-packing your bag, LIST everything about yourself that is AMAZING! What are you good at? What skills and qualities make you, YOU. Those skills and qualities are the straps of the backpack; the foundation that will support you in all that you do! They can offer stability and comfort when needed. You are YOU! Those qualities that make you are what people see, the unique decorations, the strength of the straps, etc.

The backpack is there for you, whether you realize it or not. You get to fill it with whatever you want! As time passes, and the year speeds along, pause, reflect, evaluate and adjust as needed. Is the weight of the bag pulling you down and making those straps dig into your shoulders? Are you carrying too much for other people and not enough for you? What items need to be removed for you to feel empowered, invigorated, and amazing?! What and who is continuing to inspire you and the amazing person you are?!

After you’ve assessed your backpack, reflected on all the contents and all that it is, put it on! Here’s to your next adventure as you kick off 2018!

Suicide Awareness

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Suicide prevention awareness month is in September.  However, we would like to take a moment to talk about it now, before winter holidays and school breaks. The holidays can be a stressful time for people for a variety of reasons. Some may not have the best relationship with their families or extended families and don’t feel safe to be who they are. Some feel lots of external pressure around the holidays to be positive, and may be struggling with internal pressure to be happy themselves. This can especially be the case for those struggling with depression, or other mental health symptoms. Some folks do not have the safety and security of school and don’t get that escape during the holiday break. Whatever the reason, if you or someone you know is having difficulty over this holiday season please reach out for help.
In 2014 a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed children and young adults are at risk for suicide, and is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24. Here at myHealth, we feel it is important to recognize this as well as provide resources and tips if you or someone you know is considering suicide.
Some people who commit suicide give off few or no warning signs, but most suicides come with red flags. Knowing the signs for those who may be considering suicide can help you intervene before it’s too late.
Here are some signs that someone may be considering suicide:
  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will
So what can you do?? 
(Some great tips from the article below)
If the warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently. One resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.
  1. Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay Connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.
Family and friends typically are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide and can be the first step toward helping find treatment with someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.

What if someone seems suicidal on social media?
Many social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Google+, have ways to report suicidal content and get help for the content creator. Each social media site has a different procedure, so search the site’s help page for assistance.

Link for article and other suicide prevention resources:
Local Resources:
And remember myHealth provides counseling services to those between the ages of 12-26, please contact us to set up an appointment if you or someone you know is struggling. If it is an emergency/crisis situation please call the above hotlines or 911.

You are loved, because you are you.

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This is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of myHealth as an organization.

There seems to be this idea that faith, spirituality, and/or a relationship with [whomever you call] God or a higher power cannot and should not coincide with a healthy sexuality. Each person deserves to have spirituality if they wish; you are amazing and loved because you are you. It is possible to have faith and be a part of or be an ally to the LGBTQ community. Faith and spirituality looks different to everyone, to me, it is God. I did not grow up in church, I never understood what it meant to have a relationship with Him; I didn’t grow up with open communication where I felt comfortable asking questions, especially when it came to sexuality.  My journey with faith and sexuality began as an adult.

I often feel as though I live in two different worlds.  In one world I have a strong and supportive relationship with God and the community surrounding that.  In my other world, I am a health educator, teaching young people to have confidence in themselves, to overcome the shame and fear that has been taught to them around sex and sexuality, and how to safely incorporate their personal values into romantic relationships. When I came up with the idea to write this article, I felt as though I belonged in both of these worlds. I have heard, listened to, and watched young people struggle, and believe that they cannot be loved because they are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex, or identify differently than society expects.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that there needs to be more clarity and openness when it comes to these two topics, which is why I am writing this article.  I started writing several months ago, but was derailed after my research began and I read negative articles, opinions, and hateful blogs damning anyone who isn’t heterosexual to hell. Don’t get me wrong, there are others in cyberspace who know and believe that God loves them regardless of their gender, biological sex, sexual orientation, etc. The ones brave enough to write about it and show their belief and support have been ridiculed and bullied. Many of them chose to discontinue their writing because their emotional and mental health was suffering as a result. At the time I started my initial research and writing, I had been attending a small group every Thursday, attending church every weekend. I also loved my job, but I had a lot of questions regarding faith. How could God create a world where He only loved people who were heterosexual? A world where it’s okay to “love thy neighbor” as long as they look the same? If everyone had the choice to be born without pain, bullying, and difficulties, I believe that most would choose that path. People do not choose their gender, identity or sexuality, especially if it means they will have more obstacles or could experience hate, oppression, and/or fewer rights.

I am not going to pull out quotes from the bible to support my argument, because I do not believe that having faith is about having the resources to back it up.  It is personal, and something that only that individual can understand. I will not be using the bible as a reference, because in the past, the bible served as a way to refute people of color’s rights as well as women’s rights. I believe God created this amount of diversity as a test of faith to overcome our differences, and find His compassion to love. I want you to know, I am a heterosexual, cisgender, white, female.  Does that change your lens? I challenge you to read through this again. I am not biased, making up my own rules so that I “fit”, but I am also not condemning others for having differing beliefs, I listen and trust my faith.  I am not perfect, but I love you for you, because that is what God teaches. If you or someone you know is looking for a place of worship that is welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ identified folks, click this link: https://www.outfront.org/resources/worship.

Laura, myHealth Health Educator