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

Let’s Talk Month

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October is Let’s Talk Month. It shouldn’t just be one month but a reminder about the importance of talking to your child about sexuality and their sexual health on a regular basis. We want you to be able to open the door to this conversation. myHealth provides parent education sessions Next one is Oct. 19th where you can hear real questions students ask in school and learn tools to support conversations with your child, teen or young adult.

Like these: (real questions from students)

  • I heard you can’t get pregnant your first time is that true?
  • If you have 1 STD does that keep you from getting another one?
  • How do you know if a relationship is healthy or not.  My friend is ALWAYS getting txts from her boyfriend and he gets mad if she doesn’t answer right away even if she’s in school.
  • My friend started ghosting me. It totally sucks what can I do?
  • Are you supposed to shave your pubic hair? What if you’re a dude?
  • Is it normal to question your sexuality?
  • How do I tell my parents that I’m bi?
  • Why does oral sex count as sex?

There is a lot of assumptions out there when it comes to what our young people are learning and how much of that information is helpful. Let’s bust a few of those myths.

MYTH: My child gets sex ed in school. They get all the information they need.

FACT: Did you know MN State Requirements make us one in only 24 states that actually require sex ed and HIV education.  Let’s dig into what those requirements mean.  MN schools are required to teach about abstinence, HIV, and healthy relationships (and it could be assumed to cover STI’s but it’s unclear given the wording). Our state does not require that information be inclusive of sexual orientations, provide information on contraceptives or condom use, be medically accurate, culturally appropriate, age appropriate and lastly there is no restriction against promoting religion in our sex education. (Guttmacher 2017)

– Funny take of the sad reality of Sex Ed in our country John Oliver clip from 2015 (The statistics are still pretty accurate and the video helps to break down the state standards and their meaning)

Now, those are just the basic requirements. Some schools have amazing semester long comprehensive sexual health education where they talk about contraceptives, barrier methods, boundaries, consent, communication, navigating pressure, gender, sexual orientation, love, pleasure etc. On the other end of the spectrum, some schools teach only the required minimum and pack it into 1-3 classes ONCE during a students’ entire high school education. As a parent, it’s up to you to know what your school policy is because there is such a wide range. If you feel information at your school is lacking, this TIP SHEET can help you advocate for more comprehensive sexual health education. If your child isn’t getting all the information you want them to have, it’s important to supplement that education at home or you can bring them to myHealth.  We provide medically accurate, fact based, age and culturally appropriate education is provided value and judgement free. We will answer any of their questions so they can make the best decision for themselves.

Though hard at times, it is important to talk with your young person because it helps keep your child/ teen safe. By having fact based information about their body, how to keep their body healthy, how to build healthy relationships and make the best decisions for them. Sexuality is a broad topic that includes body parts, self-esteem, friendships relationships, messages from the media and our friends, and our values etc.

– Sexuality at every age and stage (LINK TO HOW TO TALK TO CHILDREN ABOUT SEXUALITY)- check out this tip sheet of what topics and questions are relevant at each age and stage.

MYTH: Talking about sex and sexuality will cause my child to have sex and be unsafe.

FACT: Parent-child communication about sexuality promotes sexually healthy behaviors

“When young people feel unconnected to home, family, and school, they may become involved in activities that put their health at risk. However, when parents affirm the value of their children, young people more often develop positive, healthy attitudes about themselves. Although most adults want youth to know about abstinence, contraception, and how to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), parents often have difficulty communicating about sex. Nevertheless, positive communication between parents and children greatly helps young people to establish individual values and to make healthy decisions.”

– Tips to keep kids safe – talking to our kids/teens about sexuality, boundaries, and our bodies keeps them safe from abuse.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING!

It’s easy to let our emotions run the conversations when we are worried or concerned about our young person.  Remember that you love them and you want them to have the information to make the best decisions. Take a breath, remind yourself that you care about them, pause, and then respond.  Try using some of the Door Openers below to start the conversation.  You’ll be amazed how much more they will share with you. Try to keep the door open to conversations about sexuality. Ask them what they think and why? How they came to that conclusion? How will it feel if … happens to a friend or if … were to be a consequence of a behavior?  Young people are learning their own values and figuring out what is important to them so keep picking their mind to ask them how they decided on that.  This helps them understand how they make decisions because their prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that uses logic and critical thinking) is still being developed during adolescence and into early adulthood.  Help them sort through their values and the why’s behind them.

When we use the Door Slammers it does just that, it ends the conversation. They may not turn to you next time they want a second opinion and they will find it somewhere else. Take a minute to share your values and seek their perspective.

Door Openers

  • “What do you think?”
  • “That’s a good question.”
  • “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
  • “I’m trying to understand what you’re feeling/ asking?”
  • “Do you know that word means?”
  • “I’m glad you told me about that.”

Door Slammers

  • “You’re too young.”
  • “Where did you hear that?”
  • “If you say that word again, I’ll …”
  • “That’s none of your business.”
  • “I don’t care what your friends are doing.”
  • “That’s just for boys (girls).”
  • “We’ll talk about that when you need to know.

MORE RESOURCES

Purposeful Parenting

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I feel like my time is running out. My kids are teenagers, thinking about college. The thought sends my stomach into a knot and brings tears to my eyes. It does not seem possible that the last 17 years have passed so quickly.

I have received lots of parenting advice. Pick your battles. Bribery works. Cuddle. Teach them to make good choices. Be there for them. Let them experience disappointment. Prepare them to manage money and their time and homework. Teach them manners. Show them respect, but ensure that it is reciprocated. Make sure they eat vegetables. Teach them to be kind. Don’t baby them. Make them strong. So many words from so many who have done this before me.

If only someone had told me how much my heart would break every time my child experienced disappointment. How my eyes would well with tears each first day of school as they walk towards the school doors, their backs to me. How proud I would be when they were proud. How this normally non-competitive, rational woman would turn into a snarling lioness when some unfairness toward her offspring was encountered. If only I had known how much love I would have for these two beautiful creations.

I have given up a lot for my children. Money, sure. They are very expensive. The man-child eats as if he may never get another meal. My personal interests have gone by the wayside. Although I enjoy it, I have not picked up a golf club in six years. I cannot remember the last time I read a book for an hour without interruption. I have spent eons of time putting together, sorting, breaking apart and searching for Legos. I have watched more Pixar and superhero movies than a normal adult should admit to. I have played games on the Wii, Xbox and Play Station until my thumbs hurt. I have colored with crayons, with colored pencils and with ink pens. I have been crafty, creative, and enthusiastic for every single school project, even when it is unexpectedly due tomorrow. I have watched episode after episode of silly Disney channel shows that bore me to tears.

And I would do it all again. Because that is what happens when you become a parent. A part of you is lost, for a while, as you focus on creating an adult. Time is lost doing things you need to do, not what you want to do. Parenting is an act of kindness. Of selflessness. Parenting is about being an example and a teacher. Parenting is about being militant and forceful. Of talking about difficult topics, and not shying away when they ask a personal question you’d likely prefer not to answer. Parenting is about being honest about yourself and being honest with them. Parenting is a 24/7 job. A job I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Gerilyn, Executive Director

Happy Pride Month!

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For many, June is a time of celebration! It is finally time to enjoy outdoor BBQs, spend time with family and friends at the beach, the park, and be OUT in the open. For many in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community, it is a time to recognize those that came before us, those that fought for our rights, for our freedoms, and for passing the laws that allow us to be OUT with our families and OUT with those we love. It is a time to be thankful we have the same freedom and respect as everyone else.
Some people hide their true selves based on fear for their safety, fear of discrimination, loss of access, loss of rights, or fear of persecution from their family, friends and communities. As a society, we have made huge strides since the  Stonewall Riots (read about the history of Stonewall here  https://www.britannica.com/event/Stonewall-riots ) but we still have significant work to do.
The LGBTQ community (and allies) are still fighting for equal rights and the ability to live a safe and happy life. In many states, people of the LGBTQ community are legally terminated from jobs, denied housing, and denied access to public spaces, namely restrooms. Many schools refuse to recognize transgender youth; they ignore their pronouns, names, and/or prevent access to the restroom that matches their gender identity. Transgender people of color are one of the most targeted groups of people in our society; they experience harassment, discrimination, are murdered and commit suicide at an alarmingly high rate.
Amongst so much hate and marginalization, PRIDE is an opportunity to gather as a community. It is a practice of celebration, resistance, love, acceptance, and communal self-care.
 

This year in particular is incredibly special. My wife and I will be able to take our newborn twins to PRIDE. Attending PRIDE, feels like we are introducing the twins to our extended family. A family of resiliency and love that expresses themselves wholly and does not hide their true selves. My wife and I are so thankful for those who fought tirelessly for our right to exist, those who fought for our love to be recognized and those who fought for our ability to be a family without persecution, OUT and in the open.

As a health educator, I have the unique privilege to facilitate conversations about sexuality. This is Includes conversations about gender, sexual orientation(s), dating, relationships, friendships, communication skills, sexual health, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), safer sex methods, puberty, body image, etc. During each classroom presentation, I am able to talk to a LOT of young people and answer a LOT of (anonymous) questions.
One of my favorite presentations is our lesson on gender and sexual orientation. Our education team always receives thought provoking questions while also learning new information and terminology from students.

The most common questions we receive from individuals outside of the LGBTQ community tend to ask us about the differences between gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation. Allow me to shed some light on the matter, here, in this blog post, for our readers.

Every person has a biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expresses their gender.
Wow, that is interesting!
GENDER IDENTITY – how a person identifies and who we individually and internally know ourselves to be. It is our deeply held, internal sense of self as man, woman, other gender identity, a blend of all, or neither, etc.
GENDER EXPRESSION – how we present our gender in the world and how society, culture, community, and family perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender. For example, a person can express their gender by the way they dress, talk, act, walk, or types of hobbies they pursue.
*Both Gender identity and gender expression vary depending on location, time-period, community culture, etc. The two most common gender identities are boy and girl (or man and woman), and often people think that these are the only two gender identities. However, gender actually exists on a continuum and not limited to just two possibilities.
BIOLOGICAL SEX (Sex Assigned at Birth) refers to measurable organs, hormones, and chromosomes of a person. Often this means, female=vagina, ovaries, XX chromosomes; male=penis, testes, XY chromosomes; intersex= a combination of the two.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION – who you like, love, or are attracted to. The LGBT(QAI+) acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, and Intersex. The LGBQA are sexual orientations that explain who a person likes, loves and/or is attracted to. The T and I refer to  gender identity and sex assigned at birth.
*Each of these categories exist on a spectrum. Each category can influence the other, but does not determine the other. A person can place themselves somewhere on one spectrum and it does not mean that they will automatically be in a certain place on the other spectrum.
** You can find more information on all of this here: TSER

LGBTQ Resources

National Programs

PFLAG, (Parents and friends of Lesbians and Gays) works toward providing support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ communities and their allies –  https://www.pflag.org

Human Rights Campaign –  http://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-proclaims-june-2017-as-uniteresistenlist-month

TSER – Trans Student Educational Resources-  http://www.transstudent.org

Local Programs

Outfront MN, an organization that provides resources for greater MN, legislation for LGBTQ Rights, Statewide GSA network, and anti-violence program –  https://www.outfront.org/home

MN School Outreach Coalition, a coalition of non-profit organizations (myHealth is part of this) that plan several events for LGBTQIA Youth around the twin cities –  http://www.mnschooloutreach.org

Q-Quest, a queer statewide youth conference that occurs happens every October.

Queer Prom, April social event.

Youth Day at the Capital, a statewide youth conference that occurs in the spring.

Youth Pride – An event that occurs at the end of May or early June.

Transforming Families –  https://transformingfamiliesminnesota.org

MN Trans Health Coalition, provides support groups, shot clinic, HIV testing, and professional development trainings –  http://www.mntranshealth.org

GLBT Host Home, several host home and support programs for GLBTQ youth  –   http://www.avenuesforyouth.org/programs-glbthosthome.html

Rainbow Health Initiative, provides education and training for medical professionals of how to better serve LGBTQ community. Facilitates research on health disparities in LGBTQ communities and the ways in which to provide support –   http://www.rainbowhealth.org/

CLINICS that support LGBTQ youth and young adults

myHealth for Teens & Young Adults

Family Tree Clinic

Annex Teen Clinic

UofM Boynton Health Clinic