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Isabel Mercado | Self-Care Blog for myHealth by Morgan Hausback

Why I Care

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Guest Blog Post (get out and vote)

The morning after I graduated from high school, I received a congratulatory call from my grandparents. My grandpa spoke first. In his ever so endearing voice that only made my heart hurt more at the fact that he wasn’t celebrating with me in person, he relayed these words to me: “you are a lady of the world now”. He asked me if I felt any different. I did not. The only difference from the me now and the me 16 hours ago was the diploma laying on my desk.

A few days later, I was finishing up my second re-watch of “The West Wing” (more on that later) and suddenly, his words had some meaning. What does it mean to be a “lady of the world”? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows or ever will know. But as I let the words sit with me, I gathered and decided on this much: being a lady of the world, being of the world, means to be present, active and aware.

Present in the fact that I have been experiencing history through this pandemic and that one day when history is retold, I can say I remember where I was, what I heard and how I was changed. Active in my future as a college student because there is no time like now to take control over my own life and act on what I want to do with it. And finally, aware that the future is dependent on me and my ability to speak out, be passionate and be involved in the changing of the world.

That is a pretty big responsibility I realize. But this is a responsibility that I am so honored to take on. And I think you should be just as ecstatic as me.

In about a month, I get to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election. Just typing that phrase makes me giddy because it is something I have thought and read about enough to the point where I can honestly admit to excitement. Now, without getting politically deep or specific, I mention the vote. It is a basic constitutional right, and that alone is why I am excited for this chance. Let me repeat that. The vote is a basic constitutional right. There are so many ways in which a young person’s voice can be silenced. Despite lack of experience, lack of a following and lack of the legitimate power to induce change, by the age of 18, there is a clear way to contribute to change. That way is through the vote.

A year and a half ago, I had little to no interest in politics. Political agenda was not on my radar. While the events happening in the political climate made me react, I felt like nothing more than a bystander to the United States government.

It was then that my mom suggested I watch the show “The West Wing. A year and a half later, I have watched “The West Wing” twice through. My heart is warmed at simply thinking about Aaron Sorkin’s captivating drama. Perhaps, it is dramatic to say that this show is a necessity for everyone to watch. Although, my suggestion is that you should watch “The West Wing” if you are interested in politics or you wish to be inspired. The drama is not about the big picture items (though they do come up) but is about the constant work and effort being put into the United States to make it a better nation.

Highlighting a variety of characters in the White House, doing mostly side jobs and still ignoring thousands of other individuals with equally important tasks in the United States government, Aaron Sorkin instills in viewers the belief that good is possible. Good can be and will be achieved. But the task alone is never one man’s job. It is the work of young people, of educated people, of passionate people and more.

“The West Wing” taught me that when you feel obsolete, there are people working to make you feel worthy. While results can be daunting and take time, I choose to trust that work is being done. I choose to believe that the world never truly does stop to improve the lives of people.

We are members of a world that makes hopelessness far too easily accomplished. Far too many days, I find myself waking up feeling powerless, as if the entire world spins just to be out of my control. As the generation that has been cited as apathetic, I am beginning to realize this apathy is in fact a great weight that we do not know how to conquer or carry.

But what does this mean for you individually? You can be present, active and aware in your own community. Be mindful. Be compassionate. Believe that you are a huge role in this nation’s future. It all starts with one thought.

Young adults everywhere have the privilege to represent something bigger than themselves. According to National Public Radio (NPR), “Millennials and some members of Gen Z comprise 37% of eligible voters,” perpetuating this importance of voting. Instead of feeling despondent or finding flaws in politics to become furious about, you can do something. Educate yourselves about the candidates, and when November 3 rolls around, make a conscious decision that may seem miniscule but can be one small step towards change.

In the pilot of “The West Wing”, President Josiah Bartlet asks: “What’s next?”

What is next for us as college students? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few steps to take as November comes at us full speed:

  1. Register to vote!
  2. Educate yourself on the election and all the platforms.
  3. Finally, make an educated decision.

No one can tell you what to believe. Now is the time to start figuring it out for yourself. This is our future, after all. Today and every day pushing forward, I am a lady of the world. I am a citizen who has a responsibility to care and to work towards something greater than myself.

What are you today and every day? But more importantly, what do you stand for?

Morgan Hausback, student at St. Louis University

An English major and certified coffee addict who just wants to write her heart out.

myHealth Blog | Pivot in Pandemic

Pandemic Pivot Reflections as a College Freshman

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Guest Blog Post

Hello!

My name is Maya Chadda. I was chairwomen of myHealth’s Youth Advisory Board in 2019 and am currently a student at Boston University. At BU, I’m studying advertising and journalism. I am a member of the school’s improv team (Liquid Fun), the newspaper’s Layout Editor, and a radio DJ. With classes, clubs, new friends, old friends, roommates, and a new city, first semester was a constant juggling act. Come second semester and online classes, I had to quickly adapt to a loss of independence, minimal social contact, and a general lack of control as I now live with my parents back in Minnesota. Come summer, I lost my job as a camp counselor at YMCA Camp Warren. I’ve been at Warren for probably ten or more years either as a camper or counselor. This was a hard adjustment, but I threw myself into a job at Target and volunteering efforts related to the Black Lives Matter movement in Minneapolis. 

So that’s a little on me, but what I really want to talk to you about is what it’s like for young people at this truly unique period and how to best act as a support system. 

Before I lost my job at Camp Warren, I remember my boss using the word “pivot” over Zoom calls, talking about how camp could operate this summer. At first, I was a little bothered by this term as it seemed like a desperate corporate attempt to promote optimism by the YMCA. However, as summer continued, I realized there is no better term to describe the day to day life of being a young person right now. We are constantly pivoting. Living with my parents has presented a lot of challenges for me personally. When I first moved in, I was of the mentality that my parents were my roommates. This, for obvious reasons, ended poorly. It’s hard to adjust and revert back to old dynamics. As I was pivoting, my parents allowed me the grace to mess up. We fought a lot and still do. They know that my overreactions are not a result of their actions but something completely different. They have faith that I will take back my words and apologize. I needed that and still do. Additionally, my parents and I made space to talk about what we are missing and mourning as a result of COVID-19, be it independence, hanging out with friends, or small things like high fives. Making space to talk about what we are or were missing made it easier for me, as a young person, to see my parents as equals and people experiencing the same things as me. I worked hard at setting boundaries. I told them sometimes after work or online classes, I’ll have my headphones on. That’s me signaling to them that I need some alone time. I’ve found that in all the pivoting, the two most important things for both a young person and adults (or parental units) are communication and grace. These past three months have been a huge adjustment for me, and as a result, my mental health has suffered. Through open communication and my parents’ acknowledgment of how hard this time has been for me, I’ve found ways to take care of myself, be it with daily affirmation cards, working out, routine, or having some assemblance of control through taking on small projects, like a garden. Part of my morning routine is reading an affirmation card from Louise Hay’s Powerful Thought Cards. The science is that by saying a positive affirmation out loud you reinforce the ideas through thought patterns. Speaking it into existence, if you will. My affirmation card for today read, “I am flexible and flowing. I am open to the new and changing. Every moment presents a wonderful new opportunity to become more of who I am. I flow with life easily and effortlessly.” I feel that this is more true now than ever. 

Maya, former Youth Advisory Board (YAB) member

Pride is a light in the dark | myHealth blog

Every Month is Pride Month

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Guest Blog Post

As pride month comes to an end, it is important to remember that pride does not stop here. As a queer nonbinary POC, pride is more than a month of commercialized orientation, it embodies the queer community’s solidarity. Especially in a time like this, having pride over one’s identity, supported and celebrated is needed more now, than ever.

No words can express how proud I am to be a Latine queer and how deeply the stories of other queer POC touch me. I strive to be a good example and uphold the values I hold dear. Being nonbinary can be difficult, particularly when trying to teach others to respect my identity. It is more than an identity, it is who I am. I am proud to be everything I am as it has made me who I am today. I am proud of who I have grown to be and look forward to who I will become.

Pride is not only for white people, something I have struggled with for the majority of my life. There is a tragic lack of representation for POC like me, one of the reasons I am writing this. I wish I had had someone like myself in the past to support and guide me through difficult times and insecurity, someone I could turn to for advice when I needed it. For this reason, I try to be accessible to anyone questioning their gender and/or orientation.

Pride is the light in the dark for many at this point in history, it is a time to make history. Look out for your queer guy, gals, and nonbinary pals; we could all use the love.

-Elli Ayala, myHealth Youth Advisory Board (YAB) Member

Happy Pride

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Pride is a time to celebrate the resilience, joy, love, and strength of LGBTQIA+ folx and community. The month’s festivities and bright colors give a bold identity to a proud community that has prospered even in the face of adversity. We celebrate pride in June to honor and commemorate the Stonewall Riots and the Black and Brown trans folks who fought back against oppression. This June we continue to witness the strength and resilience of communities coming together against racism, police brutality, transphobia, and harmful systems of oppression. There is a lot of work still to be done and we all must commit to intersectional, anti-racism work. Although this year may be different due to COVID-19, we hope you were able to find ways to celebrate, heal, learn, support and connect. 

Ways to Celebrate Pride During COVID (and anytime!)  

  • Take time to learn about LGBTQIA+ history, and leaders especially Black, Indigenous and other POC leaders
  • Plan a social distance picnic or outing with friends or family (following CDC recommendations)
  • Host a virtual dance party 
  • Express yourself in ways that feels best (baking, painting, dressing up, writing…)
  • Donate and/or find ways to support to LGBTQIA+ organizations
  • Virtual Pride Events
  • Practicing self-care (click here for tips)

We are resilient!

Resiliency has always been a defining trait of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. New York City (and the rest of the country) had many laws discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community leading up to the Stonewall Riots. In the early 1960’s it was illegal to sell liquor to LGBTQ+ people. Inspired by Black civil rights sit-in protests, the community organized protests called ‘sip-ins’, and fought this discriminatory law and won. However, there were still many other laws that discriminated against the LGBTQ+ community. For example, Folx were arrested for violating the gender-appropriate clothing statute or showing affection towards someone of the same gender. The Stonewall Riots  were the result of the LGBTQ+ community coming together and protesting police raids on bars. Through work at community, state, and national levels there have been monumental changes to society and laws. Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled it is against federal law to fire an individual for being gay or transgender as it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a society, we have made huge strides since Stonewall but still have significant work to do.

Looking for more? Check out these awesome organization and educators!

A few amazing BIPOC sexuality educators 

  • Ericka Hart
  • Jimanekia Eborn
  • Dalychia Saah & Rafaella Fiallo
  • Sonya Renee Taylor
  • Bianca Laureano
  • Tanya M Bass
  • Dr. Lexx Brown-James
  • Melissa Pintor Carnagey
My Senior Year During COVID | MyHealth Youth Advisory Board Member

My Senior Year During COVID

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Guest Blog Post

Senior Year Reflections

It’s so crazy to think how quickly this year turned out for the class of 2020. I never would have imagined that this would be how my senior year ends. Although the Coronavirus had been headlining news for a few months before schools shut down, it was impossible to believe that there would actually be a shut down. I just kept thinking, “stuff like this doesn’t happen”. And then, once we got the calls that school was off for an indefinite amount of time, I stayed positive and was sure we’d be back in a few weeks.

At first, it was kind of nice, especially since online school didn’t start for me until a few weeks after school shutdown. Although it was a little boring, it was nice to have so much time to myself. I still was positive and had high hopes that the school year would eventually be back on.

Once it became clear the school year, including graduation and prom, were off, I began to cycle through feelings of disappointment, anxiety and dread. Some days aren’t so bad, but it gets hard to not overthink everything when I’m stuck at home all day. All the news articles and stories of how people are being affected by the pandemic has me more worried about my future, jobs, healthcare and money more than ever.

In the beginning of school shutdowns, my biggest worries were about missing prom and graduation. Now, I don’t care about either of those as much. Sure, it would be nice to have them, but now that I know I’m never going back to my high school as a student, I just don’t feel like a high schooler anymore. My school, along with many others, are trying to plan to see if we could move our prom and graduation to dates later in the summer, but honestly, that seems a little far-fetched. Even if the events are able to be held later on, I doubt many of my classmates are even going to go. It would just be too weird, and most of us have already put high school behind us and have started to embrace being a college kid (and hoping that our college freshmen year doesn’t get delayed).

Mostly, I miss seeing my favorite teachers every day. I miss seeing the cafeteria staff and having small conversations while they grabbed by food. I miss seeing the murals students painted on our walls. I know I would have missed all these things regardless of my year being cut short or not, but the fact that I never really got to say goodbye makes everything worse. As a freshman, I always thought about how sad it must be as a senior to be attending your last pep-fest, or even the last test you take as a high schooler. Now, as a senior, I didn’t even get to know my last was my last.

Honestly, I still don’t think I’ve fully processed that my year is done. I know that there are a lot worse things that are happening to people and senior year getting cut short isn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly isn’t how I wanted high school to end.

Srihita, Youth Advisory Board member

 

World Map Filled with dots of people supporting Earth Day 2020

Earth Day 2020

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While we shelter in place for the pandemic, here are some creative ways to show up on April 22nd and spread some Earth Day 2020 love:

 

Limit orders from Amazon.

While it may be tempting to order everything you need from Amazon, these methods contribute to increased emissions of toxic greenhouse gases. Amazon orders put stress on our transportation system, calling for more trucks and air travel to deliver packages. The added stress promotes more emissions being added into the atmosphere. Instead, try posting on Nextdoor app to see if your neighbors have what you’re looking for, or ordering from a local business. Many have added delivery in to their business models amidst the pandemic.

Neighborhood trash collection.

On April 22nd, walk around your neighborhood and collect trash to help clean up Mother Earth. Perhaps you could even organize a neighborhood clean up to add more hands. Don’t forget to wear gloves, bring hand sanitizer with you, and maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others.

Start a compost.

Now is a better time than ever to learn how to start a garden or build a compost. Composting is great for the soil, promotes good bacteria and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, which are detrimental to the environment. It also adds critical nutrients to your crops, so that your garden can thrive. Currently, the amount of food waste in our world is around 40%, meaning that we throw away large amounts of food, not to mention the copious amounts of water and resources food production takes. A compost helps turn your food waste in to something productive, putting those banana peels and table scraps to good use versus sitting in a landfill.

Many neighborhoods do not have personal compost bins available and often they are expensive to purchase. Need a project to keep you busy during the pandemic? Constructing a compost is very simple and maintenance is low. Check out this link to see easy DIY compost ideas for Earth Day 2020: https://homesteading.com/your-ultimate-guide-to-diy-compost-bins-for-homesteading/

Start a garden.

Gardening is a great way to grow your own food and help Mother Earth for Earth Day 2020. Gardening does a myriad of good things for the environment including: reduce soil erosion and runoff, reduce air and noise pollution, and reduce your carbon footprint. Plants take carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it in to oxygen for us to breathe, improving the air quality for you, your family, and your neighbors. Food grown and sold in supermarkets often comes from very far away, meaning it has to travel a large distance to get to you. If all you have to do to get your tomatoes is step in your back yard, you’re helping to reduce transportation emissions. Garden plants also attract beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden, creating a healthy ecosystem for all the critters (including yourself!).

Learn how to make homemade products.

Many commercially sold products like laundry detergent and multi-surface cleaners have loads of chemicals in them that can be harmful to the environment. While you’re stuck at home, why not learn how to make new products that are a bit friendlier? A simple way to make multi-surface cleaner is to use three parts water to one part vinegar or rubbing alcohol, along with some of your favorite essential oils (optional). Baking soda is a great option for home cleaning, especially bathroom toilets, sinks, and bathtubs. You can make homemade disinfectant wipes with paper towels or unused t-shirts, rubbing alcohol or vinegar, water, and essential oils (optional). Simply add the paper towels or cut-up t-shirt pieces and add them to a container along with one part alcohol or vinegar and one part water. Add essential oils to make them smell nice.

Visit earthday.org to donate to environmental causes or political movements and find fun tips for going green.

 

Pat yourself on the back for practicing shelter at home!

Satellite cameras have shown that the air quality has significantly improved during the shelter in place order because there are fewer folks driving and traveling by air. The earth is getting a real *breather!*

Be well.

-Emily H.

 

Managing stress and anxiety during COVID-19

Managing Stress and Anxiety during COVID-19

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“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.”
― Bryant McGill

During this challenging time and rapidly changing situation with COVID-19, we want you to know that myHealth For Teens & Young Adults is here for you. Changes in our routine, lack of control, and fear of the unknown can cause our mental health to suffer. Prioritizing self-care during this stressful time is important. It can be big or small, something you do by yourself, as a family- or both! Finding things that bring you joy like reading, cuddling with pets, going on a (safe) walk through your community are just a few ways we can take care of our mental health.

We might not have control of what is happening, but we do have a choice on how we handle it. Below are different techniques, resources and ideas to inspire you to take time for yourself, which can improve your mood and help you react calm when faced with stress or challenges.

Need a reminder? Follow myHealth at @myHealthMN on Instagram and Facebook. We will be sharing tips, leading meditations and more!

 

Self-Care

“Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.”
— Katie Reed

If we don’t take care of ourselves how can we take care of others? Self-care is when we take an active role in protecting our well-being and happiness, especially during times of stress. There are many ways to practice self-care- staying nourished, limiting media intake, regular exercise or movement and connecting with others are just a few examples. Paying attention to what we need and practicing self-care is not selfish, it can make us more resilient and help us better care for others.

How are you practicing self-care?  Take this quiz from one of our favorite resources, LoveIsRespect, to check-in with yourself and see how you’re doing.

 

Meditation

Meditation is often described as focusing your mind for a period of time to think deeply. Meditation is practiced in many cultures all over the world. There are different techniques so it is important to be patient and find one that works for you. Below are a few resources to help you get started!

Guided Meditation:

A narrator leads the meditation, many times directing the person listening to connect with their body, breathing or imagine calming scenes.

Apps: Headspace and Calm are popular with free trials or free aspects. Take a look on your app store there may be others you enjoy- there are many that are friendly for meditators of all ages!

Videos and Audio:

https://www.mindful.org/
https://www.changetochill.org/activities-tools/

Unguided Meditation:

This type of meditation is focused on sitting quietly and paying attention to thoughts and sensations throughout the body for a set period of time.

Check out Headspace’s guide on how to get started.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. There are many ways to practice mindfulness and build this skill so we are able to step back and be in the present moment in any situation. Just like anything, it takes practice to build this skill.  Meditation, reading, drawing, going for a walk, anything that allows you to focus on the present moment.

Add Mindfulness to your daily activities:

Mindful Walking– Taking a walk (following safe, CDC recommended practices) can be great for mental and physical health! On your next walk practice mindfulness.
Mindful Eating– During your next meal, take some time to be aware of your body’s sensations while you eat.

 

Grounding Exercises

Sometimes we get overwhelmed and need some help focusing. Grounding exercises are a great way to refocus on the present and surroundings.

Try this countdown exercise when feeling overwhelmed:

Without moving notice your surroundings…

5 things you see

4 things you feel

3 things you hear

2 things you smell

1 thing you taste

 

Affirmations

We are all important and wonderful humans doing the best we can in a tough situation. Affirmations and mantras are a way we can show self-love. A person can speak these, write them down and read them daily.

Creating an affirmation can be easy. Start with the phrase “I am” and fill in a word you need – think about what is happening in your life and where you might want support. For example, “I am strong and resilient. I am resourceful.”

Need a little more help with managing the Coronavirus pandemic? Check out our past blog post on a self-compassion exercise.

We are in this together, and help is always available.  If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or calling National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Be well.

 

 

Happy Holidays

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The holiday season can be an exciting and cheerful time and it can also introduce a variety of stressors when it comes to family. Here at myHealth, we talk to young people about how to have healthy romantic relationships and it’s important to acknowledge that maintaining healthy familial relationships can be just as challenging to navigate. Often when we talk about family, we approach those relationships with an “it is what it is” attitude. It can be easy to feel powerless when it comes to relationships with our family, and that can make “mandatory” holiday events feel stressful. Learning how to set boundaries can drastically improve the quality of these relationships and allow us to leave the holiday season feeling more relaxed and less agitated.

To be able to set these clear boundaries, it’s important to first understand what you want to get out of the holiday season. Is it important to see every relative? What about holiday traditions? Which ones are a must and which ones would you be okay skipping this year? Identify the specific characteristics of the activities you like and the ones that cause you stress. Love not having to leave the house because the whole family comes over but hate getting stuck in the kitchen all day? Tell your family you’re excited to host but that dinner will be a potluck this year. Love the cookie decorating contest at your aunt’s house but hate that she always makes a comment about how many cookies you eat? Decide to do a smaller cookie party for just your immediate family or come prepared to say, “actually, Aunt Deborah, thanks for your concern but I don’t want to talk about my weight” and change the subject. Setting boundaries with family can be really hard, but thinking ahead of time about what you want to get out of the holiday season can allow you to approach gatherings with a renewed spirit. 

Navigating the events can introduce a whole new set of challenges. Practicing healthy self-care through these gatherings is essential for feeling our best through the season. Here are some suggestions for subtle self-care during a family event:

  • Offer to be the person to run to the grocery store if you run out of an ingredient (and do an extra lap down the aisles for some more alone time)
  • Offer to take the dog for a walk
  • Organize an activity to do with the kids if certain family members are getting on your nerves
  • Escape to the bathroom and do a 5-minute meditation
  • If alcohol affects you negatively, choose not to drink, or to drink less during these stressful events
  • Plan an event (real or made up) that starts right after the family gathering so you have an excuse to leave the gathering on time
  • Come up with short and concrete responses ahead of time for unwanted questions you know you might get from family members
  • Practice saying “I’d prefer not to talk about that”
  • Give yourself permission to get up and leave the table (or the event!) if you need to

After a family event, be sure to plan a day of rest for yourself where you can relax and recuperate. You could write affirmations in a journal, do activities that make you feel good or ask a friend to text you some nice compliments for you to look at if you’re feeling down. Whatever you do, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to recharge. 

You may also decide that family gatherings are not in your best interest this year. It is okay for us to set boundaries that prevent us from having to be around relationships that are unhealthy for us. In these times, finding a chosen family can be an empowering way to fill that void. Look for friends that support and uplift you in the way you desire and set aside time to celebrate the holiday season with them. Whether it is a dinner, a party, an afternoon watching your favorite movie together, or a simple exchanging of cards, celebrating the important people in our lives during the holiday season can help us feel valued and loved in a season that can be hard for many of us. 

Happy holidays, and remember- if you feel like you need to talk, or need more tools, we’re here and ready to listen.

 – Emily M

 

Self-compassion exercise

How Would You Treat a Friend?

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We can all be a little too hard on ourselves. Check out this self-compassion exercise our therapist created to practice shifting our perspective and be more kind to ourselves. Need more exercises like this? We currently are accepting new clients and do not have a waitlist. So if you feel like you need to talk, we’re here and ready to listen.

There is no doubt about it, life can be really hard sometimes and as human beings we all make mistakes. A lot of us become self-critical, feel ashamed and try to fix ourselves when something goes wrong. How do you treat yourself when things fall apart? We are often the hardest on ourselves. If you find yourself beating yourself up about what goes wrong in your life try to the exercise below.

How to Do It:

Take out a sheet of paper or open a blank document on your computer and go through the following steps.

  1. First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him- or herself or is really struggling in some way. How do you respond to your friend in these situations (when you’re at your best)? Please write down what you typically do and say, and note the tone in which you talk to your friend.
  1. Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. How do you typically respond to yourself in these situations? Please write down what you typically do and say, and note the tone in which you talk to yourself.
  1. Did you notice a difference? If so, ask yourself why. What factors or fears come into play that leads you to treat yourself and others so differently?
  1. Write down how you think things might change if you responded to yourself when you’re suffering in the same way you typically respond to a close friend.
  1. Next time you are struggling with something, try treating yourself like a good friend and see what happens.

 

 

My stance on drugs - a personal story of a college woman and her older brother struggling with drug abuse

“My Stance on Drugs”

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Drug use has admittedly not been an issue at the forefront of my mind through most of the high school. That’s not to say drugs haven’t been around, because of course, they have. Most people I know have experimented at least a little bit. Drugs have always been a part of the high school experience, from what I’ve seen. It’s never seemed like much of a problem, so long as it’s been limited to alcohol and weed, and even nicotine, although that one is a bit sadder. It’s human nature to want to try new things, but if a person wants to avoid drugs in high school it’s entirely possible. Nobody is going to force you to try their drugs, it’s a waste of money. My stance has always been that as long as people aren’t messing with anything too physically addictive, all is well. 

My stance shifted in March, after a college visit. I had a break between classes at the University of Minnesota when by chance I ran into my older brother, a couple of days into a hellish, week-long acid trip. I didn’t know exactly what was going on because he wasn’t making enough sense to tell me, but obviously, something was wrong, and so I dropped everything to try to keep him safe. Everything about the situation was shocking, because it was my brother, and because he’d always seemed so happy and healthy and not at all psychotic. Nobody tells you what to do in situations like these, and I wasn’t at all prepared to deal with it alone. I called my mom, and the police, and we got him to the mental health clinic on campus, and then into an ambulance, and to the hospital. We spent most of the day in waiting rooms. The doctor sent him home almost immediately, even though he obviously shouldn’t have. Everyone was too scared to make any noise in our house. I was too scared to be at home at all. After a few days, we got him back into the hospital, where he stayed for the remainder of the week. It was terrifying to watch him put himself through hell, without knowing when, or if, it was going to end. He’s doing much better now, but March was a bad month for my family, and it was especially awful for him.

The thing about my brother was that he never tried any seriously addictive drugs. He was making his fair share of questionable decisions, but none of them was the kind I would have taken too seriously before March. I got a bit more touchy about drug use when I realized anything could happen to anyone. Trauma does that to a person. Fundamentally, my views haven’t changed much, but my experience made me realize that there are some major issues when it comes to awareness and communication surrounding drug use. 

It’s unrealistic to tell kids to never use drugs. They’re going to do what they want, and if that’s to smoke weed and drink with their friends, so be it. Telling young people that they shouldn’t use drugs is about as effective as telling them not to have sex. Drugs aren’t going anywhere. Even when it looks like a common drug is dying out, companies specifically target young people with new iterations of the same thing, as we’ve seen with the fall of cigarettes and the rise of vaping. It’s not great, but it’s the truth. 

Instead of telling kids that drugs are bad and leaving it at that, even if they are, parents should try to aim for open communication. Most parents have probably at least dabbled before, and hiding that from their kids doesn’t actually do any good. It’s more hypocritical than anything. Similarly, freaking out when you find your kid’s weed isn’t going to make them stop smoking, it’ll just make them more paranoid about being caught again. I think that the best thing a parent can do is to make drugs seem less taboo by being open about them. Obviously encouraging drug use is a bad idea, but teaching kids to be safer in their usage is within reason. If people are being honest about what they’re doing, the chances of things getting out of hand are a lot slimmer. 

Parents should be a resource their kids can turn to if they need help, which means they need to come from a place of understanding. People should be taught that addiction is a health problem and not a moral shortcoming and that they have support systems in place, even if hopefully, they will never have to rely on them. They should be taught that a drug doesn’t have to be a scary, hard drug to be a problem. People should also have information available about the risks of drug use, and not just the “if you use drugs, you will die” type of information. It should be clear to people what they are getting into, and that they can get help for their drug use before it’s an emergency if they ever need it, and not get in trouble for it.

It’s never too soon for parents to start talking to their kids about drug use. It may not be fun or comfortable, but I would hope that the safety and competence that comes from an open dialogue is enough to outweigh the discomfort of talking about drugs with your kids. If you work at it enough, it should stop feeling awkward after a while. And to any young people reading, the chances are that your parents are more understanding and supportive than you think they are. Whether you need them or not, please trust that they are there for you.

Know that there are plenty of other resources to turn to when it comes to drug-related problems. Don’t be afraid to come to MyHealth with any questions you might have. In case of a more serious issue, here are some helplines:

24/7 National Drug Use/Addiction Hotline: 1-888-633-3239

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP

Lastly, if you are ever in a drug-related emergency and someone may be in need of medical assistance, don’t hesitate to call 911. Remember, it’s not illegal to do drugs, it’s only illegal to have them. Your safety is the top priority. 

 

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