“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. 

 

Summer Newsletter

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We hope everyone is enjoying their summer! Here is what one of our awesome Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members has to say about summer, stress, and taking the time to communicate and connect with the young people in your life. 

Students start counting down the days till summer immediately after getting home from their first day of school. Every day that passes is one step closer to teens’ favorite time of the year. The spring months of warm (well, warmer) days and swirling pollen peak teens’ excitement as they begin to plan for days lakeside tanning or snuggled up under blankets with their friends at a drive-in movie. Once summer hits, a feeling of total freedom saturates the air as teens run out of their schools and into the world. 

For some teens, their summers maybe day after day in a boat at their favorite lake. Others may be working at jobs. Regardless, mixed in with the freedoms of summer is a lot more time to yourself. This means more time to contemplate common stressors many teens carry, such as insecurity or family conflicts. A common misconception many teens and adults have alike is that mental illness will magically disappear once summer starts. Although there may not be daily tests or terrifying teachers to worry about, summer comes with its own bundle of stressors. For starters, academics continue into summer for most teens, specifically those who are preparing for the ACT/ SAT or have summer homework to complete for the following school year. Also, many teens are attending their senior friends’ graduation parties, saying goodbye to their college-bound classmates, and beginning to think about what they want to do once they graduate. These stressful thoughts can also come from social media. In my experience, one of the lowest points in my summer is always when I begin to compare my day spent in my room on my laptop to my friend’s day truffle hunting in Italy that she documented on her Insta-story.

To deal with all the pressure and stress summer gives teens the time to think about, some may turn to unhealthy forms of coping. The spike in substance abuse for teens in the summer is no coincidence, as many turns to drugs and alcohol to mask their emotions. Others may find themselves in abusive relationships with friends or significant others as a way of dealing with their feelings. 

With all of these issues that teens may be facing in the summer, it is important for parents to encourage healthy habits throughout the summer months. For example, it may sometimes be hard to find time to spend with the family during the school year, so summer is the perfect time to put more effort into meaningful communication with teens. Talk to teens about how they’re feeling. Just because school isn’t in session for most kids, doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in their lives. Encouraging, but not forcing, teens to work on themselves or their skills over summer can also be helpful. This could be anything from getting a summer job to taking an art class to bake more at home. Another plus to encouraging teens to find activities to keep them busy over the summer is the opportunity for parents to get involved and spend even more time with their teens. Although, as a high school students myself, I feel like I have to mention that it is important to realize that all people have their own limits which should be acknowledged.

Summer may be seen as the season of infinite possibilities and new experiences for teens, but it is important to make sure that you’re spending it the way that you want to. Just because you see the kid who sat next to you in Algebra class posting every day about being out on the lake or hiking up a mountain doesn’t mean that your days of reading a book on your porch or sketching out your favorite superhero while watching movies in your basement are a waste of time. Everyone has their own interests, goals, and dreams of how they want their life to play out. It is important to find your own visions of your ideal life and future, and then work towards that vision. 

To me, as well as most teens, the absolute best part of summer is the time given to self reflect and decide what you want to do with the time that you have for the next few months. Some may decide to go on daily runs to prepare for their next season of sports, and others may decide to start journaling in order to cope with their mental illness. Although trying to improve yourself and your life can at times be stressful or even scary, it is important to remember to use the time you have to find what makes you happiest and healthiest and strive towards that.  

Interested in joining YAB for the 2019-2020 school year?

The myHealth Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is made up of a diverse group of young people ages 15-19 who represent myHealth in their schools and communities and are interested in teen health and leadership opportunities. YAB members give vital input and feedback on the programs and clinic at myHealth, are trained to provide education to classmates, friends, and peers, represent myHealth at community events, help raise awareness and funds for myHealth and volunteer within the local community.

Applications are accepted year-round, but interviews for admission into YAB occurs only once per year, in the summer. If you or a young person you know would like to apply or just have some questions, contact Laura Herman at [email protected]

Happy Pride

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Happy Pride! Check out what Lane, one of our awesome Youth Advisory Board (YAB) members, has to say about Pride and what it means to them.

June, or “Pride Month”, is a time for celebration. It’s a time to recognize all people of all genders and sexualities across the country and across the world. It is a time to remember those who fought for our rights and made it possible to have the freedom we do now. It is also a time to see how much progress we still have to make. For all the LGBTQIA+ people across the globe, it’s mainly a time for us to be loud and proud of who we are.

It’s not always safe for LGBTQIA+ kids to be open in public places, so the festival gives them a chance to feel secure and unguarded about themselves. The month’s festivities and bright colors give a bold identity to a proud community that has prospered even in the face of adversity.

This, to me, means that I can be strong and bold, regardless of what people think of me at school, in my family, or even what random strangers may think of me. It gives me the courage to be myself and provides a community of support for other people like me. I was raised in a Catholic family, went to Catholic schools my whole life, and never knew many LGBTQIA+ people until I was older. I felt like I was all alone, but after my first pride month, I gained friends who really knew and understood me. They made me realize that I wasn’t alone, and that being myself was okay. The most freeing lesson I’ve learned is how to be genuinely me. One thing I wish everyone knew is how to support young LGBTQIA+ people, especially adults. It’s hard for young kids to ask adults for the things they need, especially when the driving force behind the needs is something as personal as their identity. There are a few simple things adults can do to help young LGBTQIA+ kids feel more comfortable expressing themselves.

  1. Introduce yourself with your pronouns. Walking up to someone and being upfront about your own identity will help them be more comfortable talking about theirs. For example, when I introduce myself, I make sure to say, “I use he/him/his or they/them/their pronouns.”
  2. Do research on gender-neutral pronouns that you haven’t heard about before. There are pronouns used less commonly like ze/zir and ey/em that many non-binary people use. Knowing how to use these comfortably helps people feel accepted.
  3. Use gender-neutral terms in conversation. Rather than saying “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, use terms like “partner” or “significant other”. This can work for siblings, parents, and spouses as well.
  4. Celebrate pride month with us! Even if you aren’t LGBTQIA+, showing your support for the community can go a long way. Grab that rainbow flag and wave it along with us! Help young kids and LGBTQIA+ teenagers and adults to be loud and proud by being accepting and proud of yourself. Whatever is going on in the world around you or in your community, choose love.

10 ways to reduce stress during finals

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10 Ways to Reduce Stress During Finals

Stress is something we all experience at different points in our life. How we deal with stress can impact our mood, our self-esteem, and even our health. The end of the school year can be a stressful time for most folks. There are many things on the minds of young people like finals, prom, finding a summer job, and graduation just to name a few. It is important during stressful times we pause to take care of ourselves. myHealth’s Youth Advisory Board put together this list of stress relieving techniques a person can incorporate into their day. Coping strategies do not solve the problem or stressor, but they do calm us down and re-center our focus so we can better face our stress.

Interested in joining YAB for the 2019-2020 school year?

The myHealth Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is made up of a diverse group of young people ages 15-19 who represent myHealth in their schools and communities and are interested in teen health and leadership opportunities. YAB members give vital input and feedback on the programs and clinic at myHealth, are trained to provide education to classmates, friends, and peers, represent myHealth at community events, help raise awareness and funds for myHealth and volunteer within the local community.

Applications are accepted year-round, but interviews for admission into YAB occurs only once per year, in the summer. If you or a young person you know would like to apply or just have some questions, contact Laura Herman at [email protected].

 

April is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month!

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Adolescents and young adults experience a disproportionately high rate of sexually transmitted infections. In 2017, adolescents ages 15-19 only accounted for 7% of the Minnesota population but accounted for 25% of all chlamydia and 18% of all gonorrhea cases.1 It is important to talk with young people about STIs and empower them to make responsible and well-informed decisions.

You have probably heard before adolescents have a sense of being invincible, and tend to have an “it will never happen to me” mind-set. This mind-set applies to STIs just as it does to driving fast. Many people don’t think they will ever contract an STI but statistics tell a different story. Talking to young people about STIs can empower them to prevent the spread of STIs, but also lets them know what they can do if they have been infected.

Talking about STIs doesn’t encourage young people to be sexually active, but it does take away the stigma of reproductive health. This stigma prevents young people from talking about STIs with partners, getting tested, and taking care of their health. When we ask young people what might prevent someone from talking about STIs with a partner, the top answers we hear are awkwardness and embarrassment. We want young people to know it’s okay to feel awkward, but there is nothing embarrassing about taking care of their health. But how do we let young people know that? Having conversations of our own.

Talking with our young people about sexuality can seem intimidating. You might feel like you don’t have all the information, don’t know the right time to bring it up, or fear young people will laugh it off or respond with an eye roll. It’s okay to feel this way! Parents don’t have to be experts to be great sexuality educators in their young people’s lives. The most important thing is to be open and available whenever your young person wants to talk.

Not sure how to start talking to your young person about STIs? We have a few tips:

  • Reassure young people that they are normal- as are their questions and thoughts.
  • Ask questions (even if they don’t)! Ask them about what they think, what they know, and what they may want to know about STIs and reproductive health.
  • Make it feel like a normal, everyday conversation, like you’re talking about what groceries you need from the store. This also helps reduce the stigma that exists around STIs and taking care of your reproductive health.
  • Leave a journal article or brochure about STIs out for your young person to see- curiosity almost always prevails. Follow up with a conversation! 
  • Share some of the rumors you heard about STIs when you were in high school and the correct information you know now.
  • Discuss that at times your teen may feel more comfortable talking with someone other than you. Together, think of other trusted adults with whom they can talk with, or resources they can access (like myHealth!).

 

Been a while since your last health class?

Click here to refresh your STI knowledge