Category: Health

Ways to Stay Safe During Your Summer Travels

Safety should be on everyone’s mind when traveling whether domestic or international, however far too many of us easily let our guard down because we’ve researched our location and consider it to be relatively safe, but it isn’t always the case.

Young women especially will always be a target wherever they go, but with little changes to your demeanor and attire, and familiarity with law enforcement culture in the state or country you’re visiting, you can vacation anywhere in the world and maintain your safety. Recently, while on my solo trip to Grenada, I inadvertently put myself in a compromising position when I visited a “friend’s” home. It could’ve ended badly, but with my quick-thinking and ability to remain calm and respectful, I managed to leave his house unscathed. I’ve heard many stories of women getting hurt by people they know without realizing that it’s quite common and can easily happen to anyone. Anyway, the most important thing to remember is to remain vigilant at all times. Locals often befriend foreigners for all sorts of reasons, however, if it makes you uncomfortable, know that you have the option to walk away.

  1. Remember the adage, “always let someone know where you’re going?” Well, even on a solo trip it applies! Whether it’s your parents, siblings, significant other or someone you just met at your $15 hostel, be sure to let him or her know where you’re going and with whom. It’s very crucial that you do so in order to leave a trail in case you’re lost or hurt somewhere.
  2. I’ve known for many years that it’s important to visit the U.S. Embassy when you’ve arrived at your destination, and it’s especially imperative when visiting countries rumored to have higher crime rates. Not sure why anyone would travel to such countries, however, I can understand the allure of adventure in untouched and naturally beautiful places that span the globe. Just take extra precautions.
  3. Someone wants to buy you a drink? No problem! Be sure that you’re present and your drink remains in your hand until it’s finished. We all know about date rape drugs, but too often we forget to keep an eye on our glass, so don’t allow yourself to become a statistic.
  4. Dress appropriately! Yes, it’s summer, it’s hot, it’s humid and you just can’t stand it, so you want to live in your bikini all day long. While you can remember that it brings more attention, possibly unwanted and you might end up with massive sunburns, so be forewarned.
  5. It doesn’t hurt to know a few moves that’ll help you get out of different situations such as the acronym, SING-Stomach, Instep, Neck and Groin, featured in the 2000 action/comedy, Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock. In the movie, she demonstrated how to use SING to free yourself from a headlock or from being carried away and it’s worth a watch!
  6. Never forget the power of your voice! Not everyone has a big voice and that’s okay, but just by screaming alone you can scare off a would-be attacker, especially if you’re in a public place. Remember too, to never allow yourself to be transported to another location and if you do, leave a trail with your personal items.
  7. I suggest packing a multipurpose tool like the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-Tool, which works as a weapon, as well as a utility multi-tool because you never know when you’ll need a screwdriver or a bottle/can opener.
  8. Be sure to bring enough sunscreen! Even a walk from your hotel to a car can result in sunburn, so you’d want to be prepared for each moment you’re in the sweltering heat. Personally, I favor the Banana Boat Sunscreen Ultra Mist Sport Performance Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Spray because it’s aerosol, not too greasy, covers very well and it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes!
  9. Be very liberal with hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, and disinfecting wipes because germs are everywhere and if you’re prone to infections and allergies, you’ll need lots of these. Sanitize your entire surroundings in order to protect yourself from airborne illnesses. It’s also a good idea to travel with cold medicines should in case you fall ill. I love Mucinex DM! Whenever my nose feel stuffy or my throat feels irritated, I pop two tablets and within hours I’m better, so don’t leave without it.
  10. Don’t think twice when it comes to travel insurance, just get it. Even if you end up not needing it, it’s far better to have that extra protection in case you need medical assistance. It’s required that you anticipate and prepare for the worse, especially when traveling outside of the U.S. While in Grenada, I injured myself-fell through a wooden floor, bruised my leg and knocked my hip in the process. I went to the hospital and after being in the doctor’s office for two minutes, he sent me on my way with a prescription for painkillers, Vitamin C and an ointment, no X-ray! Had it been more severe, Allianz, my travel insurance company, would’ve made all arrangements to fly me back to NY ASAP, so it’s rather important to consider getting insurance for your trip.
  11. If you’re single and looking to mingle while you’re away, be smart and bring your own stash of condoms. The last thing you’d want is an incurable STD or an international custody battle, so be smart in all of your dealings.

Travel as much as you can because I believe that there’s so much to learn about ourselves when we’re in unfamiliar places, so it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and experience different cultures. Always remember though, to stay safe, have fun and keep on learning!

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Suicide: What’s the Deal?

From since the beginning of 2017, it seems like there’s a suicide happening every week, as though life is only getting harder to the point where there’s just too little faith in the world. What is it? Many of you may ask, but never really wanting to hear the truth. Well, here it is, some people are simply fed up and unable to cope with demons and bullies alike, so instead of prolonging their hurt, ending his or her life remains as the only remedy to alleviating their pain. As harsh as it may sound, it’s the truth, but we have the power to save a life. Take for instance, 11-year-old Michael Morones of North Carolina, who was bullied so much at school that he decided to end his life. He was found hanging from his bunk bed with a black necktie he had worn to his first violin recital a couple weeks prior. Although Michael survived his suicide attempt, it’s likely that he’d never regain his independence due to his now, vegetative state. This tragedy could’ve been avoided if school officials had intervened or if parents not only taught their kids about “stranger danger,” but also about kindness, responsibility, and bravery in standing up for themselves and others.

According to bullyingstatistics.org, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.” And this is just for young people. A total of 34,598 people commit suicide each year, with a daily average of 94. We have reached an era where more people are dying by suicide than they are by homicide. I think it’s wonderful that fewer people are killing each other, but it’s alarming that so many are willing to give it all up. Over 90 percent of suicide victims suffer from depression, whether it’s from bullying, a job loss, poor grades, death of a friend or relative, abuse, emotional pain, chronic illness, loss of hope and many other ways. One problem still remains though; some people do not take depression and bouts of suicidal threats serious enough. Some look at a depressed and suicidal person as an attention seeker, and not the kind where the individual is actually crying out for help. It’s shameful how society treats and views depression and its underlying causes.

Social Media was ablaze when Netflix premiered the show, “13 Reasons Why” because people felt that the show “glamorized suicide.” Well, I highly dissent. This show is merely touching the surface of this soon-to-be epidemic. It showcases how oblivious and disconnected parents could be when it comes to their children’s lives. Bullies and gossip mongers are free to do as they please; torture as many of their peers as they see fit and make life harder for kids, who probably have enough hardships at home. Work and priorities will always remain the same, but it’s not enough that you spend so much time and energy on these priorities, while ignoring your children’s activities. Nowadays, everyone seems to have an opinion on what is right and wrong, but no one knows how to express their opinions in a respectful and considerate manner, and that leads to even more societal issues. Personally, I remember raising myself at different periods of my teenage years because my mom was just too busy. She’d leave for work before I left for school on most days and returned home just around bedtime. So much could’ve happened throughout these “blackout hours” and she wouldn’t have known. The point is too many kids are left raising themselves and adults aren’t proactive enough in their lives, while others place too much emphasis on areas that can easily be worked on.

I once had a college friend, who was so distraught by her grades for that particular semester that suicide seemed like the only answer at the time. She feared her parents would cut her off and quit paying her tuition, so she sat on the banister of the window in her room, gearing up to make her jump. I couldn’t live with the thought of someone dying in my presence, so I made the decision to call campus police in hopes that they’d be better at talking her down. They managed to do just that and off course, she felt a sense of betrayal on my part, but I preferred this type of emotion from her instead of the regret and contempt I would’ve felt towards myself. Furthermore, this is what you do for people you care about, you help in any way you can and you just don’t let anyone senselessly kill him or herself. In that case, along with that victim, you too, will eventually die inside and what good would it be for you, your family, your deceased friend, and his or her family? It’s important to think about life after this person is gone and this is one of the reasons why many states have laws against assisted suicide. I can agree that there are instances where suicide is and should be acceptable such as, cases involving terminal illnesses, where patients have weeks, months or years to live. If one’s pain is too hard to cope with, I don’t see a moral issue with medically assisting the individual, and it should not be frowned upon.

On November 1, 2014, Brittney Maynard, 29, chose to end her life through “assisted suicide,” also known as “death with dignity,” with her family and friends by her side. She was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given 6 months to live, but chose to forgo the pain and suffering she knew would soon become her life. According to ABC News, “[she] suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. As symptoms grew more severe she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the [lethal] aid-in-dying medication she had received months [prior].” This is the exception and it was executed with a great deal of care, unlike the other suicide victims, whose last thoughts are plagued with anger, sadness, resentment, fear, and desperation to leave this world in search of a better place in the afterlife. We are all here for the same reasons, so why not be nice to each other? No two people are alike, so there’s no reason to dislike others because they are different. Parents need to be more available and supportive of their children because your actions (negative or positive) are mirrored and internalized, so be sure it’s one that fosters kindness and empathy.

Please, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you or someone you know is in crisis at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

 

Hypothyroidism and its Effects on the Mind and Body

Ever felt tired just because? Or maybe you’ve noticed your mind drifting off more than normal? Or your friends are more prone to confessing their deepest secrets to you because well, you have no memory? Are you moody and not just during your menstrual cycle? Maybe your blood flow is heavier than before and your abdominal bloat feels worse than previous months? Stubborn fat that won’t reduce no matter how much you workout? Perhaps your body has a tough time regulating your Basal Body Temperature? Well, sorry to say, but you might have a thyroid condition, more specifically, Hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland produces hormones, which is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. It’s a very small butterfly-shaped gland in the middle of the lower part of the neck, which secretes hormones that directly affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. When the thyroid gland becomes sluggish and stops producing hormones, the process is known as Hypothyroidism. There are many symptoms associated with the disease, including weight gain, memory loss, depression, and fatigue. According to the American Thyroid Association, “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.” The numbers might seem small or irrelevant to some, but just think that you too, could be one of these sufferers. Patients with undiagnosed thyroid disease are at risk of developing “Cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.” It’s estimated that roughly 20 million Americans are currently battling some form of the disease, with women being “Five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, [that’s one in eight women and] up to 60 percent [of them] are unaware of their condition.” Some people unknowingly suffer for many years prior to a diagnosis and that’s usually because it only shows up when a patient’s thyroid hormone level is at its lowest, and just having symptoms alone isn’t enough for most doctors to make a proper diagnosis. In fact, a lot of doctors misdiagnose patients due to the fact that your thyroid level could inaccurately place you in the normal range. On the flip side, another type of thyroid disease is known as Hyperthyroidism, which happens when the thyroid produces more than enough hormones, leading to weight loss, anxiety and a host of other conditions.

There are several known causes of thyroid disease, however certain foods and lifestyle choices can also influence the thyroid by either elevating or decreasing hormone levels. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Hypothyroidism [can be caused by] Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, congenital hypothyroidism, or hypothyroidism that is present at birth, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid, radiation treatment of the thyroid [and] some medicines.” Having a pituitary disease can also affect the thyroid, as well as the amount of iodine in one’s body. While there are several causes, there isn’t much you can do to fight the disease. Doctors may prescribe a synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, which some people end up needing for the rest of their lives and you can also watch out for, and stay away from foods that irritate the thyroid. Because the thyroid depends on iodine for optimal health, foods like kelp and seaweed are highly recommended, and in addition, foods rich in selenium like eggs, salmon, Brazil nuts, mushrooms, and turkey are also helpful when battling hypothyroidism. Always remember to consult with your medical provider before starting a new regimen and keep in mind that there are also side effects from having too much of a good thing, so always check with your doctor.

In the case of Terry Doria, of Queens, NY, thyroid symptoms didn’t start showing up until about two months prior to her diagnosis, at age 24. Although she was slightly overweight, Terry was still a fit and active young woman, whose hypothyroidism was caused by the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease, which causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. I’ve had a chance to speak with Terry about her condition and here’s an excerpt from our conversation.

When I asked about the symptoms she experienced, Terry said, “I was diagnosed 26 years ago [and it happened] because I wasn’t sleeping, it had been several weeks and I felt off. My original General Practitioner wanted me to go to a sleep clinic as opposed to taking my blood. About a month and a half to two months later, my OB/GYN introduced me to a new General Practitioner, who I saw a few days later. He took my blood and prescribed me with Ambien to regulate my sleep. I took it twice and was able to start a normal sleep cycle. When the blood work came back, it showed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis-an autoimmune thyroid condition that causes hypothyroidism. My other symptoms included lethargy, brain fog, muscle cramps, and a change in my menstruation.”

I then asked about the medications she uses to manage her condition and whether or not they were helping, and so she said, “The doctor [previously] prescribed synthetic thyroid replacement medicine, [but] I’m currently on natural thyroid hormone replacement medication, [and it’s] something I’ll be on for the rest of my life. There aren’t any side effects with the natural thyroid hormone medication, however, the synthetic forms did not do what it was intended to do. I’m also taking vitamin and mineral supplements as the Hashimoto’s blocks absorption of many.”

I followed up with Terry on how her life has been affected throughout the years with her hypothyroidism diagnosis, and she responded by saying, “My life has been drastically altered. Before the condition, I was fit, a bit overweight, muscular and active, [but] thanks to the many doctors not listening to my symptoms and [then] continually prescribing the synthetic thyroid hormone medication, I am currently overweight, lethargic and pre-diabetic. The natural thyroid hormone medication has helped a lot with the muscle cramps and brain fog.”

As Terry continued to discuss her struggles with getting a proper diagnosis, she mentioned that doctors usually go with the TSH level, which in most cases isn’t a good indicator for determining whether or not someone has hypothyroidism. “It took forever to get a doctor to do my T3 levels and reverse T3.” If you’re like Terry and are going through this process, be sure to educate yourself on the different tests, so you can accurately point your doctor in the right direction to ensure an expedited diagnosis. In the meantime, limit your intake of non-friendly thyroid foods such as gluten, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, sweets and soy products, and your thyroid will thank you.

Because the body needs our thyroid for optimal health, it is even that much more important to do all that we can to protect it. Recently, Shark Tank’s, Daymond John, opened up to ABC’s “Good Morning America” about his stage two thyroid cancer diagnosis in which he revealed, “A nodule about the size of a marble was found on his thyroid in March 2016 during a checkup. Surgeons removed half of his thyroid and had the nodule biopsied, at which point it revealed that he had stage two thyroid cancer.” Thankfully he’s doing better and is now able to share his story in an effort to help others to be more proactive when it comes to his or her health. John knew it would be challenging, but didn’t let it stop him from taking control of his health, “If I would attack it now, then I wouldn’t have let it attack me and I had that removed.” Below, you’ll find some helpful links to additional hypothyroidism facts. Be well and take good care of each other.

Recipe: Spicy Herb Lamb with Saffron Rice

There’s a special feeling you get whenever you’ve managed to concoct a meal with little to no direction. It isn’t celebratory, it’s a “man, I’d love to share this delicious dish with someone else besides my family” kind of feeling. This was how I felt after preparing this recipe and I hope you get the chance to do so.

What you’ll need:

3 lbs. Boneless lamb shoulder

1-2 cups “Par Excellence” Yellow Rice with Saffron

1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar

6 tbsp. Greek yogurt

2 tablespoon Olive oil

Seasonings:

1 tbsp. Turmeric

1 tbsp. Garlic powder

1 tbsp. Cumin

1/2 tsp. Black pepper

1 tbsp. Salt

1 tbsp. Cayenne pepper

Herbs:

1/4 Yellow pepper

6-8 cloves Garlic

1/2 Yellow onion

Cilantro

3 stems chopped Thyme

Parsley

1 stem chopped Rosemary

3 leaves chopped Mint

1 stem chopped Green onions

While attempting to emulate certain traditions of Ramadan, I decided to cook some lamb while still incorporating my love of Spanish rice and so, my intuition lead me straight to this delightful meal. I made sure to cube my boneless lamb shoulder first and then, to really make sure it’s cleaned well, I washed it in some apple cider vinegar laced water. That way, you cut out some of the aftertaste most people complain about. Personally, I’m not fazed by it. Anyway, once you’ve cut and cleaned your meat the next step is to properly season it. I used a combination of turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. Once I’ve added the spices, I proceeded to massage it all into the meat making sure to coat each piece. Then I put it aside on the counter to rest for about 10 minutes and after the time was up, I added Greek yogurt and tomato paste to the mix and once again, I made sure to coat every piece of lamb.

When my meat was all seasoned and ready to be added to the pan, I added half teaspoon of olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the bottom, then I went ahead and threw in all of my herbs: yellow peppers, garlic, onions, cilantro, thyme, parsley, rosemary, mint and green onions. I made sure to dice the herbs before putting it into the pan, and then I added my seasoned lamb along with two and a half cups of water. On very low heat, I left it to cook for about an hour and a half, still stirring occasionally. Once it started bubbling, I moved on to the rice, which is relatively very easy to prepare.

Rice:

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First, I added two and a half cups of water to a medium sized pot on low-medium heat, and then I added one and a half tablespoons of olive oil to the water. I left it to boil for about 10 minutes before adding the rice (this way allows the pot to form a nice coating in order to keep the rice from burning). Once the water comes to a boil, add two or more cups of rice according to the number of people you’re cooking for and remember that you can add more water to the pot as you see fit. Some people like their rice firmer than others, which is why I highly recommend tasting your rice in order to get your desired firmness. I prefer my rice to be a little softer, therefore I taste it often and add water as needed. Tip: if your rice is sill too firm for your liking, cover the pot all the way and let it steam for a few more minutes instead of adding more water. Typically, this rice will be cooked within 35 minutes. Salad choice is all up to you, as for me, I chose spring mix. Dish feeds up to six. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

What I Experienced on My First Visit to a Healing Crystal Store

I grew up in a household where the only gemstones celebrated were diamonds, emeralds, pearls, and rubies. Apart from these highly popular stones, I wasn’t aware of the others that were used for not only fashion, but as a healing alternative to medicine, among other things. As I navigate through our modern society, I’ve discovered an array of precious stones that are used for many different areas of our lives. Take for instance, quartz, “a mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms.” It can be found in different parts of the world in places like Brazil, Russia, Morocco, and Namibia and it comes in different colors too, it’s also used in the production of watches and clocks. Quartz is known to have healing properties and the ability to extend protection to its owners from negative energies. If you’re like me, a skeptic, then this all may sound like mumbo jumbo to you. Regardless, many people swear by what it can do and recently, I became a believer.

While going through my Instagram a few weeks ago, I came across one of Gabourey Sidibe’s pictures showcasing her crystals, where she mentioned that “Mercury is in retrograde and I don’t have time for…” Immediately it caught my attention because these stones were not only magnificent, but they could possibly hold special abilities. I began to research healing crystals and an array of information and testimonials showed up, so I wanted to see for myself just how accurate the information was. I researched and researched, and even spoke with a few people about their beliefs and opinions of these powerful stones. Each person had something positive to say and so, my curiosity lead me to a crystal store in a quaint town in upstate New York. After my many efforts trying to convince my partner that visiting the store is no different from going to a clothing store, he finally agreed to take me crystal shopping.

We gassed up and headed to Wurtsboro, NY to the Crystal Connection store in hopes of landing that special negativity busting rock! After driving for about two hours, we got into town and immediately noticed the calmness in the air, the peacefulness you feel when you’re outside of NYC, but more so, the kind that comes from having a crystal store in an old church, on the Main Street. (Thank you, Gabourey because this awesome journey would not have been possible without you.) We parked, made our way to the little yellow church and upon arrival, found a plethora of beautiful semi-precious stones. The owner called it a “candy store for adults.” I was amazed and highly intrigued at what the store and these crystals had to offer. I must add that it was rather overwhelming at times for both my partner and I. We were encouraged to feel the crystals and their vibrations before making the decision to purchase it. Anyway, I pretty much checked out every crystal in the store and bought the ones I aesthetically connected with.

When we finally made it to the checkout counter, I wanted to know if the owner felt certain vibrations from the rocks and from us because my head felt like it wanted to explode, and I assume that he too, must feel something from working there for so many hours. Well, he did confirm that he felt a tingle in the back of his head, which signaled to him that someone was “stuck in their head” and another was more in tune with their body, more specifically, their stomach. He was right! My partner lives in his head more than 90 percent of the time and I consider myself to be highly intuitive and present. We looked at each other, smiled and left the store. When we got back into the car, the feeling we got from being around the crystals amazed us both, and he was incredibly freaked out by the thought of someone reading him so accurately. He was now officially curious about the things he’s heard about crystals and wanted to know more about them, as well as the supposed gift the owner might’ve had.

He headed back to the store, armed with questions this time. As I awaited his return, I continued to feel the serenity I felt when we first got into town and now I was convinced that the crystals played a role. I played around with my crystals, speaking of my intentions and hoping that these precious stones would connect with me, cleansing my aura. Anyway, my partner returned to the car and excitedly expressed his experience. Apparently, he must’ve drilled the owner into showing proof that these stones are indeed powerful. When I asked about his time in there, he explained that the owner asked him to stand one leg, holding out his arms while he tugged at him. He lost balance the first time he pulled on him and after holding a black tourmaline in one hand, still standing on one leg, my partner was completely grounded. Although he’s still skeptical and doesn’t agree with the thought of people giving power to an inanimate object, he was extremely impressed. Overall, it was a great experience for the both of us.

When we got home, I decided to research the meaning and properties of the stones I bought and was pleasantly surprised by one particular stone, Epidote. It had this interesting shape and color, so after playing around with it for a little while, I decided to get it along with red and green calcite, pink kunzite, green fluorite, Colombian Lemurian, pink opal, magnetite, blue and black kyanite, raw ruby and pyrite. Prior to going to the Crystal Connection, I made a list of stones I’d like to get, but epidote was not on my list, so when I began my research and saw that it was used to “treat disorders of the thyroid and nervous system,” I took it as a sign because it was not on my list and my OB/GYN suspects that I may have thyroid issues. By now you’re probably thinking that I’m getting a bit too far ahead, but I can reassure you that I was both incredibly floored and overwhelmed at the same time. Sure, it could’ve been coincidental, but given what I now know about crystals, I rebuke that notion.

I’m still not 100 percent convinced though, that these gems have special healing properties, however, based on my experience so far, I’m keeping an open mind to the possibility. This article isn’t to make you a believer in crystals, but merely sharing my thoughts and experience with you. A celebrity opened my mind to it; I spent time researching and eventually made the call to visit the Crystal Connection store to further explore the power of crystals. It was an eye-opening experience and I would recommend a visit to anyone interested in starting his or her own Crystal collection. In addition to the ones purchased at the store, I also have most of the quartz family, agate, tiger’s eye, red jasper, apache tears, bloodstone, jet, onyx, tourmaline, jade, aquamarine, lapis lazuli, peridot, septarian, garnet, aventurine, obsidian, and carnelian. If you can’t make it to the Crystal store, amazon.com has a wide array, so I’m sure you’ll be able to pick some up. Again, I am not advocating for these crystals, however, if you’re a believer then it’s all you. Happy Crystal shopping!

 

Favorite Film and Why It’s Important

“Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of [a] million dollar equipment, [and] back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars.” This is from the scene in First Blood, where John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) broke down in front of his former commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) towards the ending of the film.

First Blood is and will be one of my favorite films and it’s rather interesting just how much his character relates to some veterans today. The movie was released in 1982 and is based on the 1972 novel of the same name, which was written by David Morrell. In the book, Rambo commits suicide at the end, but in the movie, the beloved character was given an alternative ending in order to continue with the film’s three sequels. Rambo was like every other soldier; well trained, disciplined, loyal to his country and ready to give his life for his fellow citizens. “[He was] a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam veteran who must rely on his combat and survival senses against the abusive law enforcement of a small town.”-Wikipedia. After seven years of being discharged from the military, Rambo traveled on foot to visit one of his comrades in the small town of Hope, Washington. When he arrived, he found out that his friend had passed away from cancer, which he developed as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Instead of leaving the town, Rambo continued to wander around only to come across the town’s vile sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). He asked the Sheriff for directions to a diner, but was driven out of town instead and because he refused to leave, he was then arrested. Rambo fought his way out of jail, which ultimately sparked a vicious manhunt. Based off of my limited knowledge in the field of psychology, most of his decisions in the movie can be looked at as those of someone with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-a form of mental illness that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as war and sexual assault. Sadly, most of our veterans today are suffering from this dreadful illness, which can lead to several other psychological illnesses, as well as, homelessness and addictions.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that “PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans.” The numbers may seem small in comparison, however, it is enough to persuade the military to take more action into providing better care for our veterans. Based on recent PTSD statistics, it was reported that “17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.” Last summer, I met a young woman in Florida named Chrissy, who is part of the 11 percent of Veterans from the war in Afghanistan. Although she hadn’t experienced rape, Chrissy lost her parents at an early age as a result of a car accident, and so she suffers from depression and addiction, as well as PTSD. She is also a mother to a beautiful baby boy, but due to her illness, she often spends time away from him whenever she experiences an episode. During our discussion, we both agreed that the military isn’t doing enough to reintegrate veterans back into society, something Rambo could’ve benefited from. They go through vigorous physical and mental training in order to be combat-ready and once they’ve passed all requirements, they’re deployed to their specific locations around the world. Now, when they’ve completed their missions and are ready to be discharged, there’s little to no counseling prior to their exit. According to Chrissy, they’re given their discharge papers and a pat on the back wishing them luck on the outside, similar to the treatment prisoners receive. Although there are resources available to our vets, it’s not always utilized. Many vets are sometimes too ill to even realize that there’s a problem and so he or she may not seek help in time, which can lead to an array of additional issues. The consensus remains that upon dismissal, each veteran should be offered extensive counseling prior to reintegration. It’s not only a good idea for the individuals, but also for communities nationwide because the violence and murder rates among veterans are steadily rising. According to a recent survey conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, “nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12 percent of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.”

“After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and sixteen wounded.”-The Nation. We hear about these acts of violence being committed by our service men and women suffering from PTSD far too often. Although males mostly perpetuate these acts, women too, experience bouts of violence. Based upon data from 2011-2012 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 1,400 female veterans were imprisoned with another 1,600 jailed. For every female jailed there are just as many, who are experiencing abuse and neglect from her spouse battling PTSD. It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate is significantly higher among female veterans with an estimated 15 percent of females between the ages of 18-24 and another 10 percent between the ages of 25-34. Sadly, 9.8 percent of our homeless veterans are females and this is a problem that our military should address.

In First Blood, Rambo was showcased as a nuisance, a lost soul, a troublemaker, a wanderer and a dangerous man. Behind his “damaged” exterior was a resourceful and fair man with great leadership skills, who would’ve thrived in a position of authority if given the chance. Never mind the sight of powerful machinery and a gorgeous human evading the law, Rambo was a hero to 12-year-old me because he consistently fought for what he believed in and never feared questioning authority. With proper care, this character would’ve been a much better person and that too is true for veterans like Chrissy. Our military needs to work harder at protecting and helping all veterans, but because women are at a greater disadvantage, they deserve to receive an extra 50 percent of the help currently offered. The treatment Rambo received from law enforcement is what we should strive to not do to our troubled veterans. Instead, be proactive and get him or her the help they so desperately need without ostracizing the individual.

If you or any veteran alike is experiencing hardships, please visit these websites for more information:

http://www.nchv.org

http://nvf.org

http://www.endhomelessness.org

https://www.va.gov