Tag: mental health

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).

 

 

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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.

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