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Healer Heal Thyself: Why Health Care Professionals Are Becoming Stressed, Depressed, and Suicidal

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Part 2: The Future of Gender-Specific Healthcare

            In Part 1, I discussed some of my own challenges as a health care professional who has been working in the field for more than fifty years. I also described the challenges facing health care providers today and why so many are leaving the profession. I introduced you to the importance of the emerging field of Gender-Specific Medicine and its founder, Dr. Marianne J. Legato.

I recently interviewed Dr. Legato for my podcast at MenAlive. She discussed the evolution of the field of gender-specific medicine, which began with a focus on women’s unmet medical needs and now is increasingly addressing men’s health needs. She says,

“The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

            For Dr. Legato, her passion for gender-specific medicine is personal, not just professional.

“My physician father illustrated many of the biological and societal hazards of being male. My mother outlived him by a decade, mourning his absence every day.”

In her book, Why Men Die First: How to Lengthen Your Lifespan, she says,

“My father’s lifestyle was not conducive to a long and healthy life. He had what I came to consider the quintessentially male nature:

He worked with an amazing tenacity at his vocation and he never asked anyone for help or complained about the burdens it placed on him. He gook risks that were unnecessary, asked no one for advice or counsel, smoked three packs of Philip Morris cigarettes a day, ate huge amounts of pasta, oiled vegetables, and rich Italian pastries, and frequently finished his long day with a generous helping of Scotch on the rocks in one of the beautifully faceted crystal glasses he favored.”

            She concludes,

“It all took a toll. He was often despondent and had outbursts of temper that were the result of what I now think was chronic depression. I think he would have considered the idea of confiding any of his issues to a psychiatrist, much less taking medications for his all-too-frequent sieges of depression, unthinkable.”

            That could well have been my story and I feel grateful that I was able to break out of my denial. My wife helped, but so did another health care provider, Kay Redfield Jamison. Dr. Jamison is one of the world’s leading experts on depression and bipolar disorder and wrote the definitive text. In her book, An Unquiet Mind: Memoir of Moods and Madness, she reveals her own struggles with mood disorders.

            When I read her story, particularly the following words describing her own condition, which exactly mirrored my own, I knew I had found a kindred spirit.

            “Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief.”

            She ends with these words that still run through me many years after I have successfully completed treatment:

“You’re irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re ‘not at all like yourself but will be soon,’ but you know you won’t.”

            I feel blessed to have gotten the help I needed, even when I was resistant to receiving it. Things are changing, led my both men and women who recognize that men’s and women’s health issues cannot be separated and must be achieved together. One man who has been a leading voice and advocate for men and boys in the world is Gary Barker, founder of Promundo.

In a TED talk in October, 2023, “A Reframing Masculinity, Rooted in Empathy,” he says that violence in the world is a male problem, but it’s one that be changed.

“We are the most wired-to-care species on the planet. Our neurological systems, our hormonal systems, are wired to care, to nurture, to love, to form attachments with others. But it’s not automatic. If you don’t use it, if you close it off, if you hide, you don’t get good at it. But if you try and if you practice and if you learn it, you do get good at it. Even the man who seems most cut off from the world can learn it.”

            Another man who is breaking new ground is Richard V. Reeves. I was sent an advance copy of his book, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It.

            I interviewed Reeves and learned that he has had a long interest in gender-specific healing and men’s health.

“I have been worrying about boys and men for 25 years,”

he says.

“It became clear to me that the problems of boys and men are structural in nature, rather than individual; but are rarely treated as such. The problem with men is typically framed as a problem of men. It is men who must be fixed, one man or boy at a time. This individualist approach is wrong.”

            Reeves recently founded the American Institute for Boys and Men (AIBM).

“Too many boys and men are struggling – at school, at work, and in their families and communities,”

says Reeves.

“The American Institute for Boys & Men is the first national organization committed to objective research and policy development to enhance the wellbeing of boys and men.

            In a recent article posted by AIBM, “Where Are the Men: Male Representation in Social Work and Psychology,” they say,

“Mental health needs are pervasive among men, yet the share of men meeting those needs in mental health professions is low and declining. Key Takeaways include:

  • Men account for only 18% of social workers and 20% of psychologists. The shortage of men is particularly severe in subfields like child and school psychology.
  • The representation of men in these mental health professions has halved in recent decades, down from a male share of 38% in social work and 68% in psychology in 1968 [the year I graduated from U.C. Berkeley].
  • This downward trend looks set to continue: the male share of recipients of master’s degrees and above is 20% in psychology and 12% in social work, and men in psychology are on average older than women.
  • Men are less likely to seek mental health support: in 2022, 27% of women spoke to a mental health professional or took medication for anxiety or depression compared to only 16% of men.”

We need more male health care professionals and we need more men who are trained in understanding gender-specific medicine and health care. I will be offering a series of courses later this year to address these needs. In a recent article “Calling All Men: Are You Ready to Get Healthy in Body, Mind, and Spirit in 2024?,” I describe what I will be offering.

If you’re interested in learning more, drop me an email to Jed@Menalive.com. Put “Men’s Courses” in the subject line.

To read more articles like these, please consider subscribing to my free newsletter.

In Part 3 of the series, I will discuss additional healing tools that healthcare professionals need to know about in order to improve their own health and wellbeing as well as those we serve.



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5 Family and Community Engagement Strategies to Improve Student Outcomes

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Strong school-family-community partnerships bring exceptional value to children’s education. A recent book by Karen L. Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and four other co-collaborators synthesizes the available research to explain who benefits from these partnerships and the many advantages of family and community engagement.

Everyone Wins! The Evidence for Family-School Partnerships & Implications for Practice (Scholastic, 2022) cites various research to demonstrate how family-community-school partnerships benefit all stakeholder groups when they’re approached effectively:

  • Students have higher grades, better attendance, deeper engagement in school, greater self-esteem, and higher rates of graduation and college attainment.
  • Educators enjoy better job satisfaction, better success motivating students from different backgrounds, more family support, and an improved mindset about students and their families.
  • Families have stronger relationships with their children and better rapport with educators. They can navigate school policies and advocate for their children more effectively.
  • Schools enjoy a better climate, more support from their community, and improved staff morale—leading to better teacher retention.
  • School districts and communities become better places to live and raise children. They experience fewer disciplinary problems, greater participation in afterschool programs, and more family and student involvement in decision-making.
community members talking and hugging in matching green volunteer t-shirts in front of an outdoor mural

What elements make school-family-community partnerships particularly effective? Here are five tips for how school systems can successfully promote family and community engagement in education and drive better student outcomes.

1. Successful Family Engagement Requires Intentional Leadership

Engaging with families has to be a core activity and not just an afterthought. It requires a total commitment by school and district leaders, and this commitment must include investing in the tools and training needed to help educators effectively engage with families from all backgrounds. It must be a real and intentional focus, and as Mapp says: “It’s real when I see it on your budget sheets.”

2. Teachers and Administrators Must Communicate Clearly and Consistently

To encourage family involvement in their children’s education, educators must interact with families frequently—and in many ways. For instance, teachers and administrators might engage with families in person during school drop-off and pick-up periods, set up a Family Information Board in the school’s lobby, write and distribute regular newsletters or blog posts, and/or send emails or text messages to parents.

Communicating effectively is one of the National PTA’s “National Standards for Family-School Partnerships,” which guides how schools and families should work together to support student success. Teachers and administrators should learn about and meet families’ preferred methods of communication, and families should be able to share and receive information in culturally and linguistically relevant ways.

3. Develop Healthy, Positive Relationships Based on Mutual Trust and Respect

Interactions between educators and families should be positive and reciprocal, with families feeling valued and supported. Educators can establish trust and encourage healthy, two-way communications with families by sharing information about their children’s positive behaviors and accomplishments and which skills may need work. Listen to all parents and provide opportunities for shared decision-making.

4. Be Mindful of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Welcoming all families and fostering a sense of belonging is another National PTA standard. When families engage with your school, do they feel respected, understood, and connected to the school community?

To ensure equity and inclusion, learn about the families you serve and their unique needs and challenges. Use culturally responsive engagement practices. Create opportunities for connection, especially with historically marginalized families and students. Learn about and seek to remove barriers for families to participate fully in their children’s education.

5. Help Families Support and Extend the Learning at Home

Students learn more effectively when they have opportunities at home to practice, reinforce, or extend the skills and lessons they’ve learned in school. Educators can facilitate this process by giving families specific ideas for expanding their children’s learning at home, such as by incorporating core math and literacy concepts into everyday routines.

Schools can also make instructional resources such as take-home packs, activity sets, and other materials available to families to support their children’s education.

How School Specialty® Can Help

School Specialty has more than six decades of experience in providing tools, resources, and strategies that promote successful education both in school and at home. We offer arts and crafts, early childhood, ELA, math, science, STEM/STEAM, physical education, special needs, and social emotional learning resources for families, as well as games, puzzles, and general supplies.

How do you promote family engagement in your classroom and community? Let us know in the comments!





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Preteens and skincare: What parents should know – CHOC

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Published on: April 16, 2024
Last updated: April 9, 2024

Should teens and preteens be using so many skincare products with fancy ingredients? A pediatric dermatologist answers parents’ questions.

Link: https://health.choc.org/preteens-and-skincare-what-parents-should-know/



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Living With Crohn’s: My Daily Routine

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By Michelle Pickens, as told to Danny Bonvissuto

As early as I can remember, I’ve had issues with my health. When I was little, I had severe constipation, nausea, vomiting, and food sensitivities.

As I got older, those symptoms transitioned into diarrhea, irregular bowel movements, and pain. I was always very fatigued and my immune system was weak: The second someone in my class had the cold or flu, I’d get it, too. Looking back, it was a sign.

From a mental perspective, my anxiety was high. What if I need to find a bathroom? What if I’m nauseous? Doctors would say, “Oh, you’ll grow out of it. It’s just your anxiety.”

Finally, a Diagnosis

After years of misdiagnosis, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2015. I was 23 and had just finished up college while working full time. My symptoms were getting worse. I had a lot of vomiting and pain. The fatigue was at the point where it was difficult for me to work or even get out of bed some days.

It was so bad it pushed me to seek additional care. I took a couple months off, looked for another job, and went through all the doctor appointments it took to get the diagnosis.

There’s no blood test for Crohn’s. No way to prove what you’re feeling. Eventually I saw the right doctor, who did a test with a pill camera called a small bowel capsule. (This is a pill-sized camera that you swallow, allowing doctors to see inside your digestive system.) It tracked my intestines and was able to get into a blind spot where neither a colonoscopy nor endoscopy can see inflammation. 

It was such a relief to get the diagnosis because it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. For so many years I knew something was wrong and couldn’t name it. I also felt hopeful. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I knew I could work to get to a better place.

Sharing My Story

In 2016, I started a blog called Crohnically Blonde as an outlet to connect with people as I go through the stages of dealing with Crohn’s. When I first started to share, there weren’t as many people talking about it.

I’ve been able to form relationships in an online community through shared experiences. I hope someone can see my story and feel that, if they’re at the beginning of their journey, there’s a way to get through.

Managing My Medication

At first, I was on a lot of medication that wasn’t working well and was a huge imposition on my schedule. Now I get infusions of an immunosuppressive drug every 7 weeks.

It means being away from my family and job for 4-5 hours, and managing child-care coverage during the treatment and the weekend after, because I feel almost flu-like. The extra help allows me to rest and fuel back up after the treatment.

I have the option to be on more medications to control my symptoms. But I try to shy away from those and manage it on my own because I don’t want to be on medicine for every single thing.

Before I had my son, I was more willing to try different medications. But while I was pregnant, I could barely be on any of the Crohn’s medicines. After I had him, it didn’t make sense to be reliant on them.

Crohn’s, Pregnancy, and Motherhood

Crohn’s affected me throughout my pregnancy. I got very sick in my third trimester because I went off my immunosuppressive drug to avoid passing any on to the baby. I ended up having to be induced early so I could get back on the medication as soon as possible.

My son, Maddox, is 1 now. Crohn’s changed my expectation of what I thought motherhood would be.

I’ve learned that I’d rather be present and able to enjoy him in the good moments than push it when I’m sick. It’s been difficult. But if I’m not well, I can’t be there for my child. I try to be with him as much as I can, but there are times when I need to step back and take an hourlong nap.

I have a great support system: My husband, mom, or mother-in-law can step in and help out for a little while, and when I feel better, I can be a better mom. There are also days when I don’t have accessible help. In those situations, I’ll do lower-key activities that I can enjoy with him but that aren’t physically demanding on me.

Schedule and Adjust

Right now I’m in a pretty good spot. I work from home now, as a recruiter for a tech company, and that makes a huge difference. A lot of my anxiety in the past was around being in an office and being sick. Now that I can work remotely, it’s such a game changer.

But Crohn’s still affects my day-to-day. I have days where I’m feeling sick, and need to rest and change my plans so I’m home and not out somewhere.

No matter how planned-out I have my day or week, if I’m not feeling well that takes precedence. I like to be a very scheduled person. But I have to roll with the punches and have a plan B.

The biggest challenge is managing my sleep and stress. They’re both very influential in symptom flare-ups. I have to get at least 8 hours of sleep, no matter what. And I try to incorporate time to de-stress, like reading a book or relaxing at the end of the day.

Going to therapy helps offset stress as well, and is now part of my ingrained self-care schedule.

Social Life Strategies

My co-workers, family, and friends are very understanding. But that wasn’t the case at first. The more open I’ve been about Crohn’s, the more people understand that I’m not flaking out if I have to change plans; there’s an underlying reason.

I only have a certain amount of energy, so now I pick and choose. I know I need to work and be with my family, which means I have less energy to put into social situations.

I plan out what I’m comfortable doing, but have also become comfortable with changing plans. Even if I’m excited to go out to dinner with a friend, I don’t push it if I feel terrible that day.

Food in Flux

I’ve followed a gluten-free diet for years. I started with an elimination diet and realized that gluten was bothering me.

Other foods aren’t as black and white. I can eat a salad one day and it’s fine, and eat the same salad the next day and it makes me sick. I repeat the safe foods that don’t make me sick and stick to a general schedule of three meals a day that are pretty much all gluten free.

Sometimes the timing matters: I’ll wake up and feel nauseated and need a starchy food like dry cereal. If I’m going on a road trip, or have a big event, like a wedding, I plan it out and try to be careful about what I eat leading up to it because I don’t want to be sick. But it’s hard because you never really know. It’s kind of a gamble.

Flexibility Is Key

I’ve learned to be as flexible as possible. I never know what each day is going to bring, I just have to trust that my body is telling what it needs for that specific day. That’s my priority, and everything else can wait.

 



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