July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

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July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It is observed to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.

Specific community health awareness efforts have been centered around the COVID-19 pandemic. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (OMH), focuses on promoting tools and resources to address the stigma regarding mental health among racial and ethnic minority populations.

OMH encourages state, tribal, and local leaders, healthcare providers, community-based organizations, faith leaders, and individuals who educate their communities regarding mental health stigma.

The first week in June honored health professionals in hospital settings and professionals who work closely with communities during the Community Health Improvement week. This national event was created to raise awareness and recognize community health professionals’ dedication and passion for improving the health of the communities they serve.

Some key highlights within Community Health Improvements are:

Engaged leadership with hospitals and health systems can play vital roles internally and externally within these organizations.

Community endorsement and support can come in the form of remembering all organizations are not alike, but all organizations can be involved in partnerships within the community.

Innovative coordination and funding will help communities optimize the use of existing resources while building on existing strengths.

Provide valuable care and optimize delivery through standard processes and handoffs, connecting through common screening and assessment tools, and coordinating all levels of follow-up care.

Leveraging technology will help people in a mental health crisis and be a support line for immediate help. Leverage technology can connect an electronic referral system to efficiently triage patients and coordinate care, while telehealth offers an additional avenue to expand behavioral health services.

Measurable and Actionable can be used in Community Health Improvement to have transparency in data reporting identified outcomes to demonstrate value to community partners. These standardized screening tools and quality measures will assist in improving data integrity.

Community Health Improvement is an ongoing goal to build connections between the whole person and integrated care. This process not only highlights the medical part, but also connects the community supports of all Americans, including additional resources for racial and ethnic minority communities.

May is Mental Health Month

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May is Mental Health Month

Mental Health Month was established in 1949 to celebrate recovery from mental illness and increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in all lives. This month raises awareness of trauma and helps to reduce the stigma so many people experience. Mental Health Month highlights the impact trauma can have on communities, children, and families’ emotional, physical, and mental well-being.

Maternal mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders affect 1 in 5 women and are prominent in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum complications. Women at an increased risk of maternal mental health may have a personal or family history of mental illness; may lack social support, especially from their partner; may have experienced traumatic birth or previous trauma in their lives; may have a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Maternal mental health challenges are temporary and treatable with proper care. Recovery from maternal mental health includes social support, self-care, medication, and talk therapy, as a combination approach.

Child and adolescent mental health are also essential to consider during this month. 1 in 7 children and adolescents aged ten to nineteen years old experience mental health conditions, but these largely remain unrecognized and untreated. Emotional, social, and physical changes, including exposure to abuse, poverty, or crime, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, and behavioral disorders are the leading causes of disability and illness among adolescents. Children and adolescents can feel supported about their diagnosis by the people in their lives learning about their diagnosis, exploring stress management techniques, and praising the child’s abilities and strengths.

Mental health prevention and promotion interventions aim to strengthen an individual’s capacity to regulate emotions, build resilience for managing difficult situations and adversity, enhance alternatives to risk-taking behaviors and promote supportive social environments and social networks. Enhance alternatives to risk-taking behaviors and promote supportive social environments and social networks.

National Healthcare Decisions Day

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National Healthcare Decisions Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is represented annually in April and is an initiative created to inspire, educate, and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning. NHDD was designed to encourage someone to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever those wishes might be.

The pandemic has been a reminder that healthcare affects everyone of all ages. It impacts that patient, the person’s family, and the facility taking care of the person. The focus on advance care planning has been highlighted through these unique times.

Advanced care planning includes completing an advance directive (living will), appointing a healthcare power of attorney (someone to make healthcare decisions if the person can not speak for themselves), and the person sharing their choices with their family and loved ones.

Another aspect of advanced care planning is Psychiatric Advanced Directives (PADs). PADs are legal documents detailing a person’s preference for future mental health treatment, including specific choices about medications and hospitalizations and the refusal of consent to either. PADs help the person identify an individual to make treatment decisions if that person is in a crisis and unable to make decisions. In NC, PADs are also known as an “Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment .”An Advance Instruction for Mental Health Treatment remains valid until the person who created it revokes it.

There are numerous benefits to having and completing advanced care directives, including enabling proper care and possibly preventing involuntary treatment. When families are informed, and up to date on a person’s advanced care directives, the family can better advocate for their loved ones.

Sleep Awareness Week is March 13 – 19, 2022

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Sleep Awareness Week is March 13 – 19, 2022

Sleep Awareness Week is March 13 – 19, 2022, and it is a period to use as a call to action for personal well-being. It is the perfect time for everyone to recognize the importance of sleep as a crucial measure of overall health and wellness.

Please use this vital reminder to implement healthy sleeping habits and reflect on practices to help you have a good night’s rest. It is not a coincidence that sleep awareness week begins on March 13th, which is the beginning date of Daylight-Saving Time, when most Americans change their clocks and lose an hour of sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation stresses that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night and any less could pose serious consequences to a person’s health and safety. Sleep helps people recover from illness or injury, cope with stress, and solve problems. Common sleep-wake disorders include insomnia (having problems falling or staying asleep which can lead to anxiety and depression), nightmares (this usually happens during Rapid Eye Movement sleep and brings up feelings of distress or terror generally related to a traumatic event), sleep terrors (any single image memory – not like a nightmare but these single images can be so terrifying that you may shake or scream. When the sleep terror ends, you calm down and return to normal sleep.)

The complex relationship between sleep and psychiatric disorders means that treatment for both issues can go hand-in-hand. There are steps to improve sleep which may even form part of a preventive mental health strategy. A medical doctor or psychiatrist can review the potential benefits and risks of different types of treatments, including prescription medications. They can provide tailored care, including in situations with multiple co-occurring physical or mental health issues. Good sleeping habits, relaxation techniques, sleep restriction (limiting the amount of time in bed) and exercise are treatment options for sleep..

February 14th is Designated Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day.

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February 14th is Designated Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day.

February 14th is designated Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day. This is an annual campaign to remember and honor anyone born with a heart defect. This campaign also honors all of the families and friends touched by children with heart defects along with the medical professionals caring for and conducting research to treat and prevent children born with heart defects.

1 out of every 100 newborns are affected by Congenital Heart Defects / Disease. CHDs are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and how that baby’s heart works. These conditions can range from a small hole in the heart (considered mild) to missing or poorly formed parts of the heart (severe). Generally, the cause of CHD is not known but if a child has CHD is becomes evident during the first few months after birth during a routine medical checkup. Some babies have very low blood pressure shortly after birth and some babies have breathing difficulties, poor weight gain, or feeding problems.

An article published in Everyday Health noted “pediatricians should consider screening children with CHD and other chronic health illnesses for mental health problems”. This article also stated CHD patients are significantly more likely to have depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children not diagnosed with CHD. Dr. Lopez reported “that non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and Asian American children were significantly less likely to be diagnosed or treated for anxiety and depression than white children, despite the fact that the prevalence of these conditions are thought to be the same across all races and ethnicities in the general population”. Most children with simple defects survive into adulthood. Their exercise capacity may be limited, but these children grow up to live normal or nearly normal lives. Children who had more complex problems had more developmental delay or other learning difficulties.

January is Designated National Blood Donor Month

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January is Designated National Blood Donor Month

This is to honor voluntary blood donors while encouraging more people to give more blood. According to the American Red Cross, the winter is “one of the most difficult times of the year to collect enough blood products to meet patient needs.” People stop donating blood during the holidays and during the cold and flu season because more people get sick.

Blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling illness and injury. COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise across the US and blood, platelet and plasma donations are continuing to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies.

For a limited time, the American Red Cross is including sickle cell trait screening on all self-identified African American donors. Compatible blood types can be identified quicker. This helps sickle cell patients and African American donors have additional health insight regarding their health information. But, this testing does not diagnose sickle cell disease.

Everyone can still donate blood as long as you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, feel well and after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. You will need to know and be able to give the name of your COVID-19 vaccine’s manufacturer ( Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer).

Giving blood can help your mental state by providing an altruistic interaction resulting from doing something good for someone else. Donating blood has shown to have a positive effect of greater happiness and better health. The happiness level is increased through shifting aspirations and empathic emotions. Donating blood reduces stress, enhances emotional well-being, minimizes negative thoughts and feelings and provides a sense of belonging while reducing feelings of social isolation.

December is National National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month

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December is National National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month

December is National 3D Month or National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month, which stemmed from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and the mission statement expanded to include drug-impaired driving. This particular month was selected due to the spike in traffic-related deaths between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

At the beginning of this year’s holiday shopping, there was a decrease in online purchases and an increase in face-to-face purchases, which reflects that many people are interested in being around others verses than being online. It can also be an educated guess that there is probably an increase in social gatherings with the options of drinking or using drugs since social groups or anything face-to-face was not encouraged last year.

North Carolina is one of the eighteen states that adopted the standard; if any detectable amount of controlled substance is found in a driver’s system, other than legally prescribed medicine, the driver will be charged with drugged driving. Compared to drunk driving, drivers are allowed a small amount of alcohol in their system and can still drive.

Anxiety, depression, PTSD, conduct disorder, anti-social personality disorder, and stress are some factors that may contribute to drunk and drugged driving.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short-term, solution-oriented approach to help identify negative thoughts/behaviors and replace them with positive thoughts/behaviors. Motivational Interviewing is also a brief-client-centered approach concentrating on improving and strengthening a client’s motivation for change. This specific technique is selected when someone is less motivated or ready for a change in parallel with other therapy modalities.

The engagement of these two common modalities can help someone make better choices to avoid drunk and drugged driving.

The Armed Services YMCA Established Veterans and Military Families Month

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The Armed Services YMCA Established Veterans and Military Families Month

The Armed Services YMCA established Veterans and Military Families Month in 1996 and is recognized annually during November. As we know, veterans and military families make tremendous sacrifices, including separating from their families and adjusting to new communities, countries, and new family living situations.

Fort Liberty covers approximately 500 square miles with 146,000 acres dedicated to training, supporting nearly 54,000 troops and 14,000 civilians who work on post at Fort Liberty. This military installation supports about 260,000 military families, military retirees, contractors, and others.

The ASYMCA at Fort Liberty assists 62,500 active-duty soldiers, 76,486 family members, and 94,939 retired Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines stationed or living in Cumberland and surrounding counties in North Carolina.

The overall goal is to ensure that veterans’ and military families’ daily interactions are constant within our regional community. We hope all families feel supported and celebrated.

Some national services that are highlighted during Veterans and Military Families Month are:

  • Sesame Street for Military Families Free App – This App addresses deployments, homecoming, self-expression, and injuries.
  • A ‘Military Family Month’ downloadable packet from the Armed Services YMCA at www.asymca.org The information typically contains a Military Family Month Poster, a Message from the President and National Executive Director; Military Family Month Program Suggestions; and Guidelines for the annual art and essay contests.

SAMHSA has a Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Technical Assistance (SMVF TA) Center: https://www.samhsa.gov/smvf-ta-center This center serves as a national resource to support states, territories, and local communities in strengthening the capacity to address the behavioral health of military and veteran family needs.

Health Literacy Month is Observed in October

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Health Literacy Month is Observed in October

HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) defines health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Some factors which can affect health literacy are: understanding how the health care system works; knowledge of medical words; reading, writing, and number skills; ability to communicate with health care providers; ability to find health information, which may require computer skills; physical or mental limitations; and personal factors, such as education, language abilities, age, culture, and income.

A September 28, 2021 article from NC Policy Watch shows a comparison of the number of residents who lack basic literacy skills in different counties in NC and the percentage of residents in that same county who live below the poverty line.

Social determinants of health plays a role with health literacy. Health care access and quality helps people to receive timely, high-quality services, which is important for both physical and behavioral health services. This is really important in rural settings when appointments might not be easily accessed and this could hinder or improve communication depending on the relationship of the provider and the patient.

Another social determinants of health which can affect health literacy is education access and quality. If a child or adolescent has the stress of living in poverty, this can affect their brain development making it harder for them to succeed in school especially in reading and math. Consequently, the child or adolescent is less likely to graduate from high school. If a child or adolescent has access to high-quality educational opportunities, there is a stronger possibility for better health literacy; both physical and behavioral health outcomes.

Health literacy and acknowledging social determinants of health is something that can empower us as a community together.

September is National Cholesterol Education Month

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September is National Cholesterol Education Month

High cholesterol, which causes heart attacks and strokes, is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

High cholesterol comes from what you eat, like food that are high in trans-fat and saturated fats. An example of these foods are full-fat dairy products, poultry, meat and tropical oils like coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil. Our body makes all the cholesterol that is needed through the liver. Trans-fat and saturated fats causes the liver to make more cholesterol than it normally would. The more excess cholesterol that is created, the more it will build up in the walls of the arteries eventually making the arteries become narrower and blood flow to the heart slows down or becomes blocked.

Other factors that can affect cholesterol levels are: being inactive (regular physical activity may lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise your good cholesterol (HDL), having relatives with high cholesterol, smoking, being older because our cholesterol levels naturally rise as we age, smoking and stress (long term stress raises a person’s blood cholesterol levels generally because when people are stressed they are more likely to eat fatty foods).

Some ways to lower your stress level, which helps with lowering your cholesterol levels are to reduce your stress triggers (which could be practicing time management, setting priorities and pacing yourself). You can also practice relaxation techniques everyday which can vary from deep breathing, mindful mediation, incorporating art and music. Visualization can help you take a journey to a calming, peaceful place or situation. This incorporates using your touch, smell, sound and sight senses.

It is important to remember stress relief strategies takes some experimenting and practice but it is a great way to help manage your cholesterol and overall well-being.

Raise Awareness With Youth Skills Day

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Raise Awareness With Youth Skills Day

Youth Skills Day was adopted as a resolution on December 18, 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly and this day is celebrated on July 15th yearly. A part of this resolution was the Incheon Declaration: Education 2030 which was to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Youth Skills Day was created to raise awareness about the importance of technical vocational education and training (TVET) as well as, the development of other skills relevant to both global and local economies.

This year’s Youth Skills Day will have a more challenging context resulting from the pandemic creating a disruption of TVET. The need for the development of youth skills may have been enhanced as we are emerging from the pandemic. Per COVID, young adults (under 25 years old) were 3 times as likely to be unemployed. Now, 1 in 6 young adults are out of work because of COVID.

Technical vocational education and training plays a key role in fostering resilience in young adults. These skill developments helps to bridge gaps, creating solutions for the present and the future. TVET can help youth with skills that are required to access self-employment, improve responsiveness to changing skill-demands by communities and companies, increase wages, and increase productivity. This can be opportunities for low-skilled people who are unemployed or underemployed, or out of school individuals and youth that are not in education, employment and training.

Youth Skills Day has highlighted more of a need during and after the pandemic. Youth generally work in the service industry, which has not recovered from the pandemic, and some jobs have vanished. At this time, many schools may not provide career counseling and development and this can impact their résumés and career development.

Youth Skills Day is important because we know employment offers many benefits to people diagnosed with mental health conditions, including their improvement in empowerment, self-efficacy, and economic status. We must also be aware how stigma can be a significant barrier to employment for anyone with mental health conditions, and especially youth, and we have to remain optimistic about career prospects. Under or unemployment is also linked to low birthweight, elevated rates of depression and increased alcohol use.

When youth have meaningful employment, it decreases the risk of involvement in criminal activity and the juvenile justice system and increases the chances of that youth graduating from high school.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, a disease that attacks the brain and it is defined as a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive disease, symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but late-stage dementiacan affect an individual’s ability to communicate and respond to his or her environment. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs between ages 30 and mid-60srepresenting less than 10% of people with Alzheimer’s. Research suggest there are changes in the brain that may begin at least a decade before memory or other cognitive problems appear. Even though people may seem to be symptom free, there are toxic changes taking place in the brain.

There are an estimated 47 million people worldwide and 5.5 million Americans of all ages living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and without a change, this number is expected to grow to 76 million by 2030. Some of the signs of dementia are:

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life

These are common signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but remember each person is different. Only a doctor can diagnosis someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. A strong support network including support groups that allow caregivers to express concerns, share experiences, receive emotional support, find respite care, and have good coping skills are ways caregivers handle and relieve stress as they navigate with their loved ones on this journey.