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 Bragg 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 Bragg. This military installation supports about 260,000 military families, military retirees, contractors, and others.

The ASYMCA at Fort Bragg 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.

May is National Mental Health Month

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May is National Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health Month. Created in 1949, National Mental Health Month was established with the purpose of promoting the importance and awareness of mental wellness and mental health in all American’s lives, and to reduce the stigma people experience with a mental health diagnosis. Stigma continues to prevent people from seeking appropriate treatment. Suffering with untreated mental illness sometimes will cause individuals to self-medicate, with substances from alcohol to prescription drug abuse.

This past year has highlighted the need for mental health awareness in every aspect of our lives including how people suffered from isolation, grief, financial insecurity, food instability and sickness. We have seen and heard how the pandemic has created barriers to treatment, which is especially considering how one in six youth (6 – 17 years old) experience a mental health disorder and one in five adults experience mental illness each year. These conditions include depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

National Mental Health Month also focuses on mental health resilience. Resilient mental health can be defined as being able to cope with the ups and downs of life, and to maintain a positive outlook. A mentally and emotionally resilient person has the tools for coping with difficult situations. This makes the person focused, productive and flexible and it also makes them less afraid of new experiences and uncertain future. Mental health resilience is important in helping people to improve relationships, contribute to their community in a meaningful way, cope with stress, be physically healthy, realize their potential, and work productively.