September brings not just the beginning of a new school year, the end of summer and new shows on TV. It host several health prevention and awareness days. These special days give people the opportunity to look at how they, their friends and family, fare with these health issues and what one can do for one’s self or to help others in some way.
Use this month to be more mindful and take better care for yourself and to help others.
World Suicide Prevention Day
First started in 2003, the observance calls for not only awareness, but also action toward preventing suicides. It was started by three groups including the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH.)
It is important to note that, just as any marginalized population, some members of the LGBTQ community feel alone at times in their life. Maybe it was in coming out and feeling abandoned. Maybe it was in not being able to come out and feeling restrained. Maybe it was a myriad of factors that led to feeling like an outcast. Regardless, each and every single individual has a community, and always has resources to reach out to.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the younger population (ages 10-24), and the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Suicide only came on the list of top 10 leading causes for death in the U.S. in recent years, meaning that the rate has increased. Not only this, but LGBTQ youth are about five times more likely to commit suicide compared to heterosexual youth. This raises even more urgency toward taking action and recognizing mental health in the same light as physical health.
Everyone must look out for one another, while also remembering to look out for him or herself. Ask yourselves, what am I doing for myself? What am I doing to feel better? Am I making smart decisions?
Having people take this time to step back and say, “I should implement this practice in my life” does not mean that they do not already love themselves. Instead, it means they are loving themselves in the form of self-care, and staying away from practices that could potentially be harmful. Whether it’s having safer sex or being pickier about partners, and encouraging them to know their status, there are many ways to express self-care. It may be simply talking about your concerns, about your feelings. That someone can be a friend, parent, teacher or a medical professional. The important thing is to reach out. If you don’t have someone you can talk with, look up resources in your community.
National HIV/AIDS And Aging Awareness Day
HIV/AIDS And Aging Awareness Day was a campaign started in 2007 by The AIDS Institute. This day is observed in an effort to prevent detection and diagnosis from being delayed.
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Day
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Day was started in 2008 by the National Association of People with AIDS to direct attention to and recognize the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on men who sleep with men in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, nearly 7 out of every 10 HIV diagnoses were gay and bisexual men.
When it comes to HIV/AIDS, a majority of the population is divided. Much of the older generation still has the mentality that getting diagnosed with HIV/AIDS means a death sentence. On the other hand, much of the younger generation believes that getting diagnosed is not as much of a concern as there is now medication to treat it. The problem with both of these mentalities is that it prevents people from reaching out and actually getting tested. Not getting tested affects the people who do not know their own status, as well as their partners.
From a public health standpoint, talking about HIV/AIDS has to be de-stigmatized. The mindset that getting diagnosed is a shameful thing needs to be removed from the culture. When as a community the conversation becomes more open, more people feel relaxed and willing to get tested.
HIV/AIDS is a chronic disease, but what a lot of people don’t know is that there are ways to prevent it! There are three levels of disease prevention: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention is all about preventing, secondary prevention is about detection, and tertiary is about treatment. For prevention, PrEP is available to decrease the risk of contracting HIV by upwards of 90 percent. For detection, there are several places listed online around the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area where you can get tested for free.
While prevention is always best, there are resources available for people at any level. The only stipulation to this is that people have to be tested first, to know what their status is and what they need moving forward.
So many people in this community are disproportionately affected, and everyone owes it to themselves and each other to promote better self-care practices.
So what better time to start a conversation?