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    How to Help Boys Thrive

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    How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

    “What in the world do you have to be depressed about?”

    “Did something happen to make you sad?”

    “Just snap out of it.”

    Susan* has heard all of these statements her entire life from friends and family as she battled clinical depression.

    “Growing up I was a very shy person in a family of extroverts,” says Susan. “My siblings all love being social and funny. I’m the one who just wants to stay home and read. Throughout my childhood I was very moody.”

    It wasn’t until law school when she was waking up in the middle of the night with her jaw clenched that she decided to talk with a counselor. During her first session, the counselor asked, “At what point in your life did you determine it was your job to be the savior to everyone?”

    “It was at that moment that it hit me,” Susan recalls. “Up to that point, I was the person everybody came to with their problems. I learned I needed some serious boundaries in order to stop letting people walk all over me. I also learned I was clinically depressed.”

    Susan knew she had much to be thankful for, but that didn’t stop her from feeling horrible on a daily basis.

    “Living with depression is like this fog that minimizes joys and magnifies hurts and criticism,” Susan shares. “People who don’t have depression see the world in color. People with depression see the world in black and white. I have dealt with suicidal thoughts for 20 years.”

    Susan recalled a time three months before her wedding. She was driving home from work, planning her suicide in her mind. She wanted the pain to be over. Clearly, she did not follow through with her plan. Susan’s fiance was out of town on business, and she could not think of one other person who would know what to do. She got the help she needed to get through that moment, but every day is still a battle. 

    “In listening to people talk about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I think people don’t understand that when you suffer from depression, it’s like every day on this earth is a living hell,” Susan says. “My depression is so severe, it often interferes with my ability to function. For me, and I think many others dealing with depression, the thought of not having to deal with the pain anymore is very appealing.”

    When asked what people say as they try to help, Susan shared that it isn’t helpful to tell a depressed person to just snap out of it, pop a pill or ask if they had a fight with their spouse. 

    “It is helpful to ask, ‘What can I do?’ or to send a text to check in or call and ask how things are going,” Susan says. “Both my husband and I suffer from depression. He knows that when I am having a hard time, the best thing he can do is give me space and let me be quiet. I know that when he is struggling, the thing that helps him most is to get out and do something.”

    Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can feel awkward. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings, however, can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

    If you want to be helpful to a person who you believe may be having suicidal thoughts, here are some things you should do:

    • Be yourself. Let the person know you care and that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.

    • Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair or vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, its existence is a positive sign.

    • Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm and accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.

    • Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.

    • Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.

    • Ask them how you can be helpful. They may not be able to immediately answer this question, but asking it encourages them to think about it.

    Here are some things you should not do. DO NOT:

    • Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: "You have so much to live for," "Your suicide will hurt your family," or “Look on the bright side.”

    • Act shocked, lecture on the value of life or say that suicide is wrong.

    • Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.

    • Offer ways to fix their problems, give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.

    • Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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    How You Can Help End Child Trafficking

    Did you know...?

    • Pedophiles and traffickers can message your children through YouTube.
    • Human trafficking doesn’t just happen in big cities. It happens in every zip code.
    • Boys are trafficked, too.
    • Traffickers can be doctors, lawyers and CEOs.
    • Foster care children, immigrants and refugees are at greatest risk for becoming victims.
    • Your child has already been targeted by a human trafficker.
    • Many children and teens are trafficked in plain sight. 

    (Source: Military Moms Blog, October 2019)

    January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Jerry Redman, executive director of Street Grace Tennessee, wants everyone to know the definition of human trafficking, the signs to look for and what you should do if you suspect someone is being trafficked.

    “So many people think this doesn’t happen in their backyard, or that its presence in a community is a result of the interstate system,” says Redman. “Neither of these statements are true. Whether you live in a town of 50,000 or in the largest city in America, many people have this false sense of security which actually makes everyone more vulnerable.”

    WHAT IS HUMAN TRAFFICKING?

    Human trafficking, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, is the use of force, fraud or coercion to commercially exploit someone. It is a crime of connection or a crime of convenience. In other words, if a person is looking to sell a person, they need access to that person to groom them. It is easier to groom someone they can already access. In fact, 41% of trafficked children are trafficked by a family member. Girls are targeted more than boys, but boys, (especially young boys) are also targeted.

    “Many people are under the assumption that it is mostly runaway and homeless youth who are at risk for being trafficked. That is a myth,” Redman says. “I can think of two stories of women being trafficked in plain sight that I believe drive home the point that we all need to be very aware of what is happening around us - even in our own home.

    “A young woman who lived in a solidly upper middle class situation was trafficked by someone with a connection to her family. She was in school and not deprived in any way. She lived with her parents in a very caring environment. No one would have ever guessed that she was being trafficked.”

    Theresa L. Flores tells her story in The Slave Across the Street. At 16, she was literally trafficked out of her own home by classmates and was too ashamed and scared to tell anyone that it was going on. 

    WHAT YOU CAN DO...

    If you want to help put an end to human trafficking, here are some things you should look for:

    • Does someone appear to be under the control of someone else?
    • Is the person who appears to be in control doing all the talking?
    • Is the suspected trafficking victim dressed appropriately?
    • Has the person looked up once?
    • Has the person spoken?

    “These are signs that all of us should be aware of,” Redman says. “It’s also important to know that sometimes victims will come straight out and tell you they are being trafficked. If that happens, your job is to remain calm, believe them and call the police. Some people are hesitant, worried about being wrong. Authorities will tell you: It is better to be wrong than to not report. Additionally, in most states, adults are mandated reporters of any type of suspected child abuse.

    “If the person you suspect is being trafficked is an adult, you can still call the police. Ultimately, the person will have to be the one to make the decision about their next steps, but you can tell them there are resources and you can give them the national hotline number - 888-373-7888.”

    In the fight to eradicate human trafficking, authorities are pursuing traffickers in creative ways, including technological partnerships. For example, when someone solicits sex online from someone they believe to be a child, the solicitor receives a message saying, “This is not a real child. You are now on our radar and your information has been turned over to the authorities. Additionally, the person is sent another email saying, “We know you have a problem and here is information about where to seek help.” 

    However, the biggest help in this fight actually comes from everyday people - observant and informed citizens who know the definition and the signs of human trafficking.

    “Many states across the country are partnering with national authorities to put more stringent policies in place,” Redman says. “In fact, Tennessee, Montana, Nevada, Georgia and Louisiana received the highest scores from Shared Hope for their work to end human trafficking. With all of the work that has happened over the last 20 years, I believe we are actually in a position to see human trafficking either eradicated or close to that in this century. But, it will take all of us working together to make that happen.”

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 25, 2020.

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    6 Ways to be Happy, Healthy and Content in the New Year

    “If only I had a better job.” 

    “If I could just find Mr./Mrs. Right.” 

    “If I just had a higher-paying job.” 

    While happiness and contentment may seem to be elusive sometimes, many people believe it will come to them through some external means like finding the right job, the right spouse or making a certain amount of money, research indicates this is not true.  

    Sonja Lyubomirsky and her team at the University of California-Riverside reviewed 225 studies involving 275,000 people, and they found that people aren’t happy because they are successful. Instead:

    • They are successful because they are happy.
    • Happy people are easier to work with, more highly motivated and more willing to tackle a difficult project. As a result, they are more likely to be successful.
    • Happy people appear to be more successful than their less-happy peers in three primary areas of life – work, relationships, and health.

    While many people seek happiness through people, things, work, etc., the research suggests that happiness does not come from someplace or someone else. Those things or people might contribute to a person’s happiness, but true happiness comes from within.

    “Happiness is a choice,” said Dr. Patrick Williams, clinical psychologist and master certified life coach. “In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl said that what kept him alive in the prison camp was knowing there was one freedom no one could take from him – his thoughts. He chose to make the best of a terrible circumstance. 

    As you think about the year ahead, perhaps you are considering some changes in order to be a happier person. Here are a few things to think about:

    • Love and accept yourself for who you are. This does not mean change isn’t necessary. Recognize that we all have our strengths and opportunities for growth. Beating yourself up over your weaknesses does not contribute to being happy. All of us are gifted at something. Treat yourself kindly and acknowledge that you are a work in progress.
    • Be accountable for your actions. Instead of blaming others for all that happens to you, accept responsibility for your choices. It has been said that you cannot change the past, but you can impact the future. Make an intentional decision to do things differently.
    • Stop trying to change others. The only person you can change is yourself.
    • Determine your priorities and live by them. Living out someone else’s dream for your life can be a major source of unhappiness. For example, a young man who had been swimming since he was small started having headaches every time he prepared to swim in a meet. He was an exceptionally good swimmer and there seemed to be no good explanation as to why he kept getting the horrible headaches. One day, his mom commented that she just didn’t understand these headaches because he loved to swim. He responded, “No mom. I don’t love swimming. I am good at it, but I don’t enjoy it at all.” Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
    • Start with abundance in your life. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, look at what you do have - a roof over your head, clothing, food, etc. Someone once said, instead of looking at whether your glass is half-empty or half-full, just be thankful you have a glass.
    • Define happiness. In his article, Why Happiness Isn’t a Feeling, J.P. Moreland says a classical understanding of happiness is virtue and character, a settled tone, depends on internal state, springs from within, is fixed and stable, empowering and liberating, integrated with one’s identity, colors the rest of life and creates true/fulfilled self. What is your definition of happiness?

    “The reality is this, if you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back and a roof over your head you are richer than 75 percent of the world and if you have money in the bank, in your wallet and some spare change, you are in the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy,”  Williams said. “Happiness is a matter of perspective, it has nothing to do with the trappings.”

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 18, 2020.

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    Why Do Couples Fight?

    When asked, “What do couples fight about?” most people usually say money, sex, kids and in-laws straight out of the gates. 

    In romantic relationships, couples can have all kinds of major and minor disagreements that impact the quality of their relationship. If you’re wondering what the research says about what couples are most likely to fight about, you’ll be interested in the results of a 2019 study by psychologists Guilherme Lopes, Todd Shakelford, David Buss and Mohaned Abed. 

    They conducted a three-stage study with recently-married heterosexual couples looking at all of their areas of discord, and what they found was pretty interesting. Out of 83 reasons for couple conflict, they found 30 core areas of conflict which they placed into six component groups.

    The component groups were:

    1. Inadequate Attention or Affection: This would include things like not showing enough love and affection, lack of communication, one not paying enough attention to the other, not being appreciated and feelings.
    2. Jealousy and Infidelity: This would affected by real or perceived risk to the relationship from things like talking to an ex, possessiveness, past relationships and differing opinions on whose friends couples hang around more.
    3. Chores and Responsibilities: Think about everyday tasks that couples may share. The housekeeping, chores, who does more work, not showing up when expected and sharing responsibilities would fit here.
    4. Sex: One may want sex and the other doesn’t, frequency of sex, sexual acts and telling private information about the relationship to others - and the list goes on.
    5. Control and Dominance: This would refer to events in which one partner tries to manipulate or control the other in some way.
    6. Future Plans and MoneyThings like goals for the future, children and the ability and willingness to invest resources in the relationship would fall into this category.

    Utilizing these areas of discord, the psychologists created the Reasons for Disagreements in Romantic Relationships Scale (RDRRS).

    Key Findings

    • Jealousy and infidelity seemed to decrease after several years of marriage
    • A husband’s higher income contributed to control and dominance issues.
    • Men who were more religious mentioned less disagreement over jealousy and infidelity elements.
    • Relationship satisfaction improved over time even though the frequency of differences did not change significantly during the three years of marriage.
    • Females were less satisfied when there was more disagreement about control and dominance, and as women grew older there was more disagreement about infidelity and jealousy.
    • Women reported that sexual satisfaction was lower when there was greater disagreement about chores and responsibilities. 
    • Women were more likely to guess they would have an affair in five years when there was greater disagreement around inadequate attention and affection.

    Whether you're considering marriage, engaged or already married, this information can provide a great foundation for conversation when it comes to potential disagreements in marriage. While there is some relief in knowing that lots of people struggle with the same types of issues, it might be a bit disconcerting to find that the one you love and thought you would be on the same page with about most things doesn’t exactly see things the same way you do. In reality, it is pretty much impossible for two people from two different upbringings to come together and not have any differences of opinion about certain things.  

    Either way, if you know you have these differences or areas of conflict, it is possible to have constructive conversation to determine how you will navigate dealing with them so your relationship can thrive in the process. How do you do that? Thanks for asking.

    Find a time when you both can talk for 30 minutes or so without distraction. Choose one of the topics you differ on and begin sharing. Keep in mind, your best bet is for each of you to seek information and to remain curious. There is no rule that says at the end of 30 minutes you are done with this topic. This is also not a time to try and convince your partner about why they are wrong and should for sure see things your way. 

    Couples often find that when they seek to understand their partner it begins to make sense why they think the way they think. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. You can still disagree on certain things and have a healthy marriage, but it will require some effort on each person’s part. If you are dating or engaged, you may realize that your differences are significant enough that you need to evaluate whether marrying each other is the best next step. It really boils down to respecting your partner and doing what is in the best interest of your relationship.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 11, 2020.