In many ways the world is a far more complex, difficult place to live in now than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Social media places children under increasing pressure – and at an ever decreasing age – to look perfect, have limitless “friends” and lead apparently perfect lives. Many parents work longer hours than in previous decades, leaving them with little time and energy to spend with their kids. And children are under immense pressure to perform academically and on the sports field.
In previous years, kids could generally be found playing outside with their friends or chatting to them on the phone, but modern society leaves children isolated from one another, spending more time with virtual “friends” than real-life ones. Many spend most of their time online, hardly ever venturing outside.
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In Denmark, prescriptions for children increased by 60 percent; prescription numbers soared more than 54 percent in the United Kingdom; in Germany, they rose by 49 percent; the United States saw a 26 percent increase; and there was a 17 percent increase in antidepressant prescriptions for children in the Netherlands during that period.
The study also found that the drug manufacturers are not only aware of this fact but that they actively try to hide the risks by labeling suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts as “worsening of depression” or “emotional liability” rather than admitting that they are side effects of the medication.
“Despite what you’ve been led to believe, antidepressants have repeatedly been shown in long-term scientific studies to worsen the course of mental illness — to say nothing of the risks of liver damage, bleeding, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and reduced cognitive function they entail,” warned holistic women’s health psychiatrist, Dr. Kelly Brogan, writing for Green Med Info. “The dirtiest little secret of all is the fact that antidepressants are among the most difficult drugs to taper from, more so than alcohol and opiates.
“While you might call it ‘going through withdrawal,’ we medical professionals have been instructed to call it ‘discontinuation syndrome,’ which can be characterized by fiercely debilitating physical and psychological reactions. Moreover, antidepressants have a well-established history of causing violent side effects, including suicide and homicide. In fact, five of the top 10 most violence-inducing drugs have been found to be antidepressants.”
This doesn’t mean that our children need to be left to struggle through depression and isolation without any help, however. Experts recommend family, individual and other therapies, lifestyle changes including exercise and dietary changes, and spending more time outdoors with family and friends as healthy, side-effect-free ways to help kids cope.
Over 5.5 million Americans – mostly over the age of 65 – are battling Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating condition that kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Alzheimer’s progressively destroys memory and other cognitive functions, causing confusion, anxiety and heartache. The number of people fighting this disease has increased by a staggering 89 percent since 2000.
Now, an exciting new study by researchers from the University of Bonn, Germany, claims to have uncovered the cause of this incurable disease, and the team hopes that their discovery will lead to a breakthrough in treatment within the next decade.
Scientists have understood for some time that Alzheimer’s is associated with a build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid plaques are a sticky build-up which accumulates on the outside of neurons, or nerve cells. While amyloid is a protein that naturally occurs throughout the body, in Alzheimer’s patients this protein divides improperly, creating a form of amyloid which is toxic to neurons in the brain.
Most human trials for Alzheimer’s treatments have focused on trying to target these plaques. All have failed.
The new research is exciting in that it has revealed the root cause of this amyloid plaque build-up: Inflammation in immune cells called microglia, which make up between 10 and 15 percent of all brain cells, and which act as the brain’s first line of immune defense.
Inflammation directly fuels the characteristic amyloid plaque build-up which autopsies have revealed in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
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The Daily Mail recently reported:
For years inflammation has been suspected of having a role but the exact nature of its involvement has been hard to pin down – until now.
The researchers found the microglia release specks of a protein called ASC in response to it. They stick to the amyloid beta protein – boosting its production. …
ASC reside in a vital inflammatory pathway called the NLRP3 inflammasome which damages brain cells.
The researchers found that this process takes place right from the earliest stages of the disease, and that when an antibody was used in laboratory tests to prevent ASC from binding to the amyloid protein, the damaging, sticky amyloid plaque build-up was prevented.
The research team is excited about the possibility of developing a chemical treatment which can directly target inflammasomes, and hope that an Alzheimer’s “cure” might be on the horizon within the next five to 10 years.
Of course, any such chemical cure is likely to carry a slew of side effects, and will more than likely be very costly.
Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to quell inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.
The article noted that while inflammation serves the purpose of protecting your body against threatening invaders, inflammation can sometimes persist for long periods of time, even when no such threat exists. It added:
That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store.
The foods we eat we will either cause or prevent inflammation; it’s as simple as that.
Foods that cause inflammation include refined carbohydrates, fries and other junk food, soda, processed meats, margarine, and conventionally farmed meat that has been subjected to routine antibiotic and hormone treatments.
On the other side of the spectrum, foods that actively fight inflammation include most of the foods that form part of the Mediterranean diet, including tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy veggies, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and fresh, organic fruit.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that also offers other health benefits. In fact, the versatile plant can even help boost your mental health.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) comes from the rhizome or root of a flowering plant native to China, but the spice can grow in any area that is warm and humid. Aside from its use as a natural remedy for digestive disorders, ginger can also be used to address arthritis, memory loss and dementia, and muscle aches and pains.
Thanks to scientific research, experts are beginning to understand how ginger works. To date, research has identified over 100 compounds in ginger. More than 50 of these are antioxidants, which is crucial to brain health since the organ is vulnerable to free radical damage.
Ginger is often used as an anti-inflammatory, making it a popular natural remedy for arthritis. The plant’s anti-inflammatory property can also help people with brain disorders like ADHD, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, brain fog, and depression, which are often associated with chronic inflammation of the brain. Experts believe that ginger’s anti-inflammatory effects on the brain are due to two unique compounds called 6-shogaol and 10-gingerol.
Like the Indian spice turmeric, ginger also has a compound called curcumin. This compound is a natural antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral. Curcumin is a potent herbal brain supplement ingredient that can help address anxiety, brain aging, depression, and neurodegenerative diseases. (Related: What Happens To Your Body When You Start Eating Ginger Every Day.)
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Ginger for brain health
Your body is constantly under attack from oxidative stress. Oxygen in the body splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons, and electrons can often be found in pairs. These atoms, called free radicals, scavenge the body to find other electrons so they can become a pair. When these atoms are paired, they cause damage to cells, DNA, and proteins. Studies show that free radicals are linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, and Parkinson’s, among others.
Your brain is prone to free radical damage since it requires a lot of oxygen. Free radicals are caused by common factors like:
Lack of sleep
Radiation from your mobile phone and computer
Antioxidants in ginger can also protect the brain from further damage and memory loss after a stroke.
Ginger increases the level of two of the most important brain chemicals: dopamine and serotonin. Depression is strongly associated with deficient levels of both chemicals.
Dopamine is called the “motivation molecule” because it helps you focus and be productive. Dopamine is also in charge of your pleasure-reward system. Meanwhile, serotonin is known as the “happiness molecule” because it helps sustain a positive mood.
The spice is traditionally used to treat memory loss and dementia and research has determined that ginger can help improve other cognitive functions besides memory. According to a study, healthy adults given dried ginger supplements showed improvements in attention, reaction time, and working memory.
People with diabetes also rely on ginger as a natural remedy because it can help control blood sugar, especially if you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Ginger has antioxidants called gingerols that enhance insulin sensitivity and prevent certain neurological diabetic complications.
Ginger is an effective remedy that can minimize the pain of migraine headaches. The spice has similar effects to sumatriptan, a commonly prescribed migraine drug that narrows blood vessels to the brain. But unlike sumatriptan, which is associated with negative side effects, ginger can relieve migraines without any side effects.
Suggested ginger dosages
Ginger, which comes in many forms, can be used as a food and as a supplement. Ginger supplements are available as capsules, crystals, essential oils, extracts, loose powder, and tinctures.
A typical dose of ginger is one gram, and the best way to ingest this dose is by taking two ginger capsules. Most supplements contain at 500 milligrams (mg) per capsule.
Below are some ginger dosage equivalents:
One teaspoon of fresh, grated ginger root
Two droppers (or two milliliters [ml]) of liquid ginger extract
Two pieces of crystallized ginger (about a one-inch square and 1/4 inch thick for each piece)
Four cups of ginger tea (Make the tea by steeping two teaspoons of grated ginger in 32 ounces of water for five to 10 minutes.)
Possible ginger side effects and interactions
When consumed as a food, especially fresh, ginger is considered very safe with little to no side effects. However, when too much ginger is consumed in other forms, especially powdered ginger, it may cause side effects such as bloating, gas, heartburn, and nausea.
Ginger also functions as a blood thinner. Avoid taking it as a supplement if you take blood-thinning medication such as warfarin. If you take diabetes or high blood pressure medications, talk to a healthcare professional to determine adjustments to your medication if you want to take supplemental ginger.
Ginger is a versatile herbal remedy that can help relieve digestive upset, and it also offers various benefits for brain health and function. Add fresh ginger to your diet or take it as a supplement to enjoy its many benefits and improve both your physical and mental well-being.
Visit Healing.news to read more articles about ginger and other natural cures that can help improve your mental health.
Small ways to stay grounded when you’re up in the air.
I woke up in four different countries during the month of August. I started in the U.S.—California to visit my family, then back home to New York after that—followed by a trip to England, then India, and then Costa Rica. By the time I reached Central America for that last trip, I was both exhausted and exhilarated.
“How can I get your life?” people often ask me.
“It seems like every time I see you on Instagram, you’re in a new country!” others say.
“Seriously, are you ever home??” people write underneath my photos.
“Dude, you are living the dream.”
As a freelance travel and wellness writer, I’m no stranger to these sorts of comments. I dotravel a lot for work—about twice a month, I’d say—and I also understand the allure of the peripatetic lifestyle that prompts people to inquire about it in the first place. And of course I feel fortunate that I’m able to make a living traveling the world, staying in amazing hotels, and doing something exciting and awe inspiring that I truly love.
But even though I know I’m lucky to have such a lifestyle, it’s also true that traveling so much is not always easy. Most people know that frequent travel can take a toll on your physical health (what up, stale airplane air and boozy business dinners), but it can mess with your mental health, too. I have a friend who used to travel so much for work, she would often wake up in a dark hotel room and have to retrace her steps from the night before to remind herself what city she was even in—which, not surprisingly, started to throw her for a loop big time. While I’ve personally never had that extreme of an experience, I’ve definitely had moments of feeling unstable and a little shaky, like I was moving so quickly that I didn’t even have time to realize I was moving at all.
Fortunately, there are ways to sidestep the shakiness when your job requires loads of travel. I’ve developed quite a few good tactics myself over the years, which I’ve included below, but I also asked other frequent fliers in various professions for their advice on how to stay healthy while traveling, too. Consider this your ultimate guide to staying grounded, even when you spend a lot of your life up in the air.
1. Write in your journal as often as you can.
“In a life that moves so fast, it’s important that I keep track of what I’m experiencing and stay aware of how I’m feeling—which is why I keep a personal journal that allows me to gain insight, process my emotions, and establish goals. Journaling also helps me reduce any stress and or anxiety that may come with a life that is often seen from the outside as being unstable. To make sure I never let my writing habit slip, I carry my journal with me everywhere, along with a good pen, so that I can write in coffee shops, airplanes, or anywhere else.” —Ciara Johnson, 25, travel blogger who travels twice a month
2. Engage the local community to create a sense of connection and routine.
“Have a conversation with the local barista, a shop owner or a waiter. I find myself feeling more grounded in these borrowed moments of human connection.” —Erik Oberholtzer, 49, Tender Greens restaurant co-founder who lives between LA and NYC and travels frequently between both places
“Oftentimes for work, you are provided unhealthy food, especially if you’re traveling for a conference or meetings. That’s why I try to get out of schedules that are set for me and sneak in some time to connect with the location I’m in—and I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is through local food.” —Linden Schaffer, 40, founder of the wellness travel company Pravassa, who travels often overseas for up to three months at a time
3. Remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to travel at all.
“Having a sense of gratitude often helps me out of the ‘travel is a burden’ self-talk that can cause the inevitable micro-struggles of travel to appear more dramatic. Choose to celebrate the challenge of travel instead.” —Erik Oberholtzer
4. Develop an email system that works for you.
“I like to get at least three emails drafted each night and ready to send first thing in the morning. It makes me feel like I accomplished something and was productive even before getting out of bed, which is helpful when you’re traveling and you don’t have much control over timing.” —Elyse Eisen, 33, freelance publicist, travels two to three times per month, often internationally and across time zones
5. Embrace the joy of just…walking.
“I’m a Fitbit fanatic, and I try to get 12K steps every single day, no matter what I’m doing or where I am. When I’m at home, this goal often means I will take a night walk to the park near my apartment to ‘finish my steps,’ a term I both love using and also make fun of myself for using. And when I’m traveling, hitting this goal is a little easier, since I always make a point to explore the new city I’m in on foot. But while this Fitbit goal is certainly a good way to keep up my physical health no matter where I am, I’m actually more in it for the mental health benefit. It is oddly satisfying and soothing to look at my Fitbit chart and see that I am able to maintain consistency no matter where I am in the world. It makes me feel less nervous about not being home all the time when I see that I end up doing roughly the same thing no matter where I am.” —Annie Daly, 33, freelance writer who’s on the road about two times per month (and the author of this post!)
“I try to go on lots of long walks to clear my head, whether I’m listening to a podcast or trying to institute some silence/non-noise in my day. When I’m at home, I walk my dog a few times a day, which is really good for my mental health: It helps me get away from my computer screen and reset if I’m having a tough day or dealing with lots of deadlines. When I’m traveling, I remind myself to go on walks even when I don’t have a dog to force me to!” —Christine Amorose Merrill, 30, account executive who travels domestically for work weekly and internationally for fun a few times a year
6. Develop a consistent bedtime routine that works both at home and on the road.
“I try to drink chamomile tea every night before bed, whether at home or away. And I also try to be strict with myself and ban phone time while I’m drinking the tea. The combo of the routine, the lack of screen time before bed, and the tea itself really calms me and helps me unwind. If I’m being particularly on point, I’ll read fiction on my Kindle while drinking the tea—it helps me gain perspective and get out of my head.” —Bex Shapiro, 25, managing editor of Intrepid Travel, travels once a month for work and play
“I’m very dedicated to my sleep routine when I’m at home and when I travel; sleeping well can make such a huge difference in my mood and energy levels. So no matter how light I’m traveling, I always pack a super soft and luxurious eye mask. I also listen to either the same classical CD that I’ve listened to to fall asleep since I was a kid (my mom played it at my nap times!) or the Sleep With Me podcast, which is a newer discovery but can be helpful for me when I’m in strange environments.” —Christine Amorose Merrill
“I’ve been doing more or less the same thing every morning for about five years, no matter where I am in the world. First, I do a little stretching, and then I write in my dream journal (sounds cheesy, I know). I tend to write about my mental and physical state as well, which then acts like a log that I can go back to and read later. Then, I meditate for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on my schedule. If I’m feeling really out of it and wonky, I do breathing practices to quiet my mind (which is where I tend to live, especially when tired).
In doing this routine, I know that no matter where I am or how mentally or physically tired I feel, I can find a way to return to myself and know that I’m still me, just in a totally different place—and there’s a strength in knowing that. It helps that when I’m home, I still do it, so there’s always that sense of continuity in my life, which I think is what makes it so stabilizing. Having a routine is especially important in the face of constant change—something I think everyone experiences on different scales, whether they travel frequently or not.” —Yasmin Fahr, 35, founder of the membership club Loka Pack, travels about one to two times per month
7. Pack as lightly as possible.
“This sounds like a practical tip but, for me, it’s about feeling free. If I have a lot of stuff/ a suitcase with wheels, I find travel far more of a stressful faff. But the second I have a carry-on that’s light and easy to carry, I feel far less worried about travel logistics. I’m currently away for two weeks and have a small rucksack that makes me very happy!” —Bex Shapiro
“I have go-to travel outfits that I bring with me no matter where I go. I always wear the same thing on the plane, for example: black leggings, this stretchy black tank top that I’ve had for years, and a deep purple hoodie from Lululemon that has really good pockets. And then I have my go-to “night out” dress, which is blue and doesn’t wrinkle, and my yellow travel scarf, which I use as both a blanket on the plane and an accessory to dress up basically any outfit (pro tip: a yellow scarf matches anything). And even though that sounds like a plain old packing tip, it’s more than that because it’s about not having to think about packing. Thinking about packing can stress me out for days if I let it, so having a travel uniform eliminates the need to waste my precious mental energy on my wardrobe.” —Annie Daly
8. And once you arrive at your destination, unpack immediately.
“No matter how short my stay in my destination or hotel, I always fully unpack my suitcase and put away my clothes right away.” —Linden Schaffer
9. Bring little remnants of home with you when you travel.
“I always decant a bit of my favorite shower gel (LUSH’s Lord of Misrule) and bring it along just in case I luck into a good spot for a bubble bath. Its patchouli-peppercorn-vanilla smell and deep green color creates a little cauldron of home when I’m on the road.
“I also keep a plastic animal or two in my purse. Being the millionth person to take a photo of a vista or monument doesn’t feel very special, but snapping one along with, say, the little fennec fox my nephew gave me a few years ago is the best. He’ll often send me a photo back, with his matching fox perched wherever I am on his globe. Those little ‘hey, I’m thinking of you’ shout-outs are an ongoing mental connection that collapses physical distance, and a reminder that I control my emotional geography; if I love my people and they love me back, we’re close no matter where I am.”—Lauren Oster, 40, freelance writer, travels once a month, frequently overseas
10. Or seek out the same souvenir wherever you are in the world.
“Whenever I travel, I make a beeline for the nearest bookstore and ask if they have a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. I have 15 at the moment, in languages and editions from all over the world. It’s an odd title to collect, perhaps, but it always starts a conversation, and I love meeting the people (and shop cats) keeping print alive. Plus, I love how that glorious smell of a well-loved bookstore is the same around the world, as are many of the things we worry about and hold dear. And sharing a literary cultural touchstone is lethal to loneliness. ” —Lauren Oster
11. Make a point to catch the sunrise or the sunset on the first few days of your trip.
“Not only does this help reset my circadian rhythm—not sleeping is one of the fastest way to ruin your mental health!—but it shows me the beauty of the place I’m visiting.” —Linden Schaffer
12. Stay in touch with your community as much as you can.
“It can be easy to isolate yourself when you’re constantly traveling for work, but I make an effort to put my relationships first. I’ll call friends whenever I need advice, and I go out of my way to build meaningful relationships in the places I visit, too. Knowing that I have bonds both at home and abroad brings me a lot of relief, especially in moments where I feel alone.” —Ciara Johnson
“I FaceTime with my loved ones as often as I can when I’m on the road. We often underestimate the role that community plays in our mental health, so connecting face-to-face whenever possible is a key way for me to keep loneliness at bay.” —Linden Schaffer
13. Use your time on the plane to take care of yourself.
“Before I even get to my destination, I check in with myself on the plane. How? I carry a ‘stuff’ bag (the bag literally says ‘stuff’ on it), which contains spa-like items to sooth me on my journey. It includes eucalyptus oil, which I’ll rub into my hands and then breathe deeply, cupping my hands over my face; tiger balm to relax my muscles; lip balm; hand lotion; and yes, even some crystals. Plus, most people around me tend to love the smells, because who doesn’t love feeling like they’re in a spa?” —Jessica Wade Pfeffer, 34, president of JWI Public Relations, who travels about once a month
14. Actually do something with your photos when you get home.
“One of the things that is both the best and the worst about the iPhone camera is that there is so much storage, you can let your photos just sit in there and not really think about them except for when you are at a bar and want to show someone a photo from that trip you took two years ago. I know a lot of people do that, but I find that making the time to load my photos onto my computer and edit them there—even if they’re just from a business trip!—helps me process the whole experience on a deeper level once I return. Taking time to go through your photos is a great visual reminder to think about your past experiences and intentionally remember what you learned from each trip, rather than letting those lessons just slide into your memory and hope that they make their way to the surface at some point.” —Annie Daly
15. Try, as much as you can, to actually live in the moment.
“The one thing that’s helped me stay sane when I travel so much is to just be where I am. I try to submerge myself in the experience completely, and try to not think about what’s going on anywhere other than where I happen to be. To make this happen, I try to be as organized with my time as possible when I’m at home, so that I don’t have any loose ends floating around out there when I’m on the road. And I have a daughter, so staying connected to her is key, as well, and the only way I can do this. A daily phone call or a few texts will do it.” —Maria Luisa, 41, interior designer at Pegasus Hotels, who travels every other week between San Francisco and New York, and internationally every 10 weeks
16. And in the end, instead of thinking of travel as an escape from your routine, try thinking of it as a time to create a new routine.
“As the PR director for the digital nomad brand Selina, I am on the road more than I am at home. And that’s why I think it’s best to create a routine when you’re traveling rather than trying to recreate the one you have at home. For me, my on-the-road routine involves making a point to meet new people, trying to work in as many remote locations as I can, and taking the time to walk around and explore each new city I’m in. I still get tired and long for home, of course, but doing these things really helps a lot.” —Maca Capocci, 28, PR director for Selina, who travels twice a month
Living with a psychiatric disorder can be devastating for both
sufferers and their loved ones. Unfortunately, many of the solutions
offered by modern medicine do more harm than good while offering little
in the way of relief. Thankfully, researchers have discovered that a
compound in the popular Indian spice turmeric has the potential to effectively treat psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder and depression.
You may have heard the fanfare about turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties, which it gets from a compound within the spice known as curcumin. It has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and has been gaining popularity in Western medicine in recent years. This polyphenol is being revered for its protective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and is being used to help fight cancer and stop the cognitive decline of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. Non-toxic and affordable, it’s showing a lot of promise in helping deal with many of the health problems facing people today.
The same anti-inflammatory qualities that make it so good at
addressing issues like arthritis can also extend to mood disorders. Not
only does it reduce levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha and
inflammatory interleukin-1 beta, but it also reduces salivary cortisol
concentrations while raising the levels of plasma brain-derived
A study carried out by researchers at Australia’s Murdoch University
found that curcumin extracts reduced people’s anxiety and depression
scores. They noted that it was particularly effective at alleviating
anxiety. Moreover, even low doses of the spice extract were effective in
addressing depression. In addition, the researchers found it worked
quite well on those with atypical depression, which is a marker of
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Growing evidence of curcumin’s usefulness in addressing psychiatric disorders
Curcumin has been found in other studies to be just as effective as
one of the most popular SSRI antidepressants on the market, Prozac,
making it an excellent option for those who wish to avoid the negative
side effects of this psychiatric medication. It works by raising levels
of dopamine and serotonin, two vital neurotransmitters related to
depression. In addition, because depression is believed to be caused by
chronic inflammation, it makes sense that curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation could alleviate depression.
Interestingly, studies have also found that when curcumin is taken
either alone or with saffron, it reduces the symptoms of anxiety and
depression in those suffering from major depressive disorder. When taken
alongside the herb fenugreek, meanwhile, it can reduce fatigue, stress
and anxiety in those with extreme occupational stress. Curcumin
supplementation has also been shown to significantly improve
compulsiveness and memory loss in those with obsessive-compulsive
It’s also worth noting that curcumin can be taken alongside
antidepressants safely; studies have even shown taking the two together
can enhance their effectiveness.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that antidepressants carry a
lot of risks, so it’s worth exploring whether curcumin alone could be
enough to alleviate an individual’s depression.
The idea of curcumin helping with mood is supported by a study that was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry earlier this year. In that study, researchers found that participants who took curcumin supplements
noted mood improvements, and they plan to explore this connection in a
study of patients with depression. The researchers expressed optimism
that curcumin could be a safe way to provide people with cognitive
benefits; they also discovered the spice can improve memory.
Now, researchers are looking for ways to increase curcumin’s
bioavailability so that people can enjoy the benefits of this all-star
natural treatment. In the meantime, be sure to add black pepper to your
dishes when cooking with turmeric or look for curcumin supplements that contain piperine, a black pepper extract, as this boosts its bioavailability.
The physics community needs to have a serious discussion about the mental health challenges facing graduate students.
There is a great stigma about discussing one’s own mental health in our society. As a result, many people don’t know that others in their community have already found solutions or support for their issue.
This is a serious problem, especially in academia. A study this month in Research Policy concludes that about half of PhD students experience at least two symptoms of mental illness, and one-third have had at least four symptoms. Other formal and informal studies of graduate students have found that nearly half have symptoms aligning with depression; the biggest cause is difficulty taking care of family needs because of the demands of work. Despite groups such as Vanguard Women of Color in STEM and oSTEM that have recently held discussions on the topic, the physics community as a whole has yet to have a serious conversation about mental health.
In 2012 I entered my physics PhD program with a history of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, along with suspected ADHD and PTSD. The stress of the program exacerbated those issues to the point that, although I wasn’t considering leaving graduate school, I didn’t care about my well-being.
I turned to the Georgia Tech Counseling Center, which offers free individual and group counseling. Each student is entitled to only a limited number of individual sessions per year, so I attended group therapy. Besides consistency, I also wanted something inexpensive. Even with student insurance, weekly sessions of off-campus counseling would cost at minimum $160 a month, which was not something I could afford on my student stipend.
Group therapy was vital for me during my first year of graduate school, but it was not enough. At the end of the year, I added psychiatry appointments from the student health center. The doctor prescribed me antidepressants to reduce depression and anxiety. My fiancé is also a physics PhD student, and with his support I was able to get―and continue to get―the help I need to be productive. Apart from him, very few people in my daily work life were aware of my issues and how hard it was for me to do simple tasks like getting out of bed, showering, or reading an email.
Many people think of depression as generalized unhappiness, but they don’t realize the physical effects and impacts on day-to-day actions. For me, depression often comes in the form of sleepless nights, which make me tired throughout the day. Other times it emerges as cascading thoughts that cause me to lose my focus, or as headaches that make doing anything difficult. Often there is a fight inside my brain over which work to start on first; ultimately I do nothing because I can’t determine the best use of my time.
Starting a much-needed discussion
Although it remains a challenge, I am mostly able to be productive. I’ve also become active in mentoring other physics students. That is how I realized that many of my peers are experiencing mental health issues that are not getting addressed or treated sufficiently.
It was after I began those interactions with other students that I decided to broach the subject in a more public setting. I led a small conversation in my department about how to support those going through depression and other mental health issues. At that time, I was not “out”—I spoke as someone external from the group of people dealing with difficult mental health situations.
The conversation was dominated by two students. The first insisted that by going to the counseling center, it would be on his “record” and he would not be able to get a job. That’s false but a common concern. The other student questioned the merits of helping people with depression. If they were depressed, the student said, surely they were not doing as well as neurotypical people who would be better suited for jobs. As someone who suffered from depression yet was doing research, presenting at meetings, organizing a group, and running a conference, that angered me. However, in the eyes of that student and others, depressed people were hypothetical—I could not have been one of them because I would have been home in bed.
Many of the nearly 3700 PhD students surveyed recently in Belgium reported symptoms associated with mental health problems. Source: K. Levecque et al., Research Policy46, 868, 2017.
Felt under constant strain
Unhappy and depressed
Lost sleep over worry
Lost confidence in self
Could not make decisions
Reported at least two symptoms
Reported at least four symptoms
My second attempt at promoting discussion of mental health took place at the 2016 American Physical Society (APS) Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWIP) at Georgia Tech. I chaired a session on dealing with depression and anxiety as a student. Naturally, I was very anxious going into the session. What if no one was interested? What if no one found it useful? To my surprise, the room was packed. The visiting chair of one of the 2017 conference sites attended and said she would incorporate such a session into future meetings. At least four CUWIPs this year have had sessions on mental health, and they have proved popular.
Most recently I had the opportunity to host an invited session at the APS 2017 March Meeting in New Orleans called “Stress & Strain: Mental Health and Graduate School.” I spoke to 40 or so physicists about the nitty-gritty details of dealing with my depression over the course of 10 years, including individual and group counseling, medications, suicidal thoughts, weight gain and loss, insomnia, and anxiety attacks. I was not quite sure how this would be received. It was the first time I ever said out loud to anyone who wasn’t a counselor that I had wanted to die.
What kept me going during the session was the nodding I saw from various audience members. We continued with talks by Kartik Kothari of the Yesplus group, which helps students de-stress; Angela Zalucha of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Working Group on Accessibility and Disability; and Simonetta Liuti, who mentors a student with autism. We concluded with a panel made up of our speakers and Rachael Mansbach, another graduate student who had been dealing with mental illness. The habits and experiences that the panel members talked about—hiding from emails, feeling so overwhelmed that they could only lie in bed all weekend—really resonated with me and with audience members.
Taking the next step
Afterward, many people came up to talk to me. They thanked me for the session and asked about what was next. Would we do another session next year? Could we form a group like the one at AAS? I took down names and contact information with hopes of doing something in the future. Many physics students are isolated in departments in which mental health discussion is taboo. For two and a half hours a small group of us had broken that taboo. But what could we do now?
To have more discussions, either on a department level or at conferences like the APS March Meeting, is definitely a start to removing stigma. The first major step is realizing you are not alone and getting help from those who have shared experiences. I always emphasize that it is okay to find a new therapist if you feel your current one is not supporting you in the way you need.
Beyond small discussions, we still need to figure out what we can do as a community to support physicists with mental health issues. We might start by emulating LGBT+ Physicists, which provides support and resources to LGBTQIA+ physical scientists. After creating a best-practices guide for physics departments, the organization formed the APS Ad Hoc Committee on LGBT Issues and compiled data for the 2016 LGBT Climate in Physics report.
Another priority must be educating faculty who encourage unhealthy work habits. I have been lucky to have an adviser who supports my attending weekly counseling sessions, but that is not the case for many others. Students have talked to me about how their advisers told them to stop going to counseling sessions and to be in the office from 9am to 8pm, regardless of health or mood.
Department leaders can also take a more proactive role. Georgia Tech physics graduate adviser Andrew Zangwill spoke to our class of first-year students about resources on campus, including the counseling center. The talk set the tone for students to feel supported and to know that, at least in one physics department, discussion of mental health was not taboo.
The two-year study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), observed more than 2,500 high school students from Los Angeles.
Digital media and the attention span of teenagers
A team of researchers analyzed data from the teenagers who had shorter attention spans the more they became involved in different digital media platforms for the duration of the experiment.
The JAMA study observed adolescents aged 15 and 16 years periodically for two years. The researchers asked the teenagers about the frequency of their online activities and if they had experienced any of the known symptoms of ADHD.
As the teenagers’ digital engagement rose, their reported ADHD symptoms also went up by 10 percent. The researchers noted that based on the results of the study, even if digital media usage does not definitively cause ADHD, it could cause symptoms that would result in the diagnosis of ADHD or require pharmaceutical treatment.
Experts believe that ADHD begins in the early stages of childhood development. However, the exact circumstances, regardless if they are biological or environmental, have yet to be determined.
Adam Leventhal, a University of Southern California psychologist and senior author of the study, shared that the research team is now analyzing the occurrence of new symptoms that were not present when the study began.
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The researchers concluded that the teenagers might have exhibited ADHD symptoms from the outset due to other factors. However, it is possible that excessive digital media usage can still aggravate these symptoms.
Fast facts about ADHD
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is commonly diagnosed in children. However, it can also be diagnosed in older individuals. ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. Since several symptoms of ADHD are similar to normal childhood behaviors, the disorder itself can be hard to detect.
The symptoms of ADHD may include forgetting completed tasks, having difficulty sitting still, having difficulty staying organized, and having trouble concentrating or focusing.
Men are at least three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.
During their lifetimes, at least 13 percent of men will be diagnosed with ADHD, as opposed to only 4.2 percent in women.
The average age of ADHD diagnosis is seven years old.
The symptoms of the condition will usually manifest when a child is aged three to six years old.
ADHD is not solely a childhood disorder. At least four percent of American adults older than 18 may have ADHD.
This disorder does not increase an individual’s risk for other conditions or diseases. However, some people with ADHD, mostly children, have a higher chance of experiencing different coexisting conditions. These can make social situations, like school, more difficult for kids with ADHD.
Some coexisting conditions of ADHD may include:
Conduct disorders and difficulties (e.g., antisocial behavior, fighting, and oppositional defiant disorder)
Smart phones and tablets have become a cancerous growth in our lives – never leaving us, feeding off our essence, and sucking away our attention, life, and energy. Social media is like an aggressive form of brain cancer, attaching to our mind, addicting us to cheap dopamine rushes, replacing human interaction with a digital façade of living. Stealing away our time, technology has become a disease that infiltrates our mental and social health, leaving us depressed, anxious, worried, envious, arrogant, and socially isolated.
What we type and text to others causes over-thinking, rumination, and misunderstanding. The way we respond with type and text can be misinterpreted, leading to social strain in relationships. Digital communication lacks the natural flow of body language, eye contact, touch, voice inflection, tone, and real-life rapport. Accustomed to digital communication, people lose their ability to have adult conversations. This hurts everyone’s ability to work together, discuss ideas, solve problems, and overcome multi-faceted challenges.
Popular social media platforms prey on human weaknesses
On Facebook, the pursuit of likes and comments can become an addicting sensation. When the attention fails to come in, the Facebook user may feel unheard or undesirable. When the user sees their friends getting more likes, they may perceive other people having a better life than they do, leading to depressed feelings. (Related: Former Facebook exec: “Social media is ripping society apart.“)
On Twitter, communication is limited to short bursts. These bursts encourage people to engage in divisive language that is used in inflammatory ways and is easily misunderstood. Twitter is used to build a “following” which becomes a high-school-esque popularity contest that easily inflates egos and gives a platform to the most annoying ones in the bunch.
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Instagram and Snapchat have become more popular as well, making users anxious to show off their lives online 24-7. This infatuation with documenting every moment is an anxious, self-absorbed way to live and it does the person no good, because these technology gimmicks interrupt the actual moment and disturb the flow of real life. Do we really think that everyone cares about every picture, every meal, and everything that we do? As the digital world continues to bloat up with information, pictures, and voices, all of it loses its value and sacredness. Over time, no one genuinely cares. The louder a person gets on social media, the more annoying they are perceived.
Technology addiction destroys sleep, leads teenagers to other addictive substances
As parents pacify their children with screens, the children are exposed to constant light stimulation which excites brain chemicals. The colorful games and videos over-stimulate the child’s mind, making them addicted to the sensation. Consequentially the child becomes more restless and behavioral distress increases over the long term.
Technology has made our lives more selfish, isolated, and interrupted. Social media has preyed on our weaknesses, trapping us in its mesmerizing facade of happiness. According to SurvivoPedia, teenagers who spend more than five hours a day on their devices are at a 72 percent higher risk for suicide risk factors. In order to alleviate the mental health issues associated with social media, teenagers may turn to other addictive substances to take the edge off.
Additionally, these devices interfere with healthy sleep patterns — which are essential for proper brain development. The onslaught of blue light and electromagnetic frequency interferes with healthy melatonin levels in the brain. The things that we post online can keep us up at night as well. The addiction to check the phone for responses and likes can keep a person up, too. All this brain excitement and depression throws off the body’s circadian rhythm, leading to poor sleep and mental fatigue during the daytime.
Being healthy, and being healthy with diabetes, means different things to different people!
Because there’s no single answer when it comes to what constitutes being “healthy,” this post won’t be about how I think you should live your life in order to be healthy, but rather the different components of being healthy with diabetes and how I think about them.
Then it’s up to you to make your own definition of what health looks like to you.
Why is it important to think through what health is and how you would define it, you might ask? Well, it’s important because:
It can help you evaluate what health aspects of your life you need to focus on,
It can help you set tangible goals for what you want for your health and can make goal setting easier, and
It can remove some of the emotional noise surrounding the word “health,” making it less important how others define it and only truly important how you define it.
When identifying the components of health, I lean towards the definition that health includes physical, mental, and social balance rather than simply the absence of illness.
What I like about that definition is that it recognizes that those of us living with a chronic condition can still be healthy. And I truly believe that we can be!
I have diabetes, but I still consider myself quite healthy.
When it comes to physical health, I think of it as a body that is well nourished, exercised, rested, in general balance, and with well-managed blood sugars. That’s a tall order and it could be even taller, for as mentioned, the exact definition will be up to you.
If I were to evaluate my physical health, I would ask myself:
Is my exercise routine (volume and intensity) giving me energy and building stamina and strength or is it taking energy, making me feel drained or bored?
Am I getting enough quality sleep?
How do I feel? Is my digestion working as it should, am I energized, etc.?
Is my diabetes affecting my physical well-being, and if it is, am I spending the energy needed to manage my diabetes according to my diabetes management goals?
An assessment like this is, of course, subjective, but I think it’s a good starting point for identifying what’s important to us individually when it comes to physical health and help make an improvement plan if needed.
There is a lot of overlap between our physical and mental health, especially when it comes to living with diabetes. Mental health, of course, encompasses so much more than what’s related to diabetes, but I will focus on diabetes in this post.
My top 3 list for a mental health self-check would be:
Am I at risk of any degree of diabetes burnout and what are some of the preventive measures I can take?
Am I being kind to myself by building myself up and not talking myself down? Am I accepting that I can’t control everything about my diabetes and therefore never will be in complete “control?”
Do I prioritize my happiness and continue to have a positive outlook on life and my diabetes management?
I find that just thinking through these three points can help address unhealthy mental behavior and be a cornerstone for making positive changes if needed.
Finally, we have social health. This one took me a little longer to define since I tend to bundle it in with mental health checks. However, the more I think about it, the more I think that it needs to stand on its own.
When I think of social health in a diabetes context, I think of how we as people living with diabetes allow others to interact with our condition. It’s how we react when people ask about it, how we interact with other people living with diabetes, and how we tackle food choices when “in the wild.”
The things I’ve found useful to work on when it comes to my social (diabetes) health are:
How do I handle times when I’m not comfortable sharing my diabetes with others? I think it’s okay to not want to talk diabetes with others sometimes, but I also acknowledge that people don’t necessarily know or understand that, so I need strategies to handle those situations.
Acknowledging that my diabetes management is “mine” because only I can define what success is. It may differ significantly from other people’s definitions of success when it comes to blood sugar control and food choices. And that’s okay.
Learning how to say no to food pushers or people implying (or telling me directly) that there are certain things I can’t eat.
Developing strategies for dealing with food (carb counting) uncertainty when I am eating out or in social settings.
As mentioned, this is how I think about the three health categories and what’s important to me when it comes to my physical, mental, and social balance.
I encourage you to think of minimally three things for each category that are important to you and then make them a priority. Sometimes all it takes to see a significant improvement in one’s health is to focus and make a few small adjustments.
Although being black in this world certainly comes with its struggles, I wouldn’t trade that integral part of my identity for anything. Black-girl magic is real. But it’s a sad fact that black women are often plagued with disproportionately high incidences or mortality rates for various health conditions, like heart disease, breast cancer, and more.
It sounds scary—and it can be—but knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your physical and mental health. Here are eight health conditions black women should be especially aware of, plus how to best prevent them.
1. Heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
These conditions often occur together or exacerbate each other, and they’re striking black women hard.
Around 7.6 percent of black women have heart disease, compared to 5.8 percent of white women and 5.6 percent of Mexican-American women, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2011-2013. In 2016, around 46 of every 100,000 black women died from strokes, while 35 of every 100,000 white women did. And while white women’s diabetes diagnosis rate is 5.4 per 100, that number is 9.9 per 100 for black women, according to CDC data from 1980-2014—almost double.
A group of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome increases a person’s chance of getting these diseases. These risk factors include having a waist circumference above 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men, high levels of triglycerides (fat in the blood), a low HDL (“good”) cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar.
Someone must have at least three of these factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, but having even one can signal higher chances of getting heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Those first two are particularly lethal, killing one woman about every 80 seconds.
The black community’s obesity crisis is a symbol of just how at-risk this segment of the population is. “The vast majority of African-American adult women are either overweight or obese,” Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SELF. While 37.6 percent of black men ages 20 or over are obese according to the latest data, that number jumps to 56.9 percent for black women. It stands at 36.2 percent for white women.
Various genetic components are likely at play with metabolic syndrome—for instance, some research points to a gene that might make black people more sensitive to salt, thus influencing blood pressure—but much of this issue is societal.
“It’s the foods we eat—many communities don’t have easy access to healthier options,” Dr. Hutcherson says. A 2013 study in Preventive Medicine found that “poor, predominantly black neighborhoods face…the most limited access to quality food.” Dr. Hutcherson also cites stress and adds that a lack of exercise can be a problem, too, if it’s hard to get access to a gym or the neighborhood isn’t safe.
Lifestyle changes like eating better, exercising, and stopping smoking can prevent 80 percent of heart disease events and stroke and lower people’s chances of developing diabetes, according to the CDC. But clearly, that’s sometimes easier said than done.
2. Breast cancer
Black women have a 1 in 9 chance of developing breast cancer; for white women the odds are 1 in 8, according to the American Cancer Society. But black women are more likely to die from the disease: White women’s probability of dying from breast cancer is 1 in 37, while black women’s is 1 in 31.
“The reasons why black women are more likely to die [from breast cancer than other groups] are very complex,” Adrienne Phillips, M.D., oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF, citing “an interplay between genetics, biology, and environment.”
Along with BRCA mutations (which may be higher in black women than experts previously thought), black women are more likely to get triple-negative breast cancer—a particularly aggressive form of the disease—than women of other races. Then there are the environmental factors Dr. Phillips mentions, like socioeconomic issues that lead to trouble accessing early diagnosis and treatment.
Much like metabolic syndrome, lowering your risk of getting breast cancer mainly comes down to exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not going overboard on alcohol, and quitting smoking. And even though major organizations haven’t found a notable benefit from breast self-exams, many doctors strongly recommend you check your breasts monthly so you’re aware of any changes.
3. Cervical cancer
Research published in January in the journal Cancer found that not only are black women more likely to die of cervical cancer than women of other races, they’re also 77 percent more likely to die from it than experts previously thought. Prior estimates said 5.7 black women per 100,000 would die of the disease, but this new research puts the number at 10.1 per 100,000.
“Unlike breast cancer, cervical cancer is absolutely preventable in this day and age,” Dr. Phillips says. “In 2017, no woman should be diagnosed with cervical cancer.”
That’s partly because the HPV vaccine is excellent at preventing infection of certain strains of human papillomavirus that can go on to cause cancer. But as of August 2016, only 6 out of 10 girls ages 13 to 17 and 5 of 10 boys in the same age range had started the vaccine series, which doctors recommend getting before age 26 for optimal results. Racial disparities are relevant here—a 2014 report from the CDC showed that around 71 percent of white girls 13 to 17 had completed the three-shot series, compared with about 62 percent of black girls in that age group. (The CDC changed these recommendations in 2016: It now says only two doses are necessary for optimal protection if the patient is between 11 and 12, but three are still ideal if the patient is between 15 and 26.)
Timely Pap smears are also wonderfully effective at preventing full-blown cervical cancer. “A Pap smear will detect preinvasive cervical cancer, but…studies have shown women who are having Pap smears may not get appropriate follow-up,” Dr. Phillips says. “A number of barriers exist for proper follow-up, and African-American women may be more vulnerable.”
Another potential factor, though, may be racial disparities in cervical cancertreatment. A 2014 study published in Plos One found that black women in Maryland were significantly less likely than white women to get surgery for cervical cancer instead of radiation or chemotherapy.
“Equivalent treatments are not being administered to white and black patients with cervical cancer in Maryland,” the study authors concluded. “Differences in care may contribute to racial disparities in outcomes for women with cervical cancer.”
A 2016 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reached a similar conclusion. The study looked at more than 16,000 patients who had received care for advanced cervical cancer, finding that white women received National Cancer Institute guideline–based care 58 percent of the time, black women 53 percent of the time, and Hispanic women 51.5 percent of the time.
“Most of the time, women don’t know they have fibroids because they don’t have symptoms,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “But when [the fibroids] start to grow or increase in number, they can cause a large number of problems, from pain to bleeding to miscarriages, to problems with urination and problems with bowel movements.”
These symptoms can have a lot of other causes, but if you do have fibroids, you and your doctors can work on a treatment plan. To tackle heavy bleeding and pelvic pain, your doctor may recommend hormonal birth control. But doctors can also perform a myomectomy to remove the fibroids or use techniques like uterine artery embolization and radiofrequency ablation to either block the fibroid from getting nutrients or shrink it.
If you’re done having children or are not interested in having them in the first place, as a last resort, doctors can perform a hysterectomy to put a definitive end to fibroids. Since this makes it impossible to get pregnant, it’s an incredibly delicate decision that varies from woman to woman.
5. Premature delivery
Giving birth prematurely, or going into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy, can predispose a child to breathing issues, digestive problems, brain bleeding, and long-term developmental delays. It can also lead to death—the earlier a baby is born, the higher this danger becomes.
Unfortunately, black women are particularly susceptible to going into labor too early. According to the CDC, the 2015 preterm birth rate in black women was 13 percent; for white women it was 9 percent.
“This is multifactorial—it can be affected by obesity, by stress, by diet, by increased vaginal infections, and the decreased access to care in some of our populations,” Dr. Hutcherson says. Women having access to prenatal care is incredibly important for slashing the risk of preterm birth, but when socioeconomics come into the picture, it becomes a complex situation with too few solutions. However, the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health is working on a variety of state- and national-level initiatives to reduce preterm birth in all women.
6. Sickle cell disease
This is an umbrella term for a collection of inherited, lifelong blood disorders that around 1 of every 365 black babies is born with, according to the CDC. Sickle cell disease is caused by a sickle hemoglobin, which happens when the structure of a person’s hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to the red blood cells, is abnormal. Instead of being circular, their red blood cells can look like sickles, a C-shaped farming tool, Dr. Phillips explains.
Sickle-shaped red blood cells can get destroyed in the blood stream, so patients may become anemic. These cells can also clog blood vessels, which can lead to infection, chest pain, and even stroke. And if a pregnant woman has sickle cell disease, it increases the probability of miscarriage, premature birth, and having a baby with a low birth weight, according to the March of Dimes.
Black women who are considering children should get screened for sickle cell no matter what, Dr. Phillips says. It’s possible to not have the disease but have the sickle cell trait, meaning you inherited one sickle cell gene and one normal gene from your parents. If your partner also has sickle cell trait, there is a 25 percent chance your child will inherit sickle cell disease. According to a CDC estimate from 2014, 73 out of every 1,000 black newborns was born with sickle cell trait, compared with 3 out of every 1,000 white newborns.
With proper care and caution to avoid complications, kids with sickle cell disease can live healthy, happy lives, Phillips says—it’s essential for their parents to get the proper education about how to keep them safe.
7. Sexually transmitted diseases
Here’s a bit of good news: Rates of reported chlamydia cases in black people decreased 11.2 percent from 2011 to 2015, according to the CDC. There was a similar downward trend with gonorrhea, which declined 4 percent in that time frame. But black women still outpace other groups when it comes to new diagnoses of these diseases, along with new diagnoses of syphilis.
This problem also extends to HIV/AIDS. Besides black men, black women comprise a majority of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses per year (although the number is thankfully falling). For example, according to the CDC, in 2015, 4,524 black women were diagnosed with HIV in the United States, while 1,431 white women and 1,131 Hispanic/Latina women received the same diagnosis.
“It’s not like black women are having more sex than anyone else,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “Access to good preventive care is the crux of it—if [women] could see health care providers on a regular basis and be educated about what they should be doing to take care of themselves, we probably wouldn’t have as much of a problem.”
Economic insecurity is also an element—condoms and dental dams cost money, after all—as is a general reticence to discuss safe sex.
“There’s a stigma around talking about sex, so people engage in risky sexual activity without protection,” Dr. Hutcherson says.
8. Mental health issues
In addition to the usual biological culprits that can contribute to mental illnessissues, economic insecurity and racism can negatively impact mental health status in the black community.
Overall, black people are 10 percent more likely to report experiencing serious psychological distress than white people, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
“In 2017, we still face a lot of economic insecurity and racism in general. It’s a problem that causes stress and anxiety, which then can lead into depression, and that’s something we never discuss,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “I wish we could make it more acceptable to talk about this and seek care.” Just like in many other cultures, the black community is wrestling with the stigma of seeking help for mental distress. There’s also the reduced access to this kind of counseling in the first place, and the fact that mental health care can be prohibitively expensive. Many counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists don’t take health insurance, which may deter people from getting the help they need. Combined, these factors resulted in 9.4 percent of black adults getting mental health treatment or some form of counseling in 2014 versus 18.8 percent of white people age 18 and older, per the Office of Minority Health.
Black women are especially vulnerable to wrestling with their mental health, consistently reporting higher feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and the sense that everything is an effort than white women do. “Black women are frequently the pillars of our community, taking care of everyone’s health but our own,” Dr. Phillips says. “But it’s very important for women to practice self-care and not forget about themselves when trying to be so strong.”