Suicide Prevention – Communities of Support

Everyone has been touched by suicide in some way, shape, or form. For some, depression or a mental disorder may prevent them from living their best life. For others, anxiety is part of their daily life. Or someone may have a family member, friend, or neighbor who is suffering. For those dealing with such feelings, it can feel immensely isolating and lonely.

This week, during National Suicide Prevention Week, we’re here to remind you that you are not alone. There are organizations, resources, groups, and communities dedicated to helping anyone who needs it. There’s the saying, “it takes a village,” and it couldn’t be more true. Life takes a village and there is a community out there for everyone to be a part of. Here are just a few of those communities that are accessible online, to anyone from anywhere.

Humans of New York (link:

Recently, an anonymous story ( shared on Humans of new York (Hony) has gone viral about the importance of therapy and seeking help. This man’s story has been shared all across the internet, hitting close to home for many who have been touched directly or indirectly by depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicide.

Photographer Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York as a photography project which quickly grew into a quirky, accepting community of not only New Yorkers but citizens of the world. Currently, Stanton is sharing stories of veterans affected by depression and PTSD and has partnered with The Headstrong Project ( to bring awareness and help to the community.

Post Secret (

Frank Warren, the keeper of secrets, created a community where people anonymously send in their secrets and share their most private, vulnerable thoughts with the world. Many have been touched by the secrets they’ve read or found connection through secrets shared. For some, reading these secrets helped them realize they are less alone than they think, and Post Secret has become an advocate and supporter for suicide prevention. New secrets are shared each week on Sundays and the secrets are often about depression and suicide. On Post Secret’s website, Frank shares a list of resources for those who are in need of help(

There are so many communities, resources, and people out there who want to help. If you or someone you know are hurting and need someone to talk to, you can safely call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline ( and speak to someone at any hour of the day.

Another long-standing community, especially for teens, is the non-profit organization, To Write Love on Her Arms ( TWLOHA, dedicated to helping bring hope and help to those struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, or thoughts of suicide.

You Can Not Be Replaced ( is a community solely dedicated to building communities and strengthening communication in young people and their families to help prevent

It Gets Better Project ( is an organization dedicated to helping the LGBT youth around the world. This community helps provide a pathway to resources for LGBT youth struggling and in need of support, as well as a place to share hope, love and stories from other LGBT people.

The World Needs More Love Letters ( is an organization designed to build a community of love and support. Here, you can write letters of love and encouragement to make an impact to someone who needs a lift.

These are just a few of the many communities out there dedicated to helping a friend, or stranger, in need. Help us grow our list of communities by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below!


What Does It Feel Like to Use the Wrong Bathroom?

BathroomMeredith Russo, in her compelling New York Times Op-Ed piece What It Feels Like to Use the Wrong Bathroom, writes about her experience of doing something as a transgender woman that many of us take for granted: using the restroom while at work. She describes the day she came in to work for the first time dressed as a woman. It was 2013 and she was working at a call center:

Things went well at first, with co-workers taking it in stride and customers reading my voice as female, but then one of my bosses demanded to speak with me.
She wanted to talk about bathrooms.
“Have you had the surgery?” she asked. (Have you ever talked about your genitals with a superior at work? It’s not exactly a party.) I told her no. “Well, then, you’ll have to use the men’s until you do. We can’t risk a lawsuit.”
I headed to the men’s room, where I waited for the solitary stall to open up. I considered going all punk rock, hiking up my skirt at a urinal and flipping off any man who looked at me funny. But there is probably no meeker creature on earth than a newly transitioned woman.
The man who emerged from the stall looked at me as if I were a jug of spoiled milk. I waited on the toilet until the bathroom was empty again, but as soon as I started washing my hands, another man entered. He looked at me for a long time and then made a beeline for the urinal next to the sink, inches away from me, his stare never breaking.
There was a lot of turnover at this job, so every two weeks a fresh batch of employees seemed to come in. This meant that every two weeks new men would come into the bathroom, assume they’d accidentally entered the women’s room when they saw me there, and then glare at me when they figured it out. Some insisted that I was in the wrong place — until they realized what I was, and got really angry. It got so bad that I stopped going to the bathroom at work altogether, and I developed urinary tract infections. So then I stopped drinking water before and during work.

Russo is from Tennessee, where the law does not currently bar her from using the women’s restroom. Law aside, however, she lived in fear of being fired for disobeying her employer’s wishes, choosing to instead jeopardize her health. Eventually, she found a way to leave the situation altogether:

After a year, a book deal let me quit my job to write full time. Nobody can harass me for using my own bathroom. In many ways, I have it easier than others: I’m white, and I sort of pass when I’m wearing makeup. I haven’t been assaulted or raped, a common experience for trans people.
That doesn’t mean it’s not still an issue when I have to use a public restroom. The fear is still there — that someone will take offense, get angry and attack me, or that I’ll be made to leave a business, that I’ll be accused of sexual misconduct, arrested and sent to men’s jail.
That’s the main thing I wish the supporters of these laws would realize: We are much more frightened of you than you are of us.

You can read more by Russo in her young adult novel “If I Was Your Girl” and find the full text of the article excerpted above here.

Ovarian Cancer-A Survivor’s Story

Ovarian Cancer Survivor
Lorette Vacchiano, Mother, Teacher, and Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Ovarian Cancer is the 5th Leading Cause of Death Among Women…And Most Women Don’t Know It Exists

When Lorette Vacchiano awoke one night with a stabbing abdominal pain, she assumed she was having worse-than-usual cramps. She was young, healthy and active, so she figured there was nothing to worry about.

She had no idea that the next day, she’d be having her right ovary surgically removed.

At 41 years-old, Lorette had stage two ovarian cancer. How could this happen?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death among women in the U.S. – and yet most women know little to nothing about the disease. . . And since your regular pap test doesn’t test for ovarian cancer, it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

Read on to learn more about Lorette’s battle with ovarian cancer.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I was a public school teacher for 30 years. When I found out I had ovarian cancer, I was still teaching. My hobbies at that time were exercising, aerobics and dancing. I was also a volunteer at my church. I was a very active person.

Tell me about your symptoms. What did you think was going on?

It was right after Christmas. During the holidays, you tend to eat more. I noticed I couldn’t button the top button of my jeans. I thought I overate and gained weight. I continued to exercise and didn’t think anything of it. I went on with no other symptoms.

One morning, I woke up in severe abdominal pain. As the day went on, the pain got worse. My neighbor took me to the ER, and that’s when I found out. Other than the abdominal pain, I didn’t have any symptoms.

It almost sounds like there are no tell-tale signs of ovarian cancer.

Bloating was the only symptom I had. I’m religious about getting a regular pap; I’m very proactive with my health. I had no idea this was growing inside me. If I didn’t have the pain, I would’ve gone onto stages three and four of the cancer. More than likely, the tumor was twisting to cause the pain. When they did the biopsy and removed the tumor, it was the size of a grapefruit.

You had a lot of complications after your operation. Why?

It’s the way my body healed. I was in and out of the hospital for four months. At the time, I was divorced and raising two young children. It was hard on my parents and sister-in-law.

What kind of support system did you have?

I have wonderful friends and family who were supportive. But I did not find the medical community supportive at all, with the exception of my one surgeon who confided to me that he had cancer. But the medical community as a whole wasn’t very empathic to me.

Were you able to connect with other survivors?

Not really. At the time – and this was in the ‘90s – I don’t know that there were any support groups.

What’s the most important thing women need to know about ovarian cancer?

The pap test doesn’t test for ovarian cancer – only cervical cancer. Most women don’t know that. When I talked about it with other teachers, they were like, “But I go to the gyno!” They thought the same thing I did. They had no clue.

Regarding the symptoms, this is what I’ve learned: if a symptom persists for a period of time, say two to three months, you have to investigate. Be an advocate for yourself. Tell your doctor you’re concerned. The earlier you do that, the better.

Are you currently cancer-free?

I am. The thing that is incredible is that I had no returns. I was one of the lucky ones.

What’s your best advice for women struggling with ovarian cancer?

There are lots of support groups and foundations (like the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the Share support group). It’s important to be connected – to not go through this alone. The more positive you are, the better.

To learn more about ovarian cancer and what you can do to help, check out the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

New York Magazine : “I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen”

We’re so proud of these 35 women for their tremendous bravery by appearing in New York Magazine’s cover story. It takes so much for victims of abuse to come forward and, by shining a light on the real people, we hope it encourages more victims to tell their stories. #endrapeculture

Here is the article.  ‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen

Living with an Autoimmune Disease + What You Can Do About It

Susan Bires Autoimmune Disease
Susan Bires, pictured above with her husband and kids, is one of FemmePharma’s nutritionists and is living with MS

An autoimmune disease is like an enigma in the medical world – and yet there’s an excellent chance that you or someone you know has one and doesn’t even know it. Considering that women are three times more likely to have one, we thought we’d help shed some light on what it’s like living with one and a few tips on easing the pain.

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

When your body can’t tell the difference between itself and foreign invaders and subsequently creates antibodies that attack normal cells, the resulting damage is an autoimmune disease. There are more than 80 known types and symptoms can be all over the place – everything from extreme fatigue to sensitivity to light to arthritis, like this woman experiences.

Because there are no telltale symptoms and it’s possible to show zero symptoms for long periods of time, autoimmune diseases are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. For those suffering from one, this can get incredibly frustrating.

Who Gets Autoimmune Diseases?

Women are a lot more likely to get an autoimmune disease, usually around their childbearing years. Those with a family history are more at risk, but environmental factors could trigger them too. Finally, some autoimmune diseases are more common to those of certain races. Lupus is an autoimmune disease and it’s significantly more common in African American and Hispanic people.

What Can Someone With an Autoimmune Disease Do to Stay Healthy?

If you or someone you know has an autoimmune disease, there are a few things you can do to feel better more consistently. We talked to Nutritionist Susan Bires for her top tips for staying healthy while living with an autoimmune disease.

  1. Reduce Stress

“One way I do this as a full-time worker and parent of two is to plan out what I’m having for dinner before I go grocery shopping,” Susan says. “This takes the “What am I having for dinner?” daily stress away. I have everything I need at my fingertips to whip up a healthy dinner fast. If you don’t have a plan, most people wind up making poor nutritional choices.”

  1. Take Your Vitamins

Susan specifically recommends taking a broad spectrum probiotic and vitamin D to boost your immune system.


  1. Excercise

… and do it consistently. “This is one of the best  things you can do to keep yourself strong and boost your energy level,” she says.

  1. Catch Some Z’s

Getting at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis will also help boost your energy level.

  1. Pile on the Veggies

“If you are not already, increase the frequency and quantity of vegetables in your diet,” Susan says. “Instead of eggs and toast, have eggs and kale. Improving your culinary skill level will help you to eat a healthier diet overall.”

For more info on autoimmune diseases, check out

Do you or someone you know have an autoimmune disease? What do you do to stay healthy? Share with us in the comments!


ROAR for Good: How One Woman is Leading the Charge Against Sexual Assault

Roar Sexual AssaultEach year, there are about 293,000 cases of sexual assault. More than half of those crimes go unreported, and 98 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail. Not feeling physically ill yet?

Sexual assault statistics are so ridiculously high that there’s good chance that you or someone you know is a victim.

Yasmine Mustafa was aware of these statistics, but they didn’t hit home for her until one happened literally right outside her home. When a woman was brutally attacked one block away from Yasmine’s apartment, she decided to take action. Yasmine started ROAR for Good, a company that is developing wearable defense technology for women. Crowdfunding for the project begins in June, and it’s already generating tons of buzz.

Read on to learn more about how ROAR’s wearable technology works, how any woman can better protect herself and how you can get involved in the movement against sexual assault.

You started ROAR for Good after learning about the sexual assault of a woman just a block away from your apartment, along with countless other stories you heard from women during your solo trip to South America. What was it about these stories that caused you to take action and start ROAR for Good?

That trip and the break in by my house were the instigators. The trip gave me this awareness I didn’t have before. I was traveling alone and because I was alone, people would tell me these stories. It was staggering to me, especially when I looked at stats – 1 in 4 college women will be raped and every two minutes a woman is attacked. Everyone knows at least one person who have been attacked. The prevalence of sexual assault is what shocked me.

How did the idea come about for your wearable self-defense technology?

When I read that story about the woman who was attacked by my apartment, I was thinking, what could she have done to protect herself? She was grabbed, dragged and beaten. How would she have time to reach into her purse and pull something out? I started talking to women and found that the most popular self-defense tools are pepper spray and knives. But those are also weapons that could be used against them.

How is your product different?

It’s part jewelry, part safety tool and it calls 911. Once you activate it, it launches an alarm and a light, and you use the element of surprise on your attacker. It acts as a deterrent and gets you help right away. It has this feature we call the Virtual Bodyguard, an app will tell your friend, boyfriend, mother or whoever you choose that you’re heading home and they can see where you are at all times.

Sexual assault is difficult to talk about because of the idea that women need to change their behavior if they want to stay safe. How do you respond to those who insist that if women didn’t walk down certain streets or wear certain clothes that they wouldn’t be assaulted?

I hate when I hear these things. The self-defense industry shouldn’t need to exist. I was walking with my roommate one night and these two guys started following us. Eventually they went away. Later on we saw a cop, and I told him what happened and asked him what I should’ve done. He said, well do you have pepper spray?

I got really mad. It’s always on the women. Don’t wear that, don’t go down that street. To that end, we donate a part of the proceeds of our product to an education program. Our culture perpetuates certain things that are not true, and education is the key to diminishing the instances of sexual assault.

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to a woman who wants to feel safer in her surroundings?

Be vigilant about where you are and where you’re going. Also, a lot of women aren’t aware that 70 percent of the time, they know their attacker. Be aware of that stat. The media hypes up those opportunistic attacks.

Feminist Apparel has been placing No Catcalling signs all over New York for anti-street harassment week. Since you’ve started ROAR, have you seen more of these smaller movements ignite the conversation around sexual assault?

There’s been more awareness than ever. There’s been a lot done to get rid of the stigma and shame to sexual harassment and assault. The men I’m meeting now consider themselves feminists. Ten years ago, that would not have been the case. It’s gaining momentum.

For those who want to get involved and spread awareness about sexual assault, what do you suggest they do?

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Take Back the Night is a huge one. He for She is one that I love.

To learn more about ROAR for Good, sign up for their newsletter here. And be on the lookout for their crowdfunding campaign that starts in June!

Human Rights Month: Respecting everyone regardless of color, shape or genitals

Human Rights Month

At FemmePharma, being a women’s health company, gender equality and women’s rights are important topics. Looking back on the way that women’s rights have developed there are a few important dates to remember:

  • 1906: Finland is the first country to grant universal suffrage, meaning that all women (regardless of race, wealth or social class) are allowed to vote
  • 1900-1940: the number of women attending college in the US goes from 85,00 to 600,000
  • 1945: the first class of women is admitted to Harvard Medical School
  • 1948: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is created and adopted by many countries, a declaration that forms the basis for promoting equal rights and freedoms
  • 1979: adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the only international treaty on women’s human rights
  • 2011: UN Women is founded and starts it work on January 1st

As you can see, much has happened over the last 100 years. The fact of the matter is that before the 1900s, not much was going on in terms of women’s rights. However, since the 1900’s much has happened that promotes not just the improved rights of women, but also the equal treatment and respect for all genders.

That being said, there is still a long way to go, and especially when you look at women’s rights worldwide. In some countries women have no rights, including Saudi Arabia where women aren’t allowed to vote or drive; Yemen where women cannot leave the house without her husband’s approval; and Ecuador where abortion is illegal. In addition to that, females frequently make significantly less than males for performing the same work, and they are often also limited a to how and when they can go to school.

December is Human Right’s month. Allowing equal rights for all genders will not only benefit women, but all others too. Showing the same amount of respect for everyone you meet—regardless of color, shape or genitals—is the only way in which we can prosper.

PA Conference For Women: A Day To Learn, Share And Grow

PA Conference for Women 2014

122 speakers.

140 exhibitors.

One day for women to share with, learn from and inspire each other.

October 16th, the sold-out PA Conference For Women – held in the Philadelphia Convention Center – brought all types of women together: bankers, journalists, lawyers, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders.

The event was fueled, in part, by a speech that actress and United Nations ambassador Emma Watson recently gave regarding the status of women’s rights around the world: “[In] my moments of doubt, I’ve told myself firmly: if not me, who, if not now, when. If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you, I hope those words might be helpful.”

Truly, this statement applies to everyone, no matter the industry. If Linda Cliatt-Wayman — principal of one of the most dangerous high schools in America — didn’t stand up for the safety of her students, who would? If Robin Roberts didn’t devote her time to investigating groundbreaking journalism, who would? If you don’t stand up for your health, who will?

FemmePharma has taken its stand FOR women. At the conference, FemmePharma engaged women in a conversation about health and wellness acknowledging that women’s health is in crisis. FemmePharma is determined to address the problem. Dedicated exclusively to women’s health for nearly two decades, FemmePharma has its roots in research and clinical development of drugs for women. The recent launch of its line of nutritional supplements—including its proprietary whey protein—underscores the importance of busting myths while providing women with the quality of life they deserve from products that they need.

In addition, FemmePharma recently partnered with two organizations: ROAR and the Phoenix Martial Arts Center. Still in development, ROAR will arm women with jewelry and other accessories that also act as self-defense tools. The Phoenix Martial Arts Center provides a variety of classes with the goal of self-protection for women. (By joining our Meetup group, you’ll be notified of upcoming classes and workshops with these organizations and others!) With these partnerships, FemmePharma has expanded even further in our mission to work towards the improved quality of life for women.

Want to keep up with FemmePharma’s whereabouts? Follow us on our brand new Instagram account, @femmepharma!

Image by PA Conference For Women

Feminism: Not A Dirty Word


“I’m not a feminist – I love men.”

Believe it or not, I overhear this phrase all the time – at the mall, at my favorite coffee shop, on television during interviews with young celebrities. It’s really hard for me to hear other women uttering that phrase. I can’t help but think, how are you not a feminist? How is being a feminist related to the love of men? And since when did feminism become a dirty word?

The word “feminist” didn’t enter my lexicon until later in life. I began at an all-girls high school, introverted, eager to please, and a little cocky. There, I found a community of women – teachers, administrators, and fellow students – who wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of all women. Once, I mouthed off to a male teacher; his punishment was to stick me in the corner, facing the wall. The Dean of Discipline pulled me out of class to reprimand me. She gave me detention (and rightfully so!), but her last words stuck with me for a long time: Don’t you ever let a man put you in the corner again.

Feminism means a lot of things to me. Feminism is having equal pay. Feminism is not being afraid to walk down the streets at night. Feminism is having my voice heard. But, ultimately, for me, feminism is having a group of women who support you – who will build you up instead of bringing you down. It’s a form of sisterhood that should unite us. Feminism does not mean tearing down men, in order to uplift women – it’s only evening the scales.

Though you may find varying definitions of feminism, here at Femmepharma, we believe that:

“Feminism is a philosophy that supports equality of the sexes. We should value our biological differences and take pride in promoting them. The reproductive organs we were born with dictate “sex,” which is not to be confused with “gender,” or sexual identity regardless of outward sexual differences. Discrimination on the basis of sex and gender is a violation of our inalienable rights.”

While the debate goes on, tell us what YOU believe. How has feminism helped you become the woman you are today?