This is Why We Can’t Stop Talking About Suicide

Train Tunnel

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve had a close friend or loved one who was depressed. You may have even experienced depression yourself. In both cases, the right support system could mean the difference between life and death. But what happens when that support system appears to be in place and the situation still takes a turn for the worst?

That’s exactly what’s been happening at colleges across the country with a stunning consistency. And, sadly, suicide on college campuses is nothing new. In fact, suicidal thoughts and attempts are higher among adults aged 18-25 than among adults over the age of 25. There are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses every year and lifetime thoughts of suicide occur to 18 percent of undergraduates.

That leaves a burning question: Why?

Well, there is no black and white answer when it comes to suicide and depression. “I think one of the things we struggle against in the world of suicide prevention,” says Christine Moutier, chief medical officer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “is that we’re always trying to explain it. We’re always asking, ‘Why? How could someone do this?’ But there’s not one explanation.”

In many cases – like Madison Holleran’s – the victim is an overachiever, often surrounded by friends and family, who doesn’t appear depressed on the outside. This is a person who’s been suffering for a long time, and there’s no one particular thing that pushes them over the edge. They never let on that they have a suicide plan – or even that anything is seriously wrong – until it’s too late.

Talking about depression and suicide in a high-stakes environment – like college – can be extremely intimidating. And if you’re struggling to make friends, keep your G.P.A. up, find an internship, keep a job… well, you get the picture. College is stressful as hell. It’s easy to see how addressing your mental health issues can take a backseat to balancing college life.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Here are a few ways you can do that:

Understand that they may not want to talk about it: Many people with depression are ashamed they have it and/or won’t even acknowledge that something is wrong. Let them know you’re concerned, they have nothing to be ashamed about and that you’re there for support – but realize they may not open up with you right away, or at all. It takes a lot of patience to be part of a support system.

Take what they do say seriously: When your friend does open up, listen carefully to what they have to say. This may be the only time they give you clues as to what they’re really feeling inside. Don’t push them too much and don’t make judge. Instead, make it clear that this is an ongoing conversation you’re ready for whenever they decide to talk more.

Get professional help: If at any point you think your friend is at risk for suicide, don’t hesitate to get help fast. If it’s can emergency, dial 911. Otherwise, call the Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK so you can find out what resources are available in your area.

Have you or a loved one ever experienced depression? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

No More Annual Pelvic Exams? Can It Be True?

Doctors Appointment

I have a very scientific method for choosing a new doctor. First, I look at their website. If it doesn’t look like a Geocities site from 1995, they’re definitely in the running. If they offer text reminders for appointments, even better. And if I can make an appointment online? I’m basically sold. I told you, science.

Needless to say, I’m not so great at making and keeping doctor’s appointments. How do I know where I’ll be on at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday six months from now? Will I have the same job? Will I be living in the same place? What’s my hair going to look like? Too many variables, man. I can’t even begin to think about annual appointments.

That’s why people like me will be pretty psyched about the new guidelines from the American College of Physicians that says most women don’t need annual pelvic exams. Annual pelvic exams benefit those who are pregnant or have some form of disease – otherwise, they aren’t completely necessary for everyone else.

How can this be? Pelvic exams have long been administered out of habit and were simply part of most gynecological exams. Pap smears for cervical cancer are only recommended every three to five years now, and a pelvic exam doesn’t need to accompany a pap smear. STDs can be detected with a urine sample, so no pelvic exam is needed there either. Of course, women experiencing any abnormalities like pain or urinary problems should always get a pelvic exam, so don’t assume everyone is off the hook.

The purpose of a pelvic exam is to screen for abnormalities in the ovaries, uterus and other pelvic organs. But it was discovered years ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that these internal exams weren’t that great of a screening tool for ovarian cancer after all.

I’m not sure about you, but a pelvic exam is never the highlight of my day. These new guidelines are especially beneficial for survivors of sexual abuse, as they help women avoid the anxiety and discomfort associated with pelvic exams. This also cuts down on unnecessary costs and time spent too.

Now, the issue here is that people like me can potentially take this as a sign to blow off gyno visits. Not needing annual pelvic exams doesn’t mean you don’t have to make regular appointments – you still do, and you still need to discuss all of this stuff with your doctor. The good news? People like me can be less afraid of making these appointments knowing that they don’t necessarily involve a pelvic exam. And if anything can encourage me to actually make and remember a doctor’s appointment, I’m all for it.

How do you feel about these guidelines? Do you still get annual pelvic exams? Share with us in the comments section!

The Working Mom Vs. the Stay-At-Home Mom: What’s the Right Choice For You?

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I’ve always been fortunate enough to work at companies with healthy work-life balances and great benefits. For example, last year when one of my coworkers announced her pregnancy, my company generously gave her more than 12 weeks of maternity leave, along with everything she needed to make sure she was covered jobwise in her time away – including an interim employee who helped get her up-to-speed when she came back.

Awesome, right? Well, sort of. Many companies offer some form of maternity leave – but did you know that the U.S. doesn’t mandate any kind of paid leave for new mothers? Your employer makes that call. Compared to other countries, we’re waaay behind on accommodations for new mothers. In fact, we’re one of the few countries that isn’t mandated to give any paid leave by federal law.

The average length of paid leave for new moms in other countries? Five to six months. Yup. Estonia leads the pack with a full two years of paid leave. And I thought my old job was generous!

That’s part of why it’s so difficult for new moms to make the big choice: to stay at home or not stay at home. In the first scenario, you’re potentially giving up your career. In the other, you’re slapped with the astronomical costs of childcare. When you’re dealing with a limited maternity leave, it has to be one or the other. Sure, maternity leave doesn’t erase the need for childcare when you return to work, but it helps new mothers – many of whom barely have time for a shower – with more time to explore their options when the time does come.

So what’s a new mother to do? Well, if you live in a country like Norway, Sweden or Iceland, your partner is automatically eligible for paid paternity leave. What’s that? Your don’t live in an extremely forward-thinking Scandinavian country? Then you’re screwed like the rest of us!

As a result of rising childcare costs, more and more new moms are opting to give the stay-at-home thing a go. In the early 2000s, about 23 percent of new moms stayed at home, versus the 29 percent (and growing) by the end of 2012. Childcare in our country is basically a luxury at this point – those with high-paying jobs are often the only ones who can afford it.

Plenty of moms (I’d imagine the vast majority) don’t have a choice at all, and opt to take off as little time as possible – not because they’re crazy, but simply because they can’t afford not to work. Single moms have the even bigger challenge of providing all childcare and support for their baby. They’re basically superheroes.

So what’s your take on stay-at-home moms? Would you do it if you could? Are you one yourself? Share your experience with us in the comments section!

Standing Up for Universal Education: Malala’s Story

educationLet’s face it: As Americans, we’ve all taken our education for granted at some point. We’ve all wished for snow days, faked sick days and participated in senior skip days. Graduation means liberation and summer vacation is just about the best thing in the world. But could you imagine a culture in which education was denied to you entirely?

That was Malala Yousafzai’s crushing reality. She’s from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, a region under the strict control of the Taliban. In this part of the world, gunfire in the middle of the night isn’t uncommon and what we consider basic human rights – like education – is denied to women under the penalty of death. Oh, and TV, music and shopping? Sorry ladies, none of that for you either!

Naturally, by age 11, Malala was accustomed to living in fear. She feared the heavy hand of the Taliban and the fact that her education could be taken away at any given second. She attended school when she could, and luckily for her, her father was an education activist. In fact, it was he who encouraged her to blog for the BBC when a correspondent came to local Swat Valley schools looking for students willing to blog about their experience under Taliban rule.

Obviously, an 11 year-old speaking out against the Taliban is just about the riskiest thing a kid could do. But Malala was dedicated, and her writing was powerful:

“I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.

Only 11 pupils attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict.”

This is Malala’s blog from January 2009, around the same time that militants blew up hundreds of girls’ schools.

Her blog eventually gained popularity, which led to filming a documentary with New York Times reporter Adam B. Ellick. The problem with gaining notoriety over speaking out against the Taliban? Someone is always watching. In October of 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head on a bus in Swat Valley.

Miraculously, she survived. Today, despite repeated death threats, the 17 year old (yep, she was only 15 when she was shot) continues to champion universal education. She’s been recognized countless times for her efforts, and was most recently awarded the National Constitution Center’s 2014 Liberty Medal.

Why are Malala’s contributions so significant? For one plenty of women are still being denied the fundamental right of education, among other things. In fact, 39 million girls worldwide are denied the right to school and two-thirds of the 774 million adults who can’t read are women. Sadly, this is a real problem that isn’t going away anytime soon.

So what can you do to help? Malala Day is July 14th. Click here to find out how you can make a difference, and help spread the word with the #StrongerThan hashtag across social media.

Diagnosed at 25: A Young Survivor’s Story.

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FemmePharma is excited to partnering with Living Beyond Breast Cancer for their upcoming Yoga On The Steps Event May 18th and in future endeavors.

Check out our guest blog “Diagnosed at 25: A Young Survivor’s Story”.

Diagnosed at 25: A Young Survivor’s Story.
By Kristen Dunleavy

“Think about life in your 20s for a minute. It’s a decade of learning, growing, falling down and getting back up – often more than once. It’s a hopeful, exciting time when you’re just getting the hang of this crazy thing we call adulthood.

Katy Wagnon was a typical 25-year-old. At the time, she was living in Arizona with her boyfriend of four years. She had a steady job and was perfectly content with the life she’d created for herself.

When Katy discovered a lump on her breast in the shower, she initially brushed it off. Like any good procrastinator, she decided to wait it out to see if it went away on its own. Katy had a co-worker around her age who had been diagnosed with breast cancer six months earlier – but there was no way that’s what this was!

Still, Katy kept this thought in the back of her head. When the lump didn’t go away, she made a doctor’s appointment to have it checked out. A mammogram and a few biopsies later, Katy was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer.

The diagnosis on its own was a punch in the gut – adapting to life with cancer was another story altogether.

“All of my friends were in their 20s and couldn’t understand what I was going through,”Katy said. “They were going out to bars, and I was at home with my boyfriend, always in-between chemo and surgery.”

The first surgery Katy endured was supposed to clear everything out – but it didn’t. It turned out that the cancer was further along than her doctors initially suspected, and she would require chemotherapy.

So Katy got a second opinion. Then a third. She eventually landed on a doctor in Tucson that made her feel at ease. At the age of 25, Katy went through a double mastectomy, with her reconstruction beginning that same day.

Katy now thinks of her experience as a blessing in disguise. While it was difficult to relate to other 20-somethings, Katy found plenty of support in her parents, grandmother and her boyfriend who is now her husband.

“In the end, it turned out to be an awesome experience,”Katy said. “Nothing is too big of a challenge for me now because I’ve been to hell and back. For anyone who is going through it now, know that it will get better.”

As young women like Katy know all too well, finding support in the wake of such a diagnosis isn’t easy, and sometimes it can feel like you’re totally alone. But that simply isn’t true.

In fact, that’s why Femme Pharma exists. With the mission of improving the health and quality of life for women through superior therapeutics, Femme Pharma has your back – and the backs of millions of women like Katy nationwide.

Gerianne Tringali DiPiano founded the company in 1996 to better address women’s healthcare needs, specifically in the areas of diseases and disorders. Ever since then, the company has been an advocate for all women, working to develop new treatment methods that promote healing across a broad range of therapeutic categories. Today, Femme Pharma is the go-to women’s health resource and community.

FemmePharma is enthusiastic about working with the women of LBBC; since both organizations’ missions and visions are very much aligned. We share the passionate mission of improving the quality of life and understanding how to accomplish that goal for women survivors of breast cancer.

And Katy knows this better than anyone – she’s FemmePharma’s graphic designer!

For more information about FemmePharma, visit FemmePharma.com.”

You can also read the article posted on Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s blog at: www.livingbeyondbc.wordpress.com

The Magical Age of the Mammogram

katyparade

The debate rages over the “magical age of the mammogram”.  The media fuels concerns by making statements about the risks of mammography for young women.  It’s been reported that radiation exposure, stress of “over-diagnosis”, biopsy and the period waiting for results, creates overwhelming anxiety for women.  There is no question all of this is stressful.  However, as a young breast cancer survivor I find this reporting infuriating.  I was only 25 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and luckily, my doctor did send me to get a mammogram instead of telling me “don’t worry, it’s nothing; you are too young”.  Luckily, my cancer was caught early and I underwent conservative treatment to increase the probability of success.

My experience compels me to encourage women to have a mammogram, if warranted, regardless of age, and proceed with further diagnostic tests if necessary. It’s far better to know the results, good or bad, than wait until the “magical age of mammogram”, (in my case it would have been 25 years later if I followed the recommendations) where the outcome/treatment options are likely to be far more aggressive and the prognosis worse. Through my own treatment, support groups, and general awareness, I’ve learned that breast cancer is no longer an older woman’s disease. No, not every twenty five year old woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but unfortunately an increasing number of women under the age of 40 are being diagnosed everyday. I guess the lesson from all of this is do what YOU think is best for YOU.

Here are my personal recommendations:

Do your self -exams every month!
Trust your instincts.
Talk with a trusted doctor especially if you have a family history.
Obtain a second opinion.

Early detection is the key to survival. A breast cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence especially if it’s found early.

-Katy

A Woman with a Mission

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My entire career has been in healthcare, largely with the multinational prescription pharmaceutical companies.  After two decades, a lot of soul searching, and the birth of my one and only daughter, I decided to leave the security of BIG PHARMA to launch FemmePharma.  It may sound “campy” but as the Mom of a daughter, I wanted her legacy and that of other young women to be different.   As I reflect on the reaction of friends and colleagues, I have to laugh out loud; they were curious as to why I would elect to pursue the “niche” of women’s health.    Really?   Let’s see, women are the largest cohort of the population, they are responsible for 70% of the buying decisions, and they control household spending.  Sadly, however, our healthcare needs have been virtually ignored by the industry.   I was, and AM determined to change all of that!

FemmePharma has been in business for 17 years developing products for diseases and disorders affecting women; it is our passionate mission.  We believe in women and the absolute right to demand more than they have received in safeguarding their health.

I am happy to announce the launch of our Consumer Health Company; it’s an opportunity to interact with YOU, the woman consumer DIRECTLY, and to provide you with products to support you now and as you may face healthcare challenges.  Our consumer products do not require a prescription, and will be available to you online through our online specialty store.  We hope your connection with us will be fun, easy, discreet, and will provide you with a community to share your story with other women.   The FEMMEPHARMA WOMAN is strong, healthy, and empowered and will not be defined by age, disease, or condition.  FEMMEPHARMA IS FOR YOU!

I look forward to working with you and hearing from you.

Take good care,
“G”