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Self Injury and Teenagers

Recent studies have found that one-third to one-half of adolescents in the US have engaged in some type of nonsuicidal self injury (NSSI). Although previously thought to be a characteristic of severe psychopathology, NSSI now appears to be more of a negative coping mechanism associated with anger and depression and mixed emotional states.

Self-injury often begins around the ages of 12 to 14, and it is most commonly the result of feelings of sadness, distress, anxiety, or confusion. Teenagers often use self-injury as a way to cope with these negative emotions.

Social Media and Self-Injury

Social media can both help and hurt when it comes to self-injury behaviors. Many adolescents will turn to social media sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, to find a source of support and to connect with others that are experiencing the same things that they are. However, posts on social media can also encourage self-destructive behavior. Research has shown that viewing content about self-harm, especially on social media, can be a trigger for behavior.

While websites that specifically encourage self-harm or suicide are few in number, and certain social media apps have banned self-injury related content, online communities related to self-harm are still common. Furthermore, research has shown that youth that visit self-harm/suicide websites are 11 times more likely to have thoughts about hurting themselves.

Shaming and Self-Injury

Body shaming, fat shaming, and slut shaming can place teenagers at a higher risk of self-injury. Feelings of shame can cause teenagers to feel heightened levels of distress and anxiety, and teens may resort to cutting and other forms of self-injury in order to relieve these negative feelings.

How Can I Help Myself?

  • Know you are not alone. Because self-injury is relatively common, it’s likely that there are people around who understand and can help. Try talking to a professional person around you, someone like your school psychiatrist, school nurse, or guidance counselor. If you’re not comfortable with that, think about contacting your local MHA Affiliate or checking out the S.A.F.E Alternatives website.
  • Know you can get better. This is a difficult time in your life. However, with help, you can get to the point where you don’t hurt yourself anymore.
  • If cutting or self-injuring is an activity that your friends do, or if you find yourself comparing self-harm behaviors, consider widening your social circle and hanging out with other people. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your current friends; it just means making new ones who don’t remind you of self-injuring.
  • Figure out what stresses you out and drives you to self-injure. Avoid stressors if they are going to make you cut. Think about other things you could do to manage stress without turning to self-injury.
  • Seek professional help – effective treatment is available for people who injure themselves.  For tips on having a conversation, check out, Time to Talk: Tips for Talking About Your Mental Health and Time to Talk: Talking to Your Parents.
  • It could take some time to see a doctor or other treatment provider. In the meantime, take steps to reduce the harm you are doing to yourself. This could mean hurting yourself fewer times than you normally would, making sure you don’t get infections, or finding alternatives that are less harmful (like holding an ice cube, or snapping yourself with a rubber band).

How Can I Help a Friend who Self-Injures?

  • Ask about it. If your friend is hurting him/herself, they may be glad to have you bring it up so they can talk about it. If someone is not injuring themselves they are not going to start just because you said something about it.
  • Offer options, but don’t tell anyone what they should do, or have to do. If a person is using self-injury as a way to have some control, it won’t help if you try to take control of the situation. Helping your friend see ways to get help – like talking to a mental health professional, parent, teacher, or school counselor – may be the best thing you can do for them.
  • Seek support. Knowing a friend is hurting themself can be frightening and stressful. Consider telling a teacher or other trusted adult. This person could help your friend get the help he or she needs. You may feel that you don’t have the right to tell anyone else, but remember; you can still talk to a mental health professional about how the situation is affecting you, or you can get more information and advice from any number of organizations.
  • Remember you’re not responsible for ending the self-abuse. You can’t make your friend stop hurting themselves or get help from a professional. The only sure thing you can do is keep being a good friend.

Tips for Parents

Do:

  • Be patient.
  • Learn about self-injury (like reading this post)
  • Address the issue as soon as possible.
  • Validate your child’s feelings. Remember that this is different from validating the behavior.
  • Speak to your child in calm tones, offer reassurance, and be a respectful listener.
  • Check in on how your child is doing regularly. Ask open ended questions to build healthy communication habits.
  • Ask them what they need for support in order to stop their self-injury.
  • Take your child seriously. It is likely that your child is cutting in order to relieve feelings of stress, and not because they are seeking attention.
  • Give praise for positive change as you see it. When looking for improvement, look back over a six-month period rather than focusing on short periods of time.
  • Focus on your child. It isn’t uncommon for parents to feel overwhelmed or wonder what they did wrong. Find supports to help you work through your own feelings and needs so that you can focus on supporting your child.
  • Take care of yourself. Model what good self-care looks like.
  • Maintain hope. Recovery takes time and feels difficult, but don’t give up.

Do Not

  • Think of ongoing self-injury as failures. Getting better is a process and “relapsing” in self-injury happens. When it does, identify what can change to improve chances for the future.
  • Responding in hurtful ways (yelling, giving harsh and lengthy punishments, threats, insults, etc.) increases stress for everyone and creates barriers to getting better.
  • Fight for power or control. You cannot control another person’s behavior and demanding that your child stop the behavior is generally unproductive.
  • Rationalize the behavior by thinking that your teen is just going through a phase that will be outgrown. The majority of adults who self-injure started their self-injury during adolescence.
  • Minimize the seriousness of this behavior. Cutting is often used to relieve feelings of stress, and reduce negative emotions
  • Isolate your child. Your child needs ongoing support for recovery and this includes staying connected with friends. Find a way to talk about this issue if there are disagreements to find a compromise that doesn’t require isolation.
  • Focus on the self-injury. Concentrate on what is driving the behavior, not the behavior itself.

 

What you need to know about TB

Tuberculosis (TB) isn’t something we hear about often in the United States as it mostly affects people who live in developing countries. However, new statistics have been released that show for the first time in 23 years, TB is on the rise in the U.S.

What do we know about TB?

Tuberculosis is a contagious and often severe airborne disease caused by infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) bacteria. TB typically affects the lungs, but it also can affect any other organ of the body. It is usually treated with a regimen of drugs taken for six months to two years depending on whether the infecting organisms are drug resistant.

Tuberculosis is one of the major causes of disability and death worldwide. More than 95 percent of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. In 2014, 9.6 million people became ill with TB, and 1.5 million people died from the disease. TB is a leading cause of death for people infected with HIV. In 2015, 1 in 3 HIV deaths was due to TB, and the two are considered a co-epidemic. Globally in 2014, an estimated 480,000 people developed multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

There are two types of TB:

Latent TB – the bacteria remain in the body in an inactive state. They cause no symptoms and are not contagious, but they can become active.

Active TB – the bacteria do cause symptoms and can be transmitted to others.

About one-third of the world’s population is believed to have latent TB. There is a 10 percent chance of latent TB becoming active, but this risk is much higher in people who have compromised immune systems i.e., people living with HIV or malnutrition, or people who smoke.

TB affects all age groups and all parts of the world. However, the disease mostly affects young adults and people living in developing countries.

The chances of getting infected with TB are highest for people that are in close contact with others who are infected. This includes:

  • Family and friends of a person with infectious TB disease
  • Persons who have immigrated from areas of the world with high rates of TB
  • People in groups with high rates of TB transmission, including the homeless persons, injection drug users, and people living with HIV infection
  • People who work or reside in facilities or institutions that house people who are at high risk for TB such as hospitals, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and residential homes for those with HIV

Can you prevent TB?

There is a vaccine for TB called Bacille Calmette-Gurin (BCG). However, it is not generally recommended in the United States because it has limited effectiveness for preventing TB overall. It is predominantly used to prevent severe forms of TB in children.

Researches are engaged across the globe to find new ways to prevent TB in children and adults. They are also trying to understand how TB can lay dormant for years and become active in life. This knowledge will help find ways to develop new vaccines that are able to prevent TB from infecting people or prevent it from progressing from latent to active TB.

What are the symptoms of TB?

A person with latent TB infection will have no symptoms. A person with active TB disease may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • A persistent cough
  • Constant fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Night sweats

TB and HIV: A a co-epidemic

Substance abuse plays a significant factor in infection and disease progression for HIV and AIDS. Although HIV/AIDS can affect anyone, the risk of infection is significantly higher in patients suffering from substance abuse, whether the risk is of direct exposure through needles or increased likelihood of high risk behavior due to loss of judgment. Not only does substance abuse increase your risk of infection, but some abused substances can also interfere with effectiveness of treatment of the disease and its progression.

HIV and tuberculosis (TB) are so closely connected that their relationship is often described as a co-epidemic. In the last 15 years the number of new TB cases has more than doubled in countries where the number of HIV infections is also high.

TB and HIV statistics:

  • The two diseases are a deadly combination; they are far more destructive together than either disease alone.
  • In developing countries many people infected with HIV contract TB as the first sign of AIDS
  • At least one-third of the 38.6 million HIV-positive people in the world are also infected with TB and are at greatly increased risk of developing TB disease (the active and contagious form of TB)
  • TB is the leading cause of illness and death among people living with HIV in Africa and a major cause of death in HIV-positive people living elsewhere. In some settings, TB kills up to half of all AIDS patients

What is the course of treatment for TB?
Treatment for TB depends on whether a person has clinically active TB disease or only TB infection.

If you have latent TB, you should get preventive therapy. This treatment kills germs that are not doing any damage right now, but could so do in the future. The most common preventive therapy is a daily dose of isoniazid (INH) taken as a single daily pill for 6 to 9 months.

If you have active TB disease you will probably be treated with a combination of several drugs for 6 to 12 months. You may only have to stay a short time in the hospital, if at all, and can then continue taking medication at home. After a few weeks you can probably even return to normal activities and not have to worry about infecting others.

The most common treatment for active TB is INH plus three other drugs—rifampin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol. You will probably begin to feel better only a few weeks after starting to take the drugs.

It is very important that you continue to take the medicine correctly as prescribed by your doctor for the full length of treatment.

Asthma Awareness Month

May is Asthma Awareness Month, and it’s our chance to help get the word out about this chronic disease that affects nearly 25 million people in the United States. In recent decades, the prevalence of asthma has been increasing, resulting in millions of urgent medical visits and missed days of work and school each year.

Asthma is a chronic, and sometimes fatal, disease in which the airways become inflamed from a variety of triggers in the air, like indoor allergens from dust mites, mold, and cockroaches, and outdoor air pollution. Once the airways become swollen and inflamed, they become narrower, causing symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.

Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma. About 7 million of these people are children.

Asthma symptoms that start in childhood can disappear later in life. Sometimes, however, a child’s asthma goes away temporarily, only to return a few years later. But other children with asthma — particularly those with severe asthma — never outgrow it.

In young children, it can be hard to tell whether signs and symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath are caused by asthma or something else. Sometimes, what seems to be asthma turns out to be another condition, such as bronchitis, recurrent pneumonia or bronchiolitis. These and a number of other asthma-like conditions typically improve as children get older.

Children with more-severe asthma are less likely to outgrow it. Persistent wheezing and a history of allergies, especially to furry animals, also increase the odds that your child won’t outgrow asthma.

To understand asthma, it helps to know how the airways work. The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. People who have asthma have inflamed airways. The inflammation makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. The airways tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.

When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow the airways.

This chain reaction can result in asthma symptoms. Symptoms can happen each time the airways are inflamed.

Sometimes asthma symptoms are mild and go away on their own or after minimal treatment with asthma medicine. Other times, symptoms continue to get worse.

When symptoms get more intense and/or more symptoms occur, you’re having an asthma attack. Asthma attacks also are called flare-ups or exacerbations. Treating symptoms when you first notice them is important. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing a severe asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

It’s important to diagnose and treat childhood asthma early on. Work with your child’s doctor to manage your child’s asthma. A written asthma action plan can help you track symptoms, adjust medications and help your child avoid asthma triggers. As your child gets older, involve him or her in the development of the action plan.

Asthma has no cure. Even when you feel fine, you still have the disease and it can flare up at any time.

However, with today’s knowledge and treatments, most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. They have few, if any, symptoms. They can live normal, active lives and sleep through the night without interruption from asthma.

If you have asthma, you can take an active role in managing the disease. For successful, thorough, and ongoing treatment, build strong partnerships with your doctor, pharmacist, and other health care providers.

 

Sources: NIH and Mayo Clinic.

 

May is Mental Health Month. Focus: Prescription Drug Abuse

No one wakes up and decides, “Hey! I want to get addicted to drugs today.”

Long before someone becomes addicted to prescription drugs or other substances, an underlying issue develops or occurs that makes someone have a desire to self-medicate.

Sometimes, a person can become addicted to painkillers after an injury or surgery. Other times, someone decides to try a drug like heroin to mask a bigger issue like depression or anxiety.

Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are  common and treatable. But people experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently, and some engage in potentially dangerous or risky behaviors to avoid or cover up symptoms of a potential mental health problem.

Sometimes people, especially young people, who struggle with mental health concerns develop habits and behaviors that increase the the risk of developing mental illness, or make a mental health issue even worse.

Activities like compulsive sex, recreational drug use, obsessive internet use, excessive spending, or disordered exercise patterns can all be behaviors that can disrupt someone’s mental health and potentially lead them down a path towards crisis.

May is Mental Health Month, and along with the Mental Health America, Village Pharmacy is raising awareness of Risky Business. The campaign is meant to educate and inform individuals dealing with a mental health concern understand that some behaviors and habits can be detrimental to recovery.

Mental illnesses are real, and recovery is always the goal. If you or someone you love are engaging in risky behavior, there is help. It’s important to understand early symptoms of mental illness and know when certain behaviors are potentially signs of something more.

Why do people misuse prescription drugs?

People who misuse prescription drugs may be self-medicating to control symptoms of an existing (and possibly undiagnosed) physical or mental health disorder, or because they like the way the drugs affect them and think they are safe to use.

FACT: 16% of parents and 27% of teens believe that using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using street drugs.

This is far from the truth.

It is always dangerous to use prescription drugs that do not belong to you or in a way that is not prescribed. Use the checklist below to determine if you may have a serious problem with prescription drugs.

  • Used prescription drugs in large amounts or for longer than intended?
  • Wanted to stop misusing prescription drugs, but were unsuccessful in your attempts to quit?
  • Spent a great deal of time getting, using, or recovering from prescription drugs that you have been misusing?
  • Had strong cravings or urges to misuse a prescription drug?
  • Failed to perform work, school, or home duties because of misuse?
  • Continued  to misuse despite it causing problems with relationships?
  • Stopped participating in activities you used to enjoy because of prescription drug misuse?
  • Misused prescriptions in dangerous situations (driving, etc.)?
  • Continued misusing prescription drugs despite physical or mental health problems that it has caused or made worse?
  • Developed a tolerance (needed more to get the desired effect) to a prescription you were misusing ?
  • Felt withdrawal symptoms when you stop misusing prescriptions possibly using again to relieve your discomfort?

If you said Yes to two or more of these questions, you may have a prescription drug use disorder.

If you said Yes, you are not alone. Over 3.2 Million people in the past year met the criteria for a prescription drug use disorder. Less than half of those people received treatment.

What can you do about drug misuse?

  • Always use medication as directed.
  • Talk to your doctor about non-addictive options for treating certain conditions for which you are being medicated if you feel at risk of misusing your prescription.
  • Store all medications in a safe place that cannot be accessed by others who may want to take them. Over half of people who misused prescription pain relievers go them from friends or relatives.
  • Call 911 if you or a loved one have a medical emergency related to prescription drugs.
  • Properly dispose of expired or unused medications.
  • Seek specialized treatment.

You can find treatment providers for substance abuse problems at findtreatment.samhsa.gov or by calling SAMHSA 24/7 Treatment Referral Line at 1-800-662-HELP(4367).

Source: Mental Health America