Tag Archives: Health Risks

7 Things You Need to Know About LGBTQ Suicide Risk

Suicide is a hard thing to talk about. There are a lot of conflicting opinions whenever it’s brought up – for many, it’s a deeply sensitive topic, and one that affects everyone in some way. Chances are good that you have either thought about suicide yourself, or you know someone who has. Yet, still, there’s this big stigma around it, and people are afraid to talk about it – mostly because they’re afraid of how other people will react. If it’s not sensitive and supportive, it’s often harsh and triggering.

Now, I don’t like to talk about my own suicidal past, either – partially because of the stigmas, and partially because I’m not that person anymore. But as September is suicide prevention month, and people who have oppressed identities – like the queer community has for so many years – are statistically more likely to think about and attempt suicide than their straight classmates.

I don’t want to get too deep into my story, but I will say that it has been almost 7 years since my last suicide attempt. I’m out of that place now – but the risks of returning there will always be on my mind. What’s even worse, to me, is that there are still so many youths that are still living with this daily struggle weighing on them. These young people are the future of the queer community, and we need to talk about what’s happening.

1. According to the CDC, LGBTQ high school students are at a higher risk for rape, bullying, and suicide.

In one of the saddest CDC reports I’ve ever read (although, admittedly, I’ve only ever read a few), it was stated that sexual abuse, bullying, and suicide risks were much greater within the 9th-12th grade LGBTQ community. According to this report, gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students were at higher risk for 16 violence-related risky behaviors (out of 18 total identified behaviors). LGBTQ students also placed at higher risk for 18 out of 19 alcohol or drug use behaviors, as well as for 11 out of 13 tobacco-use related risk behaviors. LGBTQ students also managed to rank highest in give out of six sexual risk behaviors. This article gives a little more reader-friendly version of the findings.

This means that, across the board, LGBTQ students are very high-risk, and confirms the need for more LGBTQ-youth-oriented programs in local communities. (But we’ll get further into that one in just a few minutes.) Similar studies have been done by the US National Library of Medicine, although they state that any findings are “tentative” because not all people who identified as a “sexual minority” were out to their friends and family members, and as such, the numbers could be higher than the data collected reflects.

2. LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied.

91% more likely, in fact – a staggering number for any statistic, let alone one about suicide. They’re also 46% more likely to be physically or sexually victimized than their heterosexual classmates. (And, might I add, this includes LGBTQ youth who has yet to come out – the bullying is not necessarily homophobic in nature.)

Among these categories, trans-identified students are of particular concern. Over half of all transgender and gender-nonconforming students who are bullied for their identity have already attempted suicide, and that number jumps up to 78% for those who have experienced physical or sexual abuse at school.

Of course, there are a whole host of other things that the queer community is more likely to experience – check out this study by The Williams Institute to learn about a few more.

3. Lack of support and acceptance at home increases the risks of suicide.

While bullying outside the home is the type we think of the most, the truth is that having a hostile home environment has just as much of a devastating impact, if not more – after all, at school, there’s a chance to get away, and that’s not usually the case at home. Kids from homophobic families are 8.4 times more likely (that’s 840%, for those of you who don’t like decimals) to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and peers with supportive home lives.

4. Suicide is the #2 cause of death among people aged 10-24.

Yes, you read that right – suicide is the #2 cause of death among preteens, teenagers, and young adults. Thankfully, these numbers are a little lower in counties and regions that have more support for queer youth. In fact, counties that aren’t safe and supportive spaces for LGBTQ youth, suicide rates are 20% higher than in counties that are safe and supportive.

LGBTQ high schoolers are 4 times more likely (400%) to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

5. Gay and bisexual men are most likely to attempt suicide before the age of 25.

Across all demographics, gay and bisexual men account for the most suicide attempts, with 20% of gay and bi men having a suicide plan, and 12% attempting suicide within their lives. According to the US National Library of Medicine, most of these men attempted suicide before they turned 25.

6. Gay/Straight Alliances reduce the suicide risk for all students.

What may be a bit more of a shock is the fact that Queer-Straight Alliances (or Gay-Straight Alliances, or whatever they happen to be called in your area) actually reduce the risk of suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts even for heterosexual students. In fact, in schools that had their QSA for over three years, incidents of homophobic bullying and suicidal thoughts were dropped by as much as 50%, across the board.

7. There are places you can go for help.

One of the most important things to remember is that, sometimes, just having someone to be there makes all the difference in the world. Whether you want to help out, or you are in a high-risk situation and just need to talk to someone, you may be able to find resources in your local area to help. In the US and Canada, there are 24-hour crisis call centers to help and you may be able to volunteer to help others, as well.

If you’re in another country and you know of a resource for at-risk and LGBTQ youth, please let us know in the comments. No one should have to feel alone in the world, and there is always someone who cares – you just have to know where to look.

6 Reasons Your Period Can Be Late (That Definitely Don’t Mean You’re Pregnant)

Periods are pretty crazy. I think most of us (besides those women who really, really hope that they don’t get knocked up) pretty much hate them. Sure, they serve a good purpose, but when you’re totally out of commission for an entire week at a time (with pain that’s scientifically proven to be just as bad as a heart attack), it’s really hard to remember these good things.

Especially since, if you only sleep with women, you’re pretty sure that you’re not pregnant.

(I think we’ve all had those what-if-I’m-the-next-virgin-Mary thoughts sometimes, though.)

Unfortunately, even if you’re definitely not pregnant, your period might be a little unpredictable sometimes. Here are 6 reasons why your period can be late, without being pregnant. If you’re really concerned, take a pregnancy test just to be sure – but the odds of getting pregnant without having heterosexual unprotected sex are incredibly low.

1. You’re relying on your memory, instead of actual tracking.

For the longest time, I really thought that my period was super irregular. Of course, I never actually paid attention to when I had my period – I just knew that it had been a long time since the last time I had one, and as a super paranoid teenager, I was of course convinced that I had somehow gotten pregnant from a toilet seat.

Let me reiterate: Getting pregnant, without having unprotected heterosexual sex, is really, really unlikely.

If you don’t actually pay attention to when you have your period, and instead rely solely on your memory for how long it’s been, I urge you to start keeping track. It doesn’t have to be anything super formal – I used to have “PS” and “PE” written on my calendar. (That would be “period start” and “period end”, if you couldn’t figure that one out.) I know people who add a grumpy-face emoji into their digital calendar. This way is great, because anyone with a smartphone has a digital calendar, even if you don’t currently use it.

For those who actually do want a more formal way to track it, there are a number of period-tracking apps available for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone. Some apps even give you a push notification a few days before you should expect your period, if you’ve been tracking for more than a month or two. Tracking is super important, not only so you can plan when not to wear white, but also so that you have a log to show your doctor when he or she asks. It can also help alert you when there might be a bigger problem in play. If you’re not already tracking, please start tracking your periods.

2. Irregular cycles are actually pretty normal.

I know we’ve pretty much all grown up hearing that your cycle is 28 days long. While this is a great guideline, it’s also not exactly true. The average cycle lasts about 28 days, but cycles from 21-32 days are completely normal. It takes a few months of tracking to figure out what your normal cycle is, and it can be pretty hard if you’re a bit irregular, too.

But what if your cycle is longer than 32 days, or shorter than 21 days? Well, that’s not exactly uncommon either. Everyone is different, and there are so many factors that go into when you get your period, it’s sometimes pretty tough to estimate when you should be getting it – especially if you’ve only ever heard that whole “28 days” thing. You shouldn’t stress too much if your cycle doesn’t fit up to the normal time frame. That’s only an estimate.

It’s important to note that it’s also normal for your cycle to be totally unpredictable, especially if you’re under 21 or over 45. When you’re younger, your body still has to find the rhythm that works best for you. (We’ve already discussed that there are so many factors in play here.) If your periods are irregular and you’re definitely not within that younger, body-is-still-learning age group, there’s a chance it means you’re approaching menopause – which is, also, a completely normal part of life.

3. If you’re stressing too much, your period can get all screwed up in the mix.

Stress is a completely normal part of life, too, but with too much stress comes the inevitable health consequences. One of the most readily-identifiable problems it can cause is an unpredictable period schedule. For women who might be pregnant, and really don’t want to be, this can cause a cycle (no pun intended) of weird periods and more stress.

You see, your period is a way for your uterus to “clean house”, so to speak. Your ovaries release an egg, in anticipation of that egg being fertilized. If a certain amount of time (which, again, is different for everyone) passes, and you haven’t gotten pregnant, your ovaries basically flood the place in a fit of rage. When you’re too stressed out, though, your body takes a different approach.

Too much stress pushes your brain to tell your ovaries that you are not emotionally ready to have a child right now (ain’t that the truth) and, in turn, your ovaries don’t release an egg. Since there’s no baby being prepared for in there, there’s nothing to flood back out. Your body just needs a little time for itself right now, so work on managing your stress, and your period should be back on track before too much longer.

4. Illness and injury can screw things up, too.

I probably don’t need to tell you that your period takes a lot out of your body. It’s not really in your body’s best interest to ovulate when you’ve got too much other stuff going on, so many women just don’t ovulate when they’ve got too much going on. Of course, it would be great if we had better (conscious) control over when we got our period – no more bloody wedding nights or unplanned midnight trips to the feminine hygiene aisle – but at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that mother nature is actually looking out for you.

Honestly, injury and illness usually take up a lot more of your body’s resources than we give them credit for, but the underlying cause of your symptoms is almost always the healing process. (Obviously, if you break a bone, the actual breaking is going to hurt more than the healing, but that’s not the case with all injuries.) And, since most of these illness-and-injury-fixing processes take the same resources as getting our period would take, our body chooses to heal us instead of bringing on another problem.

Good lookin’ out, uterus.

5. Certain medications can play a role, too.

Anyone who’s ever been on chemical or hormonal birth control for any reason other than actual birth control will know this all too well: It affects your cycle. Like, a lot. It’s almost funny how this happens even when it’s prescribed to regulate your period, but honestly, any time you throw pregnancy hormones into your body “just because”, it’s going to mess things up.

But it’s not just birth control that can cause these problems. When you first start taking a new medication, it can put a lot of undue stress on your body. The affects are different for everyone, and different medications will affect it in different ways, but it’s usually nothing to be concerned with.

That being said, if you have completely skipped a period since taking your new meds, and it wasn’t prescribed specifically to give you fewer periods, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Remember, your period actually serves a valuable purpose, even if it doesn’t feel like it. This is why paying attention is so important – you need to pay attention in order to know when you should be concerned.

6. Losing or gaining a significant amount of weight can alter your cycle.

Pretty much any time your body goes through significant changes, there’s a good chance it’ll affect your period. Your weight, in particular, plays a huge part in determining your cycle. If you’ve recently gained or lost some weight, more than the normal fluctuations, your period could become late or non-existent. That’s because your body’s first priority is self-preservation, and it doesn’t want you to get pregnant if your weight is bouncing around all over the place – that’s not healthy, and it wouldn’t be healthy to the (hypothetical) baby.

How much weight is considered “significant”? That’s going to vary based on your own body, and how quickly the weight was lost or gained. There is no exact number for everyone, but there is a general guideline: If you see or feel a difference in your weight or build, regardless of whether it’s reflected on the scale or not, it’s significant enough to make a difference.

If you must gain (or lose) weight in order to be healthier, it’s important that you do so gradually. Not only is it less stressful on the body that way, it’s also more sustainable. It’s easier to keep up with 1% change than it is to hit your goals right away, and then push yourself to maintain right away. (Also, let me tell you, from someone who lost almost half my body weight within a year, it’s nearly impossible to do so in a healthy way. Please don’t cause yourself unnecessary extra health problems in the name of weight management.)

These 9 Medical Tests Are Crucial For All Women

In the words of Tammy Wynette ‘sometimes it’s hard to be a woman’ and aint that so true?

Not only do we have so many emotional complexities to deal with, but our bodies are quite unique as well. So we owe it to ourselves to keep our bodies in tip top condition.

Here is a list of the 9 most important medical tests all women should have.

Cervical Cancer Screening

This test is to check against human papillomavirus, or HPV and all women between the ages of 21 to 65 should have it done. We should have the test every 3 to 5 years and the test will look for cell changes in your body that could indicate cancer, so make sure you have yours done regularly.

Colorectal Cancer Screening

This is a colonoscopy which isn’t the most pleasant of tests to have carried out, however it saves 100’s of lives a year. Women aged between 50 to 75 should have it done every 10 years and the test will look for colon cancer and tumours. If caught early the survival rate is very good.

Breast Cancer Screening

This test is often called a mammogram and should be carried out on women aged 50 – 74. Some women if they have a history of breast cancer in the family have the test earlier. It should be carried out yearly and can detect even the very early stages of breast cancer. We love our boobs girls, so we need to look after them.

Blood Pressure Test

This test measures your blood flowing through your veins. All adults over the age of 18 should have the test done yearly as high blood pressure can be an indication you are at risk from heart disease or a stroke. It’s easily treated with medication and is important you have the test done as high blood pressure can go undetected for a long time before symptoms start to show.

Lipid Panel Test

This test is often called a cholesterol test as it checks the cholesterol levels or ‘fat’ in the blood. Women over the age of 45 should have the test done and it should be carried out yearly. High Cholesterol levels can cause heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. It is very easily managed through medication and it is vital to have it checked out.

Hepatitis C Test

Hepatitis is far more common than we realise. It can occur because of blood transfusions that contained contaminated blood. It is recommended that women born between 1945 and 1965 have the test done. The test only needs to be done once. Hepatitis C can cause liver disease and liver failure if left untreated.

Blood Glucose Testing

This test is carried out to check the amount of glucose in your blood which can indicate diabetes. Maintaining the correct balance of sugar in our bodies is really important.  Woman aged from 40 – 70 should have the test carried out yearly.

Osteoporosis Screening

This is a bone density test that looks to see if your bones are at risk from fractures or you may be at risk from declining mobility. Women over the age of 65 should have the test done and if they are not at high risk it only needs to be carried out once every 10 years.  Osteoporosis is treated in a variety of different ways so early detection in low bone mass is important.

Many of these tests can be carried out during a yearly medical so you can have many of them done at the same time.

Don’t ever take chances with your health, and if you are worried about any symptoms you may have go to see your GP right away.

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Bisexual, Gay, And Lesbian Adults Face Greater Health Risks, According To New Study

According to study, bisexual, gay and lesbian adults are more likely to experience psychological distress and engage in unhealthy behaviours, possibly as a result of being the target of discrimination, according to a study published Monday.

The study in the US medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine analysed the results of the 2013 and 2014 National Health Interview Survey, which for the first time included a question on sexual orientation.

It reported,

Findings from our study indicate that LGB adults experience significant health disparities — particularly in mental health and substance use — likely due to the minority stress that LGB adults experience as a result of their exposure to both interpersonal and structural discrimination.”

The analysis showed that 40.1% of bisexual men and 25.9% of gay men reported moderate or severe levels of psychological distress, compared to 16.9% of heterosexual men.

Heavy drinking was reported by 10.9% of bisexual men, compared with 5.7% for heterosexual men and 5.1% for gay men.

Rates of heavy smoking were also highest among bisexual men at 9.3%, compared to 6.2% for gay men and six percent for heterosexual men.

Among women, 46.4% of bisexuals and 28.4% of lesbians reported moderate and severe psychological distress, compared with 21.9% of heterosexual women.

Bisexual women also had the highest rates of heavy alcohol consumption, 11.7%, compared with 8.9% for lesbians and 4.8% for heterosexual women.

Heavy smoking was most prevalent among lesbian women at 5.2%, followed by bisexual women at 4.2%. The rate among heterosexual women was 3.4%.

The negative findings for bisexual adults may be linked to their “marginalization” by heterosexuals and “stigma” from gays and lesbians, according to the study, led by Gilbert Gonzales of Vanderbilt University.

JAMA Internal Medicine Deputy Editor Mitchell Katz wrote in an editor’s note that it’s important for medical professionals to ask patients open-ended questions.

For example, asking a new patient whether he or she has sex with men, women or both indicates openness and acceptance. In caring for people who have experienced bias and discrimination, support is a very potent medicine.”

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