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REDUCING HEALTH DISPARITIES THROUGH TECHNOLOGY | CREATED FOR STUDENTS BY STUDENTS

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Category: Health News Articles

by Marcel Souffrant

November 19, 2015

Mental Health Among My College Peers

I wish that individuals suffering from mental health issues could feel the embrace of support on a national scale.  I think about the utilization of pink to express the support of breast cancer and seeing it on television, on football fields, and on college campuses.  I think of the hope that comes with such support, and I long for something similar in regards to mental illness.  The American Psychological Association reported that 44% of the patients who visited college counseling services “had severe psychological problems.”  This number, however high, does not begin to tell the full story on mental health, especially in the college aged demographic.  The stigma surrounding mental health issues is often silencing, which is why it must be spoken about deliberately.  In the last year, NC State has lost two students to on-campus suicides, and even more outside of campus.  This is to say the least, both concerning and devastating.

        

I am very thankful of my parents for raising me to be a compassionate friend and an attentive listener. They modeled for me to listen without judging and as a result I believe many of my friends have felt comfortable sharing openly with me their stress and worries. Some may say I am a bit hypersensitive to the mental health of others, I don't mind that personality trait. In a recent conversation with my mother who has practiced as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, she reminded me that one of the biggest barriers to young adults seeking help for their mental health is the role that stigma plays in our society.  The reality of stigma is that it perpetuates isolation, shame, and hopelessness.  It is understandable that individuals with emotional distress would be hesitant to ask for help in this environment.

As a society, we are generally unaware of the level of struggle that college students face with regard to mental health.  There are students who walk in the dark every day without feeling supported and it is up to us as friends, faculty, acquaintances, classmates, and a community to help break the silence, increase awareness and show more compassion to those suffering from mental illness. We have both an individual and collective responsibility to support each other, this is the only way out of the stigma of mental illness.

Follow @myhealthimpact for real talk on often hard topics.

#mentalhealth #collegestudents #stigma #supportsystems

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by Marcel Souffrant

April 30, 2015

Heart Health in Young Athletes

When we are young we are told and reminded of the importance of exercise and why we need to remain active.  My parents were sure to emphasize the benefits of physical activity and to this day, continue to do so.  This is why it often surprises me when I hear of professional athletes passing away from heart attacks and cardiovascular related health issues.  These are people whose career is centered on remaining active and physically fit, but there is no certainty that these habits remained after they’re playing careers came to an end.  More striking however is the seemingly prevalent occurrence of young athletes, at the high school and college age, who have suddenly passed due to cardiac arrest.  It is estimated by the American Academy of Pediatrics that “2,000 people under the age of 25 die from sudden cardiac arrest in the United States every year.”  This is a striking figure because this encompasses a group of young adults who generally, are at the peak of their physical fitness.

Perhaps one of the more prominent stories in the last year is the story of Isaiah Austin.  Austin, a former basketball player at Baylor University, declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft last year.  After the plethora of tests conducted by the National Basketball Association it was discovered that he could never play competitive basketball again, four days before the draft.  Isaiah Austin suffered from Marfan syndrome, which caused an enlargement of his aorta.  The combination of aortic enlargement and extreme physical exertion, as he would be subject to as a professional basketball player, made him susceptible to a rupture of his heart.   This was the exact fate of Flo Hyman, an Olympic volleyball player, who passed away on the court due to a rupture of her aorta in 1986.

The story of Isaiah Austin generated some, but not a lot of conversation about the health of young athletes.  Austin had been living with this condition and could have met his fate at any point during his athletic career at Baylor University.  Fortunately this did not happen, but many student-athletes do not have the same luck.  Every year there are stories of high school and college students who collapse on the athletic field, and most of these cases of sudden cardiac arrest are due to structural defects of the heart.  This begs many to ask the question, should we increase the testing of our amateur athletes before they can play?  Had it not been for the depth at which the National Basketball Association looks into the health of their players, the discovery of Isaiah Austin’s aortic enlargement may not have come until it was too late.

The message of remaining healthy and maintaining regular exercise is important and effective.  We must also include the message to be aware and responsible for our health.  School systems, colleges, and doctor’s offices should encourage student athletes and their families to become aware of their health.  The opportunity to curtail the sudden death of student-athletes is available.  These institutions have the ability to provide families with a stronger understanding of their health, and it should be capitalized on. Follow @myHealthimpact for more on #Health #Tech #Culture and views of #youngPeople.  See us on YouTube, and follow us on Tumblr.

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by Ebony Baldwin

August 13, 2014

“Selfies” and Mental Health Disorders

Experts including Dr. Lucie Hemmen and Dr. David Veal are beginning to consider a compulsion to take selfies as a serious mental health problem. Individuals can spend hours, even days taking hundreds of selfies in an attempt to capture the “perfect” photo (McKay). Taking selfies can lead to technology addiction and Body Dysmorphic Disorder — a chronic mental health condition in which the sufferer obsesses over perceived flaws with their body. In addition to that, it has been proven by multiple studies that taking selfies can be detrimental to a person’smental health, and it can be linked to narcissism, depression, and low self-esteem.

So how can we fix this problem? First, we have to realize that there is a deep denial about how dangerous it is to interact with screens without setting limits on how much time is spent doing so. With that said, it is hard to convince people that the effects of taking selfies are serious. Nevertheless, the common treatment of taking selfies is gradually learning how to go for longer periods of time without satisfying the urge to take a photograph, along with therapy to address the root cause of the problem. Thus, learning how to use selfies in moderation. Selfies, if used properly, can be a feel-good and often creative way, to chronicle one’s life and emotions and express one’s personality.

 

In conclusion, know this—According to clinical psychologist Lucie Hemmen there is a continuum of health and authenticity in what you shoot and post (McKay). A secure, mature person is going to post selfies that are spontaneous and not overly engineered or edited, and they're going to do it less often. A more insecure person is going to post staged or sexualized photos, and they're going to do it so much that they become consumed by it and the comments they receive. Let’s not let selfies control our mental health.

 

 

McKay, Tom. "A Psychiatric Study Reveals Selfies Are Far More Dangerous than You Think." PolicyMic. N.p., 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 June 2014. <http://www.policymic.com/articles/86287/a-psychiatric-study-reveals-selfies-are-far-more-dangerous-than-you-think>.

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by Keiara Morris

July 30, 2014

Women’s Role in Men Health

Not to generalize all men but I know that the guys around my house used to absolutely despise going to the doctor because they felt like it was a waste of time. They believed that ALL could be healed with anything in the medicine cabinet and band-aids. This was my Dad before he suffered from a heart attack. These days I feel like our family dynamic is a little different. My Dad definitely doesn’t mind going to the doctor now and instead suggests healthy options at the dinner table.

My Mother and I are the only two females in my household and although my Dad has taken a different role in the health of our family, at the end of the day, the women keep things realistic and rational. There are many food options that my Dad brings to the table, but we (the women) figure out how to make these things work for our family or how to politely tell him “No, we’ll pass on that one”. From incorporating more fish, chicken and turkey into our diets and working out pork and beef to even starting our own family garden, our family has been made a complete lifestyle change. What’s an idea without someone to put it into action? Right, just an idea.

I believe that women play a huge role in men’s health. Typically because women are more aware of the signs of pending health issues thus sending up a red flag and ensuring that the men (in our families) see a doctor. So let's just face it, we are the backbone!

       

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by Ebony Baldwin

January 16, 2014

5 Ways to Create a Healthy Lifestyle

With the New Year, I wanted to create a healthy lifestyle I could maintain throughout the year. It is important to set yourself up for success with a clear mind and body. With that said, I developed 5 easy ways to create a healthy lifestyle.

1. Exercise Daily
If you want to live well and live longer, you must exercise! Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Whether it’s going to a gym class on campus or going on a jog at your local park, there are plenty of ways to incorporate exercise in our daily routines. Try walking to class instead of taking the bus, or joining an intramural sport team. Studies show that just 10 minutes of exercise makes a difference—so do something!

2. Be a picky eater!
Set yourself up for success! Think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. 
Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients.

Eat in moderation. Moderation means eating less than we do now.  It doesn’t mean you eliminate the things that you love.  Just try to eat more healthy things than unhealthy ones.  Also think smaller portions. For example, when dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don’t supersize anything.  When at home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes and start small.

Eat breakfast! Eating fruits and whole grains in the morning can help jumpstart your metabolism and energy for the day.
Avoid eating at night! Try to set a time where don’t eat after. Eating late at during a time when you are less active, can cause weight gain and create unhealthy habits. Studies show that after-dinner snacks tend to be high in fat and calories. So avoid them! 

3. Get a good night’s sleep
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Set a regular bedtime and wake up at the same time every day.  Nap to make up for lost sleep, but make sure to be smart about napping. While napping can help you recharge, it can also create bad habits when it comes to your sleep cycles. Lastly, create a relaxing sleep environment.  Make your room more sleep friendly. Keep the noise down, keep your room cool, and make sure that your bed is comfortable! 

4. Keep Healthy Relationships
The healthiest people are those who have relationships with other healthy people. Healthy relationships reduce stress, unhealthy habits, and help motivate you to succeed and do better. Surround yourself with people who are going to uplift you and make you feel better about yourself.  Having a strong foundation is essential to life.

5. Give yourself a break!
Find fun activities for you to do to relieve stress! Go to the movies or go shopping. Create new hobbies.  Hang out with your friends. Do anything that makes you feel happy. It’s important for you to take a break from life’s stresses and create awesome memories.

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by Ebony Baldwin

October 21, 2013

Health Literacy?

Health Literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. It requires a complex group of reading, listening, analytical, and decision-making skills, and the ability to apply these skills to health situations. For example, it includes the ability to understand instructions on prescription drug bottles, appointment slips, medical education brochures, doctor's directions and consent forms, and the ability to negotiate complex health care systems. When patients are faced with complex information and treatment decisions, there are specific tasks that should be carried out to ensure that one is getting the best treatment possible. Those tasks include:

• Evaluating information for credibility and quality
• Analyzing relative risks and benefits
• Calculating dosages
• Interpreting test results
• Locating health information.

In order to accomplish these tasks, individuals may need to be:

• Visually literate
• Computer literate
• Information literate
• Numerically or computationally literate
• Oral language skills are important as well.

In addition to that, it is important for patients to articulate their health concerns and describe their symptoms accurately. They need to ask pertinent questions, and they need to understand spoken medical advice or treatment directions. In an age of shared responsibility between physician and patient for health care, patients need strong decision-making skills.

Next time you visit your local physician, make sure you are practicing and carrying out these tasks. It is important for patients to receive the best care possible, as well as, know how to make accurate decisions when it comes to healthcare.

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by Fatia Kasumu

April 20, 2013

Mass Media, Sex, and the HIV Chat

 

By the time I was 16, I was already aware of what condoms were, how they were used and who used them.  As a 20 -year-old graduating college senior, I look back on all I know about HIV. In order to address the discussion of HIV among teens, we must also talk about the sex discussion first because they are related. For one thing, I know that my parents had little to do with the discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. A curious kid at 16, I was also an avid ‘TV-watcher”. Like most of my African-American peers, we always discussed how tv shows like Flavor-of-Love, the Real World and Desperate Housewives influenced us on our view of sex. Because HIV is a sexually transmitted disease, there is much to be said about the virus.  My peers and I also know that TV, as a form of mass media sends messages to teens all across the world. Positive messages. Negative messages, perpetuating stereotypes and false information are what is shown to people everyday.  Mass media, as defined by sociology dictionary is forms of communication designed to reach a vast audience without any personal contact between the senders and receivers. Examples would include newspapers, magazines, video recordings, radio and television.

As a broadcast journalism major, I was taught that journalism, in lieu of mass media is the fourth estate. The first three estates being the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branch of the government. We are the gatekeepers of information. When I think of a gatekeeper of information, I think of a safeguard. A safeguard is someone who guards, protects and sensors something in a positive or negative way. During my teenage years, the only time I saw HIV awareness or discussion about HIV on TV was during World Aids Day and on December 1st, which is national HIV testing day. The media has more messages of free sex, sex with multiple sex partners and having sex with the absence of love, commitment or respect. There are more reality shows and sitcoms about those topics than shows that address safe sex, monogamy or abstinence. This poses as a threat to the teenage discussion of HIV because they are receive mixed messages that can lead to ignorance. For instance, some teens believe AIDS is the same as HIV, which is false. I’ve also witnessed a discussion at the university level where a student said, “ I need to take an AIDS test”, which is highly inaccurate. Where does the inaccuracy come from, one might add?   I am reminded of the huge responsibility TV plays in the discussion of HIV among teenagers. To me, there is no discussion of HIV. I do not feel that the TV industry does a good job of informing the public of the causes and symptoms of HIV/AIDS. For one, I believe that many teens do not know the difference between HIV and AIDS, and that discussion is where the media, as a fourth estate should start.

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by KaMar Galloway

February 21, 2013

Tracking your Health with Wearable Technology

At the top of every New Year, there seems to be a fitness trend that propagates through families, colleges, and churches, alike. The notion that this year is the perfect time to get into the best shape of your life is evident on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Hash tags like #teamGetFit, #trainHard, and #bodyProud are a select few that are seen everywhere and even appended to statuses and tweets posted around the world. A lot of the time, the motivation behind this burst in healthy behavior corresponds with New Year's resolutions or the mere fact that some over indulged during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays! However, as the months past by and the year gets old, fitness clubs and sport gyms see a constant decline in membership and weekly attendance. Whatever the reason may be, I set out to find if this year was any different than in year's past.

In comes CES 2013, the Consumer Electronics Trade Show where the biggest tech news is announced for those of us who have a deep affinity for smart devices and innovative gadgets. Originally seen as the place where power hitters, such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Amazon, have unveiled new products, its recently transformed into the "IT" place where the little guys bring us the most joy. Welcome to the future, where your body is technology's new frontier. The mobile applications and computing power we've become accustomed to in our smartphones are starting to migrate into wearable devices. Whether it is the Nike+ Fuelband from our favorite sneaker brand, fitbit, the same company that added style to Bluetooth earpieces or the Fitbit Ultra by an upcoming start-up company focusing on health and fitness devices; the ability to upload and analyze your personal training sessions can now be done on the fly without the need of paper and pencil. Figures 1 and 2 show a quick glance of each company's wearable devices and corresponding mobile applications.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

 

POLL: Does being able to track your fitness activity and sleep patterns, interest those committed to fulfilling their New Year's resolution? Does mobile health “fit” into your commitment to your personal health and wellbeing?

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Figures 1 and 2 - FashioningTech

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by Khalia Braswell

September 10, 2012

“You Ain’t Crazy: It’s Your Mental Health!”

On Thursday, August 30th, Dr. Payton gave a presentation on campus titled ‘You Ain’t Crazy: It’s Your Mental Health’ where she discussed mental health issues in the African-American community. What stuck out to me the most was the video she showed featuring Terrie Williams where she talks about her book “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting”. Williams talks about how people think they are the only one who is going through something so they keep things bottled in and suffer from depression, hyper tension, and heart disease; or it will come out through self-medicating, gambling, sex, risk behaviors, etc. Risk behaviors can only increase the chance of being exposed to HIV.


For some strange reason, in our community, when we are suffering from something such as depression, we don’t go and get help. Instead, we turn to a friend who ends up giving us bad advice or just decide to seek a spiritual source to resolve our problems. While I am not knocking the latter, sometimes it is good to keep mental and spiritual health issues separate. Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience.


Last semester I had things going on with my family that I had never experienced before and I didn’t have time to react properly. I used my school and extra-curricular activities as a way to block everything out until one day it caught up with me. I literally woke up crying. I didn’t go to class that morning (which added to my stress) and I reached out to one of my sorority sisters who I am close with. Having experienced depression before, she forced me to go to the University Health Center to seek counseling. I was skeptical at first, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to talk to someone who was a professional. I went to the Health Center and was told that I needed to set up an appointment. I was upset because I didn’t want to wait to talk to someone in seven days; I needed someone at that moment. I was afraid that my natural habit of pushing things away would hinder me from receiving proper help. In any case, I set the appointment and returned a week later. Unfortunately, the counselor was not helpful, but I was proud of myself for taking the initial step.


When I told certain people in my family that I went to see a counselor their response was ‘what do you need to do that for?’. I responded ‘to make sure I don’t go crazy!’. I also told them that I wanted to find another counselor and begin seeing them regularly, again they asked ‘what do you need to do that for?’. I believe that counseling can help you receive an unbiased opinion on how you should move forward. A counselor does not give you advice based on experience. They give you advice based on clinical research that can help you control your reaction to events that you can’t control. Can you control risk behaviors?


If you’re reading this and you have something that you are dealing with, seek help. More than likely you are not alone in the matter. If you need motivation, watch the video below featuring Terry Williams who also gives her personal testimony about battling with depression.

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In Partnership with: Poole College of Management, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation, Penn State

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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