Archive for the ‘Family’ category

Hope, help, and healing to prevent suicide

April 16, 2019

Anyone can be at risk for suicide. We all have sources of strength. And it’s strong to get help.

These messages of hope, help, and healing are what I took away from the Prevent Suicide Hawai‘i Statewide Conference last week, April 11-12, 2019.

Organized by the Prevent Suicide Hawai‘i Taskforce (PSHTF), the Conference was sponsored by organizations such as EMS and Injury Prevention System Branch of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, the Department of Psychiatry under the John A. Burns School of Medicine, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Hawai‘i Chapter.

I work for a local mental health nonprofit, and I was fortunate to be a resource table volunteer. During the Conference, I spoke with passionate advocates, educators, and service providers. I learned about the resources that are available for people in crisis. And I was inspired by West Oahu and neighbor island youth who are committed to prevent suicide in their schools and communities.

The Conference opened with a keynote by Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Moutier emphasized that the stigma of mental distress is going down and talk saves lives – for those at risk and for survivors of suicide loss. “Everyone struggles,” she stated. “It’s strong to get help.”

There were five breakout sessions and five different “tracks,” covering Hope (primary prevention), Help (intervention and treatment), Healing (postvention and survivor supports), Special Topics and Populations (Micronesian, Military, Filipino, and LGBTQ populations), and Culture (Hawaii and Pacific Islands).

For me, the most moving point came at the Fight For Each Other (F4EO) break-out session. Speakers for the F4EO Project share how suicide affects the lives of military members, their friends, family, and co-workers. Col. Robert Swanson shared his personal story of healing and recovery. “It always gets better – but only if you stick around,” he asserted.

The most impressive part of the Conference was the Youth Leadership Council. These motivated youth shared some of the results of their training, including identifying sources of strengths – such as family support, positive friends, and healthy activities. Youth facilitator Deborah Goebert, DrPH summed it up when she said, “Go out and inspire each other.”

The Conference closed with an address by Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green, who shared his personal story as a survivor of suicide loss. “It took us years to realize we shouldn’t blame ourselves for missing the signs,” he revealed. Dr. Green concluded with words of encouragement: “We have an incredible capacity to help each other.”

Suicide Prevention Resources:

  • ANYONE in crisis can call the 24-hour National the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Veterans, call 800-273-TALK (8255) and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line or text to 838255.
  • Teens in Hawaii can text ALOHA to 741741or call 832-3100 for 24-hour crisis support.
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Kindness starts with one

February 12, 2019

I’ve been immersing myself in happiness over the past few months, learning from the Greater Good Science Center, and figuring out how to make happiness practices part of everyday life.

We can become happier in many different ways, from encouraging empathy and nurturing friendships to fostering gratitude and cultivating a sense of awe. But one of the simplest ways to become happier and spread happiness is to be kind.

Being kind makes us happy, and being happy makes us kind.

Kindness is easy, and it starts with ONE. One person. One cup of coffee, one compliment, one “I love you,” one note-to-self.

On February 17, 2019, we’re celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day, and it starts with YOU. You can be the one to write a positive note at school or work, thank someone who isn’t usually acknowledged, or volunteer to do a five-minute favor. No one else has to know about it. But you’ll know.

Kindness starts with one, but let’s aim for five. Studies have shown that doing five acts of kindness in one day can make you happier than doing single acts of kindness spread out over time.

Being kind can have a lasting impact, too. You can get a happiness boost by remembering a time when you were kind or helpful or generous… or by remembering a time when someone was kind to you.

I tried a happiness practice called “Three Good Things,” in which you write down three good things that happen to you each day. The goal is to focus on positive thoughts and feelings. I found that it really helped to put my day in perspective, and lessen any worry or stress I felt.

I’m starting to take it a step further and pay attention to whether good things happen to me (like receiving a compliment) or because of me (like giving a compliment).

What will you do on Random Acts of Kindness Day? How will you spread kindness?

Doing less or more on vacation

January 15, 2019

There’s truth in what Lucille Ball said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

It may be obvious to you, but recently it struck me that the busier I am, the more I get done.

Over the past few months, I have been overwhelmed, stressed, and a little ragged when I let myself think of all the things I need to do. Somehow the urgent things get done, and I move on down the list.

Then I took a vacation. Except for checking email every once in a while (so I didn’t face an overflowing inbox when I got back to work), most of the “busy work” halted.

I took time to sleep in, to read, to relax. But I also had plans, places to go and things to do.

On the first and last days of my vacation, we took two family day-trips – places we wanted to take our son for the first time. But with so much time, we couldn’t stir ourselves to take the second trip sooner.

Between those family days, I worked only on projects that I wanted to do. I couldn’t justify doing them when there were more urgent projects, but I enjoyed doing them. There were other things I wanted to do, and had the time to do them, but not the motivation.

Though my vacation is over, here are three things I could have done to make sure I got more done:

* Designate work times. I could have aside two days, or three mornings, as work days. Whether it’s checking work email, preparing taxes, doing yardwork, or cleaning the house, making that mental shift to “work” can help focus attention and set boundaries for the rest of the vacation.

* Set imaginary deadlines. My default was “I’ll do it over my vacation,” but that’s not specific enough. I should have set a date for when something needed to be completed – even if it was an arbitrary date.

* Tell someone about it. Better yet, I should have told someone what I wanted to accomplish, and when, so that I felt some pressure or accountability to actually follow through.

Now I have some ideas for staying on task during my next vacation.

What is your ideal vacation? Are your vacations all-leisure or a combination of work and play?

Spending more time in the future

January 1, 2019

Today, there seems to be a strong emphasis on living in the present, on savoring each moment. We can add meaning to our days by focusing on good things that happened, accomplishments, and kindnesses.

 

But we also need to balance living in the present with spending time in the future.

 

“The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. Leaders are custodians of the future,” write James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in “The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know” (2010).

 

“Spend more time in the future,” Kouzes and Posner suggest. “You have to carve out more time each week to peering into the distance and imagining what might be out there. You have to spend time today in order to have the time tomorrow.”

 

So I spent some time imagining what our best possible organization could be like in five years. Who is part of our best team? What are our core programs, products, and services? What other organizations and agencies are we working closely with? What is the state of our finances? How are we making positive changes in our community?

 

Thinking about the future is revitalizing. It makes me feel hopeful. It gives me a renewed sense of purpose.

 

It’s like a reverse time capsule. In five years, what will your time capsule tell you about about today?

 

This ties in with a happiness practice that I recently learned through “The Science of Happiness” class. In this practice, we were asked to imagine our best possible self – in career, family, relationships, finances, hobbies/interests, and health.

 

And what it comes down to is time – more time doing meaningful things, like time with my family, time devoted to art, and work that has a positive impact on society.

 

The practice is not meant to make us feel frustrated about the difficulties that we face today or the challenges that we foresee in the future. It helps us learn about ourselves and what is important to us. And it can help us prioritize who we can be and what our organization can become.

 

Imagining the future made me really excited about doing even everyday tasks, because I could see how each small step could get us to that best future.

 

Do you make time to spend time in the future? What do envision for your life in five years?

Being thankful and sharing thanks

November 20, 2018

She had tears in her eyes as she listened to my son read a letter to her. It was part of a seventh grade “gratitude letter” project. My son chose to write to his fourth grade teacher, telling her how much he appreciated her and how she had a positive impact on him.

Sitting at a nearby table to give them privacy, I witnessed first-hand the power of expressing gratitude.

It took trust for his teacher to meet him, without knowing why they were meeting. It took courage for my son to read a gratitude letter out loud to his teacher, not knowing how she would react. He didn’t even let me read it before setting up the meeting with her.

Later, she came up to me and told me that she had recently been feeling a little down about teaching, and my son reminded her that teaching is so worthwhile.

This experience reminded me that while we have many people and things to feel grateful for, we also need to share thankfulness with other people.

A gratitude letter is both simple and powerful.

  1. Reflect on someone who helped you or did something for you, someone you are grateful for but to whom you may not have expressed your gratitude. It could be a relative, friend, teacher, mentor, neighbor, or colleague – anyone who has touched your life.
  2. Write a letter to that person, describing what they did, why are you are grateful, and how their actions affected your life.
  3. Ask to meet with them, without telling them why you want to meet, and read your letter to them in person.

In our everyday lives, we can also take time to reflect on who we are grateful for and what we are grateful for. But the biggest impact comes from sharing our thankfulness with others.

This is the kind of experience that Thanksgiving creates for us. It’s a time to both feel thankful and show our thankfulness. (And maybe it’s a little about food, pie, and football).

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thankfulness.

Who are you thankful for right now? How will you show your thankfulness and thanksgiving?

DNA and a culture of diversity

October 9, 2018

In Hawaii, 24% of residents are a mix of two or more races (nearly one in four people), compared to 6.9% of the US adult population, according to a 2015 Pew Research report, “Multiracial in America.”

 

My family is a blend of heritages. Growing up in Hawaii, all of my friends were from mixed ethnic backgrounds too. I learned to focus on who people are, not what they look like.

 

I came to realize that, depending on who I was with, or whether I had a tan, people would perceive me in different ways. Walking with a Japan friend, some visitors have greeted in me in Japanese. Waiting with a Chinese friend, some people have talked to me in Chinese. (I don’t speak either language).

 

It gave me a kind of freedom in who I wanted to be, and which cultural traditions I choose to draw on.

 

In the past, my parents and I would sometimes speculate about our grandparents and great-grandparents, and try to do the math with percentages and blood quantum. It was like discussing sports statistics and betting odds (but a lot less intense).

 

Speculating about our heritage didn’t affect our family. I’m comfortable with who I am and I don’t need proof of where I came from. But one day, I found myself ordering a DNA kit from AncestryDNA.com. I was curious to see the results, and whether our idle speculation was on target.

 

One Sunday morning, I received the results of the DNA test. The results didn’t surprise me; the regional breakdown was about what I expected, though I hoped for more country-specific identification.

 

I didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

A few days later, there was an update to my DNA results, based on more reference samples and addition regions. The regions were refined into estimated countries. This time, the refinement surprised me.

 

But I still didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

Within a few generations from today, I think that most of the people living in urban areas will have mixed ethnic backgrounds. I don’t see it as losing a heritage; I see it as being connected to multiple heritages, and embracing a new culture of diversity.

 

If you have done a DNA test, how did you react to the results? Did it affect your self-identity? And for those who haven’t done a DNA test, what would make you consider it? What would you want to know about your ancestors?

Seniors and the next 20 years

October 2, 2018

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a telephone survey about the needs of seniors, conducted by Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division.

My responses were spontaneous, and after thinking about it a little more, I wouldn’t respond any differently. But I did think of more things I wish I could have said, so I decided to share my thoughts with you.

Here are the top three challenges that I think seniors face today:

Affordable housing. Oahu is addressing the lack of affordable housing, but we need even more affordable housing units that are built with seniors in mind – such as wider elevators, hallways, and doorways; walk-in showers; and clear signage in buildings.

I also think we need to change our expectations for senior living. One idea is to create ohana apartments, modeled on university dormitories. Two or three seniors or senior couples could live together in multi-bedroom units with a shared kitchen and living room. This could strengthen friendships, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and foster relationships where seniors give and receive care.

Affordable healthcare. In the two years I’ve worked in healthcare administration, I’ve seen big increases in co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles. Some clients have a co-pay of $40 or $45 per office visit (my own copayment is $50). We need more resources in place to help make healthcare affordable. I am strongly opposed to making our tax code more complicated; but, working with the tax system we have today, we could create a tax credit for healthcare providers who waive copayments for low-income seniors.

At some point, we simply need more reasonable limits on annual healthcare premium and copayment increases. The limits could be tied to the rate of inflation or Medicare benefits. In 2018, Affordable Care Act (ACA) rates increased by 19.8% for HMSA members and 24.1% for Kaiser Permanente Hawaii members, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In comparison, consumer prices rose 2.7% over the twelve months from August 2017 to August 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mobility and transportation issues. Hawaii has a variety of services to help seniors with mobility and transportation issues, from TheHandi-Van and Uber rides, to Meals on Wheels and Project DANA, which provide services to the homebound.

I think we can do more a little more. We can encourage more healthcare providers to offer home visits for seniors. We can create a “technology in the home” program to help seniors set up computers, tablets, or phones for web conferencing.

And in the next 20 years? I think the biggest challenge will be keeping physically and mentally active. We need to keep fit, work longer, and volunteer more. There are so many ways to be active in the community, and we need better ways to share those opportunities with people of all ages.

For example, I recently learned about Senior Corps RSVP, a network for seniors who want to volunteer in the community. At the Hawaii Seniors’ Fair, I learned about a foster grandparents program to mentor children with special needs in schools. Volunteerism and maintaining strong connections to the community can help keep us healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What challenges do you or the seniors in your life face today? How do you envision your life in 20 years?

 

Artwork courtesy of All-Free-Download.com.