I grew up in a home with an angry father and a fearful
mother. To survive and thrive I had to figure out why they felt what they felt,
did what they did, and how I could get the protection and love I needed. At age
five I became an amateur psychologist and with a master’s degree in Social Work
and a PhD in International Health people now call me a professional. In this
article, I’d like to share what I’ve learned from the field of Evolutionary Science.
The theory of evolution by natural selection was first
formulated by Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species in
1859. The theory has two main points, says Brian Richmond, curator of human
origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City:
- All life on Earth is connected and related to
- The diversity of life on earth is a product of
modifications of populations by natural selection, where some traits were
favored in an environment over others.
The theory is sometimes described as “survival of the
fittest,” but that can be misleading since “fitness” refers not to an
organism’s strength or athletic ability, but rather the ability to survive and reproduce.
Here’s where things get interesting. Understanding evolutionary science can
help us improve our sex and love lives and who among us isn’t interested in
“We are a species devoted to sex,” says anthropologist Helen Fisher, author
of The Sex Contract and the Anatomy of Love. “We talk
about it, joke about it, read about it, dress for it, and perform it regularly.
We have legends to explain it, punishments to curb it, and rules to organize
it.” Yet, science tells us that males and females are different and face different
The Basic Truth About Males and Females
Biologists have a very simple and useful definition of what
is male and what is female, whether we are fish, ferns, or human beings. An
individual can either make many small gametes (sex cells) or fewer but larger
gametes. The individuals that produce smaller gametes are called “males” and
the ones that produce larger gametes are called “females.” A single human
female egg, for instance, though microscopic, is so large it could house 250,000
sperm. About 400 eggs are ovulated in a woman’s lifetime. A healthy man
produces 100 to 300 million sperm per ejaculate.
Dr. Stephen Emlen is Professor of Behavioral Ecology at
Cornell University and a world authority on the social behavior of animals. He
says, “Because of all the resources a female will put into each egg, it makes
sense, in most cases, for her to be choosy about whose genes she allows to
combine with it, and to continue to invest in its growth and survival after
fertilization. For the male, it usually pays best to compete with other males
for access to as many eggs as possible. This tends to give rise to the more
traditional male/female sex roles.”
The Evolution of Desire: Are There Two Human Natures?
None of your direct ancestors died childless. Think for a
moment of the power contained in that statement. Over a period of 2 million
years of our evolutionary history, not one of your ancestors dropped the ball.
You are a product of their reproductive success and you can bet that what it
takes to pass on your genes to the next generation is built into your intentions,
behavior, emotions, heart, mind, and soul.
Though the process is not always conscious, we never choose
mates at random. We are all descended from a long and unbroken line of
ancestors who competed successfully for desirable mates, attracted mates who were
reproductively valuable, retained mates long enough to reproduce, and fended
off interested rivals.
The way we carry out these vital functions is what
evolutionary psychologists call our “reproductive strategy.” It is our
characteristic way of doing things, our standard operating procedure. It is
what draws us to certain people, “the whisperings within,” as evolutionary
psychologist, David Barash, calls them. “We don’t always follow what we hear,
but we must always listen.”
For instance, “Men are more aggressive than women and women
are more nurturant, at least toward infants and children, than men,” says
anthropologist Melvin Konner. “I’m sorry if this is a cliché; that cannot make
it less factual.”
In his book, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies in Human
Mating, evolutionary psychologist David Buss says, “If mating desires and
other features of human psychology are products of our evolutionary history,
they should be found universally, not just in the United States.” To test his
theories, he conducted a five-year study working with collaborators from
thirty-seven cultures located on six continents and five islands. All major
racial groups, religious groups, and ethnic groups were represented. In all,
his research team surveyed 10,047 persons worldwide. His findings can help us
better understand some of the similarities as well as the differences in male
and female evolution.
What Do Women Really Want?
In Buss’ world-wide study, he found that the top three
qualities that women look for in men are exactly the same as those things that
men look for in women: intelligence, kindness,
and love. Women then look
at a man’s ability to protect her and her children, his capacity
to provide, and his willingness to make a commitment to a
We see these four basic desires in what women find attractive in males.
- Worldwide, women seek men who are strong and tall
Even women who are quite capable of taking care of
themselves are attracted to men of size and strength. Women, as a group,
judge short men to be less desirable than tall men. In personal ads in the U.S.
where women mention height, 80% want a man 6 ft. or taller. As a 5’5’’
guy, I’ve had to deal with that reality all my life and find ways to increase
my attractiveness other than my height.
I’m not the only man facing this challenge. In the U.S. population, only about 15% of all men are six feet or over. So, 85% of males might feel they don’t measure up.
2. Women are also drawn to men with good earning capacit
This is true worldwide and doesn’t seem to depend on whether the women themselves are well-off. Women doctors, for instance, are drawn to even higher paid male doctors, rather than to male nurses. This can be a challenge when our economic system is highly automated and more and more men find it difficult to find good-paying jobs.
3. Worldwide, women are drawn to men who are older than they are
This is not surprising since in most cultures older men have higher status and earn more money. In the U.S. 30-year-old males make, on average, $14,000 more a year than 20-year-olds and $7,000 a year less than the average 40-year-old male.
4. Women want men who will commit their resources to the care and support of the woman and her children
Women are attracted to men who demonstrate their ability and
commitment to support the woman and her children.
These patterns hold true even for women who insist that
wealth, status, strength, and height don’t make a difference. The “whisperings
within” which made for reproductive success through evolutionary history are
often stronger than our logical mind.
What Do Men Really Want?
Like women, men seek love, intelligence, and kindness in a
mate. But then a man is drawn to youth and beauty. This interest
is not just a modern desire driven by advertising and a male desire to control
women. According to Dr. Buss it is a universal desire based on evolutionary
pressures for reproductive success.
Men who mated with women who were incapable of bearing
children left no ancestors. Every man alive today is descended from men
who did not make that mistake. “Ancestral men,” says Buss, “solved the problem
of finding reproductively valuable women in part by preferring those who are
young and healthy.”
Buss found that men throughout the world were attracted to
beautiful women. “Full lips, clear and smooth skin, clear eyes, lustrous
hair, and good muscle tone,” he says, “are universally sought after.”
Since women’s ability to conceive and bear children
decreases with age, youth is a direct indicator of reproductive capacity. In
most cultures throughout the world, men’s attraction to youth has been
understood and honored. In recent times, men who feel this natural attraction
are condemned and shamed. We are told we are being sexist or superficial if we
express our interest in female beauty.
Attraction to beauty seems to be built into our biological
makeup, according to psychologist Judith Langlois and her colleagues. In one
study, adults evaluated color slides of white and black female faces for their
attractiveness. Then infants of two or three months of age were shown pairs of
these faces that differed in their degree of attractiveness. The infants,
both male, and female looked longer at the more attractive faces.
“This evidence,” says Buss, “challenges the common view that
the idea of attractiveness is learned through gradual exposure to current
These sex differences are not limited to the United States,
or even to Western cultures. “Regardless of the location, habitat,
marriage system, or cultural living arrangement,” Buss concludes, “men in all
thirty-seven cultures included in the international study value physical
appearance in a potential mate more than women.”
I look forward to your questions and comments.
Soon, I’ll be offering a way to be more directly involved
with me and to get your questions answered about specific ways to improve your
love life including facing issues such as male anger.
It will be for men and women who want more, but can’t afford
or don’t need weekly therapy sessions. To make it the best it can be and fit
your specific needs, I’d like your feedback. I have a quick questionnaire I’d
like you to take that lets me know what you might like from such a community.
It won’t take you long to fill out. Please do so here.
 Joe Quirk. Sperm Are From Men.
Eggs Are From Women: The Real Reason Men and Women Are Different. Running
Press Book Publishers, 2006.
 PBS, Evolution Library. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/6/l_016_04.html.
This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.
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Sleep disturbances are a frequent complaint of women in the menopause transition and postmenopause. A new study demonstrates that women with premature ovarian insufficiency who are receiving hormone therapy have poorer sleep quality and greater fatigue than women of the same age with preserved ovarian function. Study results are published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
It is estimated that 40% to 50% of menopausal and postmenopausal women complain about sleep problems. Sleep problems include difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep, as well as waking up too early. Complicating matters is the fact that women with insomnia generally complain more about body pain, headaches, daytime dysfunction, mood disorders, fatigue, and decreased work productivity. Although some of the problems are related to other common symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, not all sleep issues can be traced back to these root causes.
Although numerous studies have been conducted about the sleep patterns of menopausal and postmenopausal women in general, this newest study from Brazil specifically evaluates the sleep quality in women with premature ovarian insufficiency. This condition differs from premature menopause because women with premature ovarian insufficiency can still have irregular or occasional periods for years and might even become pregnant. The Brazilian study found that women with premature ovarian insufficiency who are receiving hormone therapy have poorer sleep quality, largely as a result of taking longer to fall asleep. These women were also found to have a higher fatigue index and were more likely to use sleep-inducing medications compared with comparably aged women who still had full ovarian function.
Study results appear in the article “Sleep quality and fatigue in women with premature ovarian insufficiency receiving hormone therapy: a comparative study.”
“This study shows that women with POI have poor sleep quality despite the use of hormone therapy. Another interesting finding from the study is that total sleep quality in women with POI [premature ovarian insufficiency] was directly related to the number of children they had and overall was similar to sleep quality in women without POI. This speaks to the scope of the problem when it comes to sleep disturbances and the important and often under-recognized factors that contribute to sleep complaints being more common in women than in men,” says Stephanie Faubion, MD, NAMS medical director, in a release.
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We all know how impressive it is to be able to squat, bench, deadlift, or overhead press an unreal amount of weight, but what about the strength achievements that don’t get as much attention, and often carry over into these movements?
Infertility: Not Just for Women Only
Dear Mr. Dad: A few years ago, you wrote a column about male infertility. I remember being surprised, since I’d always thought women were the only ones who had fertility problems. But now, after several years of being unable to conceive, I just found out that, just like the man who’d written to you back then, that the issue is mine. And, like him, I’m shattered. I’m thrashing around, looking for anything I can do to undo whatever the problems are and to feel like a man again. Is there anything I should do—or stop doing—that can help?
A: Yes, there is hope. But you need to start be being a little nicer to yourself. As you discovered, fertility issues most definitely affect men and women equally: About 40% of fertility problems are the woman’s, 40% are the man’s, and the remaining 20% are simply unexplained. My guess that part of the misconception (so to speak) that fertility is a women’s issue has to do with the fact that most fertility doctors are OB/GYNs.
Infertile women are often anxious, stressed, depressed, and feel like failures as women and partners. For men, there’s a lot of macho tied up in being able to get a woman pregnant. Many new dads I’ve interviewed say they experienced a sense of virility and pride when the pregnancy test came back positive. It was like a confirmation that everything was in working order—which comes as quite a relief to some. Men who can’t impregnate their partner have many of the same feelings that women—and you—do.
Read the rest of this article here.
Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay
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Ellen Richards with Integral Care (l) & Karen Ranus of NAMI (Photo by Jana Birchum)
When Karen Ranus lost her mother to a terminal brain tumor, casseroles baked by her friends and neighbors appeared at her doorstep. Those same friends offered to mow her lawn and pick her children up from school. Ranus knew her community supported and cared for her family during a crisis. Fast-forward 17 months, when Ranus and her husband brought their daughter home from the hospital after a suicide attempt. There were no casseroles.
“I own the fact that, in my mother’s case, I’m quite certain I posted something on Facebook about it,” said Ranus. “I can assure you that when I brought my daughter home I didn’t do that.” The stigma of suicide and mental illness caused a snowball effect in Ranus’ family. First, her daughter thought her depression meant there was something wrong with her – that she was abnormal. Then it was Ranus and her husband who “felt ashamed in the sense that we had failed.”
Now the executive director of the Central Texas division of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Ranus explained: “Here we were making sure she had access to everything she needed in terms of care … but this cloud hung over us that no one really spoke of or named. But I know now it was shame.”
Shame and stigma, especially in times of crisis, have made it difficult (and at times impossible) for those suffering to get the care they need. “I often say – it was both the way we responded to it, and the way our friends, family, and community responded to it,” Ranus added, noting that the lack of support during her daughter’s struggle was “not reflective of the people in my life” – that there would have been empathy and caring if people could approach mental illness as they do physical illness. Instead, “We carry the shame ourselves and it just sits there [because people] still don’t know that … by all means, bring a casserole over, because we’re navigating a really serious health issue and yeah! It would be great to have a King Ranch chicken casserole.”
In the U.S., one in five adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, while one in 25 Americans lives with chronic serious mental illness. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates continue to increase – 33% from 1999 to 2017, with many less-advantaged groups (such as indigenous women) being hit especially hard. The last time suicide ran this rampant in the U.S. was during World War II. In Travis County, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office, two children under the age of 15 committed suicide in 2018. Another 15 teenagers and young adults (16-20) took their own lives last year, as did 34 adults aged 21-30. In total, 158 Travis County residents ended their own lives in 2018.
Those numbers, while staggering, may be just the tip of the iceberg. Women, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, are twice as likely as men to attempt suicide or to experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Twelve million U.S. women are living with depression each year; 10-15% of new mothers are plagued with postpartum depression, while another 9% experience postpartum PTSD. Even young girls are experiencing mental illness at higher rates: Ranus noted that suicide rates for girls aged 10-15 have tripled recently, which, though the number remains small, is still cause for concern.
“We’ve got to talk about this,” said Ranus, who, along with Integral Care Chief Strategy Officer Ellen Richards, believes talking about the realities of mental illness is one powerful tool to help dispel the stigma currently shrouding this public health crisis. Across the country and right here in Austin, more and more women are coming forward to share their stories, carry the conversation, and ultimately change how the community looks at and responds to mental health. While half of all mental illness is diagnosable by the age of 14, Ranus said there’s often an eight- to 10-year gap between the onset of symptoms and treatment.
Pointing to celebrities like Kristen Bell, who’s publicly acknowledged her depression and anxiety, Richards noted that Integral Care (Austin’s local public mental health authority) and NAMI are working together to “change the conversation locally by reducing the stigma around talking openly about the conditions people live with.” Sharing stories, she said, gives people hope and offers real-life examples of others moving toward recovery. Not talking about it keeps the issue hidden and often stops people from accessing care.
Lawmakers are both speaking up and listening. Ranus, Richards, and Austin state Reps. Celia Israel and Sheryl Cole agree that mental health care is one of the few issues with bipartisan support at the Capitol. The final biennial budget approved by the 86th Texas Legislature included $4.4 billion toward mental and behavioral health (beyond spending within Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program), another $342 million for early childhood intervention, and additional measures and dollars to better support the state’s mental health efforts. The Lege’s support, said Richards, has been evident for the last several sessions: “Texas has really made significant strides in expanding access to services by putting more money in the budget.”
Legislators also approved a $165 million budget rider to rebuild Austin State Hospital, which Richards called an “enormous win” locally, regionally, and statewide. ASH is one of 10 state psychiatric hospitals and serves a 38-county region (75 counties for children and youth). The overall ASH redesign – including both the new hospital facility and future investments in the Central Austin campus – seeks to transform how Texas approaches brain health. Ranus noted: “The redesign isn’t just about a building, but how we pay attention to the systems in place and the policies. How do we change those as well?” Those policies include the ongoing decriminalization of mental illness – a plan Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez supports and is putting into action with the help of both NAMI and Integral Care.
Programs intended to divert from jail those who are experiencing a mental health crisis have taken root in local law enforcement with the aid of Integral Care’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT), which is dispatched through Integral Care’s crisis hotline and when called in by first responders. MCOT often takes over for officers or EMS when a patient doesn’t need to be arrested or transported to an emergency room, but does need mental health support. In the courts system, County Court at Law Judge Nancy Hohengarten started the Austin/Travis County Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Advisory Committee in 2012 – a countywide partnership to support those with behavioral health needs while also ensuring public safety. Today, that committee is chaired by District Judge Tamara Needles.
Still, notes Ranus (whose office is located on the grounds of Austin State Hospital), “We can provide all kinds of services and have a robust system” and work to educate and support families (which NAMI does), but “if we don’t change the conversation in schools, workplaces, faith communities, in our neighborhoods, that work is almost futile. Because you still have families sitting quietly, not getting casseroles. We really have to transform the entire community’s approach.”
Before she was elected sheriff of Travis County in 2016, Sally Hernandez spent 30 years in law enforcement watching people in the throes of mental health crises move in and out of the criminal justice system. At the time, she recalled thinking, “We’ve got to do better,” but added: “It’s easy for all of us to rely on someone else to push it forward. But for those 30 years – I hate to admit – it didn’t push forward. It was getting worse.” As she began considering a run for sheriff, Hernandez – at the time the Travis County Pct. 3 constable – realized the “ta-da” moment she’d always hoped for would be up to her to figure out.
Sheriff Sally Hernandez (Photo by John Anderson)
“We have to start the conversation so people know it’s OK to talk about it.” – Sally Hernandez
Hernandez reached out to Integral Care and NAMI, where she learned about diversion efforts, officer trainings, and the personal side of mental illness. Hernandez recalled the story of a young woman named Kate, who suffered from an unknown mental illness, self-medicated, and landed in jail before she ever got help. But Kate found NAMI, and eventually found a job there as well. “That day, I saw [that] you can go from crisis to hope,” Hernandez told me. “If this can happen for Kate, how many people can this happen for? We need more positive stories, because positive stories moved me.”
Since taking office in 2017, Hernandez has co-chaired the county’s Children’s Mental Health Crisis Task Force, which surprised many people at first. “They all said, ‘You don’t deal with children,’ but I said ‘Oh no, if we don’t help them now, I’m going to be dealing with them.'” The task force was created to examine the current system and create a countywide support network to empower children and families, one of Hernandez’s chief goals. Toward that end, Hernandez partnered with NAMI and Integral Care to improve the outcomes for inmates living with a mental illness. Today, NAMI leads a bimonthly class at the county jail for family members of inmates with mental health issues. Attendees learn what to do when a loved one goes into crisis, how to recognize the signs, and where to access additional resources. Attendees are also granted additional visits with their loved ones.
Both Integral Care and NAMI also lead trainings to help officers understand mental health and navigate crises. In fiscal year 2018, Integral Care trained 1,079 first responders from TCSO, Austin Police, and EMS to help divert individuals from jail. The TCSO has also begun using Integral Care’s MCOT to divert people in crisis from arrest; Hernandez said her office is also working on diversion programs for low-level charges, such as criminal trespass. Hernandez concluded: “We have a lot more to do … but we have to be proactive. We have to start the conversation so people know it’s OK to talk about it. That’s how you end stigma.”
A native Texan, Kendall Antonelli – co-owner of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, which she runs with her husband – had what she calls a “pretty challenging college experience.” Within two years of moving to Washington, D.C., to attend Georgetown University, Antonelli lost her father and grandmother, and supported her mother through a battle with colon cancer. A child of earlier divorce, Antonelli was already seeing a school counselor to cope with loss, but one night, she said, “I just broke.” She found herself in Georgetown Hospital’s psychiatric ward.
Kendall Antonelli (l) with her children Elia and Everett in 2015 (Photo by John Anderson)
Antonelli hopes to be “an example of someone else who made it through.”
Behind the hospital’s locked doors is where Antonelli says her “real transformation” toward getting healthy began. She spent the summer at home with her mom and new dog, attending therapy sessions, exercising, and resting in an effort to create a routine. And there was medication, too. “I always say mental health challenges and stories are unique to each person, and their roads to recovery are unique to them,” explained Antonelli. “But I’m grateful for whatever recipe of hard work, therapy, medication, support, and magic/faith/love went into my healing process.”
When summer ended and she returned to school for her senior year, Antonelli was better equipped to care for herself and recognize her triggers. Eventually, she said, “I had sort of worked through” the depression that landed her in the hospital months before.
As a business owner, entrepreneur, and local activist, Antonelli has chosen to talk openly and honestly about her story to help those “still in that deep dark hole” know they’re not alone. For Antonelli – who said the hardest part of her journey was the feeling of isolation – learning that her grandfather also suffered from and was hospitalized for depression offered some relief. Years later, Antonelli hopes to be “an example of someone else who made it through.” More so, she hopes to “reach those folks who just don’t get it. [Because] those of us going through a mental health challenge should be able to talk about it and get the help we need, and we can’t do that when stigma surrounds it.”
She sees that stigma slowly disappear when she shares her own story and others, in response, share theirs. Some folks, Antonelli said, have come directly to her for support – including mothers concerned about their children. As a NAMI supporter, Antonelli offers resources and referrals in return. “It’s just about taking small steps and shining a light on mental health awareness.” That, she said, “makes a difference.”
Today, Deborah Rosales-Elkins is a peer support specialist at Integral Care, but for years – ever since her teens – she struggled with her mental health. “I went through this trajectory of getting on medication, feeling better, and then thinking, ‘I’m a bright, strong woman, I don’t need medication, I can navigate this on my own,’ [going off medication], and getting sick again.”
Deborah Rosales-Elkins (Photo by Jana Birchum)
It wasn’t until she lost her nephew to suicide a couple of decades ago that Rosales-Elkins decided it was time to make a permanent change. As a mother of five kids approaching adolescence, she wanted to both protect herself and ensure her children could navigate the reality of mental illness in their family. “I started looking into all the models I could learn about,” Rosales-Elkins recalled. For her to maintain control, she knew she had to “create a care team” of friends and colleagues to “help me navigate the impactful things I’ve learned to maintain my health.”
Now at Integral Care, Rosales-Elkins is part of others’ care teams. Working in the bipolar clinic, Rosales-Elkins supports clients who are just beginning their journey to recovery, a path she both recognizes and understands. Though not a medical expert, she explained: “I am an expert on the impact of this disease.” Her role is to share the nonmedical side of maintaining recovery, because “the way I look at it – the more tools you provide to people, the more they can pick and choose what works for them.” Her history – and her willingness to share it – sparks an “instantaneous connection,” as she described it. “When I tell new clients I’m in bipolar recovery, happily married, and [have] raised five resilient, successful kids … I had a client burst into tears and ask, ‘Are you telling me I can have that too?'”
That success works both ways. “This heals me … and keeps me on course as well. [My clients] turn around and serve me by giving me so much hope.” Rosales-Elkins is also quick to credit other organizations working to support her clients, such as the Austin Clubhouse run by Joanna Linden, which mimics a workplace setting and provides a safe space for people living with mental illness to come and connect within the larger community.
Returning to her nephew, Rosales-Elkins pointed to the silver lining of her family’s loss. “If anything good can come out of the tragedy … it helped our family take this disease by the horns. I think that’s the power of being open, of women and men stepping forward and sharing their stories. These struggles can be overcome.”
Rep. Celia Israel
Celia Israel talks openly about mental health to support and save our youth. This last legislative session, Israel again filed her bill seeking to ban conversion therapy in Texas (the pseudoscientific practice of trying to “fix” queer kids by “making” them straight). Though House Bill 517 didn’t make it out of committee, Israel considers the bill’s first-ever hearing in the House Committee on Public Health a victory. “I’ve filed that bill three times now. To at least get a hearing and take the hood off the fact that these people are calling themselves mental health providers, charging a fee for their services, and telling parents, ‘I can fix your kids’ – it’s doing harm in so many ways.”
Rep. Celia Israel (Photo by John Anderson)
As a whole, Israel said the state has done better with each passing year to protect Texas youth.
Israel, who struggled as a gay teenager and had her own brush with suicidal thoughts, found herself calling upon the “younger version of myself a lot this session.” Looking back, Israel said she’s careful to not just say “LGBTQ kids,” because “some kids don’t know what they are. They just want to be kids. Nine-year-old Celia didn’t know what she was, but she wanted to wear high-tops and she could name every member of the Dallas Cowboys team. And she was happy. But other people tried to make her feel weird because of that. So for me, when you talk about mental health issues, I’m thinking about just allowing kids to be kids.”
A year has passed since Israel first shared her personal story in the Pflugerville Pflag, inspired at the time by the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. A good friend told her the most powerful thing she could do was talk about mental illness, and the response Israel received from sharing her story confirmed her friend’s truism. “My social media blew up and I was reminded again: People are watching, and they appreciate you being honest. There are those kids who are made to feel weird when they’re 8 years old, and by the time they’re 17, they might not want to live anymore. If we don’t have the resources to make sure they’re taken care of, then it’s on us.”
As a whole, Israel said the state has done better with each passing year to protect Texas youth. One of this session’s wins came when Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 11 on June 6, creating the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to improve the state’s care system for children. While Israel, with her infinite wit, believes “girls are smarter than boys,” she admits that as a lawmaker in the minority party, there’s only so much she can do. So she applauds Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, who in past sessions chaired House select committees on mental health and substance abuse, for “moving the ball forward.” Calling him a champion, Israel credits Price for rolling up his sleeves and acknowledging “this is a good, bipartisan win for us.”
Progress, Israel said, is also being made on insurance coverage reform that can help kids get mental health care coverage. “We’ve got a lot of significant small rocks that are going to equate into one big rock over the course of several years.” As for conversion therapy, Israel gave an unequivocal yes when asked if we’d see the end of the harmful practice in her lifetime. “We’re all accountable to voters who want to see us getting work done. I suspect that’s why we were able to move forward with more mental health bills this session – voters don’t want us fighting over who gets to go into whose bathroom.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 5, 2019 with the headline: Saying No to Shame
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While Men’s Health Month came to end this past week, it’s still important to talk about men’s health issues year-round. As a woman, men’s health might not be at the forefront of our minds but it is increasingly essential that women start talking about depression and suicide in men. Already nationally, there has been increased dialogue around mental health but the stigma for men as yet to completely fade.
The Center for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that since 1999, suicide rates have
gone up more than 30% in more than half of the states and is still one of the
leading causes of death in men today. Though emotional struggles, self-care and
wellness are something women frequently talk about with our loved ones and
health care providers, these topics are still avoided by men. Because men rarely talk about their feelings, rates
of depression are likely higher than we know—even in our own social circles. In
one way or another, someone you know may be affected by these rates, whether it
be a dad, uncle, grandfather, or partner. While mental health concerns are
prominent among both sexes, it is important to talk about men’s health since so
many men struggle to talk about it themselves. By bringing these statistics out
into the open, both men and women can
help to start the conversation on mental health.
Men Struggle With Their Mental Health
Mental health is essential to any
person and keeping it in check is as important as going in for a medical
checkup. Though mental health issues are important to respond to, like a broken
leg, men can sometimes struggle to seek help or even recognize the symptoms of
poor mental health. In a study done by the CDC in 2018, men without
known mental health conditions are more likely to die by suicide (84%) than
females (16%). This is because men are three times as likely to fail to seek mental health
treatment, especially minority men of color such as African American,
Latino, and Asian men. Though there can be a difference in treatment-seeking
across cultures, the overall gender disparity occurs as a result of men
downplaying their symptoms, struggling to speak on their concerns, and
following the social norms of masculinity, according to the National Institute
of Mental Health. For men, embracing who you are as a person is healthy, but avoiding
help due to the expectations of “being tough,” or a “strong man,” can lead to men
feeling helpless and unable to express their troubles to others, especially
their male counterparts. The reason for this is that men do not want to be
judged by their peers, and feel as if their friends or family will think they
are weak, or will not understand what they are going through, according to the
Though we might think
that depression is a common problem that is easy for individuals to recognize,
men can communicate symptoms of depression in different ways than
women, including anger, aggressive tendencies, or a rise in substance abuse.
Since these are not the “normal” (recognized) symptoms of depression, both men
and their loved ones might fail to recognize the signs, and therefore fail to
get help. As a result, symptoms might get worse and result in poorer mental and
physical health outcomes; this is why getting an accurate diagnosis and
treatment is essential. If signs are not assessed and treatment is not sought,
depression can lead to more serious ramifications, including drug and alcohol
abuse, self-medicating, or worse – suicide, according to the Mayo Clinic. One
way to recognize whether a man suffers from depression is knowing if they have
experienced emotional or environmental stressors recently, such as financial
insecurity, a big life change, loss of a loved one, work or relationship
problems and more. According to Mental Health America, over six million men
suffer from (reported) depression each year, and over four times as many men as
woman die by suicide in the U.S. These are numbers that we (both men and women)
need to change.
How Women and Men Can Help
So, how can these
numbers go down? Giving awareness to causes such as Men’s Health Month (June),
Minority Health Month (July) and #ShowUsYourBlue for Men’s Health Week (second
week in June) can help to create awareness and dialogue for men’s health and
mental health. Creating a socially acceptable conversation around men’s health,
mental health and suicide is the key to keep men from sitting in silence; it is
up to men and women to start the
conversation. If you have a loved one who might be suffering from depression or
suicidal thoughts, do not be afraid to offer your support to them by listening,
being patient and nonjudgmental. Always encourage your dad, uncle, grandfather,
son or partner to talk to their health care provider about what they might be
experiencing, and let them know that it is okay to seek help. It is not only up
to men to fight these numbers but the women in their life to support and
encourage them to get help. It is important to let men know that they are not
alone in their depression, and that help is available to them.
If you or someone you love is thinking about hurting or killing themselves, get help now. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Lilli Specter is a Summer 2019 intern at Men’s Health Network. She is pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in Public Health and Psychology at American University.
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I’ve been a marriage and family counselor and therapist for
more than 40 years and one of the most common concerns I hear from women is
this: “Where are all the good men? I’m a quality woman who has a lot of offer a
partner, but I can’t seem to find my soul mate.” I offer guidance in my
book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of
Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. The good news is that
men are more interested than ever before in finding a partner where they can
have a full, deeply satisfying, relationship for life.
With 360,000 new people coming into the world each day,
you’d think it would be easy to find the one partner that is right for you. So,
why are so many people frustrated trying to find a partner who they can share
their lives with and how can you find a soul mate that is right for you?
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my story. I’m
an only child. My father and mother got divorced when I was nine years old. I
was a short, nerdy, kid who had a difficult time making friends. By the time I
went to college, I had gotten the hang of the dating game and in my senior year
met the woman I would marry. But like many first marriages, ours didn’t last. I
dated a lot after that but found it difficult to find a compatible partner. I
eventually remarried, but that relationship was short-lived.
Now, if you’re a marriage and family counselor it’s more
than embarrassing to be handing out advice to others when your own love life is
a disaster. I decided to get some help with my life and went to a therapist. I
also read everything I could and finally figured out how to find the soul mate
I longed to be with. I met and fell in love with Carlin and we have been
together now for nearly 40 years. Here are the steps we discovered:
- Get clear about what you really want and what
you won’t tolerate.
I assumed that when the right person came along, I’d know it
and I just had to wait for the right person. Wrong! I sat down and wrote
out all the things I really wanted in a relationship, including, someone I
could trust to be there for me in the good times and the bad, someone I could
have fun with, someone who had worked out her wounds from previous
relationships, someone who shared my quirky sense of humor, someone who liked
to read, was interested in being physically and emotionally healthy, enjoyed
walks on the beach, romantic dinners, and most of all liked sex, and was a compatible
On the flip side, I wrote down that I didn’t want a smoker
or someone who couldn’t learn to love my two children or someone who expected
me to be the sole breadwinner or someone who was easily angered (like my
previous wife). If you’re not clear about what you truly want and don’t want,
you’ll never find your soul mate.
- Make relationship a priority.
I had a good job and loved to work. It fulfilled me and gave
me my purpose in life. But I realized I had to make relationship a priority if I
was going to have one. Many women I know, though, become so focused on finding
that special someone, that they don’t pay attention to finding their calling in
life. Others get so focused on their career that they are too busy with work to
put energy into their love lives.
Although I would have said, “I want to have a partner to
share my life with,” I realized I had a lot of negative baggage that I’d
accumulated about actually having what I said I wanted. I looked deeply inside
and brainstormed all the negative thoughts that swirled around inside
including: I don’t want to get burned again, I don’t have time for all this
dating crap, women want to tie you down, I can’t imagine committing to having
sex with only one woman for the rest of my life, I’m not really attractive
enough to attract the woman I want. And three more pages I won’t bore you with
here. But it’s important to get the negativity out where you can see it.
Otherwise, it stays hidden and undermines everything you do.
- Recognize that there are 5,284 perfect partners
waiting for you.
Most of us grew up with the romantic notion that there is a
“one and only” just for us. That notion has some unforeseen drawbacks. It
creates an underlying fear that we’ll never find the right person, that needle
in the haystack (but this haystack is as big as the entire world). It also
creates a tendency to move on to someone else rather than getting to know
someone well. Even when we find someone, we second guess ourselves. We find
fault and move on looking for “the one.”
The truth is there are many potential soul mates. Don’t get
hung up thinking there is only one. That thinking works in romantic movies.
It’s deadly for finding your soul-mate in real life.
- Become aware of your distorted love filter.
Although I had a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner,
I realized I also had a subconscious filter that drew me towards certain kinds
of women that weren’t right for me and away from others that were. I realized I
was drawn to fiery women who were risk takers, but were disasters to live with.
My ex-wife was like that. Shortly after we met, I found that she slept with a
loaded gun under her pillow. I should have fun like hell. (Hope you caught the
typo in the previous sentence. I should have run like hell, but didn’t. I left
it in to illustrate the power of our subconscious mind.) Instead, we had a
passionate, crazy, year together and got married even though we nearly killed
each other with our fights. I also excluded women who were nice and loving, but
seemed boring when I first met them.
Cleaning up our filter so that we aren’t subconsciously
excluding partners who might be right for us and getting hooked on those who
are disasters, can keep you on the right track.
- Beware of the evolutionary magnets that draw you
to some and away from others.
Even though Carlin had all the qualities of I wanted, the
“chemistry” just didn’t feel right. When we met she seemed nice, but there
wasn’t the pizzazz I was used to having. Well, it turns out pizzazz is another
name for evolutionary-based magnets that are built into our brains to
perpetuate the species, not help us find our soul mates.
First, she was five years older than me. No big deal my
conscious mind thought, but evolution pulls us toward youth and beauty. Second,
she was slightly taller than me. Again, she had the 20 out of 20 on my list
of wants and 0-10 on the list of can’t tolerate. But,
something just didn’t feel right when I had to look up to her.
Yet, we hung in there with each other, talked about our
discomforts, and soon sparks were flying and we both knew “we were the one.”
Both of us nearly walked away from a relationship that continues to get better
through time. Don’t miss out on the perfect mate because the chemistry isn’t
there at first, that they don’t seem to be the type that turns you on.
- Clean up your old beliefs from the past.
We all have issues from the past that keep us from finding
and holding on to our soul mate. Many of us have been married before or had
serious relationships that didn’t last. We all grew up in families, most of
which were less than good models for soul-mate love. All of them can cause
distortions that keep us from finding and keeping our soul-mates.
In fact, one of the hidden reasons we pick the partner we
pick is to heal the wounds from the past. However, if we don’t recognize how
the issues from our previous relationships, including how we were influenced by
our mother’s and father’s relationship with us and with each other, we will
find ourselves looking for love in all the wrong places.
If you don’t understand the past and clean it up, I
guarantee it will muddy the waters and you won’t find your soul mate.
While these seven learnings were easy to write down, they
took us years to learn, and we benefitted from some years of counseling to
actually put them into practice. We wrote about our experiences in The
Enlightened Marriage. I’m offering a special discount to readers, here. I look
forward to your comments and questions.
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If you were to Google ‘weight loss tips’ you’d get well over 500 000 000 results. From fad diets to tips from the professionals, we’re all searching for the secrets that will melt the kilos away. While it’s great to get tips and tricks from the numerous online articles, it’s a lot more motivating to get weight loss advice from women who’ve been through their own weight loss transformation.
Here’s some insider info from 9 women who’ve battled the bulge and won!
Derushka lost 35 kilos and went from overweight mommy to personal trainer. She now spends her days helping other people transform their life and their body.
Make a change: “If you are not happy with the body you’re in, start by making the change and commit to yourself. Show up, don’t cancel on yourself, join the gym or a class and find what awakens your physical body”
Just move: “Honestly, just move more”
Be aware of what you eat: “Eat consciously and eat well. Make better food choices and feed your body with good nutrition, just be more aware of what you put into your body and make sure it’s beneficial to your goals”
Kelly lost over 30 kilos and went from overweight suburban mom to runner suburban mom extraordinaire.
Be patient: As we get older, it just gets harder. Weight comes off slower. My advice is to work on it daily, know that the choices you make right now will have long term effects.
Have reasonable expectations and goals: I like to give myself little goals initially. Like, lose 2kgs a month, its not huge weight. But if you continue with that, realising that the time, days and months go on regardless, in 6 months time you would have lost 12kgs!!!
Make it sustainable: No point in making yourself miserable with an eating plan or exercise plan that is not going to work long term. You have to work with the time and resources available to you.
Pippa went from yo-yo dieter to losing 47 kilos.
Start slow: “When starting the process, take it one meal at a time, and then one day at a time. As this needs to become a permanent lifestyle change, you can’t rush in seeing big results. It’s a process and you need to be patient. If you can do this, the rewards are so worth it.”
Have a realistic goal: “Set realistic goals that you feel you can achieve. For example, if you have 50kg to lose, don’t look at the big number, but rather break it into smaller segments – set your first goal to lose five kilos, then work from there.”
It’s never too late to start losing weight: “My sister asked me if I regret not starting this process earlier on in my life, and my answer was ‘no’. I replied that if I had reached the end of my life and hadn’t got this weight thing right, I would have regrets, but I don’t regret getting this right at the age I am now, because my head is obviously in the right place.”
Nicolette started running and lost over 30 kilos.
If you want it, work for it: “I hear women complaining about wanting to lose weight, but they don’t do anything to begin. If you really want to, you need to make a plan.”
Start now: “Don’t wait for Monday or next month. There will never be a right time. The sooner you start working on your goals the sooner you will achieve them.”
Have faith: “Never stop praying, pray through the days when you feel like giving up. I prayed so much throughout my journey, especially when I wanted to give up. And having a goal in mind I still pray for God to help me. Keep in mind that your body is a gift from God. What you do with it is your gift back.”
Sinesipho lost 15 kilos through commitment and finding a support system.
Get a support system outside your immediate circle: Get a therapist, personal trainer or join a weight-loss support group. You need to have people who understand what you are going through and can support you. Working out and eating clean is the easy part — dealing with your daily emotions is the hard part.
You are allowed bad days: The important thing is to start again. It’s not necessarily about chasing a specific goal, but more of an overall lifestyle change.
Don’t ditch the scale: It’s important to track your progress. And keep yourself accountable if you want to reach your goals.
Lizea lost over 100 kilos after drastically changing her lifestyle.
Enjoy the journey: “This is an amazing experience. You can see how beautiful life is when you don’t limit yourself”.
Have a goal: “Find your purpose, and you will find the courage to help you reach your goals”.
Believe in yourself: “If you think it, you can reach it”.
Mathapelo lost 17 kilos and discovered her abs in the process.
Be your first priority: “That way you will never compromise your well being just to please someone else. You will always stick to your plans and not let anyone try to disturb your journey”.
Stay and own your lane: “This is not a competition, the only person you are competing with is yourself. Prove to yourself that you will do it no matter how hard it is. Do not compare your progress with others”.
Always challenge yourself: “Introduce yourself to new things — it makes workouts fun, and you will always look forward to going to the gym as you are not doing one thing all the time. Make sure you don’t put pressure on yourself, because it will make you hate the gym. Just take one step at a time and always know there is a room for improvement, so don’t be too hard on yourself”.
Mandy hit the road running and lost 30 kilos.
Be Patient: “It takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight”
Be Kind to Yourself: Don’t be so hard on yourself
Don’t stop: “Don’t give up. I tried several times before it actually worked”.
Thobekile lost 64 kilos the ol’ fashion way of good nutrition and exercise.
Have a team: “Get friends, colleagues and family members to walk the journey with you. The journey is better and easier when you do it as a team.”
Keep your head up and give yourself a pat each time you reach a milestone: “Dropping weight is your own individual story, so write it and write with a smile. Be patient with yourself – it’s not just the body, but the emotions and psychological challenges you have to overcome. Go for it.”
Document your journey: “ It’s amazing what comparing before and after picture does to your confidence. It also encourages you to push more after seeing what you’re capable of. Most importantly, before pictures remind you where you come from and what made you start in the first place.”
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While smoking increases the likelihood of heart attack in both men and women of all ages, it has a much more powerful effect in younger women, especially those under 50, a new study suggests.
According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for female smokers ages 18 to 49, the risk of a deadly type of heart attack was more than 13 times higher than it was for non-smoking counterparts.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men worldwide, and acute ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is among the most life-threatening forms of heart disease.
Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease and researchers have previously identified smoking as the cause of STEMI in nearly 50% of all cases.
However, none have quantified and compared the incidence of STEMI associated with smoking between genders and within different age groups.
‘This study sheds new light on the risk impact that smoking has in provoking major heart attacks, especially in younger and female smokers,’ said coauthor Dr Ever Grech, an interventional cardiologist at the South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Center at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield.
‘I hope the study will correct the perception by young smokers that heart attack risks only arise much later in life.’
Quitting reduces risk
There was the hint of some good news in the new study.
When women quit smoking, their risk of a major heart attack dropped back to that of non-smokers.
‘This reversibility was a surprise, which I regard as a ‘silver lining’ within the dark cloud of smoking outcomes,’ said Dr Grech.
‘This will undoubtedly incentivise those smokers who may have genuine concerns regarding their longer term health and realise the massive benefits of abstaining.’
Grech and his colleagues studied five years of data on patients who came to their hospital with a complete blockage of a major coronary artery.
They compared 3,343 STEMI patients with data on the entire population served by the South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Centre using three years of information gathered on residents aged 18 or older by the Integrated Household Survey from the United Kingdom Office for National Statistics.
Younger women smokers, those under age 50, saw the highest increase in risk.
Male smokers in the same age group were 8.6 times more likely to experience a STEMI compared to nonsmoking counterparts.
Grech suspects the reason for the increased risk of STEMI in younger women is tied to the impact of smoking on the hormone oestrogen.
‘What is clear is that the protective effects of oestrogen in young female smokers are overridden by the powerful impact of cigarette smoking,” he said.
The study had several limitations, including that it did not provide information about intensity of smoking or duration of smoking cessation in ex-smokers who were defined as being abstinent for at least one month.
It also only included patients presenting with STEMI as a candidate for PCI and did not include those who died in the community prior to admission.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, online June 24, 2019 bit.ly/2WZ690L
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Pregnancy can feel pretty magical at times. I mean, your body is growing another human, NBD. But it can *also* feel pretty damn unfair when it forces you to give up your favourite things in the world (wine…sushi…cheese…) for nine months. Ugh.
A beloved beverage that plenty of pregnant women don’t want to give up but worry about? Coffee. That’s because there is a lot of conflicting information and science regarding whether caffeine (in general, not just in coffee) can negatively impact the health of the fetus.
So, we asked ob-gyns and a registered dietitian to help clarify whether mamas-to-be really need to completely give up their morning energy elixir (because let’s be honest, pregnancy can be seriously draining). The verdict, below.
This is how drinking coffee impacts your body (and baby) while pregnant.
Let’s start with your body: Caffeine can increase blood pressure and heart rate, says Women’s Health advisor Dr Jessica Shepherd, an ob-gyn and founder of Her Viewpoint. For a woman who is not pregnant and is healthy overall, that’s fine and is part of why you feel so alert after a cup of coffee.
But the issue if you’re pregnant is that high blood pressure is a risk for low birth weight and has even been linked to early delivery, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What’s more, caffeine can cross the placental barrier (the placenta is the organ that provides your baby with oxygen and nutrients), and it’s harder for a teeny, tiny growing fetus to metabolise the stimulant than it is for you to, says Amanda Baker Lemein, a Chicago-based dietitian and WH advisor.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, says Dr. Shepherd, meaning it makes you pee more and, in turn, can dehydrate you. And last time we checked, pregnancy comes with enough bathroom breaks as is.
READ MORE: Can You Get A Tattoo While Pregnant, Or Should You Definitely Wait 9 Months?
Don’t get totally freaked out: Most experts agree that it’s the *amount* of caffeine you consume that matters.
The general takeaway from the available research on caffeine consumption and pregnancy is that things get riskier the more you drink.
There is a lot of conflicting research out there, but the general scientific consensus is that consuming more than about 300 milligrams of caffeine daily may increase your risks of pregnancy loss and having a baby with a low birth weight, as the World Health Organization (WHO) concludes — due to those physiological effects that caffeine can have on the baby.
So the big thing to remember is that you just don’t want to drink cup-on-cup-on-cup of coffee. “There is a question of growth restriction in the fetus with lots of caffeine, but very little data,” explains Dr Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynaecology, reproductive sciences at Yale University.
Moderate amounts of coffee are likely still safe for pregnant women, says Baker Lemein: “As a pregnant woman and registered dietician, I have certainly not given up my daily cup of coffee and would be so sad to do so.”
What does a *moderate* amount actually look like? Keep coffee intake to about 230ml per day; this size generally contains less than 200 milligrams of caffeine. This piece of advice is also backed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG); the organization says that less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day “does not appear to be” a factor you need to worry about in regards to miscarriage or preterm birth, per a committee opinion.
Of course, other well-respected health organizations offer different recommendations (because nothing can ever be simple, huh?). The WHO, for example, says pregnant women should drink less than 300 milligrams day.
Don’t forget: Caffeine is in many other foods and drinks, too, including these ones:
- Tea (48 mg per cup)
- Chocolate (30 mg per bar of dark chocolate)
- Soda (37 mg in a 350ml can)
- Coffee and chocolate-flavoured desserts (2 mg in one half-cup of coffee ice cream, for example)
This means you need to keep tabs on your overall caffeine intake — by adding up what you consume in total from all caffeinated beverages and snacks.
Ultimately, you should always speak with your ob-gyn about any caffeine concerns you have, or if you’re just unsure about whether or not what you typically consume daily is safe.
READ MORE: Can You Take Throat Lozenges While Pregnant — Or Is That A Terrible Idea?
So just go easy on the coffee each day. And if you need a caffeine-free energy boost…
…take care of yourself naturally by prioritizing sleep and eating nutritiously (which, we know, might be super hard right now). “Although coffee is a stimulant and therefore helps keep you awake, the only real way to truly boost energy is through a balanced diet and proper sleep patterns,” explains Baker Lemein.
Eat enough throughout the day and go for energy-boosting foods (like oatmeal and strawberries, peanut butter and a banana, or hummus and cucumber slices), but without completely stuffing yourself to a brim. Overeating can also tire you out, pregnant or not, says Baker Lemein.
Finally, drink lots of water and get some exercise (but stick to workouts appropriate for pregnant ladies, per your doctor’s recs). Both will help up your energy levels, which just about *every* soon-to-be mom craves big time.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
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