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Saturday, November 28, 2015

HIV and Mental Health of People of Color

LGBT People of Color Mental Health Conference 
In My Mind
Examining Our Challenges, Healing for Our Strengths
Thursday, October 8, 2015

First Conference for LGBT People of Color on Mental Health and was I happy to be in attendance, see some familiar faces and meet many new ones, especially younger LGBT people, or what I like to think up and coming community activist, all with a story to share, all with big hearts full of compassion.  I was happy at age 56 to be among them.

The Conference was on LGBT people of color.  I recently was reading, Advances against HIV made, but there's more to do By Alberto Cort├ęs | 2 p.m. Nov. 27, 2015 source:The San Diego Tribune Times, I try to catch everything on HIV and mental health that's printed daily, this one started off with the statistics I know to well, "An estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States." as I to reference these same numbers.

Half way through the article it started to address, "today more people are living with HIV than ever before, but socioeconomic factors like poverty, discrimination, stigma and homophobia can limit access to health care. They serve to discourage individuals from seeking HIV testing and treatment. Additionally, language barriers and concerns about immigration status present additional barriers to accessing care, treatment and prevention services. In part, due to social and economic challenges including discrimination, communities of color have higher rates of HIV. The African-American community faces the most severe burden — though only 14 percent of the population nationwide, 41 percent of people living with HIV are African-American. Latinos — 17 percent of the U.S. population — account for 21 percent of the new HIV infections."

This pulled me in as it reminded me of the October 8, 2015 conference on LGBT people of color, and more recently, during one of my own story telling sessions sponsored by The Urban Justice Center's, Mental Health Project's Open Mic Night.   I speak about my bumpy road to recovery, my dual diagnoses of Bipolar and HIV both at the same time and also my substance abuse recovery, recoveries plural.

I end my story telling session by handing out my card, which has on it, If I Can Talk About Mental Illness,  So Can You and then my email address

In my inbox, I'm changing name to protect the privacy as not everyone is outspoken like me, also I touch on that, that it's no ones business unless you want to share your story.   The email started, with thank you for sharing your story, it went on to say they to have a mental health diagnoses, that Spanish was their first language, and that they were gay, and had questions on safe sex, at which time I shared resources on PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis ).

Story telling is a joy to me, sharing resources, looking up helpful links, all of what I do is self-help, it's how I educated myself , as education diminishes fear, also found on my card,

So back to the conference of LGBT people of color, to the article by Alberto Cortes and my own personal account, I know first hand about minorities and poverty and how it can prevent you from all services, HIV and mental health.

Next Tuesday, December 1st is World's AIDS's Day, on Wednesday, December 2nd, I will be on hand attending:   For More Information and to RSVP call  718-802-3530



Brooklyn Borough President
Eric L. Adams

"Suicide, In Memory of their son lost fifteen months ago" by Stephen Puibello

A2A Alliance founder Jeff Bell speaks with A2A Advocate Stephen Puibello, a survivor of HIV, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse, about his commitment to raise awareness of all three challenges.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Homeless LGBT YOUTH, Help Out However You Can

Homeless LGBT YOUTH, Help Out However You Can 

Although never homeless, I did experience being told to get out being shouted at me when I was 21 by my dad who was just angry, the news daily was on AIDS and here I was coming out, thanks to mom who spoke up I remained.

Today I see many homeless people, not just homeless veterans, but younger people, with signs about being HIV+ and homeless, and although I wasn't HIV+ when my ordeal happened, I could easily see it happening and although not a remedy to these young homeless people I do what I can, which is giving them half of my lunch, water in the warmer months and hot beverage in the colder months.

Homelessness dates back as  1640, fast forward 1980's,  1981 the beginning of the National Coalition of the Homeless and my shining light on LGBT youth who are homeless, that and donating when I can, as I'm a resident in HUD housing and know the importance of permanent housing is to my own mental illness and substance abuse recoveries, as to tackle these one needs a safe place to live.

Facts on Homeless LGBT Youth

YOUTH    Source:  National Coalition of the Homeless

  • 20% of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10% LGBT.
  • While homeless youth typically experience severe family conflict as the primary reason for their homelessness, LGBT youth are twice as likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of 12.
  • LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7% of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth
  • LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth
  • LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%) 

There's less then a dozen non-profits in the USA today, mostly on the West Coast and East Cost, today I'm putting a donation in the mail to The Ali Forney Center, and writing this small piece raising awareness and to also ask you to donate through their website
or by mailing a check payable to;      The Ali Forney Center
                                                           and mail to:
                                                           224 West 35th Street, 15th Floor
                                                           New York, NY     10001

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pets & Bipolar: Friends with benefits

Reprint with permission of BP HOPE November 5, 2015

Pets & Bipolar: Friends with benefits
Dogs — and cats, birds and other critters — boost well-being in many ways. Not least is how animal companions help us cope with stress.

By Elizabeth Forbes

Whoever coined the phrase “man’s best friend” was on to something. Dogs—and cats and birds and other critters—have well-documented properties for boosting our well-being.

When psychologists from Miami University in Ohio and Saint Louis University in Missouri compared pet owners to people who did not own a pet in three different studies, people with pets scored higher on self-esteem, were more physically fit, and tended to be less lonely, less fearful and less preoccupied.

One of the experiments showed that thinking about a beloved pet is as effective as thinking about a human friend in helping someone feel better after experiencing rejection. In fact, research shows that the bond people have with their dog can be as strong as the bond with their closest relative.

“A third were closer to the pet dog than to any human family member,” says Sandra Baker, PhD, who co-authored that study. “Wherever I speak around the world, dog owners aren’t surprised by that.”

Barker is director of The Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, where she holds a named chair in psychiatry. She’s been involved in a body of research documenting the power of even 15 minutes with a therapy dog in cutting levels of stress, anxiety and fear for both psychiatric inpatients and hospital staff.

That reduced stress response, whether with therapy dogs in health care settings or pet owners “in the wild,” has been documented across a range of physiological measures, including brain waves, blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.”

That unconditional sense of love gives people a sense of hope that they can persevere.
Aubrey Fine, PhD, editor of the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy and author of several books on the benefits of human-animal ties, notes that dogs are very attuned to nonverbal behavior and therefore responsive to emotional distress.

In his most recent book, Our Faithful Companions, he writes about how the comforting attachment of a golden retriever named Magic helped his wife through breast cancer. Like many people who study or have companion animals, Fine talks about the emotional boost from a dog’s faithful devotion—the excitement on seeing you, the total acceptance without judgment.

“That unconditional sense of love gives people a sense of hope that they can persevere,” says Fine, a professor at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. “I remember my wife said, probably a couple months post-treatment, ‘Magic is the hope that I need to get on to the next day.’“

Cats and dogs don’t have exclusive bragging rights, though. Fine first got intrigued by “pet power” in the 1970s when he saw how children he was treating responded to a gerbil named Sasha. Clients in his private practice engage with his cockatoos and other birds, and even his bearded dragon (a type of lizard).support-someone-with-bipolar

“Fish are very relaxing,” he adds, referring to research that shows watching fish tanks decreases stress hormones.

A goldfish in the cardiac unit was the catalyst for People-Animal Connection, a volunteer program based at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “People noticed that it had an effect not just on the patients, but on the staff as well,” explains program coordinator Stephen Goldstein.

Now People-Animal Connection has therapy dog-and-owner pairs visiting almost every unit of the hospital, including the psychiatric institution. The organization also arranges for people to spend time with their own pets, which combats loneliness and raises spirits.

“Words can’t quite describe the effect,” muses Goldstein. “The dogs provide something that medicine cannot.”

For his part, Goldstein has a cat waiting in his condo when he gets home after work. He finds solace in stroking Athena’s fur.

“There’s scientific evidence that petting, whether a cat or a dog, reduces blood pressure,” he explains.

However, getting a pet isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some of us just aren’t “animal people.” Others may have issues with health, time, money, or housing that make having a pet problematic.

“We can’t make a blanket recommendation that everyone should get a dog. It really depends on the family’s circumstances and their ability to care for the animal,” notes Megan Mueller, PhD, a research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

She also points out that the emotional benefits of animal companionship depend on the quality of the connection between human and animal. In one recent study of children in military families, she found a deep attachment to the family pet is associated with greater resilience when a parent was deployed—“an acute stressor,” she says. The simple presence of an animal in the home wasn’t as important as “what kind of relationship someone has with a pet,” Mueller says.

The deeper the bond, however, the more painful it can be when it’s broken. When we invited readers to share the ways companion animals add to their well-being, several alluded to the destabilizing effects of losing a beloved companion. As with so many triggers, having a coping plan in place can moderate the fallout.

“Most people are surprised and shocked by how intensely they feel grief after the loss of a pet,” says Barker, who is known for her work in supporting bereaved owners. “Pets don’t live as long as humans do. It’s important to remember that and prepare as the pet ages.”

She suggests thinking in advance about ways to commemorate the pet, such as planting a tree or writing a poem.

Of course, we also received many heartfelt and heart-warming accounts of how animals contribute to our lives. We present some of those stories here.