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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

The world under the ground

That the traveling – not just the destination – can be a way to having fun is true, particularly as being shown by New York City’s subway system, and as discovered by Dom (DominiK/Dominique). Here’s why Dom thinks it’s a world on its own that is worth discovering.

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The first time one of my Dads took me out riding New York City’s subway system, there weren’t that many people. I think it was past 9:00AM already, so the rush hours were done. Plus – coming from Queens while heading to Brooklyn – we already passed Midtown Manhattan, so the only people left were those who weren’t stuck for the day in the Big Apple, and I tell you, there aren’t that many on weekdays…

That first time, I remembered seeing much: a heterosexual couple eating each other’s faces (my Dad said for me not to stare, but…); still-sleepy commuters heading to work; tourists who were finding their ways toward the city’s attractions…

But, apparently, as they say, I’ve not seen nothin’ yet!

You know that cliché about a journey being of value not only because you’ve reached your destination, but because of the travel towards that destination? Well, I’d say this is true. Particularly if you’re traveling using the subway of New York City, as you try to reach point A to point B to… point Z.

Because in not so many words, braving (yes, I used the word braving) this city’s subway system is in itself an adventure.

That there is an underground world is true. And no, I don’t mean those bunks that weird people may have built in anticipation of an atomic war, or to hide from the arrival of zombies. But a concept of an underground world is exemplified by, yes, the subway.

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Here, you’d see people do what they would be doing at home – eating proper meals (complete with silverware cutlery); expertly put on make-up (using the windows, darkened because the train’s moving underground, as mirrors); make-out (like that time that Dad said for me not to look); do homework (kids even have their crayons out!); and so on…

You’d see people, too, continue what they started elsewhere – the laptops come out for work; Kindles pop out for reading; yoga stretches in the middle of carriages; and so on…

My favorite would have to be the performers. Actually, Dad calls them performers. But they’re really buskers. They perform a song or two, and then they ask for money. Like carolers in the Philippines. Only here, no dog will chase them. But I like them – the hip hop artists, the balladeers, the acoustic performers, the rappers…

There are, of course, beggars who ask for help – the war veteran, the pregnant woman, the homeless old man, the abandoned younger people…

What I don’t like is the rudeness of some. There was one time, I saw someone pick a fight with someone because he took his bike in the train. The bike owner wouldn’t have any of the rudeness, so he became rude, too. They were blabbering so loudly right there, in the middle of the train – and during rush hour, too. It was kinda weird…

But then there’s kindness, too. Dad’s friend from Kenya, Angela Muthama, said that she was told that one of the signs one has become a New Yorker is when he/she starts wearing earphones/headphones while traveling in the subway. And she may be right – just about everyone has ear pieces that allow them to get lost in their own worlds. But they’re never really “lost” – one time, Dad dropped a piece of paper, and this young woman chased us to give it back to him. At another time, this Black guy’s money in his back pocket was just about to fall out, and this Chinese guy called the Black guy’s attention about it. And at so many times, people – men or women – offer their seats to others. For instance, if you are with someone, and only one seat is available, the one seating beside you/your friend will offer his/her seat to you/your friend so that you can be together. I think this is very nice indeed…

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That people can be nice was experienced by me when I had my photos taken in F train. They were all giving me space, and then giving me smiles as I shyly tried to pose.  That was awfully nice of them, I think.

And then there are the sweet stories of meeting the love of your life emerging from the subway.  Makes me want to find my Teddy, too…

My Dad met this girl, 70ish-year-old Babara Adams, who said that so many New Yorkers “live their lives under” (that is, they spend most of their time in subways, going from here to there, and vice versa), and so they miss out on so many beautiful things above the ground. In fact, Dad said Barbara would only go to a station where her train actually is; not on connecting stations, because then it would mean she’d walk from one station to another under the ground. “Why go under the ground when you can have all these?” she supposedly said, gesturing to the world around her.

She’s much older, so Dad believes her.

I think I only half believe her. Don’t tell Dad, okay? He may tell my other Dad.

Because I say that now and then, going under isn’t all that bad.

If it’s winter time, and you don’t have thick clothes, then going in the subway is always a relief.

And if you wanna people watch, you can skip the café; just head to the subway.

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In the end, there’re all kinds of weirdness there, and so there’s much, much more life there!

I’d say you may have arrived in New York, but you haven’t really arrived until after you’ve braved this world underground…

My name is Dom - that's short for DominiK... or Dominique, depending on which parent you're speaking with. One of my Dads, Michael, says it should be the former; but my other Dad, also named Michael, said it should be the latter. It must be because they have the same names, so they get confused about me, too (!). But no matter, I'm here - all peachy and fluffy. About me: I'm almost peach in color (not brown, ARGH!); have striped ears (white and red), black eyes (and toes), and brown nose. No, my nickname is NOT "Fluffy"! I'm only four (or five - again, depending on which Dad you ask); but that's a gazillion years in Teddy-time (if you must know). So I feel... experienced. I move a lot, too, with my Dads, and I'm here to share everything as I move around. So come join me...

Health & Wellness

8 Tips for promoting men’s health

Here are a few tips that can help ensure the success of men’s health programs.

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Photo by Christopher Campbell from Unsplash.com

Men tend to shy away from clinical medical services and formal health care programs, leaving community-based programs to help fill the gap. But not all programs are created equal. This is according to a study – “Community-based men’s health promotion programs: eight lessons learnt and their caveats”, which was published in the journal Health Promotion International – that shows that the programs that succeed are those that recognize and adapt to the social forces that uniquely affect men.

So for University of British Columbia (UBC) nursing professor John Oliffe, who led the study that reviewed community-based programs in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and the US, there are a few tips that can help ensure the success of men’s health programs.

Recognize the forces that affect men’s health: The UBC research points out that social factors can significantly affect health, including race, culture, socioeconomic status, education and income levels. Dudes Club, a program based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, succeeds because its content is tailored to its largely Indigenous clientele. Events include culturally based activities and elder-led circles, and clients are reporting improved mental, spiritual, physical and emotional well-being as a result.

Physical activity builds connections: Activity-based programs that link to masculine ideals such as problem-solving and physical prowess work well. Men’s Sheds, a program that runs in Australia, Canada and a few other countries, successfully attracts men with woodworking activities, computer tutorials, gardening and informal social events.

Safe spaces help men open up: Many men are reticent to talk about health challenges or talk about personal issues, but programs–like prostate cancer support groups–can expand their comfort zone by creating safe spaces for sharing experiences and discussing sensitive topics.

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Knowledge can combat stigma: Many men who are experiencing health challenges like depression or suicidal thoughts lack knowledge about their condition, which further fuels any stigma they may already feel. Community-based programs can promote health literacy and tackle stigma by using simple, non-judgmental language to describe health conditions, Oliffe said.

Men-focused environments work well: No surprise, “men-friendly” community spaces and activities–such as sports events or competitions–work better in recruiting men to health-related programs than strictly clinical programs. Oliffe points to a few examples, including some European soccer clubs, that draw men in to join exercise and healthy eating programs.

A clear vision for the program is a must: Programs must have tangible benefits, clear goals and strong, collaborative leaders. Dads in Gear– developed to assist dads to quit smoking–recruited participants with an offer of free meals and child care. It emphasized the need for participants to actively work for their well-being, and it encouraged the men to independently sustain their healthy practices after completing the program.

Evaluate to perpetuate: Every program should carry out a consistent and formal evaluation process, Oliffe advises. This helps to support future funding efforts and ensures the program is working as well as it should.

Pop-ups’ are OK: And finally, don’t expect to sustain or expand every program, says Oliffe, as some might be best considered “pop-ups”. Once they’ve hit their goal, they can be retired and regarded as the seed for future ideas.

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Health & Wellness

2/3 of parents cite barriers in recognizing youth depression

Teens and preteens are no strangers to depression: 1 in 4 parents say their child knows a peer with depression; 1 in 10 say a child’s peer has committed suicide.

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Photo by Warren Wong from Unsplash.com

Telling the difference between a teen’s normal ups and downs and something bigger is among top challenges parents face in identifying youth depression, a new poll suggests.

Though the majority of parents say they are confident they would recognize depression in their middle or high school aged child, two thirds acknowledge barriers to spotting specific signs and symptoms, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan in the US.

Forty percent of parents struggle to differentiate between normal mood swings and signs of depression, while 30% say their child is good at hiding feelings.

“In many families, the preteen and teen years bring dramatic changes both in youth behavior and in the dynamic between parents and children,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark. “These transitions can make it particularly challenging to get a read on children’s emotional state and whether there is possible depression.”

Still, a third of parents polled said nothing would interfere with their ability to recognize signs of depression in their child.

“Some parents may be overestimating their ability to recognize depression in the mood and behavior of their own child,” Clark says. “An overconfident parent may fail to pick up on the subtle signals that something is amiss.”

The poll also suggests that the topic of depression is all too familiar for middle and high school students. One in four parents say their child knows a peer or classmate with depression, and 1 in 10 say their child knows a peer or classmate who has died by suicide.

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Indeed, rates of youth suicide continue to rise. Among people ages 10 to 24 years old, the suicide rate climbed 56% between 2007 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our report reinforces that depression is not an abstract concept for today’s teens and preteens, or their parents,” Clark says.

“This level of familiarity with depression and suicide is consistent with recent statistics showing a dramatic increase in suicide among… youth over the past decade. Rising rates of suicide highlight the importance of recognizing depression in youth.”

Compared to the ratings of their own ability, parents polled were also less confident that their preteens or teens would recognize depression in themselves.

Clark says parents should stay vigilant on spotting any signs of potential depression in kids, which may vary from sadness and isolation to anger, irritability and acting out. Parents might also talk with their preteen or teen about identifying a “go to” adult who can be a trusted source if they are feeling blue, Clark says.

Most parents also believe schools should play a role in identifying potential depression, with seven in 10 supporting depression screening starting in middle school.

“The good news is that parents view schools as a valuable partner in recognizing youth depression,” Clark says.The bad news is that too few schools have adequate resources to screen students for depression, and to offer counseling to students who need it.”

Clark encourages parents to learn whether depression screening is taking place at their child’s school and whether counseling is available for students who screen positive. Given the limited resources in many school districts, parents can be advocates of such efforts by talking to school administrators and school board members about the importance of offering mental health services in schools.

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The Mott Poll report is based on responses from 819 parents with at least one child in middle school, junior high, or high school.

Depression is – of course – an important issue in the LGBTQIA community. One study done in November 2018, for instance, found that half of LGBT people (52%) said they’ve experienced depression in the last year; one in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13%) said they’ve attempted to take their own life in the last year; and almost half of trans people (46%) have thought about taking their own life in the last year, 31% of LGB people who aren’t trans said the same.

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Health & Wellness

First case of sexually transmitted dengue confirmed in Spain

Health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

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Photo by Егор Камелев from Unsplash.com

No, getting bitten by mosquitos isn’t the only way you can get dengue.

In Spain, health authorities confirmed a case of a man spreading dengue through sex. This is a world first for a virus which – until recently – was largely thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.

The case involves a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner, who got the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

When the man’s dengue infection was confirmed in September, it puzzled doctors because he had not traveled to a country where the disease is common. An analysis of the sperm of the two men was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue, but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba.

Dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which grows in number in densely-populated tropical climates, such as the Philippines.

Though it kills 10,000 people a year and infects over 100 million, the disease is fatal only in extreme cases, though symptoms are extremely unpleasant, including high fever, severe headaches and vomiting. It is particularly serious – and deadly – in children.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported a total of 271,480 dengue cases from January to August 31 this year, prompting it to declare a national dengue epidemic. As of end-August, an estimated 1,107 people have died of dengue in the country.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Gay in space in Disney’s ‘Star Wars Resistance’ kids’ show

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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Viewers sort of knew it all along, and then Disney confirmed that two characters on its “Star War Resistance” animated series for children are indeed a “gay couple.” 

On the Coffee with Kenobi podcast, Disney executive producers Brandon Auman, Athena Portillo, and Justin Ridge said that they are “proud” that two characters, Orka and Flix, are a “gay couple.” 

When Ridge was asked about the link between the two characters, he said: “I think it’s safe to say they’re an item… They’re absolutely a gay couple and we’re proud of that.” 

Orka is voiced by Jim Rash, while Flix is voiced by Bobby Moynihan.

Moynihan said later on the same podcast that he was glad to speak openly about Orka’s tendencies. 

“I have had a sentence prepared for a year and a half,” he said. “If someone would finally ask me, I would say, ‘All I can say is that when Flix says I love you, Orka says I know.’ … They’re the cutest.”

Orka and Flix are non-human, but fans assumed that they are homosexual. In an episode titled Dangerous Business, in the first season of “Star Wars Resistance“, there was a moment perceived to reveal the pair’s proclivities. 

The show is now in its second and final season on October 6, after getting nominated for an Emmy last year for outstanding children’s program.

This isn’t the first time an animated series highlighted LGBTQIA people/relationships; arguably even more progressive than mainstream Hollywood fare.

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In August, the new Aquaman, Kaldur, in the animated “Young Justice: Outsiders”, DC Universe’s animated show about teenage superheroes, was revealed to be LGBTQIA.

And in 2018, “Steven Universe”, a series from Cartoon Network, showcased a lesbian marriage proposal between two out queer characters in a special July 4 episode.

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Travel

Surrounded by art

Heading to Niagara Falls in NY in the US? The waterfalls may be the main attraction;buut there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than the body of water. Go IG crazy with a quick visit at Art Alley NF.

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When heading to Niagara Falls in the state of New York in the US, the three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge (between the Ontario, Canada and, yes, the US state of New York) may be the main attraction. This isn’t exactly surprising; heck, everyone who saw 1980’s Superman (before he got grumpy and too dark – even if he stayed yummy – with DC’s re-imagining of the alien boy scout) will want to see the… grandeur of the location. For that matter, Hollywood has repeatedly “told” us (via the likes of 2003’s Bruce Almighty, 2014’s Tammy, 2016’s After the Sun Fell, and 2016’s The American Side) that it’s a must-visit.

When you get there, though, it is but… a body of water.

Sure, it is grand. Perhaps made even grander by the power of illumination, with the waterfalls enveloped in various colors when the sun sets. But truth be told, there’s more to see in Niagara Falls than just the body of water.

Case in point: Art Alley NF.

Located a few minutes from Niagara Falls State Park, Art Alley NF is a public mural project located at 425 Third Street in Niagara Falls, NY.

Credit for its development goes to Seth Piccirillo, the city’s community development director, and Rob Lynch, one of Niagara Falls High School’s art teachers. The two established the roadside inlet in 2016 to house 19 murals from local artists.

Think of San Francisco’s Clarion Alley, and you’d get the idea of what this is. Sans the angst, political activism, et cetera…

The location used to be a vacant lot blocked by a wall. It was blasted down by the city’s Department of Community Development to make way for a walkway lined with the murals.

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Street art enthusiasts ought to like this; or at least IG aficionados.

Though I say that again, when in Niagara Falls, NY in the US, don’t just stick to the body of water (you can check this in a just a day); instead, be surrounded by art with a quick visit to Art Alley NF.

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Health & Wellness

Improved support after self-harm needed to reduce suicide risk

To reduce the high risk of suicide after hospital attendance for self-harm, improved clinical management is needed for all patients – including comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks, as well as implementation of risk reduction strategies, including safety planning.

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Photo by Sasha Freemind from Unsplash.com

Risk of suicide following hospital presentation for self-harm is very high immediately following hospital discharge, emphasising the need for provision of early follow-up care and attention to risk reduction strategies

To reduce the high risk of suicide after hospital attendance for self-harm, improved clinical management is needed for all patients – including comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks, as well as implementation of risk reduction strategies, including safety planning.

The results are from an observational study spanning 16 years and including almost 50,000 people from five English hospitals, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

“The peak in risk of suicide which follows immediately after discharge from hospital underscores the need for provision of early and effective follow-up care. Presentation to hospital for self-harm offers an opportunity for intervention, yet people in are often discharged from hospital having not received a formal assessment of their problems and needs, and without specific aftercare arrangements. As specified in national guidance, a comprehensive assessment of the patients’ mental state, needs, and risks is essential to devise an effective plan for their follow-up care,” says study author Dr. Galit Geulayov, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK.

It has been estimated that every year there are approximately 200,000 presentations to emergency departments in hospitals across England following acts of non-fatal self-harm. Self-harm is associated with increased mortality, especially by suicide. Approximately 50% of individuals who die by suicide have a history of self-harm, with hospital presentation for self-harm often occurring shortly before suicide.

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The new study compared the risk of suicide following hospital presentation for self-harm according to patient characteristics, method of self-harm, and socioeconomic deprivation. It also estimated the incidence of suicide by time after hospital attendance, adjusting for gender, age, previous self-harm, and psychiatric treatment.

The study included 49,783 people aged over 15 years who presented to hospital after non-fatal self-harm a total of 90,614 times between 2000-2013. The authors followed these patients for 16 years (until the end of 2015), and the study included five hospitals (one in Oxford, three in Manchester and one in Derby).

Within the 16 year follow up, 703 out of 49,783 people died by suicide – with the incidence of suicide being 163 per 100,000 people per year.

Around a third of these deaths occurred within a year of the patient attending hospital for non-fatal self-harm (36%, 252/703 deaths), and the study confirmed the high risk of suicide in the first year after presentation to hospital for self-harm (the incidence of suicide in the year following discharge from hospital was 511 suicides per 100,000 people per year – 55.5 times higher than that of the general population).

The authors found that risk was particularly elevated in the first month (the incidence of suicide in the month following discharge from hospital was 1,787 per 100,000 people per year – close to 200 times higher than in the general population) – with 74 out of 703 people in the study dying by suicide within a month.

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The authors note that men were more likely to die by suicide following hospital presentation of self-harm than women, people who attended hospital more than once for non-fatal self-harm were more likely to die by suicide than those with a single presentation, and age was associated with risk (with risk increasing 3% with each year of age).

In addition, those who lived in less deprived areas had a higher risk of death by suicide than those who lived in the most deprived areas, but this contrasts with a large body of evidence and might be explained by higher rates of psychiatric disorders in this group in this study – more research is needed. The authors also note that some forms of self-harm were more strongly linked to subsequent suicide, but advise against including detail of this kind in media reporting.

Suicide is a big issue in the LGBTQIA community. In 2018, for instance, a study found that a total of 37% of trans respondents reported having seriously considered suicide during the past 12 months and 32% had ever attempted a suicide. Offensive treatment during the past three months and lifetime exposure to trans-related violence were significantly associated with suicidality.

A study published in LGBT Health in 2016, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of strengthening family support and acceptance as part of a positive intervention.

The authors of this newer study note that holistic assessment of risk factors is required, and warn that no single characteristic will help predict later suicide.

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“While awareness of characteristics which increase the risk of subsequent suicide can assist as part of this assessment, previous studies indicate that individual factors related to self-harm are a poor means to evaluate the risk of future suicide. These factors need to be considered together, followed by risk reduction strategies, including safety planning, for all patients,” says Professor Hawton, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, UK.

The authors note that their study focuses on three cities in England and the findings may not necessarily apply to the whole of the country.

Writing in a linked comment, Dr. Annette Erlangsen, Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Denmark, notes that there is a range of treatment options available following presentation of self-harm in emergency departments (including referrals to psychiatric wards after psychosocial assessments, outpatient treatment for patients not under immediate risk of self-harming, and – in some countries – specialized suicide prevention clinics) but many countries send patients home with a referral to their GP or do not refer at all.

She says: “The bottom line is–while the body of evidence of effective intervention is growing, we need to help people who present with self-harm. Operating in such a scenario is challenging but the numbers are clear; we need to ensure that patients receive support immediately when presenting and implement a continuation of care after discharge.”

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