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One Latina Talks About Breaking Down The Walls Of Stigma In The Latinx Community

In an ideal world, we would all play active roles in breaking down the mental health stigma. Dinner talks would be filled with

 “¿Mijo, cómo te has sentido?” 

“¿Cómo vas con tu medicina?” or

“¿Sigues yendo a yoga?” 

Showing emotion would be encouraged and vulnerability would be praised. 

But you and I both know, this isn’t the case when it comes to the world we live in. Growing up in the Central Valley, surrounded by what seemed like endless tomato fields, with two farm-working parents, I will be the first to admit that conversations about mental health were non-existent. Up until my last year of undergrad, I believed that anxiety attacks were an over-exaggeration of weak, pitiful people who couldn’t handle a little stress. Until of course, it happened to me. I suffered my first anxiety attack one night during my last semester at Fresno State. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced, and it changed my life forever. 

During the years that followed, I fought against cultural norms. For me, nothing else had worked, so I said ‘yes’ to therapy and anxiety medication, even when my family opposed it or didn’t quite understand it. It was hard. I felt misunderstood and out of place. I was conflicted about how people would judge me and my family if they found out that I sought outside help. 

But I am happy to report that things did get better. Therapy and medication helped tremendously, and my parents eventually came around to supporting my decision to seek help, primarily because they began to see the progress I was making. 

So yes, even though these conversations are tough, I believe they are absolutely necessary to ensure the wellbeing of our families and our future generations. Mental health conversations have to become an integral part of our families, especially within the cultural context.

There’s no doubt about it, the Latinx culture is beautiful! Its richness is felt in the music, food and strong family values. However, many aspects of the culture are not conducive for growth. Not being able to comfortably talk about our mental health because of the ensuing stigma is definitely one of them. Truth is, if we want to move our Latinx families forward, we must find ways to play a role in normalizing mental health conversations within our traditional families. There is no room for inaction. 

The good news is, you don’t have to be a hardcore mental health advocate to help! 

Empowered Bystanders Matter

We can choose to either be an empowered bystander or play an active role in this. Both can be equally important in normalizing these conversations. First, we must acknowledge that not everyone wants to be outspoken and actively pushing change forward. Regardless, empowered bystanders can still make a difference with what may seem like small insignificant acts. 

Here is how you can help as an empowered bystander: 

Withdraw from toxic dialogue.

Oftentimes within traditional family dynamics, we witness ideologies that are toxic for people experiencing mental health issues. Conversations in family reunions can sometimes be offensive and discouraging. As an empowered bystander, you have a choice to partake in this dialogue or completely withdraw from it. By simply choosing not to laugh at an offensive joke, for example, you take a subtle yet firm stance that you are not here for this, you do not agree with this behavior. 

Compare apples to apples.

You may not suffer from a mental health issue, but you can still observe and pinpoint opportunities for conversation. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say one of your siblings is contemplating taking medication for their mental health but is discouraged by your parent who says things like: 

“¡You don’t need that, you are not crazy,” or

“¡Que locuras! Mejor ponte a limpiar tu cuarto, es lo que debes de hacer!” 

As an empowered bystander, you have the power to respectfully interject and propose an idea like:

“Pa, how is that different from you taking your daily blood pressure medicine, you take that every day for you to function.”

In doing so, you suddenly propose a new thought, a new perspective. You don’t force change; you simply ask questions and initiate thoughtful conversations.  

For those of us who are personally impacted by mental health issues, and feel strongly about creating change, here is how you can help as an active participant: 

Embody and embrace the rebel persona. 

Within the cultural family context, we must acknowledge that taking an active role in breaking the mental health stigma often comes with feeling isolated. We will not always fit in. Understanding this upfront will make it easier to cope. We have to understand that our immediate family will not always be our frontline cheerleaders. This is 100% okay. Whether we receive support within our family or not, it is vital that we seek some type of support, through friendships or support groups. 

Be the example.

Do you suffer from a mental health issue? Do you take medication? Do you go to therapy? Living without shame and using your experiences to offer insight and a different perspective in conversations with folks is key to normalizing this subject within our families. Own your experiences, so they become the shining light for others struggling to find their voice. Showing them that you can thrive with your condition is the best type of education we can provide to our families.

To check out Your Story to Tell Academy’s Instagram go here.

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Ted Cruz Calls Fellow Senator ‘Complete Ass’ For Wearing Masks Indoors Per Health Guidelines

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Ted Cruz Calls Fellow Senator ‘Complete Ass’ For Wearing Masks Indoors Per Health Guidelines

Susan Walsh - Pool / Getty Images

Covid-19 cases are surging across the U.S. and that is a fact. Americans have experienced more than 100,000 cases of Covid every day for the last two weeks. Deaths and hospitalizations from the relentless virus are also on the rise.

Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted this the same day that more than 166,000 Americans tested positive for Covid.

On Nov. 16, more than 166,000 Americans tested positive for Covid while 796 Americans died. Sen. Cruz’s tweet goes directly against all of the advice and evidence from scientists and health experts trying to slow the spread of the virus. The most important tool to stop the spread is for people to wear masks the entire time that they are gathering indoors.

“Some of these far-left senators like Senator Brown just can’t help themselves on their desire to want to lecture people on these kinds of issues, whether it’s lecturing other US senators or lecturing working families, and I think it’s a put-off,” Sen. Dan Sullivan said on Fox News. “People recognize the challenges — we’re going to get through these challenges — but to be lectured or preached to by senior officials is something that I think is not, not, I certainly didn’t appreciate.”

The tweet immediately drew outrage for people ready to get the virus under control.

Americans have been forced to live with the virus since March as the federal government has refused to respond. President Trump has criticized people for wearing masks despite the evidence that the masks are the best tool we have to fight the virus.

Some people have focused on the fact that Sen. Cruz is unconcerned about the safety of the stenographer.

“The fact is that every time a senator stands up and speaks, there is a Senate stenographer about six feet away, and senators that don’t wear masks are putting them at risk,” Sen. Brown said on CNN about the exchange. “I know that Ted Cruz doesn’t see the Senate stenographer because she is — it’s always a she in these cases — one of those essential workers that usually doesn’t get paid a lot of money and exposes themselves, those essential workers, to the public and then goes home anxious at night about potentially infecting their families.”

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley confirmed a positive Covid test result the next day.

Sen. Grassley tested positive for Covid a day after Sen. Cruz claimed that wearing a mask indoors is virtue signaling. The virus is currently surging across the country and leading health experts are warning of the dangers of traveling this holidays season. The CDC told Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving the day after the U.S. crossed the grim milestone of 250,000 Covid deaths.

“The tragedy that could happen is that one of your family members from coming to this family gathering and they could end up severely ill, hospitalized or dying. And we don’t want that to happen,” Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, said during a press briefing. “These times are tough, it’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months or and we understand people are tired.”

He added: “We understand that people want to see their family and relatives and do it as they’ve always done it. But this year we’re asking them to limit their travel.”

More than 250,000 Americans have died from Covid and rhetoric like this can be dangerous.

Health experts are urging Americans to wear their masks, especially when they are indoors. States and cities across the country still have masks mandates in place to protect their residents from spreading the virus.

READ: How To Safely Gather For The Holidays In The Time Of Covid

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Ben Watkins Of ‘MasterChef Junior’ Has Died From A Rare Form Of Cancer

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Ben Watkins Of ‘MasterChef Junior’ Has Died From A Rare Form Of Cancer

Fox

The “MasterChef Junior” family is sadly in mourning.

Ben Watkins, a fan-favorite contestant on the show for children who love to cook, has died. Watkins was just 14. He passed away on Monday, after a year-long battle of fighting a rare form of cancer.

According to Chicago Tribune Watkins passed away after struggling with a rare form of cancer for a year and a half.

MasterChef Junior/ FOX

Just three years after Watkins lost both of his parents to a domestic violence incident, the teen’s family is being forced to say ‘goodbye’ to him. Watkins uncle Anthony Edwards and grandmother Donna Edwards issued a statement on Monday that said their beloved family member had gone “home to be with his mother.”

“After losing both of his parents in September 2017, we have marveled at Ben’s strength, courage and love for life. He never, ever complained. Ben was and will always be the strongest person we know. When Ben’s rare illness was shared with the world, he was so heartened by the outpouring of love he received from every corner of the globe–especially here in his hometown of Gary, Indiana,” the statement, which was shared on a GoFundMe campaign page, stated. “We cannot thank this community enough for holding our family up in prayer and for all that you’ve done. Ben suffered more than his share in his fourteen years on this Earth but we take solace in that his suffering is finally over and in that, in the end, Ben knew he was loved by so many. #Love4Ben.”

Watkins was diagnosed last year with Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma, just days before his 13th birthday.

MasterChef Junior

Angiomatoid Fibrous Histiocytoma is a rare soft tissue cancer. It occurs in only a small number of children and young adults and is characterized by cystic blood-filled spaces and made up of histiocyte-like cells.

“Young Ben is one of only six people in the entire world diagnosed with this illness. Ben is currently undergoing treatment at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Despite all of Ben’s trials and tribulations, he remains positive and looks forward to getting back in the kitchen and pursuing his dream to become an Engineer.   Members of the community have joined together to see that the life challenges that Ben has gone through does not derail him from reaching his full potential and fulfilling his dreams,” the statement concluded.

According to Chicago Tribune, Watkin’s had a golf-ball-sized tumor in his neck that had grown into a grapefruit-sized mass. Watkins underwent chemotherapy treatment for tumors located on his lungs, spine, and shoulder.

“Despite all the pain and sickness Ben went through, he never complained, not once,” Edwards told the Chicago Tribune. “We were praying for a different outcome. But Ben’s lungs could no longer give him the air he needed to breathe. It’s been devastating.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, “When Ben was first diagnosed, one of his doctors began writing a medical paper on Ben’s rare disease. Adhering to privacy rules, the doctor didn’t use Ben’s name. You can use my name,” Ben told the doctor. ‘Do whatever it takes. I don’t want another kid to have to go through what I’m going through.’ Ben and his family also consented for tissue to be extracted from his cancerous tumors after his death, to be shared with researchers. By doing so, Ben’s altruistic legacy will continue in the medical community as well as in his family.”

Speaking about his nephew, Edwards told Chicago Times that “Ben will always be our superhero.”

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