Wellness—it’s essential to living a full and productive life. We may have different
ideas about what wellness means, but it involves a set of skills and strategies that
prevent the onset or shorten the duration of illness and promote recovery and wellbeing.
It’s about keeping healthy as well as getting healthy.
Pathways to Wellness— this year’s theme of May is Mental Health Month—calls
attention to strategies and approaches that help all Americans achieve wellness
and good mental and overall health.
Wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete general, mental and social well-being. And mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being. The fact is our overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.
Whatever our situation, we are all at risk of stress given the demands of daily life and the challenges it brings—at home, at work and in life. Steps that build and maintain well-being and help us all achieve wellness involve a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and the community.
These steps should be complemented by taking stock of one’s well-being through regular mental health checkups. Just as we check our blood pressure and get cancer screenings, it’s a good idea to take periodic reading of our emotional well-being. One recent study said everyone should get their mental health checked as often as they get a physical, and many doctors routinely screen for mental health, which typically include a series of questions about lifestyle, eating and drinking habits and mental wellness.
While conditions like depression are common—roughly 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health condition—they are extremely treatable.
Fully embracing the concept of wellness not only improves health in the mind, body and spirit, but also maximizes one’s potential to lead a full and productive life. Using strategies that promote resiliency and strengthen mental health and prevent mental health and substance use conditions lead to improved general health and a healthier society: greater academic achievement by our children, a more productive economy, and families that stay together.
Millions of Americans live everyday with Mental Health problems. Every May we recognize these courageous individuals and their plight. We have a critical need for mental health care in this country. Unfortunately this care is often not pursued because of stigma attached to treatment, inability to afford services, or sometimes it is just geographically unavailable. As a way of celebrating Mental Health Awareness month, this year Hafnium Consulting is making a donation to Mental Health America, the nation’s largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With over 240 affiliates across the country, Mental Health America touches the lives of millions—advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy, educating the public & providing critical information, and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness programs and services. We hope that you will consider joining us as we support this important organization.
This is my 2nd time presenting a workshop at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture and I am SO excited. See below for workshop details.
When: JUNE 11th, 2013, 12:00-1:30PM
Where: Annex- 1608 15th Ave Seattle WA 98119
Who: Anyone 18+ with ID (No other CSPC discounts or AYCE cards applicable.)
Cost: $20, $15 in advance.
Everyone deals with interpersonal conflict on a regular basis. Everyone. Whether it’s with your co-workers, lovers, family, friends, or just with inner monologue, occasional conflict (“a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one”) is a natural byproduct of life. If you’ve ever wondered if your conflict skills could use improvement, this research based workshop is for you. Learn about the 3 different styles of conflict that lead to healthy long-term relationships (of any kind), identify your style, and practice proven ways to more successfully manage conflict. Taught by a local Marriage and Family Therapist (who knows).
About the presenter:
Brittany Steffen is a Marriage and Family Therapist, educator, researcher, and equal rights activist from Seattle, Washington. Her childhood experience growing up between two households, one liberal LGTBQ and the other conservative Christian, lends itself to her unique therapeutic perspective built on firsthand experience. In her private practice she caters to the Sex Positive and LGTBQ community, as well as blended or blending families, seeing teens, college students, couples, and families of all shapes and sizes. More information about Brittany and her practice can be found at HafniumConsulting.com.
This event is sponsored by the Center for Sex Positive Culture.
If you are like me, born into an atypical family, and have four parents (divorced, both remarried, 2 straight, 2 gay) you might have spent some time wondering if those talking heads yammering on about the dangers of gay parenting actually know what they’re talking about.
Let me briefly set the stage:
We know that divorce CAN have a negative effect on children. We know that staying together (just) for the kids can also have a negative effect on children. We know this because those two things are quite common in today’s American culture….and so industrious interns, assistants, and students pulled together outcome research to inform the general public about the potential pitfalls of their daily lives.
It’s good to wonder about what kind of effect these things have on children. They turn into adults, and healthy well-adujusted adults contribute to our country’s economy (READ: Important. Our country is having some money trouble, if you haven’t heard). We wonder because we’re curious, and we hope for the best.
So I’ve been observing, over the last decade or so really, the ebb and flow of the conversation about LGBT parents. Should they be allowed to adopt? Should they get custody? Are their kids more likely to be emotionally unstable? Gay? Gender identity confused? Or other BAD stuff- will other bad stuff happen to them because of the exposure to their parents’ “lifestyle choice”?
I’m curious- why wouldn’t I be? I AM one of those kids. I have a mom and a step-dad too, but I’m half gay(raised)! (I think it’s comparable to being bi-racial, just for reader reference.)
In preparation for a few workshops, the GLSEN Summit, a sex and health event for LGBT high school students, I’m doing somewhat of a literature review on this very topic:
Do the children of LGBT parents SUFFER any ill effects because of their parent/s sexual orientation?
Well? Do they?
As briefly as I can, without glossing over information that explains the findings I’m sharing, I’ll tell you.
Let us consider the findings:
“Kids of gay parents fare worse, study finds”, study by sociology professor Mark Regnerus, of the University of Texas at Austin
- FINDINGS: This population-based study looked mainly at the children of lesbian mothers, the majority of whom had experienced divorce, single parenthood, or remarriage. Family instability is bad for children. Separation, divorce, and remarriage- these things can negatively impact kids. Having two good parents is best, having one good parent is better than having two bad ones, and having one bad parent is really not a good thing. The kids of these lesbian mothers were more likely to be on public assistance, or underemployed (not working full-time).
- REBUTTAL: This study, funded by “conservative groups The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation” has been widely criticized by experts and advocacy groups alike. Their issue? Only 2 of the 175 children sampled lived in a home with two same-sex parents for all 18 years of their childhood. Because the study did not used a matched sample, it is impossible to discern whether or not the outcomes were due to having a LGBT parent or instability in the household.
- VERDICT: “What the study shows, then, is that kids from broken homes headed by gay people develop the same problems as kids from broken homes headed by straight people.” -William Saletan, Slate.com
“How Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?”, a study by sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz, of New York University and the University of Southern California, respectively:
- FINDINGS: The researchers reviewed 21 studies dating back to 1980, mainly looking at lesbian parents because there is more research to be had, and found that the children of same-sex couples showed some differences and some similarities to their heterosexually raised counterparts. What was similar? “Levels of anxiety, depression, self-esteem and other measures of social and psychological behaviors were generally similar”, says Biblarz. What was different? Children raised by same-sex parents were more likely to “buck stereotypical male-female behavior”. Boys raised by lesbians are less aggressive and more nurturing, while their girls are more likely to aspire to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and astronauts- traditionally male dominated professions.
- REBUTTAL: There are undeniable differences between children raised by same-sex couples. Their children were no more likely to be gay or lesbian themselves, or show differences in mental health, but they do show behavioral differences in their lack of adherence to traditional gender roles.
- VERDICT: This study found an effect- whether or not the effect can be considered negative depends on the attitude of the reader. I don’t see a problem with children feeling less restricted by gender-role expectations, but that’s just me.
“Why Gay Parents May Be the Best Parents”, Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer at LiveScience:
- FINDINGS: This article reviewed a variety of research on families headed by same-sex parents and found that, not only are worries about same-sex parents unsupported by research, these couples may actually make like, better parents. Why? A few reasons, first, gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accidents, compared to a 50% accidental pregnancy rate among straight couples. This translates to “a greater commitment on average and more involvement”. What else? While LGBT parents are not allowed children in every state (California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon,. Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington DO allow it), when they can adopt, they are more likely to adopt difficult to place children, such as “older, special-needs and minority children”. What else? In a paper published in 2007 in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, researcher Goldberg found that children of same-sex couples report higher levels of open mindedness and tolerance, as well as less adherence to gender stereotypes.
- REBUTTAL: The article also reviewed a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family by Goldberg that found a disadvantage reported by the children of same-sex parents. They wish their parents could get married. An additional disadvantage found by sociologist Brian Powell, the author of ”Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family”. Powell shares that the children of same-sex may feel the sting of society’s rejection and experience homophobia.
- VERDICT: Lots of advantages in favor of LGBT parents, and a few disadvantages, none of which stem from the sexual orientation of parents, but instead from our culture’s negative attitudes and legal barriers to equal rights for LGBT parents.
IN SUMMATION: I may need to add to this list, because my three summaries can hardly be considered a review. I just didn’t think it was time efficient to keep summarizing study after study, article after article, 99% of which found no purely “negative” effects on children stemming from their experience being raised by a LGBT parent/s. That being said, there were multiple factors contributing to the positive results I found- see above.
We can see that: Family instability = bad. Actively choosing to become a parent = good. Differences between LGBT parented kids regarding gender roles = good or bad, depending on your beliefs. Bullying and legal barriers to LGBT families = bad.
But my curiosity has been satisfied- I feel like I can argue my point better, without being blind to my opponents valid (most of the time, really) opinions.
Go forth, and educate.
Apropos of a few seemingly random events over the past few weeks that have turned out to be connected in the form of the following thoughts:
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I work with all different kinds of couples and individuals. And as a human, I have all sorts of different kinds of friends and family members. What these groups (my professional contacts and my personal contacts) have in common (perhaps one of the few things that very different people have in common) is that they have a space or two that they call “home”.
It may be for now, it may be a work in progress, or it may be fabulous- but all of these people have a place that they spend their downtime- a home of some sort.
As a member of a couple, someone who is currently working with a few couples in therapy, and who has many friends coupled up, married, or living together, I found the following statistic quite interesting:
“The degree to which housework is shared is now one of the two most important predictors of a woman’s marital satisfaction. And husbands benefit too, since studies show that women feel more sexually attracted to partners who pitch in.” Source: Stephanie Coontz. “The M.R.S. and the Ph.D.” NYTimes.com
Whether or not this applies for LGTBQ couples as well as straight couples in a gender neutral, personality specific way- well, you tell me. I think it does- one member of a couple is usually neater, and the other is messier. In fact, it would be extremely weird if two people started dating and found out that they like their home to be EXACTLY as neat/messy as their significant other.
Anyway, this quote is a reminder- sharing a home means sharing housework, and making sure your significant other is happy with the way the housework is shared is IMPORTANT.
Get a house cleaner (Google, house cleaners + Seattle). Have a professional organizer come in and help the messier person get started (I like the local small business HomeKeyOrganization.com). Take WikiHow.com‘s advice and clean quickly with music blasting.
Whatever you do, do it with the awareness that the daily grind takes it’s toll over time.
We live in a culture that talks a lot about stress- how to deal with it, how to decrease it, how to release it. It is very easy to go online and educate yourself about what causes stress and how to manage your personal stress levels. We know that ongoing high levels can contribute to a variety of medical conditions, and that exercise (yoga is a popular one) can help counteract and reduce it. Above all, we know that stress is a normal response a perceived threat. Key words: NORMAL and PERCEIVED….tricky tricky- so we should expect some stress, but we also have control over our responses via how we perceive the world around us.
So we know a lot about stress. But how much do we know about why we are the way we are, with regards to our own personal, unique stress response? Research shows that a variety of things influence our stress responses, including but not limited to:
- Gender (in general, women cope better)
- Social Support
- Maternal stress (your biological mother’s stress hormones while you were cooking in the oven, and after your birth)
- Environment (did you know that chronic low-level noise in your community can negatively influence your brain, your behavior, and your stress levels??)
These are just a few examples, but I ended with personality because I think that it’s relationship to stress is misunderstood. I don’t believe that there are just “anxious people” out there, who will always be stressed no matter what, because that’s their personality, and that doesn’t really change. Nope nope nope. There are external and internal “causes” of stress. I see personality as an internal factor in the development and maintenance of stress. An “anxious person” might be dealing with a biological predisposition that makes them more sensitive to stress hormones, but even they are not immune to the benefits of stress management techniques.
That being said, stress management techniques (things people do that help decrease their stress levels) are not a one size fits all deal. What totally stresses me out doesn’t even phase you. My personality, the internal “cause” of stress, has a lot to do with what stresses me out, how I am when I’m stressed, and what I need to stress relieve. Understanding your unique inner factor, your personality, can completely change the way that you manage stress.
“Gayby Boom”—19% of gay male couples in WA are currently raising children under the age of 18
Connecting with similar families can positive impact both parents AND their children
It is for these reasons that I am inviting Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer male/male identified parents to join a unique therapy group:
About The Facilitator: “I grew up in two homes—one headed by a liberal gay male couple—the other by conservative Christians. Talk about variety! As a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, my life experience forms the basis for my passion for working with the LGTBQ community. Growing up, I loved meeting other kids who had two dads like me, and I want to give parents the opportunity to meet and connect with other families like theirs”
Is this group for you?
- GLBTQ male/male identified individuals, age 21 or over
-Single, Dating, or Coupled
-At least 1 child under 18 living athome, full/part-time
- Full or shared custody
- Any path to parenthood
Group Information: 02/18-03/25, 6 Mondays 6:00-7:30 pm
-Group size limited to 8 people
-$120/person (a rate of $20/session), paid by February 18th
-Weekly reminder emails, resource lists
-Participants screened via email/phone
-Participation confirmed by February 11th, 2013
Enquire via email by February 10th, 2013
Facilitated by: Brittany Steffen, MS, LMFTA
1415 Western Ave Suite 407, Seattle
Today was GLSEN’s (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/home/index.html) 2013 Summit for both educators and students- and it was a HIGE SUCCESS! The Summit was organized by none other than my amazing supervisor, mentor, and contractor at Hafnium Consulting, Steven J. Schuetz, and was aimed at accomplishing the following mission:
“To assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”
The workshop I was charged with teaching was titled “Supporting Your Straight Allies”. That’s right, a workshop aimed at LGTBQ youth, with the goal of increasing the perceived value of straight allies, increasing the support that straight allies have from the LGTBQ community, and thereby strengthening the number of of outspoken and active equality supporters!
I think it went well- I gave out candy and that was a huge hit. But really, I enjoyed working with the high schoolers. They brought up issues that I hadn’t even thought of! Isn’t that how it always goes?
Thank you to all the people that worked to make this Summit happen!