Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thoughts on Researching Homeless Youth

Graduate school is hard. Period. Graduate school with small children, I already know that I am a crazy person. People remind me of this ALL the time.
 This semester I am doing a group project about
finding health promotion interventions for homeless youth. One of my jobs in this group project is to find what research has already been done on mental health and suicide among homeless youth. I have to say it is so emotionally draining. I read these articles with hypotheses and theories about what contributes to mental health issues and suicide rates and as technical as it sounds, it's not. Every one of those numbers represents a real child who is going through some really terrible things. The statistics, the details are just ugly. I want to set it aside. But I can't really, finals, end of semester deadlines and all that. (Ok, maybe I can for a minute to write a blog post and to help me process it.) And unpleasant as it is for me to read article after article about kids whose daily life is so terrible that they feel taking their life is the best answer, it is worse for them. It puts things into perspective. My life is pretty amazing. Graduate school has been beastly hard, but I WILL get through it. I have a comfortable home and even though I have to take out mad student loans, we always have food. I have the opportunity to support and love my kids in a way that they will probably never really experience that ugly side of existence. I have friends, family and a husband who support me in little and big ways. I am so grateful for all of that. It make me feel that as blessed as I am, I need to do more. I'm in a place right now, where that is hard. I don't have all the skills that are required to address their needs, but I'm working on getting some. For now I have to be content to study and research, keep loving my kids so they don't get to that place and I can speak out.
 I don't think most people are aware of how big and ugly this problem. It's not a pleasant one to look at, but it effects us in big ways and it is getting bigger. More homeless youth means more crime, which costs us as victims and also in the funds required to put the youth through the criminal system. Homeless youth means more teen pregnancies which is not a good idea for either child involved, and negatively effects the community in many ways. Homeless youth most often take one of two paths- dying young or remaining chronically homeless and on the outskirts of society. In either scenario, we as a society lose. But if we can remember that they are human beings and they just need love, I strongly believe that we can find solutions. It is cheaper to give them housing than to charge them with the crimes that they commit trying to survive, significantly cheaper and it results in better long-term outcomes. We as a society can choose to love them and try to help them and everyone benefits. I'll get off my soapbox, but as you are involved in your communities, try to support local efforts that help these kids and support politicians who are willing to take on this issue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


 This semester I am taking advanced nursing research. Part of that is discussing the qualities that define good research. One of those qualities is authenticity. Authentic research means that everyone
had a chance to give their input. This input leads to insights and improvements. Authenticity leads to increased understanding of self and others. That kind of introspection leads to more thought and all of these insights and improvements lead to action.
 It's obvious why authenticity in nursing research is important. (I have dozens of mind gears turning of how I can use this in my future practice, but I'll save those ideas for when they are more fleshed out.) If we skew results to what we think we should find instead of what we actually find we can not effectively address problems. And really, what's the point of doing research that is inauthentic? To produce dishonest  and inauthentic research is not only wildly unethical, it is down right dangerous and it minimizes the validity of evidence-based practice. (The one study linking MMR to autism that was proven to be fraudulent comes to mind. ) That is why it is important that nursing researchers consult with patients other providers to hear their opinions. That is why peer review is an essential step in the research process.
 As I was reading about what makes authentic research, I couldn't help but notice that authenticity is also important in organizations and relationships. If you have a company that listens to their customers and employees they are able to use those insights to improve their product, to think about what that feedback and use it to get a better result. The same goes for a family. If you are in a place where you can be honest about who you are and how you feel, you are more likely to connect with other family members. When you are authentic about who you are, you are quietly giving other permission to do the same. When everyone can be really honest and listen to one another, it improves communication and it helps everyone to be more effective! Sometimes I feel in relationships we don't address issues because we feel so much pressure to be perfect 'I'm not supposed to be upset about X'. This leads to people not talking about it and not trying to solve the problem. Ignoring problems usually doesn't make them go away. In the past couple years my husband and I came to a place where we decided to be more authentic with one another and our relationship is a hundred times better. We are better partners and we are better parents. We as a team are getting more done and life is more enjoyable too. (Not that things are perfect, they're not. Stressful things still happen and there is that whole graduate school business that I deal with on a daily basis.) Authenticity is powerful.
 Being authentic can be really difficult, especially if you are living in a culture that has so much pressure on you to be very different than who you truly are. Or if you made yourself vulnerable in the past and the result was that you were hurt by the person that you were sharing with. But life is too short to spend it trying to be someone other than who you are. To paraphrase Brene Brown, in order to be successful and love others, you have to love yourself. You have to BE yourself. Recognize that you are loveable and go out and share who you truly are with the world.