I didn’t think when I studied public health a dozen years ago I’d end up spending my days in homeless shelters and learning how to prevent people from killing themselves. Or hotly debating public policy, budgets and political leanings. Happily, here I am, mired in a career that keeps me my curiosities piqued.
Last week, I spent time with researchers from California who were visiting a local homeless shelter. We discussed startling rates of LBGTQ youth who end up in homeless shelters (25%) and try to kill themselves. The basic understanding is kids are not accepted by their families for their sexual preferences, run away, end up in homeless shelters and some feel further isolation — turning to suicide.
How do we stop this? Or the deaths of the 40,000 Americans resorting to suicide annually? I am not certain, but I have a few ideas. It seems most suicides are the result of loneliness. How do we better outreach those feeling isolated and provide the necessary care to give them another day?
We are fundamentally created to live in community — to be around those who nurture our ideas, call us on our bullshit, and make us want to be better. Show me the person who tells you he’d rather be forever alone, and I’ll show you someone with pent-up anger and a proclivity to send bombs via the USPS.
With a bit of time and CDC funding, hopefully we’ll be able to come up with interventions that work. Perhaps something as simple as providing a support group for LBGTQ youth at homeless shelters in Arizona could help. We’ll see. It is one of many exciting projects on my professional plate.
And the photos of my pantry? Sometimes when it feels like I cannot control a thing in this world (See: Isis, those 47 Senators and their Iranian kowtowing, polar bears drowning in the arctic, wrinkles, more wrinkles, the number of children in foster care, those new wrinkles) — I clean and organize. While everything else seems to be spinning, the pantry is clean, meals planned and garden weeded.
Some days, hope and energy for new solutions and bean soup is what we have. This is enough.