America is on an imprisonment spree, but it wasn't always like this. Check out the prison population before and after 1980.
Even politicians' children deserve privacy during a mental health crisis.
Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
It's an unspoken rule that children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to public figure status. Kids deserve the ability to simply be kids without the media picking them apart. We saw this during Obama's presidency when people from both ends of the political spectrum come out to defend Malia and Sasha Obama's privacy and again when a reporter made a remark about Barron Trump.
This is even more important when we are talking about a child's mental health, so seeing detailed reports about Ted Cruz's 14-year-old child's private mental health crisis was offputting, to say it kindly. It feels icky for me to even put the senator's name in this article because it feels like adding to this child's exposure.
When a child is struggling with mental health concerns, the instinct should be to cocoon them in safety, not to highlight the details or speculate on the cause. Ever since the news broke about this child's mental health, social media has been abuzz, mostly attacking the parents and speculating if the child is a member of the LGBTQ community.
Cruz's child should not have to have her most vulnerable moment broadcasted around the globe. Adolescent children are notoriously private and may easily feel embarrassment or shame, except they generally have far less tools to know how to cope. The media listing so much information about the child's attempt at self-harm will likely do more harm than anything else thanks to a teen's proclivity to feel shame.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-24 and nearly 20% of high school students have seriously contemplated suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Kids that are LGBTQ are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers that are not a part of the LGBTQ community, according to The Trevor Project. It's clear that mental health issues that lead to either attempted or completed suicide are not relegated to a certain political party's children. It's a widespread issue plaguing parents and mental health professionals across the country.
If you couple the shame aspect with the stigma surrounding mental health, you're creating a recipe for disaster. We're talking about a teenager who has to go to school with peers who know who her father is. This isn't some unnamed child that no one would put the pieces together on. Once you name the politician and state the age and gender of the child, there's no mistaking who you're talking about.
Reporters aren't bound by HIPAA laws and there's not always a regard for protecting someone's privacy if the story is salacious enough. That's not to say that people who report the news are intent on hurting children, it's that sometimes we don't always think about the person on the other side of the story, especially the parents of a hurting child who will have to deal with the consequences of the report.
Media and consumers should use this moment to take a step back and look at how we view children of politicians and celebrities. Should they really be a commodity because their parents chose a public career? Should we disregard the very real pressure these kids are under to report intimate details of a tragic event? Or should we simply remember they're children and didn't ask for their moments of weakness to be laid out on display for the world?
I personally believe we should allow them to be children and we should remember what it was like at their age so we can fully appreciate how they might feel seeing their private suffering out in the world. I'm not saying not to report, I'm saying use discretion. A simple blurb that said, "One of Senator Cruz's children has been injured and taken to the hospital, but they are expected to make a full recovery," would have been plenty of information.
The world didn't need the details, and hopefully if something like this happens in the future to a family in the spotlight, the media will do a better job at protecting the child's privacy. Here's wishing Cruz's child a speedy recovery and future mental wellness.
Ah, the power of vulnerability and solidarity.
Putting creative work out into the world to be evaluated and judged is nerve-wracking enough as it is. Having to market your work, especially if you're not particularly extroverted or sales-minded, is even worse.
So when you're a newly published author holding a book signing and only two of the dozens of people who RSVP'd show up, it's disheartening if not devastating. No matter how much you tell yourself "people are just busy," it feels like a rejection of you and your work.
Debut novelist Chelsea Banning recently experienced this scenario firsthand, and her sharing it led to an amazing deluge of support and solidarity—not only from other aspiring authors, but from some of the top names in the writing business.
Banning shared on Twitter that 37 people had responded as "going" to her book signing at Pretty Good Books in Ashtabula, Ohio, on December 3, but only two showed up.
"Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed," she wrote.
\u201cOnly 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded "going" to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.\u201d— Chelsea Banning Author (@Chelsea Banning Author) 1670160901
A librarian by trade, Banning spent 15 years crafting the story for her fantasy trilogy about King Arthur's children. The first book in the series, "Of Crowns and Legends," was published in August and Banning has been trying to market it ever since.
"For a while I felt like I was throwing my book into the void and getting nothing," she told NPR. "This felt like last straw."
Then something amazing happened.
That tweet—which Banning had considered deleting shortly after she posted—started making the rounds. And much to her surprise and delight, Banning got responses from the likes of Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and other famous authors, who shared their own unattended book signing woes.
\u201c@chelseabwrites Join the club. I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. :)\u201d— Chelsea Banning Author (@Chelsea Banning Author) 1670160901
\u201c@chelseabwrites Terry Pratchett and I did a signing in Manhattan for Good Omens that nobody came to at all. So you are two up on us.\u201d— Chelsea Banning Author (@Chelsea Banning Author) 1670160901
\u201c@chelseabwrites I have sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach\u2026and ask me where the bathroom is.\u201d— Chelsea Banning Author (@Chelsea Banning Author) 1670160901
\u201c@linwood_barclay @chelseabwrites At my first SALEM'S LOT signing, I had one customer. A fat kid who said, "Hey bud, do you know where there's some Nazi books?"\u201d— Chelsea Banning Author (@Chelsea Banning Author) 1670160901
Even some famous nonauthors unexpectedly swooped in to lift Banning up.
\u201cThat is the beginning .. then word gets out and they come !\u201d— Henry Winkler (@Henry Winkler) 1670213781
Story after story poured in from dozens upon dozens of household writing names who had experienced two or one or zero people showing up to a book signing event. Anyone who has ever felt like they had failed due to a lack of interest or audience would find the thread inspiring, or at the very least, comforting.
But what was just as heartwarming as the successful writers commiserating with Banning was the fact that she shared her story in the first place. It's not easy to be vulnerable like that—most of us want to share our wins, not our perceived losses, with the world. But Banning demonstrated how opening up invites others to do the same, which lets everyone know they are not alone in their struggles.
What a beautiful thing all around. And to make it even better, Banning sold out of her signed copies that very same day. Here's to the power of sharing and caring!
The 3,000-word letter was written on the back of a mirror.
This article originally appeared on 04.15.19
On May 28, 2014, 13-year-old Athena Orchard of Leicester, England, died of bone cancer. The disease began as a tumor in her head and eventually spread to her spine and left shoulder. After her passing, Athena's parents and six siblings were completely devastated. In the days following her death, her father, Dean, had the difficult task of going through her belongings. But the spirits of the entire Orchard family got a huge boost when he uncovered a secret message written by Athena on the backside of a full-length mirror.
After removing the mirror from the wall, Dean discovered a 3,000-word letter written all the way down its backside in black pen. "She never mentioned it, but it's the kind of thing she'd do," her father told People magazine. "She was a very spiritual person, she'd go on about stuff that I could never understand – she was so clever." The moving letter revealed her deepest feelings about her fight with the dreaded disease. "Every day is special, so make the most of it, you could get a life-ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day," she wrote. "Life is only bad if you make it bad."
Although Athena is gone, the mirror now serves as a powerful memory of her undying spirit. "We're keeping the mirror forever, it is a part of her we can keep in the house, it will always be in her room," her mother, Caroline, said. "Just reading her words felt like she was still here with us, she had such an incredible spirit."
Athena's full message:
"Happiness depends upon ourselves. Maybe it's not about the happy ending, maybe it's about the story. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. Happiness is a direction not a destination. Thank you for existing. Be happy, be free, believe, forever young. You know my name, not my story.
You have heard what I've done, but not what I've been through. Love is like glass, looks so lovely but it's easy to shatter.
Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. Every day is special, so make the most of it, you could get a life ending illness tomorrow so make the most of every day. Life is only bad if you make it bad. If someone loves you, then they wouldn't let you slip away no matter how hard the situation is. Remember that life is full of ups and downs.
Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about. I want to be that girl who makes the bad days better and the one that makes you say my life has changed since I met her!
Love is not about how much you say I love you – it's about how much you can prove it's true. Love is like the wind, you can feel it but you can't see it. I'm waiting to fall in love with someone I can open my heart to. Love is not about who you can see spending your future with, it's about who you can't see spending your life without… Life is a game for everyone but love is the prize. Only I can judge me.
Sometimes love hurts. Now I'm fighting myself. Baby I can feel your pain. Dreams are my reality. It hurts but it's okay, I'm used to it. Don't be quick to judge me, you only see what I choose to show you… you don't know the truth. I just want to have fun and be happy without being judged.
This is my life, not yours, don't worry about what I do. People gonna hate you, rate you, break you, but how strong you stand, that's what makes you… you!
There's no need to cry because I know you'll be by my side."
Abortion remains an incredibly polarizing issue.
This article originally appeared on 01.22.19
People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women's rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.
Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn't something we'd choose—and we'd hope others wouldn't choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.
It is entirely possible to be morally anti-abortion and politically pro-choice without feeling conflicted about it. Here's why.
There's far too much gray area to legislate.
No matter what you believe, when exactly life begins and when “a clump of cells" should be considered an individual, autonomous human being is a debatable question.
I personally believe life begins at conception, but that's my religious belief about when the soul becomes associated with the body, not a scientific fact. As Arthur Caplan, award-winning professor of bioethics at New York University, told Slate, “Many scientists would say they don't know when life begins. There are a series of landmark moments. The first is conception, the second is the development of the spine, the third the development of the brain, consciousness, and so on."
But let's say, for the sake of argument, that a human life unquestionably begins at conception. Even with that point of view, there are too many issues that make a black-and-white approach to abortion too problematic to ban it.
Abortion bans hurt some mothers who desperately want their babies to live, and I'm not okay with that.
One reason I don't support banning abortion is because I've seen too many families deeply harmed by restrictive abortion laws.
I've heard too many stories of families who desperately wanted a baby, who ended up having to make the rock-and-a-hard-place choice to abort because the alternative would have been a short, pain-filled life for their child.
I've heard too many stories of mothers having to endure long, drawn out, potentially dangerous miscarriages and being forced to carry a dead baby inside of them because abortion restrictions gave them no other choice.
I've heard too many stories of abortion laws doing real harm to mothers and babies, and too many stories of families who were staunchly anti-abortion until they found themselves in circumstances they never could have imagined, to believe that abortion is always wrong and should be banned at any particular stage.
I am not willing to serve as judge and jury on a woman's medical decisions, and I don't think the government should either.
Most people's anti-abortion views—mine included—are based on their religious beliefs, and I don't believe that anyone's religion should be the basis for the laws in our country. (For the record, any Christian who wants biblical teachings to influence U.S. law, yet cries “Shariah is coming!" when they see a Muslim legislator, is a hypocrite.)
I also don't want politicians sticking their noses into my very personal medical choices. There are just too many circumstances (seriously, please read the stories linked in the previous section) that make abortion a choice I hope I'd never have to make, but wouldn't want banned. I don't understand why the same people who decry government overreach think the government should be involved in these extremely personal medical decisions.
And yes, ultimately, abortion is a personal medical decision. Even if I believe that a fetus is a human being at every stage, that human being's creation is inextricably linked to and dependent upon its mother's body. And while I don't think that means women should abort inconvenient pregnancies, I also acknowledge that trying to force a woman to grow and deliver a baby that she may not have chosen to conceive isn't something the government should be in the business of doing.
As a person of faith, my role is not to judge or vilify, but to love and support women who are facing difficult choices. The rest of it—the hard questions, the unclear rights and wrongs, the spiritual lives of those babies,—I comfortably leave in God's hands.
Most importantly, if the goal is to prevent abortion, research shows that outlawing it isn't the way to go.
The biggest reason I vote the way I do is because based on my research pro-choice platforms provide the best chance of reducing abortion rates.
Abortion rates fell by 24% in the past decade and are at their lowest levels in 40 years in America. Abortion has been legal during that time, so clearly, keeping abortion legal and available has not resulted in increased abortion rates. Switzerland has the lowest abortion rate on earth and their rate has been falling since 2002, when abortion became largely unrestricted.
Outlawing abortion doesn't stop it, it just pushes it underground and makes it more dangerous. And if a woman dies in a botched abortion, so does her baby. Banning abortion is a recipe for more lives being lost, not fewer.
At this point, the only things consistently proven to reduce abortion rates are comprehensive sex education and easy, affordable access to birth control. If we want to reduce abortions, that's where we should be putting our energy. The problem is, anti-abortion activists also tend to be the same people pushing for abstinence-only education and making birth control harder to obtain. But those goals can't co-exist in the real world.
Our laws should be based on reality and on the best data we have available. Since comprehensive sex education and easy, affordable access to birth control—the most proven methods of reducing abortion rates—are the domain of the pro-choice crowd, that's where I place my vote, and why I do so with a clear conscience.