Finding Pride in Rural Healthcare

In a world where LGBTQ+ healthcare can be a struggle, especially in rural areas, Dr. Anthony Carney stands as a beacon of hope. This dedicated nurse practitioner provides affirming primary care for LGBTQ+ patients in a small town clinic at the University of Kentucky. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Carney on the Life Support Podcast, and his insights are a must-read for anyone passionate about inclusive healthcare.

Following a Passion to Provide Care

Dr. Carney’s journey to becoming an affirming care provider wasn’t a straight line. It all began with his desire to focus on LGBTQ+ health during his graduate studies. This passion led him to connect with mentors and clinics that specialized in this area. Eventually, his skills and dedication landed him a position at a small-town clinic, allowing him to bring much-needed affirming care directly to a rural community.

What Makes Care Affirming?

But what exactly does affirming care look like? Dr. Carney explains it as recognizing and addressing the unique needs of LGBTQ+ patients. This can range from creating a welcoming and safe environment to using the correct pronouns and offering comprehensive sexual health screenings. Additionally, affirming care provides mental health services specifically tailored to those transitioning genders.

Challenges and Triumphs in Rural Communities

Dr. Carney sheds light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in rural areas. Limited access to affirming services and a constant fear for safety are just a few of the hurdles they encounter. However, Dr. Carney highlights the power of word-of-mouth referrals. By creating a safe space and providing exceptional care, his clinic has attracted patients through positive experiences shared within the community.

Learning Beyond Textbooks

Dr. Carney emphasizes the importance of real-world experience when providing affirming care. Textbooks offer valuable knowledge, but it’s the lived experiences of patients that truly shape a provider’s understanding. Dr. Carney stresses the need to be aware of the social determinants of health and the impact of violence on LGBTQ+ individuals. This allows him to provide holistic care that addresses not just medical issues, but also the social factors that influence well-being.

Making Affirming Care a Reality for All

The interview concludes with Dr. Carney offering valuable advice for healthcare providers who want to create more inclusive environments. He encourages them to:

  • Seek additional training on LGBTQ+ health
  • Utilize online resources
  • Prioritize creating a safe space for patients to express themselves freely

A Brighter Future for LGBTQ+ Healthcare

Dr. Carney’s vision for the future of LGBTQ+ care is one filled with hope. He dreams of a world where more healthcare providers are trained to offer affirming care, LGBTQ+ health topics are a standard part of medical education, and barriers to healthcare access for LGBTQ+ patients are broken down.

Dr. Carney’s dedication and passion are truly inspiring. By sharing his story and insights, he empowers others to advocate for change and create a healthcare system that welcomes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Let’s continue this conversation and work towards a future where LGBTQ+ healthcare thrives in all communities, big and small.

Life Support Podcast: Gender Affirming Practices in Rural Areas

Elise Winbrock joins Rachel Blanton in a talk with Dr. Anthony about his motivation for practicing LGBTQ+ affirming care in a small town, the importance of affirming care for individuals, and how to create LGBTQ+ friendly healthcare spaces.

Anthony LeonFinding Pride in Rural Healthcare

The Importance of Youth Mental Health

Mental health has become a constant topic of discussion in recent times, especially when it comes to youth mental health. The Surgeon General of the United States has stated that mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and life outcomes for young people. Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in certain mental health disorders in youth, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. This issue has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Children’s Hospital have declared the decline in child and adolescent mental health due to the pandemic as a national emergency. These leading health agencies are urging the rest of the country and the world to take immediate action.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Youth Mental Health

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of youth. According to the American Psychological Association, there has been a 25% increase in emergency room visits for mental health issues among children from March to October 2020. Additionally, a survey conducted among parents showed that over 70% of them believed that the pandemic had taken a toll on their children’s mental health. Approximately 69% of parents considered it to be the worst thing that had ever happened in their children’s lives.

The increase in mental health issues among youth is not limited to the pandemic alone. Even before the pandemic, CDC statistics showed that one in five adolescents would experience some form of mental health issue. However, only 20% of them were receiving treatment. The pandemic has only exacerbated this existing problem.

The Role of Mental Health Professionals

In order to address the increasing mental health needs of youth, mental health professionals must play a crucial role. Clinical and health psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and other professionals have seen a significant increase in their workload. They have observed higher levels of depression, anxiety, and social isolation among their young patients.

One of the challenges in working with youth is that they require a different approach compared to adults. Mental health professionals need to consider the developmental context of children and adolescents. They must meet them where they are in terms of their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Additionally, the family context must also be taken into account, as it plays a vital role in a child’s mental health.

The Importance of Family Support

Parents and families have a crucial role in supporting the mental health of their children. One of the most important things parents can do is to listen to their children. By providing a safe space for children to express their feelings and concerns, parents can help them navigate the challenges they face.

Parents should also lead by example and provide positive role models for their children. By being open about their struggles and demonstrating healthy coping mechanisms, parents can instill hope and resilience in their children.

It is also important for parents to be aware of any changes in their child’s behavior or mood. If they notice any significant changes, such as sleep disturbances, irritability, or changes in academic performance, they should reach out for professional help. Early intervention can make a significant difference in a child’s mental well-being.

The Role of the Community

The community, including neighbors, friends, and other individuals, also has a responsibility to support youth mental health. One way to do this is by becoming a mentor to young individuals. Becoming a trusted adult in their lives can provide them with an additional support system outside of their immediate family.

Volunteering and getting involved in youth programs and organizations is another way to make a positive impact on the mental health of young individuals. By providing them with opportunities for engagement and connection, we can help them develop healthy relationships and interests.

For those who are not parents or mental health professionals, increasing awareness and education about youth mental health is essential. Understanding the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and knowing how to provide support can make a significant difference in a young person’s life.

The Role of Schools

Schools play a critical role in addressing youth mental health. They provide a unique opportunity to reach all children, as every child attends school. Schools can start by incorporating mental health education into their curriculum, teaching students about the importance of mental well-being and providing them with tools to cope with stress and emotions.

Schools can also integrate mental health professionals into their system, ensuring that students have access to the support they need. This includes school counselors, psychologists, and therapists. By providing on-site mental health services, schools can eliminate barriers to access and ensure that students receive timely and appropriate care.

Prevention is key when it comes to youth mental health. Schools can implement preventive measures by promoting healthy lifestyles, encouraging physical activity, and educating students about mental health from an early age. By fostering an environment that supports positive mental health, schools can create a foundation for lifelong well-being.

Addressing youth mental health is essential for the well-being of our future generations. By listening to children, providing support and resources, and creating a community that values mental health, we can make a significant impact on their lives. Mental health professionals, parents, schools, and the community must all work together to ensure that young individuals receive the care and support they need to thrive.

Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health. Let’s prioritize the mental well-being of our youth and create a world where everyone has the opportunity to live a happy and healthy life.

If you would like to help us support Idaho’s youth, you can donate to our Youth Mental Health Scholarship Fund. Your contribution will provide vital mental health support to young people facing challenges like anxiety and depression. Together, we can create a brighter future for Idaho’s youth.⁠

Life Support Podcast: Youth Mental Health and How Families Can Support It

Learn more about the importance of youth mental by listening to our Life Support Podcast episode with guests Amy Walters and Maria Torres. 

Anthony LeonThe Importance of Youth Mental Health

Strategies to Cut Down on Social Media and Screen Time

In our tech-driven era, where social media dominates our daily lives, it’s crucial to address the impact on our mental well-being. Did you know that, on average, Americans spend 2 hours and 27 minutes on social media each day? We will be going over the effects and exploring reliable strategies for achieving a healthier balance in our screen time.

Understanding Social Media’s Effect on Your Mental Health 

Social media brings undeniable benefits, facilitating connections, information access, and community building. Yet, it’s crucial to acknowledge the challenges it poses to mental well-being. Comparing our lives to curated versions on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and envy.

Cyberbullying, fueled by the platform’s anonymity, can have severe emotional consequences, especially for young individuals. The addictive nature of notifications and likes may result in excessive screen time, neglecting real-life interactions. Social media’s portrayal of an idealized life can trigger FOMO, contributing to anxiety and depression. These are just some of how social media can leave a lasting impact on your mental health.

Tips and Tricks to Make Social Media Work For You 

It is important to implement certain strategies into your daily life to achieve a more balanced screen time. Some great ways to cut back on your social media and screen usage include the following:

  • Using Timers: Establishing clear boundaries is paramount, and the use of screen time trackers, coupled with setting timers, is a practical approach recommended by experts. Digital detox challenges, involving intentional disconnection from screens for a set period, offer a strategic reset for your mental well-being.
  • Find a Screen-Free Hobby: Cultivating offline hobbies is not just a leisurely suggestion but a recognized practice endorsed by psychologists. Allocating at least an hour each week to screen-free activities, such as reading or engaging in physical activities, promotes a well-rounded lifestyle and a much-needed break from social media and screens.
  • Enjoy a Screen-Free Meal: Dedicate at least one meal a day to be enjoyed without the presence of screens. This intentional break can lead to a more mindful and enjoyable dining experience.

The journey toward balanced screen time is about integrating reliable strategies into our digital lifestyles. By incorporating these professionally endorsed practices, we can foster a healthier relationship with technology. It’s not about saying goodbye to screens forever—it’s about finding that sweet spot to live with and without them. Change can be slow, but it’s worth it!

For more resources around social media, check out our school outreach resources, our Life Support Podcast, and our last article: Navigating Social Media and Mental Health.


Anthony LeonStrategies to Cut Down on Social Media and Screen Time
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