The last week of March has been LGBT Health Awareness Week since 2003. We have explored some of the barriers to healthcare for the transgender community in previous blog posts, but it remains important to bring awareness to the unique healthcare needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and the health disparities that continue to affect the lives of so many Americans.

Experts report that LGBT people often avoid seeking out medical care or refrain from “coming out” to their healthcare provider. This compromises an entire community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who are at increased risk for several health threats when compared to heterosexual or cisgender peer groups: Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; lesbians are less likely to get cancer screenings; transgender individuals are among the least likely to have health insurance along with risks from hormone replacement and atypical cancers. Even as youths, LGBT people are at higher risk of violence, depression, substance abuse, homelessness, and other suicide-related behaviors.

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There’s no better time than right now to invest in your health. Odds are you do it every day — even if you don’t know that’s what you’re doing.

From taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication for headaches, to setting weight loss goals or wearing a fitness tracker, most of us practice self-care every day without realizing it. New research from BeMedWise details just how common self-care is.

Among the report’s 2,000+ survey respondents:

  • 92% desire more control over their health
  • 89% say they know where to find answers to health questions or concerns
  • 80% feel the need to manage their health now more than ever before
  • 88% express confidence in making their own health decisions

The full report, titled “Empowering Americans to Take Greater Responsibility for Their Health,” examines how self-care can improve an individual’s health while also reducing medical costs.

It comes at a time where 6 in 10 U.S. adults are living with a chronic disease. Chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and depression together account for 90% of our $3.3 trillion healthcare budget.

However, the U.S. economy could save an estimated $6.6 billion if just 10% of those with a chronic disease adopted self-care practices.

Below, we’ll describe what self-care is and why it’s having a hard time catching on. Then we’ll send you off 

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For over 25 years, the first full week of October has been Mental Illness Awareness Week. One in five, or 20% of the population, live with some kind of mental health condition, with one in 25 living with a serious mental illness that substantially limits one’s life activities. Those living with mental illness fight stigma while trying to survive under internal duress. Awareness is important so that resources are made available to those who need them and the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental illnesses can be reduced.

Everyone has stress and difficult emotions on occasion, and this is completely normal. Mental illness, however, is any condition that makes it difficult to function in daily life. It can affect relationships or job performance, and is caused by any number of complex interactions within the human brain. Mental illness can range from anxiety or mood disorders like depression, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, to eating disorders or addictive behaviors.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world and includes 16 million American adults living with major depression.

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Are you a caregiver or provider for a family member, friend, or patient? Do you help to take care of another person in need, including an ill spouse or an aging relative? Caregivers act as both healthcare provider and advocate for the person in their charge, and can be a financial resource when savings and social security are not an option. There are over 45 million caregivers in the United States, and there are resources available to help them fulfill their needs as they take on the care of others.

Whether you are taking care of the young or elderly; the ill, injured, or disabled; the difficulty of the work, while rewarding, can be draining. Respite care services (outlined here by StuffSeniorsNeed.com) can help allay the exhaustion and give a well-deserved break to caregivers. In 2009, the Lifespan Respite Care Program was authorized by Congress and has since been implemented in 37 states. Funded by federal grants from the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging, the program has expanded access to respite care for caregivers of patients of all ages.

Caregivers of veterans are eligible for support from

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Infographic from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year over 41,000 people in America kill themselves—a rate that has increased 30% since 1999. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but 54% of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental illness. Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor, and are also affected by personal relationships, substance use, physical health, and stress from jobs, money, legal issues, and/or housing. In addition to September being Suicide Prevention Month, the week surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day is National Suicide Prevention Week. Awareness is important to end the stigma of suicidal feelings and help more people access life-saving help in dark times.

Anyone can have suicidal thoughts, but it is important to know they are not permanent. Having suicidal thoughts is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a symptom of profound distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be very damaging and dangerous, and should be considered a psychiatric emergency. Other than mental illness, there are a number of risk factors for suicide:

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