The Importance of Fathers

The Importance of Fathers

Reposting from Father’s Day 2015. Still as relevant in 2016. Happy Father’s Day!

When I pull up to my childhood home, I am instantly reminded of my time as a little girl running around the front yard catching lightening bugs while my daddy rocks on the front porch. I walk inside the house and it’s as if I go back in time where I sat in the living room watching the Andy Griffith Show with him. Out back, I am swinging in the hammock…or giving daddy a push. And I know that not everyone has these experiences. Experiences with a loving father who cares for, provides for, and protects his family…

The National Fatherhood Initiative sites many important studies on their website at www.fatherhood.org. They tell us that having involved fathers leads to an increase in emotional functioning and decreases risk of poverty. It results in improved behavior and less chance of incarceration. In fact, children with involved fathers are less likely to experience a teen pregnancy, obesity, or drugs. While there are certainly exceptions to all of this, the impact of fathers cannot be denied. And, yet, one in three homes with children is missing the biological father.

But there are good ones out there, and Father’s Day is a day to celebrate our dads. And while many are missing a healthy relationship with their dads, we do have a Heavenly Father. We have 24-hour access to Him! God never sleeps, He always listens, He always comforts. Psalm 68:5 tells us he is a “father to the fatherless.” He’s a father to us all, but for those without earthly fathers, I pray this message brings comfort on Father’s Day and all year round.

And, dads, please remember the incredibly important role you are called to have in your children’s lives! Please watch this beautiful video to serve as a reminder:

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The Important Conversation Women Should Be Having As a Result of the Stanford Case

The Important Conversation Women Should Be Having As a Result of the Stanford Case

“If I hadn’t taken that drink from him…”

“If I hadn’t let him meet me at my house…”

“If only I’d had a weapon with me…”

These are just a few of the statements that clients who had been sexually assaulted or raped shared with me. Of course, they weren’t to blame for the crimes committed against them. The perpetrator in each case was solely responsible for the heinous act, not the victim. Yet, over and over, women expressed regrets about their own actions…wondering if they could have done something, anything, to avoid being sexually assaulted.

And they desperately wanted other women to know how to protect themselves, how to make themselves less vulnerable, and, whenever possible, how to prevent themselves from being victims like them.

If you’re not familiar with the Stanford case, news outlets report that two men witnessed a male college student sexually assaulting an unconscious woman after he intentionally targeted her (perhaps because her sister rejected him), took her to a dark and isolated place, and assaulted her. The men who happened upon him in the act intervened, and the perpetrator was arrested and tried, but he only received a six-month sentence. There is a lot more to this story that you can (and should) read all about it (like the fact that there was a long history of the perpetrator using drugs and alcohol, and being sexually aggressive with women).

As there should be, there is loud public outcry about the light sentence of only six months. He has to suffer for a few months. She has to suffer for the rest of her life. He will continue to use getting drunk as his excuse for not knowing what he was doing. She will continue to get blamed for getting drunk. And, yes, the perpetrator may experience some emotional distress and negative consequences throughout his life, but they will not be as nearly as bad as hers. I have sat with too many victims who rarely go out, who can’t sleep at night, who suffer physically and emotionally for years and decades to believe any different.

And I think some of these women would ask how this young lady wound up alone in the dark, behind a dumpster with this predator on the campus of Stanford University. I think they would say that we should do everything we can to prevent ourselves from being victims. I think they would cry out: Ladies, let’s work together to prevent sexual assault.

Of course no one ever, under any circumstances, deserves to be or is asking to be sexually assaulted. At the same time, as women, we can and should do more to protect ourselves and our fellow women from this happening. We absolutely must talk about rape prevention, even though it isn’t fair. I wish it were as simple as “men just need to stop raping women.” (Which is so true.) I wish it were as simple as “men need to be given stiff sentences for sexual assault as a deterrent to other would be perps.” (That’s absolutely true too, and perhaps the Stanford case will help promote this.) But, sadly, ending sexual assault and rape is not as simple as these two statements make it sound. Wickedness will continue until the world ends, so, women, we must do more to prevent these horrible crimes ourselves. It’s the tragic truth. We need to take control. We need to be empowered. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves and our fellow females. And we can, even though we shouldn’t have to. So, ladies, here are a few important tips to remember so that we can prevent ourselves and other women from being in the same awful situation as the Stanford victim:

~Don’t take a drink from a stranger.

~Don’t allow a stranger into your home and don’t go home with strangers.

~Don’t meet strangers in isolated areas or go somewhere alone with them.

~If you plan to drink, make a safety plan so that you do not become a target. (Examples: Don’t become intoxicated, make sure you have a ride home from someone you know and trust, don’t drink with people you don’t know, etc.) ***I know some people will disagree with the statement that women shouldn’t get drunk, but in my opinion no good comes from anyone getting drunk. So, men, take heed that this comment is to you as well.***

~Stay with people you trust and be extra cautious when going out alone and coming home alone.

~Watch out for one another…remind your girlfriends about safety when drinking or when meeting men.

~Get a security system on your home. (There are lots of options that include loud noises and lights and that automatically contact the police if someone attempts to break in.)

~Carry mace, a knife, or a gun to protect yourself. (Within the law.)

While these tips won’t prevent all assaults, I hope they empower women to do all they can to protect themselves. And if you have experienced this horrible crime perpetrated against you, know that you are not to blame and there is help available. If you are struggling emotionally, please seek a mental health professional today. And, ladies, let’s keep talking about this issue…never letting law makers and law enforcers and the men around us forget that they have to do more to prevent sexual crimes. Like fathers teaching sons to respect women instead of taking advantage of them. Like men holding other men accountable for how they treat women. And like incarcerating those who commit sexual crimes for a heck of a lot longer than 6 measly months.

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Why You Should Skip “Me Before You” *Spoiler Alert*

Why You Should Skip “Me Before You” *Spoiler Alert*

Warning: Movie Spoiler Alerts Coming

In the recently released movie Me Before You (spoiler alert: do not read this and then complain that I spoiled the ending. I am giving you fair warning that I am going to spoil the ending. Stop reading if you do not want to know the ending. Really, I mean it)…the main character is a quadriplegic. After developing a relationship with a caretaker, he receives her help to commit suicide. There is an argument that people who have a terminal diagnosis or a low quality of life have the right to determine when and how they die. If that is the case, why does society not support those with mental illness committing suicide.

Or, worse, will we get to that point?

If someone is physically incapable of committing suicide, then they need assistance such as the character mentioned above and the one in (spoiler alert) Million Dollar Baby. The people who help them do genuinely seem to love the person they are assisting. Who wants to see a loved one in pain? No one! But helping them die by suicide is not the answer. Not only that, but having a disability does not mean life is not worth living. Ask any one of the countless people thriving in spite of their disabilities…including mental health diagnoses.

It is infuriating that mental health professionals like myself spend countless hours over many years training and working in suicide prevention, assessment, and intervention only to have Hollywood portray a romanticized version of how this goes. We work so hard to help people see their value and to take suicide off the table of options. Although mental health problems can certainly be chronic and extremely debilitating, we fight for them to keep living…to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Why?

Because their life is worth it.

If we care about people and their value on earth, we should support them living life until natural death. Regardless of what shape their physical body or mind are in. We should continue to advocate and work towards a reduction in suicide among those with mental illness, and this cause is not helped by supporting or advocating assisted suicide for any reason, including terminal or permanent physical health problems.

Will you join me in saying no to Hollywood’s glamorization of this issue? Tell them to stop trying to make this issue look simple and beautiful. Tell them to recognize that there is significant emotional pain to loved ones after a suicide. Tell them that survivors are more likely to also commit suicide. Tell them that regardless of a physical health problem or mental health problem or relationship problem or financial problem or any kind of problem…life is worth living. Tell them that there is mental health treatment available for anyone who is struggling with seeing their worth. How can you tell them? With your money. In other words, skip the movie Me Before You.

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