Growing up, I have always loved being around people – laughing, hanging out, and discussing a variety of topics. However, there is one thing that I have noticed: I shy away from topics that need to be and should be talked about, particularly sexual and mental health. Part of this comes from familial and cultural influence. In my family and culture, we do not talk about sexual health extensively because it is assumed that the more someone talks about it, the more they will engage in sexual activities. The same goes for mental health -- when you are feeling down, you just have to ignore that feeling of loneliness and it will go away. What if it’s depression? It will go away. What about suicidal ideations? That person just wants attention. I might be generalizing but this is the environment that I witnessed growing up as a kid.
Yes, I could blame the way I was raised (more related to my lack of school education than my parents) or blame society as a whole for how I might have reacted negatively towards someone who is going through hardships regarding their sexual or mental health. But would that make any difference? No. What I want and need to do now is to focus on the things that I can do at this moment to make a positive impact in my community.
NHC taught me how to start sensitive conversations with individuals, disagree with someone without being disrespectful, and get my opinions across without attacking a person. I learned how to look at ideas holistically and assess why someone thinks the way they do. It also ties back to my own familial and cultural influence. I can put myself in the shoes of someone who has been raised a certain way, and remember how I based my opinions and ideas back then. Now more than ever, I would like to sit down and have conversations with friends or strangers about sensitive topics - not to try to necessarily solve any problem, but to understand its origin or where it might be coming from. Without understanding and knowing the cause, I believe that we cannot accomplish anything. For me, that is the first step: learning how to listen and think critically without being judgmental.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Rey de Leon.
Rey is a Health Educator at Erie Family Health Centers - Amundsen High School.