Saturday, September 10, 2016

Great Bend, Kansas, Here I Come!

You may remember last year when I was able to impact the attendees at the Catholic Family Conference in Kansas by giving two talks and sharing some knowledge on a speakers' panel. Well, I must really love the beautiful state of Kansas because I'm going back this week!


From September 13 through 15, I'll be in Great Bend, KS, speaking a total of five times to different groups of high schoolers, middle schoolers, and parents. I can't wait to touch the more than 1 in 4 of teens who are suffering from mental health challenges to share my story of hope and redemption with them and to give them concrete tips on how I overcame depression and suicidal thoughts. And of course, friends and family have a huge role to play as well. One of my greatest joys to witness is when people realize how they can help their friend or child understand that he or she makes an indelible mark on the world.

I'd love to speak to the parents and youth in your community as well! All you have to do is email me at luke@ucantberased.com for more info.

Unashamed. Period.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

New Support Group Format (aka, We're Going Hiking!)

As you may know, our support group has been operating for more than a year now. Lately though, I've wanted to do more with the awesome people who attend. And a little while ago, a thought came to me. Instead of meeting inside a room, why not go outside, instead, and do something? Not always just for ourselves, but something for other people, too (more on that in a later post).

Those in the group who heard the plan were in favor, so this leads me to my big announcement.

Introducing UPlift.


And for our first activity, we're going hiking! We'll be taking the Lake Calavera Hiking Trail and meet at the address below at 4:30 p.m. The hike should take about 2 hours (we also might be able to catch the sunset). I've read great reviews about this trail, so I'm super excited! Afterward, we'll head over to In-N-Out nearby with anyone who's available to join. I hope to see you there!

Lake Calavera Hiking Trail
Saturday, September 10, 2016, 4:30 p.m.
Calavera Nature Preserve
4028 Peninsula Dr
Carlsbad, CA 92010

The view from a section of the trail

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I'm Back!

Hello, my friends!

It's been a wild few weeks. Spending a week in Poland with two million other teens at World Youth Day and then jumping over to Italy for a week in Rome and Assisi was an amazing experience. Besides the camaraderie with the others in my group and the beautiful landscapes and architecture, my favorite activity in Poland was interacting with peers from all over the world.

 

This picture was taken after singing at the top of our lungs with teens from Italy and Australia. I only wish that I took pictures for the many other times this happened with people from Portugal, Spain, Poland, and countless other countries. I love being with peers who are on fire!

This is what inspires me. And now that I'm back, I'm more determined than ever to reach out to my peers who only need a spark to set them on fire as well.

Disconnected from technology for the most part, this trip turned out to be a great time to think. I'm formulated a lot of thoughts, and if I'm able to weave them into words, I'd love to share them with you. And I have an interesting experience I'll be writing about, so stay tuned.

Talk to you soon!
Luke

P.S. Italian gelato is even more amazing than it sounds ;)

Our first sunset in Poland

From the California desert to the Poland rainstorms

Yes. We slept in a giant field with two million other people. #epic

I want to live in Assisi...
...it's absolutely beautiful










Of course, St. Peter's Basilica was one of the highlights.
I almost got lost in there.

Friday, July 22, 2016

I'm Going Traveling!

Hey everyone,

Starting today (Friday, July 22nd), I will be out of the country.

Yep. You read that right. THE COUNTRY!

I know. I'm still having a hard time believing it myself. I'm going to be in Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day and then Rome afterward. I'll get back the second week of August.

I'll have limited access to email and social media, so if I don't respond to your messages, it's because I'm not able to see them. I've written ahead for some of my social media and scheduled to post them on certain days so we can still feel connected. And, my mom has been so generous to step in again to answer any questions or just talk to you--because you know how much she loves posting on social media (sarcasm there). If you'd like to email her, please send your message to luke@ucantberased.com and write "For Carol" in the subject line.

I'll do my best to update y'all while I'm abroad, but for now, I must bid you a farewell.

Luke

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The 5 Main Points of the New 2015 CDC Survey



The CDC just released the new "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2015" report! This assesses the types of dangers that high school students face. You can find the 2015 report here and 2013 report here if you'd like to take a look at them yourself. But I've broken down and compared a few aspects of the two reports for you so you don't have to look through these lengthy (180 pages) documents if you don't have time.

1. Percentage of Those Depressed - 29.9% - Page 12
This is the first item that I looked for, and I thought for sure it'd be higher than the past report. I was somewhat surprised, however, to learn that the number--29.9%--is the same as last year. And at first, I was elated to see that it wasn't higher, but then saddened to realize that the number is still far too high. Almost 1 in every 3 of our teens are clinically depressed. Let that sink in for a moment. Other facts in this category, like the prevalence of having felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more (which is generally when someone is considered clinically depressed), were higher among female (39.8%) than male (20.3%) students.

What you can do: Educate yourself and be open about what depression really is, and if you ever notice the signs in your friends or children, say something to them or someone you trust.

2. Attempted Suicide - 8.6% - Page 13
This is the next important stat I was interested in. Unfortunately, we saw a 0.6% percent increase from last year's 8%. This means roughly 1 in 12 teens have tried to kill themselves. I know that a 0.6% increase might not seem like much, but out of the 19.8 million students enrolled in high school last year, that means 118,800 more teens attempted suicide, which makes a grand total of 1,702,800. Almost 2 million precious lives in danger! NOT good.

What you can do: Follow my suggestion in #1 above and also take every threat or hint of suicide seriously. If you're ever worried about someone, don't be afraid to ask the question, "Are you suicidal?" If you're a teen and your friend admits to having thoughts of self-harm--or even if you are still concerned for his or her safety after a denial to the question--notify a responsible adult or call 911 immediately.

3. Current Alcohol Use - 32.8% - Page 19
I'm including this category on my list because a common question I'm asked is whether addiction causes depression or the other way around. Unfortunately, it depends on the situation, and we really just don't know. But I firmly believe that the more we decrease teen drinking, the more likely it is that depression and self-medicating will decrease proportionately. But that's just my opinion. The good news is that the numbers have dropped from 2013 (34.9%) to 2015 (32.8%), and significantly from 1991 (50.8%) to 2015 (32.8%). Finally, some good news.

What you can do: If you're a parent, talk to your kid candidly about alcohol and the dangers of abusing it. If your teen is already drinking, take them to a therapist for a mental health assessment to make sure that's not the root of the problem. And if you're a teen, get out of bad situations before you lose control or become addicted. If you have an underage friend who drinks regularly, talk to your parents or a school counselor about the best way to approach the situation.

4. Sexually Active - 30.1% - Page 27
This is of particular interest to me because I recently began speaking on chastity and how it affects mental health. If you disagree with me, I'd love to hear why (and if you agree with me, I'd love to hear your voice, too). More good news is that this stat has decreased significantly from 2013 (34.0%) to 2015 (30.1%). Another fact from this section that you most likely don't know or want to hear is that 3.9% of high school students had sexual intercourse for the first time before they were 13 years old. That's middle school! Luckily, this has decreased from 5.6% in 2013.

What you can do: If you're a parent, educate your kid early about the beauty of sex and how it's perfected when inside of marriage. The Chastity Project by Jason and Crystalina Evert has great resources on this topic. Definitely check them out. And while you're over there, you can read the article that I wrote for their blog.

5. Body Image - Page 42
Another interesting (and saddening) section was about body image ("Obesity, Overweight, and Weight Control"). It states that 16% of students are overweight, yet 31.1% describe themselves as overweight.

What you can do: Never stop telling your kids (and/or the people around them) that they are beautiful. Of course, don't be weird about it, but reassuring teens and preteens that they are indeed beautiful inside and out is a simple act that can have a big impact. And you know that we're all about small yet powerful kinds of actions here.

So those are my observations and thoughts. I highly encourage you to take a look at the pdf yourself. You can even do a keyword search to find something in the report that you're interested in (Control+F, or Command+F on a Mac, then enter the word or phrase you're looking for). And please don't assume that your children, friends, or even you will never fall into these statistics. I sincerely hope that never happens, but reality says that you will most likely know someone who struggles with one of these issues.

This study also reminds me just how serious this fight is and how much I need your support. I love receiving emails and messages from you, even if it's just a short comment. It really encourages me to keep fighting on behalf of those who don't have the strength right now to do it for themselves.

Live unashamed!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Taking a Stand Against Assisted Suicide

Each life is precious. I've been saying that for a while and will never stop saying it. No matter what stage in life you're in, you matter. And to prove my point, take a look at the new video I filmed with Patients Rights Action Fund on why assisted suicide is still suicide.



I'm so pleased with how this video turned out and the massive response we've had. Over 500,000 people viewed it on Facebook, with most of the comments coming from those who support legalizing assisted suicide. 

And some insult me personally.

No way that's gonna stop me--I'm unashamed and always will be.

Friday, April 8, 2016

What I've Been Up To (aka My First Date)

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been busy. But explaining it all should be as easy as--you guessed it--1, 2, 3:

1. I have new amazing jobs
Not that this "job" of speaking and helping others isn't amazing, but I'm blessed to work at Yellow Line Digital, an agency that specializes in telling brands' stories through social media and video. Assisting the VP of Sales and collecting data from social media accounts has been a perfect fit for me. This job matches up with my career goals after college.

I also was hired as my church's Youth Coordinator. I enjoy interacting with teens, and I'll be doing that a lot with this job.

So, I guess I'm working three jobs now, but I love all of them.

2. Taking on more classes
Fast-track classes. A blessing and a curse. That is all. But I'm super motivated to graduate from college because of item #3.

3. And finally, the big news...
I have a girlfriend.

Yep. Little ol' me. Now, I know to many people, dating isn't such a big deal. But what I've found is that dating (or what I also call "courting") is a serious affair, so to speak. Not that it isn't any fun. Quite the opposite. It's awesome! But what I mean is that the purpose of courting is to find your future spouse, and once we lose that focus, we lose the meaning of dating. That's when it becomes simply hanging out or hooking up, and that's not very fulfilling.


No, we're not married (for the bajillionth time). We both wear purity rings on our left hands in the hope that our wedding rings will replace them one day and also as a promise we make to remain faithful and chaste to our future spouses. This is something beautiful I highly recommend for everyone who isn't married yet. I'm 19 years old, and I'm proud to say that I recently went on my first date ever with my first (and, hopefully, last) girlfriend. We've known each other for years and spent much time becoming friends, so this is the next step in our discernment of whether we would make compatible spouses.
________________________________________________________________

So to focus my attention more on the most important aspects of this mission and my life, I've had to let go of some things.

The first is piano lessons. If you know me, you know I love my piano. I call her my diary because that's how I best express my emotions. I'll still play for fun, but unfortunately, it won't be as often :(

The second and third are Google+ and Twitter. Social media can be a great tool to reach people in need, but with so many accounts, it's difficult to post quality content on all of them. So I'm focusing only on Facebook and Instagram to continue to engage and build great communities online.

Whew! I think you can understand why you haven't "seen" much of me around here lately. And don't worry, my parent's are watching me closely for any signs of burnout, but so far, I'm just a normal busy young adult trying to find his way in this topsy turvy world. I still watch my diet as best as I can and continue to take my supplement regimen that maintains the function of my mind and body.

Thank you all again for journeying with me through the ups and downs of my life. You continuously support me and give me hope that every teen can experience the recovery and healing that I have received.