Tag Archive | Health

The Health impact of Covid-19 on Women in Donegal

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The NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network Covid-19 impact survey reveals that, 61.1% of women living in Donegal feel that their mental health has been impacted by Covid-19. This percentage increased to 78% for women within the 18-25 age group and 70% for women between 26-40 years of age. While women living in the Buncrana Electoral Area had the highest percentage at 68% and 68.6% of women with a civil status of living with a partner had the highest percentage for any civil status category.

 


When asked since Covid-19 how much time have you had to look after your own mental health and wellbeing? 36.7% of Women stated that they had less time. This increased to 46% for women in the 26-40 years’ age category, 49% for women living in the Buncrana Electoral Area and 50% for women living with a partner.

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It is clear the Covid-19 pandemic has created and highlighted additional stresses for women in Donegal.  Women who took part in our impact survey talked about a number of issues and challenges they have faced since March due to the pandemic, these include;

Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress with Covid-19 restrictions re-triggering past traumatic experiences, going through pregnancy during the pandemic, dealing with ongoing health issues while trying to stay safe through the pandemic.

Some of the most common themes raised by women which directly impacted their mental health related to childcare and work. Many women talked about the additional workload and the challenge of balancing working from home and childcare, expectations.  Many highlighted even with a partner or husband in the house it still fell on them to be responsible for childcare. Homeschooling was a particular issue raised by women, who stated many had experienced an assumption by their partner that it would be them who would look after homeschooling. Which was a cause of frustration for women.

Many highlighted experiencing feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. With constant worrying and isolation leading to sleep issues. Being away from friends and family also contributing to this. For others stress and anxiety was being brought on by worrying about the uncertainty of the future, finances and how they were going to pay bills if no work continued because of Covid-19.

While there were, additional stresses brought about from a feeling of expectation that with more free time now you should be doing stuff and being active at home all the time when in reality you’re just trying to cope with getting through the day.

A number of women who were front-line workers also expressed that their mental health was being impacted by a lack of support from their employers in relation to new workloads, personal safety and proper communication during the last few months.


This is just a snapshot of the data we received from 832 women living across Donegal. We will continue to analysis all the data and share our findings and recommendations in the Autumn.

Sexual Health Matters

Copy of you define yourself (1)

In this Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Eilish Mc Art, Coordinator of the Sexual Health Education Programme at the Donegal Women’s Centre in Letterkenny, talks about the education and training programme she delivers, highlighting the topic of sexual health and the importance of including and discussing sexuality + health to support our health and wellbeing.


 

Donegal Women’s Centre Providing Sexual Health Services

Donegal Women’s Centre has long been associated with health care provision and began in 1989, providing a ‘Health and Family Planning’ clinic, one of the first in Ireland, in a community setting. In more recent years a Sexual Health Project for young people began, initiated by an insightful colleague and I became the Sexual Heath Project Coordinator, this was followed up with a Young Women’s Sexual Health Clinic in Donegal Women’s Centre, which is one of only two in Ireland in the community settings, funded by HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

logos she info & DWC


 

Sexuality Health not just Sexual Health and why it matters

I have always felt challenged that Sexuality Health is not given more recognition by society as a primary element of Health & Wellbeing, particularly the ‘BEING.’ Other areas of health are discussed in open forums, but the mere mention of sexuality, and social response is a nod to it (and possibly a wink!). This is rooted in our attitudes and values, garnered by our generational, historical and religious systemic culture.

But, yet is sexuality not at the very core of who we are, from birth until death, how we identify to ourselves and to others, how we connect spiritually and physically. We cannot merely reduce sexuality to a discussion on contraception, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI’s), and gender identity, although essential to holistic sexuality health provision.

 

The World Health Organisation Statement on Sexuality

‘Sexual health cannot be defined, understood or made operational without a broad consideration of sexuality, which underlies important behaviours and outcomes related to sexual health. The working definition of sexuality is:

“…a central aspect of being human throughout life encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.” (WHO, 2006)

I would also include the capacity for sensuality. It is within this statement I consider my testimony to sexuality to be true, it is in sync with my beliefs, but also from years of working with the subject, agencies and people.


 

The Power Of Sexuality

I would not underestimate the power of sexuality. Sexuality transcends differences and divides of culture and politics, it is a bio/physiological condition familiar to all humans. Sexuality is not defined or confined by issues of, or consequences of being gay, gender identity, race, marginalisation by any factors such as economic class, education level, religious practice, ethnic group, migrant, traveller or settled, prisoner or free, ability or disability, or age, no, it is a behaviour common to all, it is mutual and unifying. Nor is it the domain and responsibility of the female of the population groups. The power of sexuality has had a place in history and many fabled and real political liaisons and strategy.

I recently carried out a scoping exercise for HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme titled ‘The Sexual Health Needs of Marginalised and Migrant Communities’. Women refugees who had been displaced due to war, through direct provision and in resettlement programmes in this county and women from Irish ethnic minority communities.

This was a gift that enabled me to have privileged access to work with women. I have also worked with women and men from disability sectors in programmes and training in sexuality, and throughout my career in wellbeing and sexual health, which includes people from LGBT, gender identity, those from socially, emotionally and economically marginalised, and privileged areas, they have been my tutors, and I have learned that sexuality and the issues from sexual health are common to all.

It is the glue that binds us as Humans. It is our inherent need for connection, bonding, and sensuality, the need to give love and receive love, feel and be desired, ecstasy, fulfilled, and attraction, and the gift of humanness. The soul of human sexuality is Powerful, and full of affirmative Power.


I do have to mention, negative use of sexual power, for the greater part in the setting of domestic violence. This is an area that needs to be addressed. The issue of domestic violence rightly has been given a respectful setting within the political, community, and funding sectors, but, discussion of the relevance of sexual control is a developing awareness, and programmes are being created to address this. I tried to research this issue for work, and it is limited in terms of information in this country, with one cross border community group and local support group, including this issue, and doing excellent work in their training in domestic violence.

In war, sexual violence is one of the conquering, degrading demeaning and divisive tactics used by marauding nations.  This is one of the underlying experiences that the women who participated in the scoping exercise experienced. This awareness and visioning was provided by the most eminent of project workers who provided me with a deeper awareness of the impact of the ravages of war, refugee camps, displacement and direct provision have on men and women. The ugliness of emasculation for the men and that impact for women, the war that is unspoken, struggles of need – the silent war shaped by despair.  Where can that anger and rage go? There are consequences and this impacts on sexuality and sexual behaviour for men and women.


Irish women from ethnic minorities experience hardships and vulnerability that are further exacerbated by levels of education, issues of residence, alcohol, homelessness and mental health.

One common experience for marginalised women highlighted to me in the focus sessions was the inability to relate to ‘white middle class services and leaflets on sexual health’ and the non-familiar language, women cannot identify with it. The research highlighted that a patriarchal system was evident, and was mentioned, and had an impact on women’s’ experiencing of safe sexual encounters, and attending for health care.

When we experience assault, any assault, we separate ourselves from our sexuality self, but it is an innate part of who we are and that means being separated from our soulful self. It leaves a gap, an emptiness.

I don’t wish to dwell on the negative elements of sexuality health, for to do so is sad, but I don’t apologise for including the issue, not to do so would be remiss and insulting to all the women and men I have worked with.


 

The Relationship of Sexuality with Mental Health

To discuss sexuality, we cannot neglect the fundamental component of self-esteem. Self Esteem underpins our sexual health choices, and our sexual health behaviours, and this links sexual health to mental health. Without the inclusion of self-esteem then any discussion on sexual identity, contraceptives, STIs, abortion or signposting to sexual health services is less effective.

Consent is a major issue in sexual behaviour and it is relative to self-esteem, and this is largely dependent on having experienced the 3A’s, Affirmation, Approval, and Acceptance from an early age and throughout life. I call it the AAA battery for a positive life experience. Having or acquiring healthy self-esteem, enables us to make healthy decision, and choices with partner behaviour, recognise difficulties, and act for a better way, recognise or wonderful connections, and grow with that.


 

Sexual Rights

There is a growing consensus that sexual health cannot be achieved and maintained without respect for, and protection of, certain human rights. The working definition of sexual rights given below is a contribution to the continuing dialogue on human rights related to sexual health (1).

“The fulfilment of sexual health is tied to the extent to which human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. Sexual rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognised in international and regional human rights documents and other consensus documents and in national laws.

  • Rights critical to the realisation of sexual health include:

  • Rights critical to the realisation of sexual health include:

  • the rights to equality and non-discrimination

  • the right to be free from torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment

  • the right to privacy

  • the rights to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security

  • the right to marry and to found a family and enter into marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage

  • the right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children

  • the rights to information, as well as education

  • the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and

  • the right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others.

The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitute sexual rights. Sexual rights protect all people’s rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination.” (WHO, 2006a, updated 2010)

 

(1) It should be noted that this definition does not represent an official WHO position and should not be used or quoted as such. It is offered instead as a contribution to ongoing discussion about sexual health.


 

Safe Sex

The physical act of sex, is often talked about under healthy and unhealthy headings. Literature on safe sex is available, and it is important to recognise the value of promoting safe sex, the correct use of contraception, information on STI’s, crisis pregnancy supports and services. There is also safer sex, and that is about responsibility in safe sex practice, respect for self and others. It means seeking consent, using contraception as directed. It may also include using visual aids, stimulating aids, where consent is agreed and partners are the legal age to use.


 

Reduce the risk of coronavirus during sex

It is not always obvious if someone has coronavirus. Being sexually active with another person involves some risk of getting the virus. There is a need to reduce this risk by following the advice below. 

  • Only be sexually active with someone you live with who does not have the virus or symptoms of the virus.

  • Avoid being sexually active with anyone outside your household.

  • Avoid kissing anyone outside of your household and anyone with symptoms. Kissing can easily pass on coronavirus.

  • Taking a break from physical and face-to face interactions is worth considering.

  • Consider using video dates. Make sure to disinfect keyboards and touch screens that you share with others

  • While the current advice is not to have sex with or kiss anyone outside of your household, if you do, it is important to limit it to as few partners as possible. Remember close sexual contact with anyone you are not living with can put you and others at risk of coronavirusUse condoms and dental dams to reduce contact with saliva or faeces, especially during oral .

  • Wash before and after sex. This is more important than ever. Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and water.

The Donegal Women’s Centres, Sexual Health Information Project has compiled some useful advice about keeping on top of your sexual well-being now that it’s easier to get out and about and meet people. To find out more please visit here.


 

Training in enabling the normalising of sexual/ity health discussion for professionals.

I have the honour of working in partnership with a wonderful talented young woman from health promotion and improvement delivering training in Sexual Health Promotion, a national training programme funded by HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme. At the outset of the training the professionals often state that they seek confidence in discussing the subject, and indeed that is part of the design of the programme. It is often noticed that by the end of the 10 days the participants have achieved that confidence through discussion, heightened awareness of the relevance to human wellbeing, but also that taboo around the normalising of sexuality discussion has diminished and is joyful to witness.  The days are challenging and full of new consciousness of the positive value in sexuality health provision. It is emphasised to participants, nationally, to be inclusive of the affirmative element of pleasure, ecstasy and joy in sexual participation, and the benefits of self-satisfaction and connection, to the individual’s health and therefore societal health. When humans are happy, they are mostly in a healthy state of Being.

This does not direct that people have to be sexually active to achieve wellbeing, that is a choice. Rather, is it about the relationship with self to begin, an interpersonal connection, and that which achieves an ability to sense the higher self, fulfilment, it is sensuality, and knowing the components of and experiencing joy for self. Sensuality is the pleasure that we derive in being with someone, by choice, and that changes with age, ability, health, life events but the joy and pleasure remains in being a tuned with that core component of sensual pleasure.


 

The ‘Taboo’

Donegal Women’s Network invited me to contribute an article to the women’s lives, Women’s Voices series, an opportunity to address the taboo on the subject of sexuality, knowing that I am passionate about the subject, and also about putting across the relevance of Sexuality Health within general health provision, my view is, it has to be included to achieve Well-being.

I wondered how do I address ‘taboo’ part of the challenge. For me it is about making the subject acceptable, normalising the issue. How do I do that? – it concerns YOU, EVERY YOU. It matters to YOU, it is WHO YOU ARE in your world, how you choose to project yourself, and, your wellbeing.

So, in my processing world Sexuality and Sexual Health Care, cannot be separated from general health care, to do so, leaves out a core element. Sexuality Health is, will always be relevant, a priority, and core contributory factor to humans being and societal well-being. 

 

Thank you

I am grateful to all the women of the Donegal Women’s Centre who support me in doing the work of the Sexual Health Project, in schools in the community and delivering the national training, and also to HSE Sexual Health & Crisis Pregnancy Programme who fund the Project.

 


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.

Compassionate Women Group Course

Network Compassionate Women

“Women, tend to spend a lot of time caring for others and often forget to extend that same care and love to themselves. Self-compassion is giving ourselves the same kindness, care, and understanding that we offer to others. Developing self-compassion can give us an emotional resilience that leaves us better able to deal with life’s challenges.”

Sara Anderson


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network are pleased to be taking bookings for the New Compassionate Women course by Life Coach Sara Anderson. This is a FREE 4-week online group course which is being offered on a voluntary basic by Sara and will start on Wednesday 3rd June 11am-12.30pm. The aim of this course is to support women in their health and wellness, promoting personal development, well-being and positive mental health. Over the four weeks’ participants will be introduced to and learn about self-compassion, its importance for wellness and how you can develop it.

 

Through guided practice participants will learn mindfulness, empathy, and gratitude techniques allowing you to develop the tools and methods that will leave you feeling better about yourself and the world around you.

 

Venue: Online via Zoom

Dates: Wednesday 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th June

Time: 11.00am-12.30pm

 

If you are interested in participating in this programme please fill in our online form here and someone will be in contact with you. For further information please contact NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network by email on donegalwomensnetwork@gmail.com. Booking is essential, book early to avoid disappointment.


 

The Compassionate Women group course is designed and facilitated by Sara Anderson, who has a working history and experience of working with groups and vast training experience in life coaching, drama therapy, mediation, mindfulness and many other modalities. She can be found on facebook @saratappingcoach or by mobile on 087 7189 620

You got this

Adobe Photoshop PDF

In this month’s Women’s Live’s, Women’s Voice’ feature Sharon Doherty shares her learning experience on the importance of embracing self care and making small changes to support our health and well being.

 


Hello and Happy New Year!

 

My name is Sharon Doherty, from Quigley’s Point, Co. Donegal. As we enter a new decade, I think there is so much hope for our health and wellbeing. Here’s a little bit of my life story so far.

 

I was diagnosed with stage two invasive breast cancer on the 22nd August 2013 at the age of 37. I found the lumps myself but naively thought they were due to hormonal changes and didn’t get them checked out for almost a year.

 

While I was a little surprised, I knew I had been under a lot of pressure at work, some of it self-inflicted. I was also still grieving for my son who had passed away as a baby nine years previously. I knew in my heart these had been taking their toll. What I didn’t realise at the time of my diagnosis was just how many silly mistakes I had been making that contributed to my illness.

 


Illness isn’t even a word I really associate with it though because I never felt sick, although I was very tired a lot of the time. Having had breast cancer has brought nothing but hugely positive changes to my life. It was a real wake-up call.

 

 

On the day I was diagnosed, the consultant told me I would be returning the following week for more tests. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I let him know I was going on holiday that week and the tests would have to wait until I returned. It still makes me smile. And it was a blessing that I took that time to go away and not be panicked into treatment. I think this is really important. Not to panic or worry overly. Worry achieves nothing positive.

 


I began to read and research all things health related and I started making some small but significant changes to my life. The more I read, the more I realised just how little I knew. I was fascinated by what I was learning, and still can’t get enough. More importantly, as I implemented the changes I noticed almost instantly, improvements to my health. It was then I began to realise that we have an incredible ability to heal ourselves given the right environment.

 

When I stopped eating dairy products, headaches that I got frequently, vanished. That was the first and most startling discovery. For years I had been eating painkillers for headaches and simply cutting out dairy prevented them. Too much sugar and white flour products in my diet were contributing to dandruff, candida overgrowth and a mucousy cough in the mornings – lovely. That strong coffee driving to work was making me nervous and on edge all day and seriously damaging my immune system unbeknownst to me. A glass of wine on an empty stomach in the evening was putting further pressure on my body. All of these little things added up and on top of the stress and previous trauma in my life, became too much.

 


I was able to change so many of these things I and haven’t looked back. I thought I wouldn’t like coffee without milk. Or that I couldn’t live without cheese! But these little changes have been so easy to make. I have also started making a vegetable juice a few times a week which has massively strengthened my immune system. I make bone broth and look after my gut health. I eat a lot more vegetables and I try not to be the stress head I used to be.

 

One of my friends asked for the bullet points of what I was learning because she didn’t have the time to do all the research I was. From there, the idea for my little book was born. Simple little tips, for general health that people could easily implement into their daily lives. It has taken five years, but finally, You Got This, is in print. It’s available in the Four Masters bookshop in Donegal Town and the Bookmark shops in Letterkenny.

 


I had a mastectomy at the end of November 2013. By this time I had done enough objective research to know I didn’t want to have chemotherapy or radiation. I was unsure about the hormone drug that it was suggested I take however. I remember clearly the exact moment I decided not to take it.

 

I had spent the day on my computer and my head was full of conflicting information. Many websites pointed to all the benefits and yet the World Health Organisation listed it as a carcinogen. I simply didn’t know what to do. I looked to the sky and said out loud, “Oh for a moment of clarity.” And the answer came to me straight away. If I took the drugs, I would have absolutely no way of knowing for sure if they caused a recurrence or not. If I didn’t take the drugs, but made changes to my diet and how I was living, then perhaps I would remain healthy and not need any further treatment at all. This is what’s been happening so far.

 


I have discovered so much through this particular journey. One of the most important things is that prevention is so much better than cure and that everyone has the power to make small changes every day that might just prevent them becoming one of the worrying statistics. I think we live believing that it won’t happen to us, but it can if we’re not looking after ourselves.

 

The most exciting thing is that there is so much we can do so easily to look after our health and wellbeing. Eat good food and really enjoy it. Laugh and chat with friends, family and loved ones. Get out in the fresh air and breathe deeply. Learn new things and have experiences. Dance, sing, listen to music. Go for regular physio, massage or reflexology to release tension from the body. Have kinesiology, go to a nutritionist or naturopath and find out the root causes of little ailments in the body and make the necessary changes. Stop at times during the day and be aware of life and grateful for it. Pray, meditate, exercise moderately but regularly. Slow down!

Profile pic smallYou can find me on Facebook @yougotthishealththing

Be well everyone.

Sharon xx

 

 

 


 

NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series.