Dec 14

The Holidays And Mental Health

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – It’s easy and common to say things like “this time of year drives me crazy!”. No one means any offense by that and, while “crazy” isn’t the right word to describe it, many people struggle emotionally this time of year.

According to the Missouri Institute of Mental Health’s Andrea Purnell, there is one myth that needs to be busted about this time of year. Suicides do not go up during the holiday season. She says there is usually an uptick in suicides in January, though.MWSnap033

With the pressures of keeping up with family gatherings, social parties, events at church and your children’s school and with trying to fit in gift-buying while balancing year-end work demands, the holiday season is a time when stressors can make mental or emotional health challenges more painful.

For some, according to Purnell, it can be a time of struggling with recent relationship breakups or the absence of a loved one who has passed away. It can also be difficult when TV commercials, shows and movies all highlight happy ending love stories and family unity when so many do not have that in their lives.

Purnell offers advice on how to spot struggles that are more than just stress-related holiday blues and how to help.

Also, this time of year can be particularly hard on children of parents who have separated or divorced. While parents may look at scheduling some time in one home and some time in the other as fair to Mom and Dad, it can have an impact on the kids that parents don’t often see.MWSnap034

In many cases, mix in the common addition of a step parent and step siblings, and conflict, loneliness and depression can become more possible in young people.

Often, they won’t ask for help.

Jane Gavril from the Crider Center explains why the holidays are sometimes harder on children than other times of year and how parents – even if no longer together – can work to make the season as fun and healthy for everyone as possible.

On the web:

Missouri Institute of Mental Health: https://www.mimh.edu/

Crider Center: http://cridercenter.org/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/the-holidays-and-mental-health/

Dec 07

Working To Stop Distracted Driving In Missouri

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – We know we shouldn’t do it but most of us do, anyway. And our teenagers do it, too.

When the phone alerts us to a text, Tweet or message on Facebook or Instagram, we pick it up and check it out sometimes, even if we are driving at the time.

For most of us in Missouri, that’s perfectly legal right now. State Rep. Keith English (D) wants to change that. Right now, the law bans those under 21 from texting and driving (or otherwise using a mobile device while behind the wheel). He wants that expanded to include everyone and he is proposing a bill to allow police to pull you over if they see you doing it.MWSnap029

The idea has been introduced to the State Legislature before and has had little support. English says he hopes to find more support from both parties this year but, even if the bill doesn’t get passed, he hopes the news coverage of the idea reminds us all to focus on the road instead of our phone or iPod.

Efforts to stop distracted driving are not only being made in the halls of government. AT&T Missouri* President John Sondag says his company, along with some other mobile providers, are renewing their “It Can Wait” campaign that raises awareness of distracted driving. AT&T offers a free mobile app that, when downloaded and activated, would put your phone into a “Drive Safe Mode”.MWSnap030

Once your vehicle reaches a certain speed, the app blocks incoming calls, messages and other alerts. It automatically sends a reply to those who message you, saying you are currently driving and will see the message when you are no longer operating the vehicle.

The app is available through most app stores or through ATT.com. It can be downloaded by anyone, no matter which mobile provider you use for your phone service.

On the web:

Rep. Keith English: http://www.keithenglishformo.com/

AT&T: www.ATT.com

* AT&T is a sponsor of “Missouri Viewpoints”

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/working-to-stop-distracted-driving-in-missouri/

Nov 30

Missourians Helping Missourians 2014

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – Here we are, officially in the holiday season.

For most, that means Thanksgiving leftovers of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and whatever that thing was your cousin made with Jello (that no one ate). It also means being on the lookout for bargains while gift shopping.

But, for more Missourians than you may realize, this time of year is crucial because it’s when food banks collect the majority of their donations. Monica Palmer from Feeding Missouri (formerly known as the Missouri Food Banks Association) says stereotypes don’t apply when it comes to hunger. As many as one in five Missourians may be struggling to afford both food and their monthly bills.

That’s because thousands are still underemployed, can only find part time work or have seen their expenses increase when their income has remained stagnant. While gas prices are down at the moment, health insurance and other costs have gone up for many workers. While some of those helped by food banks and local food pantries are unemployed, Palmer says others could be the person in the office or cubicle next to you.

It could be your child’s classmate and it could be the senior citizen who sits in the pew near you in church.

Because of efficiencies in collection and distribution, donations and volunteers, one dollar can feed nine or ten people through a food bank. Right now, many communities have food drives in place and they are crucial to feeding Missourians now and year around.

Palmer says you can help even if you don’t have extra cash to donate. Volunteers are crucial to keeping costs down and maximizing the impact of every dollar, canned food, boxed food, fresh food and beverages like milk and juice that is donated.

Learn more at www.FeedingMissouri.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/missourians-helping-missourians-2014/

Nov 23

Money And Health Care: Protecting Missouri’s Senior Citizens

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – It’s healthcare enrollment time again.

Whether you like the changes to the nation’s laws regarding health insurance or whether you oppose them and hope for repeal, you and your family are impacted by the new system. Health insurance and the laws affecting them are complex. Anyone can be confused by the new system but con artists often target a specific part of society: senior citizens.MWSnap027

That’s why it’s important for the entire family to stay informed and involved when it comes to the health care decisions for seniors. Many of those who grew up without the web, email and other technologies often find themselves being contacted by convincing thieves who trick people into sharing personal and financial information.

This week, Chris Thetford from the Better Business Bureau’s St. Louis office describes common scams and the signs to watch for to protect yourself and your elderly relatives. He also has advice on what to do if you think someone in your family has been targeted.

Another difficult decision for seniors and their families to make is how to arrange care for those who can no longer fully care for themselves.MWSnap028

As the “Baby Boom” generation transitions into the retirement years the decisions regarding long term care will impact millions of Americans.

Dr. Milta Little is the President of the Missouri Association of Long Term Care Practitioners. She has the information that can help your family get started with the conversations that are often difficult but are important. She also explains the options to consider and where to find the resources to help with your decision.

On the web:

Better Business Bureau: www.BBB.org

MO Association of Long Term Care Practitioners: http://www.maltcp.org/

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/money-and-health-care-protecting-missouris-senior-citizens/

Nov 16

What’s Next For Missouri? Assessing The Election Results & What It Will Mean In 2015

By Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – The proverbial dust has settled from the General Election. As is generally the case across the country, Republicans in Missouri have much to celebrate and Democrats have much to mourn, politically, at least.

Aside from the numbers of seats won and lost be each side, what will it mean to you?

This week, Missouri Republican Party Chairman Ed Martin offers his views on what the increase in Republicans to an already veto-proof majority State Legislature will mean for issues like taxes, education, Medicaid and economic development.MWSnap023

Coming from a more liberal viewpoint, Lindenwood University professor, Joe Cernik, addresses the same issues. Cernik is the Chair of the Public Affairs Department.

Martin, for instance, explains why the proposal to expand Medicaid coverage in Missouri is unlikely to pass. He believes voters sent, at least in part, a message of being against the national health care law known commonly as “ObamaCare”. Cernik believes Democrats lost, in part, because they didn’t tout the law and it’s impact on Missourians – and Americans.

Martin makes a case for more tax cuts and spending cuts while Cernik says that approach hasn’t worked in neighboring Kansas.

* Cernik’s views are his own and may not necessarily reflect that of Lindenwood University.MWSnap024

On the Web:

Missouri Republican Party: www.Missouri.gop

Lindenwood University: www.Lindenwood.edu

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/whats-next-for-missouri-assessing-the-election-results-what-it-will-mean-in-2015/

Nov 09

Politics, Economy, the Environment and Your Electric Bill in Missouri

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – While the elections have dominated the news these last few weeks, our state government is working on an energy plan for the future. Regardless of what the plan ends up including or excluding, it will impact you.

It’s called simply the Missouri State Energy Plan and you can still voice your opinion on what should and should not be included.

Among those working to influence the final plan is Renew Missouri. Executive Director P.J. Wilson explains.MWSnap022

“Our hopes at Renew Missouri is that the state plan includes a really serious look at energy efficiency and renewable energy as resources. We know that when power companies invest money in energy audits and extra insulation and that kind of thing for their own customers, that’s by far the cheapest thing they can invest in. It’s way cheaper than any form of new power generation.”

The goal of the state plan is to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring reliable access to power. Former State Representative Carl Bearden isn’t sold on assertions from environmental advocacy groups that man-made climate change requires abandoning current energy sources like coal. He wants those making the final decisions to keep the needs of businesses in mind during the process.

“As a lawmaker, a legislature, you want to know the laws you’re passing are based on solid science or solid evidence and, so far, as far and environmental [issues] go, whether it’s global warming or whatever the name du jour is, it’s simply not there in sufficient quantities to convince people.”MWSnap021

Bearden is now the Executive Director of the conservative advocacy group United For Missouri.

He worries that requiring more sourcing from renewable energy for power and mandating less use of coal will result in job losses due to higher energy costs. Wilson disagrees, saying the green energy technology for sources like solar and wind now make renewable energy as efficient as coal-powered energy.

The effort to create a state energy plan is the result of a federal initiative to reduce carbon emissions. Each state has an individual goal.

Bearden says in an interview on “Missouri Viewpoints” that he supports the use of renewable energy for electricity as long as government mandates are not part of the process. To him, the private market will attract both investors and customers to green energy once it delivers power at the same or at a lower cost than coal.

Wilson says he hopes the state plan will include retiring current fossil fuel-based energy plants and not replacing them with a newer one. He wants the state to, instead, focus on bringing renewable energy generation on line to take the place of coal.

On the web:

Renew Missouri: www.RenewMO.org

United For Missouri: www.UnitedForMissouri.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/politics-economy-the-environment-and-your-electric-bill-in-missouri/

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