11 Simple, Proven Ways to Optimize Your Mental Health

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Only you truly know the unique triumphs and travails of living in your own head. If you experience ongoing depression, anxiety or other symptoms, “Seeking professional help as early as possible, rather than waiting, can be critical,” says Dr. Robert Klitzman, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City. However, you needn’t be diagnosed with a mental health condition to benefit from taking steps to improve your psychological well-being. Here are some ways you can get a mental edge. The payoff could include everything from a happier, healthier, longer life to better relationships.

Get moving.

You might not want to sit down for this. “Physical exercise is very important in preventing or reducing mental health problems,” Klitzman says, which include depression. “When we exercise, our body releases endorphins – natural opiates that improve our mood and make us feel good. Exercise can also help cognitive functioning – how well we think.”

Watch your weight.

Being sedentary, by contrast, can prove a double whammy, since we don’t get the mental jolt from exercise – and we’re more likely to pack on pounds. Putting on extra weight, research shows, can weigh down our mental health, too. Obesity and diabetes increase the risk for depression, says psychiatrist Dr. Mahendra Bhati, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Be careful what you consume.

Your diet – whether predominantly plant-based with healthy greens, nuts and other lean proteins (good), or laden with saturated fat, processed foods and sugars (not so good) – can impact mood and anxiety levels. So, too, can other things we put in our body to get by in the moment, from tobacco and alcohol to recreational drugs. Better to avoid the feel-good momentary fixes, Klitzman says, and spare yourself the crash later.

Stay in the moment.

We all sometimes seek to avoid uncomfortable situations, either by physically removing ourselves or checking out mentally. “That’s normal … it’s just that when you do that very chronically and habitually, it could develop into significant problems with anxiety and depression,” says psychologist Brandon Gaudiano, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Experts recommend practicing mindfulness instead to help deal with difficult circumstances and emotions. “It’s paying attention to the present moment and what your experience is,” says Gaudiano, noting that approaches vary. “Bringing awareness, acceptance, self-compassion, curiosity and just noticing non-judgmentally those internal experiences as they’re arising.”

Continue onto U.S. New & World Report for the complete article.

Supporting Mental Health During These Times

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The outbreak of COVID-19 may be stressful—it can be difficult to cope with fear and anxiety, changing daily routines, and a general sense of uncertainty.

Although people respond to stressful situations in different ways, taking steps to care for yourself and your family can help you manage stress.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include

 

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Things You Can Do to Support Yourself

Take breaks from the news. Set aside periods of time each day during which you close your news and social media feeds and turn off the TV. Give yourself some time and space to think about and focus on other things.

Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat regular, well-balanced meals; get some physical activity every day; give yourself time to get a full night’s sleep; and avoid alcohol and drugs.

Make time to unwind. Try to engage in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Engaging in these activities offers an important outlet for pleasure, fun, and creativity.

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Digital tools can help keep you stay connected with friends, family, and neighbors when you aren’t able to see them in person.

Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done today and what can wait. Priorities may shift to reflect changes in schedules and routines, and that is okay. Recognize what you have accomplished at the end of the day.

Focus on the factsSharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful.

Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

Source: nimh.nih.gov

Dating Sites for Singles with Disabilities

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It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a great date or a long-term relationship—check out the below dating sites to find someone for you:

Match.com
This site has more singles than any other dating site — and that includes singles with disabilities. Match.com allows you to easily search and filter profiles for those with disabilities, as well as list your own disability on your profile if you so choose.
http://www.match.com/free

Elite Singles
82 percent of its users have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree, and 90 percent are over 30 years old.
https://www.elitesingles.com/free


Zoosk

Zoosk is quickly gaining in popularity with disabled singles due to its search-and-filtering capabilities similar to those at Match.com. Its demographic tends to attract younger than that of Match.com (18 to 28 typically). http://www.zoosk.com/browse-free

MySpecialMatch
MySpecialMatch is a special social networking site for anyone living with different mental, physical, or emotional ability levels. From finding someone special to share your life with or sharing stories with a someone who fully understands you, Special Bridge really is “bridging the gap for love, friendship, and support.”http://myspecialmatch.com/


Whispers 4 U
Since 2002, the team at Whispers 4 U has been helping thousands of disabled singles find love and companionship. They cater to those seeking everything from simple chats to finding solid dating potential, or even landing that one you keep. Video tutorials are in place for helping set up a killer profile and how to best utilize a webcam safely. Free and paid memberships options are available.http://www.whispers4u.com/

FDA greenlights 1st video-game based treatment for children with ADHD

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The first video game-based treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The video game, called EndeavorRx and approved on Monday, will be prescription only and aimed at children between the ages of eight and 12 with certain types of ADHD.

It will be used alongside other treatments, such as clinician-directed therapy, medication and educational programs.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder which is usually first diagnosed in children and can last into adulthood.

Approximately 4 million children aged six to 11 are affected by ADHD, the symptoms of which include difficulty staying focused and paying attention and difficulty controlling behavior.

This is the first game-based therapy to be granted marketing authorization by the FDA for any condition, the agency said.

“The EndeavorRx device offers a non-drug option for improving symptoms associated with ADHD in children and is an important example of the growing field of digital therapy and digital therapeutics,” Dr Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release.

The game, which can be downloaded as an app onto a mobile device, was authorized for marketing after the FDA reviewed five clinical studies that included more than 600 children.

The agency noted that some negative effects were reported, such as frustration, headache, dizziness, emotional reaction and aggression, but said there were no “serious” adverse effects reported.

While playing the game, children steer an avatar through a course dotted with obstacles, collecting targets to earn rewards.

Akili, the company that created EndeavorRx, has said that children should interact with the game 30 minutes per day, five days a week over the course of a one-month treatment cycle.

Continue on to KTLA News to read the complete article.

This Rapper is Joining the Fight for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention

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Waka Flocka pictured wearing bright green at event in Hollywood

On the evening of May 25, near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, rapper Waka Flocka tweeted that he was going to dedicate his life to suicide prevention and mental illness. This tweet likely stemmed from the reminder of his deceased brother’s upcoming birthday, which would happen less than a week later.

The rapper tweeted his support by saying, “I’m officially dedicating my life to suicide prevention and mental illness!!! Y’all not alone Waka Flocka Flame is with y’all now!!!!”

In 2017, Waka Flocka revealed in an interview with the show The Therapist that his younger brother committed suicide in 2013. In this interview, he stated that his brother, Coades, tried to call him before taking his life, leaving Waka Flocka to wonder what would have happened if he picked up the phone.

While the specifics of what the renowned rapper will do is unknown at the moment, Waka Flocka has made his goals clear, stating in a follow-up tweet that he has officially accepted his brother’s passing and believes he is now in a better place.

Waka Flocka stated, “You have no idea how it feel to wanna take your own life man…my little brother took his own life…This year I’m officially accepting the fact that he’s in a better place.”

How Emojis are Improving Inclusion

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In fall this year, we can expect an array of new emojis coming to our smart devices, including ones that are more inclusive to differing genders.

The Unicode Consortium announced earlier this year that there would be 62 new emojis coming to smart devices, including 55 emojis that will strive to be more gender inclusive.

Emojis of the transgender flag and of non-binary individuals in occupations that were previously only available as women and men will be just some of the new additions we can expect to see.

 

Some of the new gender inclusive emojis to be released later this year
Some of the new gender inclusive emojis to be released later this year

By implementing these emojis, people of differing gender identities will not only be able to express themselves through messages and social media in a smaller, normalized way, but will also attempt to include those of all genders to feel validated in who they are.

While these emojis are set to appear on most devices around September or October, some smart devices could receive the new additions early.

From Inclusion to COVID, Meet the These Hollywood Stars Doing the Most for the LGBTQ+ Community

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From allies to active members of the LGBTQ+ community, meet some celebrities who have currently been working to further the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people.

Cathy Rena

Longtime LGBTQ+ PR icon Cathy Rena has always found herself on the forefront of the United States’ LGBTQ+ history.  From Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out story to Michael Shephard’s beating in the 1980s to the creation of Pride events, Rena has worked with journalists and LGBTQ organizations for decades to properly portray and advocate for the community in its most difficult times.

Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Rena is working diligently to advocate for the community’s needs and specific struggles during this time. Not only is she an integral member in creating the first-ever virtual global pride, but she also has been working to make the public aware of the inequality of resources that has been given to the LGBTQ+ community.

Omar Shariff Jr.

Omar Shariff Jr., actor and grandson of Omar Shariff, has been one of the most vocal voices for LGBTQ+ people in a time of uncertainty. Already being an active member in the community, formerly serving as a GLAAD spokesperson and an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Shariff has taken his activism to paper in an article that informs the public of how COVID-19 has directly affected the LGBTQ+ community through healthcare discrimination, the need to isolate with unsupportive family members, and the inability to donate blood, to name a few.

Shariff hopes speaking out about these issues will result in a more unified community and a decrease in homophobia by the time the pandemic has ended.

Wilson Cruz

Actor Wilson Cruz, pictured with fans, from the hit TV show My So-Called Life, is moving from in front of the camera to behind it, serving as one of the producers of the new docu-series, Visible: Out on Television. The Apple TV Plus series is set to show how the LGBTQ+ community has been represented in media and how it was used as a platform for activism in the 1970s.

Being one of the first actors to be openly gay in the entertainment world, Cruz hopes to use his influence to encourage others in the community to feel comfortable and proud of who they are.

Natalie Wood

Starring actress of Miracle on 34th Street and West Side Story Natalie Wood was best known for her successful acting career before her tragic death in 1981. Despite her passing nearly 40 years ago, Wood’s support for LGBTQ+ people has become a popular topic in the last few weeks due to her newest documentary, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind. Actress Natasha Gregson Wagner, Natalie Wood’s eldest daughter, narrated and produced the HBO released documentary that closely accounts for Woods’ life outside of the public eye.

Being no stranger to standing up for herself as a woman in Hollywood, Woods was also quite accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, despite society’s view of LGBTQ+ people during the time. Wagner recalls being practically raised by gay men as her mother was friends with many men who identified as gay. Two men in particular, Matt Crowley, a playwright, and Howard Jeffrey, a producer and choreographer, were some of Woods’ closest friends who identified as gay. The two men, though not romantically involved with each other, lived in Woods’ guest home and were made Wagner’s godfathers.

“She would have been in the forefront,” Wagner says of her mother, “She would be waving the rainbow flag with the best of them.”

The Cast of “Queer as Folk”

The 2000’s British TV show, Queer as Folk came back together earlier this month to raise money for CenterLink, the parent company of over 200 LGBTQ centers. Money raised for the organization came from both donations and an auction of some of the show’s memorabilia. The event streamed live on YouTube on May 1 and is still available in its four-hour entirety for viewers to watch. The event was hosted by Scott Lowell but also included other cast members, such as Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Sharon Gless, Michelle Clunie, Robert Gant, Peter Paige, and many more.

To date, the Queer as Folk cast is still hosting donations to be given to CenterLink. Should you want to donate, the link is provided here.

New Braille Keyboard Opens Many Doors

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With the popularity of the smartphone, many people within the visually impaired community have used the voice dictation feature to write a text message. However, within the last few weeks, Google’s Android makes talk to text the second way that people with visual impairments can communicate.

In the last few weeks, Google released a new braille keyboard on its Android 5.0 products—Talkback.

The keyboard will be available in braille grades 1 and 2 in English and will utilize a six-key system, each key representing one of the six braille dots. Each key will be numbered one through six and be combined into different number combinations to form words and sentences, allowing for words to be written on the smartphone entirely in braille. Deletion of words and spaces will also be possible in a simple two-finger swipe to either the left or the right.
As smartphones became more popular, many worried that using braille would soon become obsolete to the next generation with visual impairments. In some instances, braille keyboards could be attached to devices to write messages, but that would require carrying around a keyboard in addition to your cellular device. Talkback will not only make messaging easier and more compact for those with visual impairments but will also help advocate the importance of learning braille.

Talkback is only one of the many tools available to those with visual impairments for navigating smart technology through Android’s Accessibility Suite. To learn more about the product, click here or to learn how to set the system up on your device, click here 

Making Homes More Accessible

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Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband, Mark Leder, sitting in the living room of their home and smiling at the camera

By Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD

On June 13, 1998, my husband Mark Leder and I went for a bicycle ride on a rural wooded bike trail in Granville, Ohio. After riding for a few minutes, Mark thought he heard a gunshot and slowed down to investigate. As he scanned the scene, he saw a large tree falling. He shouted, “Stop!” But the warning was too late. Instantly, I was crushed by a 7,000-pound tree and paralyzed from the waist down.

Coming home from the hospital in a wheelchair in July 1998 after my spinal cord injury, I realized how my home intensified my disability. My husband and I knew that we had to sell our home and find something more suitable.

Universal Design

Since the 1980s, architects, interior designers, and other design and building professionals have embraced the concept of universal design, which is a framework for creating living and working spaces and products to benefit the widest range of people in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Universal design is human-centered, accommodating people of all sizes, ages, and abilities.

Building the Universal Design Living Laboratory

My husband is 6’4″ tall while I am 4’2″ seated in my wheelchair. Our heights and reaches were factors in the design of our home so that we would both be accommodated.

In September 2004, we hired architect Patrick Manley to draw the house plans for our new home. Mark and I bought an acre and a half lot in December of 2006. We broke ground in September 2009, and moved in May 2012.

In addition to being accessible, universal design and green building construction principles were followed. Mark and I served as the general contractors of our home, named the Universal Design Living Laboratory. (www.UDLL.com) We received the highest levels of certification from three universal design certification programs, making our home the highest rated universal design home in North America.

Independent Living

The first noticeable improvement when I moved into our new home was the ease in navigating on the hardwood and tile floors. My shoulders were no longer strained as they had been on the carpet in my previous home. I realized that my carpal tunnel syndrome pain and numbness in my hands was lessened.

Living in the Universal Design Living Laboratory for the past seven years has given me a unique perspective. As a person who uses a wheelchair, I have learned the importance of space planning, and that small differences in the width of a door, the height of a threshold or the slope of a ramp can impact a person’s independence. Safety features like grab bars in the toileting area and shower have kept me from falling, and they make transfers easier.

Kitchen Design Keys

As others plan to remodel or build, they need to consider features that allow occupants independence. Universal design features in the kitchen include the overall design of the circulation pattern, cabinet design, countertop height, and appliance selection.

  • A minimum 5-foot turning radius throughout the kitchen allows a person who uses a wheelchair the ability to do a 360-degree turnaround. Power wheelchairs and scooters      may need additional space.
  • Side-hinged ovens are preferable to those hinged at the bottom, installed at a height that is easy to reach from a wheelchair.
  • Cooktop controls and the ventilation control panel at the front and at waist height make them accessible by all.
  • Multiple countertop heights, such as 40, 34, and 30 inches, accommodate a diverse population. A 30-inch countertop with knee space underneath works well for someone  who remains seated during meal preparation.
  • At least half of the storage space should be accessible from a seated position, including drawers and cabinet shelves.
  • Cooktops and sinks with knee space beneath make for user-friendly work areas.
  • A dishwasher raised 16 inches off the floor eliminates the need to bend down low.
  • A side-by-side refrigerator/freezer provides easier access from a seated position.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. To get a free chapter and learn more about the Universal Design Living Laboratory, visit UDLL.com. To contact Rosemarie and learn about her speaking services, visit RosemarieSpeaks.com.

I Feel Like a Tomato

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Fresh tomato isolated on white background

By Shelby Smallwood-Brill

As a woman who uses a rollator most days, sometimes it’s hard to explain to people that I’m kind of disabled, kind of not.

When curious little kids ask why I’m using a walker with wheels just like their grandma, I usually tell them I hurt my leg. It’s easier than explaining years and years of complicated mishaps and surgeries that lead to scar tissue on my spinal cord, which causes my legs to super tight all the time. Kids don’t want to hear that, and frankly neither do most adults.

Sometimes the wicked part of me wants to tell kids that I didn’t eat my vegetables when I was a kid, and now I walk like this – just to freak them out. The thought of it makes me laugh, but I’m not sure how well a joke like that would be received by parents, so I usually bite my tongue. If a child presses me for details, I usually say I was in a car accident (I wasn’t) or hit by a drunk driver (that’s a lie, too). Why? Because kids understand an accident and are able to move on once they understand why I’m using a walker. If I try to tell the truth, I can see their little eyes glaze over as their brain gets caught in a limbo state of not understanding, and with that, confusion about what they should say or do around me. Now that I think about it – that happens with grownups as well.

The human brain naturally puts people and things into categories to understand and process them efficiently. Craig McGarty discusses the importance of social categorization in his article featured in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. He discusses how we make sense of the world by using categorization. Social categorization influences how we view ourselves and those we interact with. We use social categorization to figure out relationships between people and groups, and how we fit in to those groups. We use categories to predict behavior, anticipate needs, figure out who will see eye to eye with us and who we’ll get along with.

So, when a kid is confused about why I need a walker, it’s because they don’t know what social category to put me in. You and me both, kid.

A tomato is technically a fruit but feels like a vegetable. When it comes to disability, I sort of feel like a tomato. I don’t use a wheelchair, so I don’t fit the classic image of a person with a physical disability, but I do walk with crutches or a rollator, so I don’t fit in with the 100 percent able-bodied group anymore.

Recently I came across the term, “spoonie,” that describes someone who relates to spoon theory. I love how this label helps sum up so much complex information in one word. Similar to “foodie” or “gamer,” you get it with one word.

Spoon theory was coined by Christine Miserandino back in 2003, and the term has been adopted by “spoonies” ever since to describe the physical and mental energy expenditure required to live in a physically disabled body. You start your day with a certain number of spoons, and you must plan your day accordingly. Wake up, 1 spoon. Go to work, 5 spoons. Pick up your kids, make dinner, help with homework… You get it – they take all of your spoons.

The frustrations of running out of spoons too quickly can be similar to counting calories or using a cell phone with a battery that dies too quickly. It doesn’t necessarily need to be spoons that represent your daily energy share – some people think of it in terms of money or points. Either way, you need to be smart and plan for the unexpected things that life throws at you. Living this way makes it hard to be spontaneous, even if that’s your nature. A friend who asks if you want to go to happy hour after work usually gets turned down because you haven’t allocated enough spoons for the added energy. If you were to go to happy hour, you wouldn’t have enough energy, for example, to get up the next morning and go to work.

What I appreciate about spoon theory is that it gives a visual representation of the concept of once your energy is spent, you’re done. Period. Sometimes that can be hard to communicate, and having a visual aid is helpful.

Although many scoff at applying labels to groups of people, I find that it’s a great way to grease the wheels of conversation and lead to a faster connection with others.

Labels are also great when you need to search for things that interest you online. Try searching for “disability” vs “learning disability” and you’ll see what I mean. Both human nature and Google love segmenting people into categories, and I’m fine with that.

Disabilities can be divided into broad categories like physical or developmental, for example, but once you try to get more specific, things get murky. As people with disabilities, we’re all like little snowflakes with our unique issues and circumstances that make us different than your average person without disabilities. I understand the spirit behind putting people first, and that labels are meant for jars, not people. However, as someone who doesn’t quite fit into any existing labels, I find myself wishing I had one. People who have a label for their disability have an easier time finding each other and becoming a supportive tribe.

I can’t be the only one that feels this way, right?

Source: thatzhowiroll.com

The coronavirus and people with disabilities: WHO highlights this high-risk group

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man in a wheelchair outside waiting for train

Groups at high risk for the coronavirus have been a top priority of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as protocol calls to maintain focus on keeping populations such as the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women safe. One group, however, that has seldom been addressed during the outbreak is that of disabled people, which the WHO is now bringing to light.

The organization at the forefront of the pandemic response discussed the risk faced by those with disabilities during a livestream on TikTok — where it aims to provide accurate information, resources and support for the community — on Thursday. Lindsay Lee, a disability expert at WHO, led the conversation and provided reasons — from lack of information to reliance on people and products for assistance — as to why those living with disabilities may be at greater risk of contracting the illness of COVID-19.

According to a guidance document — which will soon be available on WHO’s site and which was provided to Yahoo Lifestyle by Lee — the direct limits on the safety and health of people living with disabilities include barriers to implementing basic hygiene measures, difficulty in enacting social distancing and the need to touch things to obtain information from the environment or for physical support. Other considerations with serious implications also include access to both healthcare and public health information.

The National Council on Disability (NCD) tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the last is of utmost importance. “People with disabilities need equal access to critical COVID-19 updates and official communications,” says Neil Romano, Chairman of the National Council on Disability, “which means sign language interpreters, captioning, and plain language, and federal law requires it.”

A March 18 letter from the NCD addressed to Stephanie Grisham, White House Director of Communications, brought attention to the need of Taskforce interpreters at public briefings for the millions of people in the United States who are deaf or hard of hearing. The NCD didn’t immediately confirm if the White House provided a response.

In the meantime, WHO took to TikTok to inform people of the proper measures to take now if directly or indirectly impacted by disability, including making sure that a person’s assistive products are properly disinfected. “These include wheelchairs, walking canes, walkers, transfer boards, white canes, or any other product that is frequently handled and used in public spaces,” the WHO document reads.

However, basic protection measures become even more important for a disabled person, and those around them, if they require care and cannot navigate the healthcare system themselves. In that case, WHO recommends that everyone in a disabled person’s household, including trusted friends and family, is aware of any important and relevant information that might be needed if that person becomes ill.

Precautions must also be put in place in case a caregiver becomes sick. “Consider increasing the pool of those you can call upon, in preparation of one or more becoming unwell or needing to self-isolate,” the WHO document states. “If you organize caregivers through an agency, find out what contingency measures they have in place to compensate for a potential workforce shortage.”

Shannon McCracken, vice president of government relations for ANCOR, the leading nonprofit trade association representing providers of services to people with disabilities, explains to Yahoo Lifestyle that some precautions are specific to certain groups, which ultimately impacts how vulnerable each individual really is to the illness. However, all people with disabilities are united through the greater efforts that must be made to maintain their health.

Continue on toYahoo News to read the complete article.

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