"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us." ~ Marianne Williamson

Friday, May 31, 2013

Do You Know the Warning Signs of Suicide? What You Learn Can Save A Life.

May Mental Health Month may be coming to a close, but the fight to end stigma and create awareness continues. You may not realize it, but we are in a race against time when it comes to mental health. The thought of what more needs to be done sometimes keeps me awake at night. I often wonder about that boy or girl who lies crying in their bed at night with hearts so broken they can't see past tomorrow. On average, 105 Americans lose their life to suicide each day, every 100 minutes a teenager takes their own life and with this so many hopes and dreams are lost. This does not have to happen, especially when research proves that proper professional treatment can help even those with the most severe forms of mental illness recover (Source:  National Empowerment Center). Mental illness is an illness and unlike so many other illnesses that are yet to find a cure, we know that with the right treatment and diagnosis people do not have to suffer in silence and recovery is possible.

With every second that passes we have a choice to continue with the status quo and disregard mental health or we can choose to be bold and rise above the stigma (hint hint Bold is beautiful!). Regardless of race, economic class, or gender one out of every five Americans will suffer from a mental illness at least once in their lifetime. Would you know what to do if that someone was your mother, father, child, friend? In elementary we are taught what to do if we were ever to catch on fire (stop, drop, and roll). If there is an emergency we are taught to dial 911. Yet, if your friend just told you they wrote a suicide note and made you pinky swear not to tell anyone, what would you do? Would you tell? Who would you call? Scenarios like this play out everyday in our schools and yes, even playgrounds. Did you know that the fastest growing age group for suicde are 10-14 year olds? A study by Jean Twenge has found that five times as many youth suffer from depression and anxiety than youth their same age during the Great depression (Source: Study: Youth now have more mental health issues). Sadly many of these young individuals will go years without being diagnosed or ever seeing a mental health professional. If left untreated, the quality of life can severly diminish and could even lead to homelessness (it is estimated that over 200,000 homeless have a mental illness), incarceration (people with an untreated mental illness spend twice as much time than those without a mental illness), or early death (individuals with untreated mental illness die twenty-five years earlier). Given that the onset of mental illness can be found in children as young as 3-years old, there is no reason as to why any child should have to suffer, especially when we treatment can help and most importantly save lives. Consult with your doctor or pediatrition to get more information about screening.

The first step to ridding the stigma is education. I ask each of you to join me and the countless number of mental health professionals and advocates who live and breath this issue, not just because they support mental health, but because they believe that every life matters. Below is some helpful information on warning signs/risk factors and ways you can help. I hope you find some time to share this information with someone you love, because it just might save a life.

Warning Signs
  • Talking about death and/or suicide
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Feelings of hopelessness, despair, extreme sadness
  • Giving away personal belongings
  • Isolation and/or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Extreme change in behavior such as;
    • Going from happy to sad/angry outbursts
    • Going from being sad to extremely calm or happy (this sometimes signifies that the person may have created a plan to end their life)
  • Saying goodbye or saying things like "you won't have to worry about me anymore, I just can't take it, or no one will miss me"
  • Being bullied or any other type of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
What to do if you are worried about someone
  • If someone you know is showing signs of depression and or talking about suicide, ALWAYS take it seriously.
    • This is a cry for help. Suicide is not about death, but about wanting to stop the pain.
  • Do not dismiss the situtuation or think it will fix itself.
    • If you are worried about someone, do not be afraid to ask, "Are you thinking about suicide and do you have a plan?" The #1 myth about suicide is that talking about it will cause someone to do it. The truth is that talking about suicide makes it less likely to occur.
  • Stay with the person and do not leave them alone (if you feel you are in danger get help immidiately).
    • No matter how much they promise that they will not harm themselves, do not leave them alone until a trusted adult has arrived and they have been linked to a mental health professional.
  • Listen to what they have to say and do not be judgemental or try to argue.
    • Talking about the situation is helpful in relieving anxiety and/or stress.
  • Remove any type of lethal means from the home such as guns, knives, pills/medications.
    • All access to guns should be removed from the home(50% of suides deaths are related to guns). When it comes to a crisis situation this issue is not about the right to own a gun or not, but about safety.
    • Studies show that access to guns in a crisis situation increases the risk for a suicide attempt. For youth is a reported 79% risk (Source: Harvard Study: Firearm Access is a Risk for Suicide)
  • Get help immidiately. Do not leave the person until they receive help and/or a trusted adult has been contacted.
    • Call 911 if they are in immediate danger
    • Ask if there is someone you can call for them (a parent, guardian, or any other trusted adult) and be sure you get them connected with a healthcare professional immediately.
    • Always remember that you can also call the National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). A trained professional will take your call 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
    • DO NOT KEEP IT A SECRET. It is better to lose a friend for a day or two than to have them lose their life. If you are a young person, tell a trusted adult immediately.  
Helping someone in need is not easy and can also be a scary and/or stressful moment. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you trust about what you experienced. Whenever I have had to address a crisis situation and help someone, I have found that talking to my mom and taking a long run always helps. Remember that you are not a mental health professional and your job is solely to get your loved one to professional help. Recovery from depression and/or a mental illness will not happen overnight, but the good news is that recovery is possible. Just as with any illness it will take time, so it is important to be patient with yourself and your loved one as they go through treatment. No matter how your loved one may be acting or feeling, it is important to always let them know you love and care about them. While at times it may feel the path ahead is never ending, always know that with each day that passes you and your loved one are one step closer to recovery. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Most importantly, know that regardless of the struggle never, ever, ever give up!

Big hugs,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

You Tweet. I Tweet. We All Tweet for @CBelieveAchieve

Just a note to let you all know that we are on Twitter and you can follow us at @CBelieveAchieve or just click on the follwing link https://twitter.com/CBelieveAchieve. Send us a tweet and help us continue the mission to raise awareness, end stigma, and save lives! What an exciting new world Twitter is. Wishing you all a fantastic day!
Tweet Tweet,
Ane :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Getting Through the Loneliness, Together

With so much to learn about the brain and mental illness I love to fill up my "learning cup" whenever possible. I would like address the issue in my post below and also share a thought provoking article by Judith Shulevitz, regarding the work of Fromm-Reichmann and her essay "On Loneliness." You can find her article by clicking on the following link here: The Lethality of Loneliness By JUDITH SHULEVITZ

Getting Through the Loneliness, Together

Isolation and loneliness are a topic of personal interest, especially because of my work with youth and knowing that in some severe situations loneliness/isolation serve as a risk factor/warning sign for depression and suicidal ideation. While some may not fully understand what mental illness is, the feeling of loneliness and isolation are something each of us can relate to at one time or another. This "pain" is what many living with a mental illness experience daily and recent studies show the negative effects loneliness/isolation have on the brain and body.

In elementary, I was often the target of mean comments from classmates about my weight. I often felt alone and different from the other kids at school, but Luckily I had a strong support system at home and often found comfort in my mother's wisdom that, “sometimes it is better to have no friends, than to have bad friends." However, it still did not ease the anxiousness I felt when the bell rang for lunch, leaving me to agonize whether or not someone would allow me to sit by them. Not knowing where I "belonged" among my peers made for some challenging moments growing up, but in turn I strongly believe it played a role in who I am today. As Shulevitz points out in her article, feelings of rejection signal the part of the brain (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that inflicts pain. Over time increased isolation can negatively impact the brain and even decrease life expectancy. This is why bullying is such a serious issue and the lasting effects can be far more devastating in the long run.

Writing this, I am reminded of the scene from "Cast Away," where Tom Hanks loses his best buddy "Wilson" (the volleyball) to a tidal wave. Through the years scientists have been able to connect the role loneliness plays on our mental and physical health. The need to be connected to others is in our DNA, ever wonder why Facebook and other social outlets are so popular worldwide? Yet, reports show that while we may feel "connected" there is often an increase in feelings of loneliness, as we are forced to compare our lives to that of our "friends." On this issue, I would like to kindly remind folks that social media only lets us see what people want us to see and while you may not be "checking-in" at the gym as much as you'd like or jet setting across the planet to fill your "Map Places" with tiny red balloons, it does not make our lives any less important or interesting.

Feelings of loneliness affect people of all backgrounds. Help is available and the negative effects can be reversed when we are able to connect and/or take part in group activities like an athletic team or even caring for a pet. Everyone gets lonely, but it is important to remember that we are NEVER alone. If you experience constant feelings of loneliness and isolation, it is important to tell a trusted friend, family member, and seek professional help. Think about the role of spirituality in your life (whatever that may be) and find opportunities to volunteer and meet others who may also need someone to connect with. Your life has meaning and purpose. We all have so much good to contribute to this world and whatever sadness and pain we are experiencing now, is only temporary. None of us can get through life alone. We are in this together and together is how we move forward. Please know that, although we may have never met your life matters to me and I am grateful for the technology that allows us to be connected today. No matter where you may find yourself in life, always remember you are never, ever, ever alone.

If you or someone you know would like to talk to a mental health professional, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) any time and any hour of the day or night.

Ane :)