Tag Archives: community resources

Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day 2014

Today, September 10, 2014, is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). Rates of suicide are rising. In 2010, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. In 2007, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death for all ages. In 25-34 year olds suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and among 15-24 year olds it’s the 3rd leading cause of death (CDC).

suicide-is-preventable

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. In 2012, 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults 18 years and older had a serious mental illness. That’s 9.6 million adults and does not account for the many children and teenagers who also have a mental illness. And yet, our culture stigmatizes mental illnesses.

I am saddened by the recent apparent suicide of Robin Williams. That someone who provided so much laughter and joy to people also experienced such depths of despair is tragic. It’s devastating that his struggle with mental illness and addiction ended with him taking his own life. That he was in such a dark place that he desired death, is heartbreaking. But I can understand that desire.

For myself, that desire to die is fleeting but it can be so strong. Had I not been found and taken to an ER in time as a teenager, I’d be dead. And I immediately regretted the action afterwards. But, even knowing that experience, there have still been moments of struggle and fighting to stay alive. I don’t think our culture talks enough or at all about this struggle. And I don’t think I’m the only one who has felt that way. But the more we don’t talk about it, the more we stigmatize it, and honestly we are losing people because of our lack of discussion on the topic.

So I’m sharing part of my struggle with you all. Because mental illness isn’t something that happens somewhere else. It happens to people you know, your schoolmates, your coworkers, your family, your friends, your neighbors. How many struggle in silence? If you’re struggling with some tough emotions or feeling lonely, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Suicide_prevention

Risk factors for suicide (characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide) include:

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Warning signs of suicide (may mean that someone is at risk for suicide) include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

NSPL_Logo

If you, or someone you care about is struggling, feeling stuck, hopeless or disconnected, there are ways to get help and support. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has also created a partnership with Facebook to make crisis services more easily assessable to those in need. If a Facebook friend posts something that causes you to worry that they may harm themselves, you can now report suicidal content on Facebook. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.

Ribbon-1-lg

 

The purple and turquoise Suicide Prevention Ribbon symbolizes suicide awareness and prevention and serves as a reminder that suicide is an issue we need to talk about. Download a ribbon avatar and make it your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15).  Awareness ribbons can be found HERE.

Even in the darkest, most desolate moments, YOU matter. Please, please know that there is always help and support.

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The Asteroids Club

As I believe I mentioned, I’ve been reading, “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt for a philosophy class I’m currently taking. Now, we were only assigned the first 6 chapters, but I will be completing the book because I find the subject matter fascinating and, perhaps, even enlightening.

Recently, Haidt spoke at a TED Talks about how common threats can make common ground. He starts by briefly discussing morality and how, “…one of the most important principles of morality is that morality binds and blinds. It binds us into teams that circle around sacred values but thereby makes us go blind to objective reality.” (On a side note, you can learn about your own morality, ethics, and/or values at YourMorals.org).

So if everybody thinks they’re right, how can we possibly make any progress? Haidt suggests that, “…we don’t start by looking for common ground. Common ground is often very hard to find. No, we start by looking for common threats because common threats make common ground.” This idea, of finding common threats, led to the creation of The Asteroids Club.

The Asteroids Club is, “an opportunity for members of a community to explain what matters to them most deeply (their asteroid) and for others to try to understand why it’s so important. The magic is that folks with different moral and political beliefs each get to share what matters to them. The key is that you’ve got to listen, with empathy, to the “other side” in order to have the right to explain your side and be heard.”

If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the minds worst disease.
– Sent ts’an, c. 700 C. E.

I think it’s a really wonderful idea. It’s not a debate but a mutual, civil discussion. As Haidt states, “this is possible. We can do it. Let us therefore go to battle stations, not to fight each other, but to begin deflecting these incoming asteroids.”

National Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10, 2012, is National Suicide Prevention Day. In 2007, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death for all ages. In 25-34 year olds suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and among 15-24 year olds it’s the 3rd leading cause of death (CDC).

1 of over 200 signs created in response to why you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Click on this picture to view the others.

Risk factors for suicide (characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide) include:

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Warning signs of suicide (may mean that someone is at risk for suicide) include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

If you, or someone you care about is struggling, feeling stuck, hopeless or disconnected, there are ways to get help and support. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has also created a partnership with Facebook to make crisis services more easily assessable to those in need. If a Facebook friend posts something that causes you to worry that they may harm themselves, you can now report suicidal content on Facebook. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.

The purple and turquoise Suicide Prevention Ribbon symbolizes suicide awareness and prevention and serves as a reminder that suicide is an issue we need to talk about. Download a ribbon avatar and make it your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15).  Awareness ribbons can be found HERE.

Even in the darkest, most desolate moments, YOU matter. Please, please know that there is always help and support.

Are We Doing Enough for Our Veterans?

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day. An annual holiday in the United States honoring military veterans. While it’s wonderful to have a day honoring the brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country, it isn’t enough.

The fight doesn’t end when they get home…

Homelessness, unemployment, disability, substance abuse and mental illness all face service men and woman upon their return. Lack of family or a support system, compounded by inadequate or nonexistent services does not present the honor and respect our veterans deserve.

There are some resources available to veterans. The National Center for PTSD offers information on Post Traumatic Stress disorder in veterans, though they do, “not provide direct clinical care or individual referrals.” Afterdeployment.org, “is a behavioral health resource supporting service members, their families, and veterans with common post-deployment challenges.”

Flickr: finishing-school

Serving San Diego county in California, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) provides comprehensive and innovative services for military veterans and assistance to needy and homeless veterans and their families. Solider On, serving the state of Massachusetts, “assist[s] veterans with both picking up the pieces of their lives and filling in the gaps that public agencies do not address.”

Soldier On’s mission statement declares that, “Homeless veterans need an interwoven effort that provides a safety net of housing, meals, health care, substance abuse aftercare and mental health counseling. They also need job assessment, training and placement assistance. Our mission at Solider On is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing, treatment and recovery for addiction, food, and clothing, as well as medical, counseling and job-related services.”

“Because government money for homeless veterans is currently limited and serves only one in 10 veterans in need, it is critical that private groups such as Soldier On reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care.” Private groups comprise a large part of programs providing assistance and resources to homeless veterans.

The story of Herold Noel, an Iraq War veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and living in his car in Brooklyn, is featured in the documentary WHEN I CAME HOME. The film examines the challenges that are faced by combat veterans returning home and the battle that many must fight to receive the benefits promised to them. The trailer is provided below and you can view the entire movie streaming online for free on hulu.

Justin Bieber, Sex Education & Informed Sexual Choices

Recently allegations have been made suggesting that teen heart-throb Justin Bieber may have fathered a baby with a female fan. If we can temporarily suspend thoughts on the merit of this claim, we can view Bieber’s possible teen parenthood in relation to sexual education in the United States. Cristina Page of the Huffington Post recently authored an insightful article on the very topic.

In The Sex Education of Justin Bieber, Page states that, “Bieber serves as an allegory for the way we treat American teens: leading them to temptation, unprotected and unprepared, and expecting more of them than we do of ourselves.” Sex education in the US is lacking. An overwhelming amount of US schools do not offer adequate sex education and many that do focus primarily on an abstinence only model.

The temptation that faces hormone-driven teenagers, combined with their embarrassment and lack of education concerning sex is sadly setting them up for potential consequences they are neither prepared for nor often aware of. Contraceptives, such as condoms, are not only important as a form of birth control but also as a method of preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Recent studies from the National Campaign indicate that nearly half of all teenagers in the US have ever had sex and over one-third are sexually active (defined as having had sex during the past three months). A condom was used in less than two-thirds of those sexually active teens the last time they had sex. Birth control at the last time of sex was used in only one-in five sexually active teens, essentially unchanged from 1991.

With this information its not difficult to see how the lack of adequate, informative sex education may play a role in United States teen pregnancy rates. The US still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and birth among comparable countries. In 2008 the teen birth rate in the US was 41.5 births per 1000.  Unprotected sex can result in pregnancy, even the very first time you have sex.

Source: The National Campaign

In her article Page suggests that Bieber, “talk candidly about sexual desire and pregnancy prevention” with his fans as, “a single informed tweet from Justin could do more for prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases than the morning after pill.”

Any informative sexual education aimed at teenagers could prove useful, especially coming from a peer-aged celebrity. As for the allegations against Bieber? We’ll have to wait and see how they play out. Regardless, teens deserve adequate and realistic sexual knowledge with the ultimate goal of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

For more information on sexual education, contraceptives and preventing teen pregnancy & sexually transmitted diseases, please visit Scarleteen. Their page, Birth Control Bingo, can assist you in finding the method of birth control that’s right for you.

Mental Illness Awareness

Today is National Depression Screening Day (US)

Everyone experiences stress, sadness and anxiety sometimes. Unlike the normal emotional experiences of sadness, such as during a loss or major life event (for example: divorce, retirement, becoming unemployed), depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with one’s thoughts, behavior, mood, ability to work, sleep, eat or enjoy once pleasurable activities.

Depression and other mood disorders can not be seen on an x-ray. Yet mental illness is just as painful. And the stigma associated with the disease often prevents many from seeking help and getting treated. Without treatment, the frequency of depressive illness as well as the severity of symptoms tends to increase over time. Left untreated, depression can lead to suicide.

Symptoms of Depression include:

• persistently sad or irritable mood
• pronounced changes in sleep, appetite and energy
• difficulty thinking, concentrating and remembering
• physical slowing or agitation
• lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed
• feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and emptiness
• recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
• persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain

National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) gives people the opportunity to take a free, anonymous questionnaire assessing their risk for mood and anxiety disorders and provides referral information for treatment. Visit www.HelpYourSelfHelpOthers.org to find a local organization offering depression and anxiety screenings or take a screening online today. More information can be found about NDSD at Mental Health America.

NDSD is also part of the larger Mental Illness Awareness Week, an effort to bring awareness to mental illnesses. To learn more about mental illnesses, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness by advocating mental health awareness, support, education and recovery.

Access of Choice

I don’t think people wake up one morning and decide not to have any motivation, any goals. I don’t think anyone one day thinks to themselves, ‘Self, you know what? I’m just not going to try anymore. I’m just going to give up.’

Honestly, giving up is a last ditch option. Yes, you know that person who just never really did anything. But, really? Did they really not ever do anything? Or did there life never present them with that option? With the choice to do something, anything?

I think if we really look at people, more often than not, people merely get stuck in their lack of options rather than actively choosing not to do anything. A child who grows up in a family with parents whose primary concern is obtaining and using drugs never had the experience of anything different. That’s not an easy thing to just cast off once they’re 18 and on their own. The child who grows up in foster care, being bounced from one house to the next, where they are primarily a “paycheck” and a burden, doesn’t suddenly have the experience of feeling secure once they turn 18.

And yet that’s what ‘society’ (and I use that term oh so loosely) expects. That all these people in our world who are homeless or jobless or lacking of a variety of experiences… well, they just don’t want it enough. Or they aren’t trying. But that’s like expecting someone who has never flown a plane or driven a car to just get in one and know how to drive it. And when they don’t telling them, ‘You just don’t want it enough,” or “You aren’t trying.”

People cannot possibly know how to do something they have never done before. Have never even seen before. And yet, that’s what we expect people to be able to do. “Just do it.” It has nothing to do with not wanting it enough. Or not trying hard enough. It comes down to lack of experience and knowledge. And underlying all that is the issue of self-esteem and self-belief. If your entire life – hell, even part of your life – someone, many people have told you that you are lazy and stupid, etc., eventually you’re going to believe it. And that’s not even what you are saying to yourself!

We, as society, need to be so much kinder to our fellow human beings. I truly believe that everyone is doing the best they can in the moment with the knowledge and resources they have. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t do better. It means that, at this very moment, with the information they have on how to do things and what things are available to them, they are making the best choices they can.

However, ending it there gives people an out to just continue to do the same things. And doing the same things (regardless of what they are) over and over is insanity (Theodore Geisel). Resources need to be expanded. Education needs to be expanded. And the knowledge of both of these needs to be expanded. Most people have no idea of the resources in the own community – education institutions and programs, classes, programs for a wide-variety of people. Housing, shelter, heating, etc. resources. And so much more.

The more people know about what is available to them, they more apt they are to make better choices for themselves.