Tag Archives: tools

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.

Empathy

I’ve been reading a wonderful book, “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance”,  by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D.. It’s essentially a written account of a dialogue between the two of them about emotions and finding balance. 

I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say my copy has at least a hundred post-it flags bookmarking every part I have found to be enlightening, inspiring or something I wish to remind myself about.

In my journey of self-growth and my education as a social work student empathy has become a core value in my beliefs and my life. The easiest way to explain empathy is, “put yourself in the shoes of another”, which gives a basic understanding of it but doesn’t fully encompass the entirety of empathy.

In my reading of “Emotional Awareness”, empathy was described in a manner that I feel really clarifies what it means to have empathy for another. Empathy is broken down into four components or levels:

1. Emotional Recognition
Know how another feels

2. Emotional Resonance
A. Resonate with the same emotion as other’s emotion
B. Feel an emotion in response to other’s emotion without feeling the same emotion as other

3. Compassionate Concern
Relieve the suffering of others

4. Altruism
Compassionate concern and some risk to own welfare when relieving suffering of others

As you can see, empathy involves more than just putting yourself in the shoes of another and resonating or feeling an emotion in response  (though it’s a good start). True empathy involves relieving the suffering of others and, ultimately, taking a risk in doing so.

This may sound overwhelming and complex. We all are capable of relieving the suffering of others. The holiday season provides many ways to do so: Give food to those that are hungry. Donate coats to those without them. Donate your time at a local soup kitchen. Spend some time at a nursing home. Help a neighbor shovel their driveway. Offer to help a friend in need. Request donations to organization in lieu (or in addition) to receiving presents.

Taking a risk in helping to relieve the suffering of others doesn’t need to be complex either. Stand up for someone you see being bullied (made fun of, singled out, etc). Invite someone to join you during lunch at work or school who is being excluded. Speak up and ask what you can do to help in your neighborhood, school, work and community. Advocate for those around you.

Don’t allow yourself to think that you cannot possibly do anything to relieve the suffering of others. You can. It starts with taking a step outside of ourselves and practicing empathy.

From: “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance” by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D. 2008. Chapter 5, “The Nature of Compassion,” p. 176-179.

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.

The Importance of Routine

It’s the last day of August and my oldest daughter has been back to school since Wednesday. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem “right” to be going back to school when it’s still August! August is a designated Summer month. And school and Summer shouldn’t really intersect in my opinion!

None the less, it is what it is and we are very much attempting to get back into some semblance of a routine. Getting my oldest daughter to the bus on time, my youngest to daycare and (starting on the 4th) myself to school in the morning is a challenge.

We aren’t “morning people” (do those really exist??). On school days my children would likely sleep until noon if I didn’t drag them out of bed (why isn’t this true for weekends?!). If I don’t plan my mornings I wouldn’t have any chance of ever getting out the door remotely on time. Even with planning, there are mornings when the alarm clock somehow doesn’t go off and everyone ends up frantically getting ready, rushing to be late (such as the 2nd day of this school year! Oops!)

I’ve discussed how I deal with keeping my family on schedule as stress-free as possible before. I continue to schedule everything, prep the night before and meal plan. As my children have gotten older I’ve included them more in my routine making.

This school year I gave them both checklists for their morning and evening routines. I found some magnetic dry erase boards in the dollar section of Target (LOVE Target) and modified them by putting the markers on attached strings, so they wouldn’t get lost. I had each child help me come up with their list of tasks, which we separated into morning and evening. Since they take medicine in the morning and evening, we put that task in the middle so it only had to be written down once.

By the way… the checklist on the right… the task in the middle is “take your medicine”. I know. It’s really hard to decipher and I’m not so good at drawing a medicine spoon or bottle.

For my oldest daughter, Z, (8 years old) I wrote out her tasks. For my youngest daughter, E, (4 years old) I drew pictures to represent her tasks since she cannot yet read and I wanted both my children to independently be able to read and complete their tasks. Their checklists are hung on the side of our refrigerator (a central area in our house) at their height levels so they are easily assessable to them.

Being able to check off a completed task honestly feels pretty awesome and it helps guide them in what they need to get done without me having to constantly tell them. Instead, they can look at their checklist and see what needs to be completed. If they get distracted (which happens with children, especially those with ADHD) I can redirect them by reminding them that they need to look to see what needs to be checked off.

So far, this has worked quite well and has given them some responsibility over their morning and evening routines. It also doubles as a reminder to me what they need to be doing!

That hot pink marker will jolt you awake in the morning! Or make you add “change marker color” to your list…

Of course, I decided to run with the checklist idea and made myself one as well. My checklist is hung on the opposite side of the fridge and is something I see every time I walk into the kitchen. Having tasks written down really helps keep me organized. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, I can clearly see my tasks and focus on completing them rather than figuring out what they are.

Also, checking off tasks really does feel AH-MAZING!

This is only the beginning. Of my organization, planning, scheduling and routines. Of the school year. Of the rest of my life. So if this morning doesn’t go well, I can take a deep breath and realize I can try to have it go better tomorrow.

Asking for Help

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I am going to come right out and say that I have been struggling. Recovery from my tonsillectomy was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Progress was extremely slow-moving and in very small increments. I had expected recovery to progress quicker and in larger increments.

I had great difficulty in being patient. Of course, I wanted to feel better right away. It was excruciating to allow myself to just be where I was – in my recovery and in a broader sense.

It has felt like I have struggled my entire life. Never seeming to “get” what I had expected. Always looking ahead to where I wanted to be. And always letting pieces of the past seep into where I currently was.

In many ways, it was easier that way. By always living in the past and the future I didn’t have to confront and deal with what was happening in the present. Avoidance is one of the oldest tricks of continued struggling.

For the past two weeks I have been in an outpatient hospitalization program. Perhaps in previous times I would feel embarrassed or ashamed by this admittance but, as I have grown wiser and gotten further in my self-progress, I can view this only in a positive light.

I knew that I was struggling and heading into a very dark place. I also knew where, historically, that could take me and it isn’t a place I’d ever like to visit again. I referred myself to the program, planning my attendance around a time of increased struggle for myself (my father’s second birthday since he passed away).

I recognized that I was in a place where I needed help – and I sought it out. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things any of us can do. We often view it as admitting weakness and exposing vulnerabilities. And yes, often when we are in a place of struggling we are vulnerable but asking for help is never weak. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things we can do. To identify that we are in a bad place and to ask/receive help is an incredibly mature and amazing thing to do.

I truly try to do the best that I can with the knowledge and resources (tools) I presently have. Most often my struggling isn’t because I’m not “trying hard enough”. It’s because I need additional knowledge and resources to help me more forward.

Sometimes my struggling isn’t because I don’t have the knowledge and resources that I need or because I’m not trying my best. Sometimes, when we are in a dark place, we can’t see the tools that we possess. It’s difficult to see anything in the darkness. Seeking out help can be a way to “turn on the light” and allow us to recognize and use the tools we had all along.

Life isn’t easy. Keeping constant momentum and living in the present moment isn’t easy either.

We will struggle. We will get caught up in the past and all the “should have, could have, would have” thinking. We will get caught up in the future and worry about what will be. We will face tragedies and heartaches and losses and disappointments. We will work to move forward a step, only to be unexpectantly forced three steps backward.

Sometimes we will be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue forward. Sometimes we will realize that we are unable to do so and, if we can find the courage, we will ask for help.

I am beginning to accept myself, who I am, and the life that I currently have.

I could spend every second of every day wishing to be things that I am not. Wishing that I didn’t have chronic, life-long illnesses. Wishing for a level playing field. Wishing things happened differently in the past… All that wishing won’t change a thing. I am who I am. I have the body I have and the mind I have.

I have the illnesses I have as well. And fighting against them will never propel me forward nor allow me to become the person I would like to be. I could be in a perpetual state of conflict and anger and darkness, fighting against forces that I have no ability to change.

I ask for help because when I’m in a place of darkness, of struggling, I cannot see any other way than to fight or to submit to the darkness. These past two weeks while I was in the outpatient hospitalization program, a light was shone on me. It was my choice to use that light and allow myself the opportunities to create my own light.

This is who I am. This is what I have. If I want anything to change I have to make that choice. And I am.

It’s quite likely that I will need help again, but I will view it not as a setback or a weakness but instead as an opportunity to grow stronger, to learn more and to make the choice to continue to work on improving myself and my ability to move forward.

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Resources:

If you or someone you know is in an emotional distress or suicidal crisis – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) 

If you are concerned about your own alcohol or other drug use or that of someone you care about – the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) hotline 1.800.NCA.CALL (622-2255) 

Free. Safe. Confidential. 24 Hours. 7 Days. – RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)  National Sexual Assault Hotline  1.800.656.HOPE

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder – the National Eating Disorders Association information line 1.800.931.2237

If  you have questions about or are affected by serious mental illness – the  NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) information help line 1.800.950.NAMI (6264)

The Process of Loving Ourselves

From Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, which I’m really enjoying reading.

Loving yourself, with all your imperfections, and the process to do so may be incredibly uncomfortable and scary. And while it requires a lot of hard work, it’s one of the most important, and bravest, things you can do. Not only for yourself but also for everyone you meet throughout your life’s journey.

The process of embracing who you are is one I have been working on for a long time. And, likely will be on for the rest of my life. Only recently I have started to see some of the progress I have made and the sense of calm that comes with accepting, embracing and loving yourself.

Avoidance & Distraction

The act of avoiding something or distracting yourself from something can be very useful in tolerating painful events or emotions when you can’t make things better immediately. This can be a subconscious action but often works best when consciously decided.

When we’re feeling distressed, distracting ourselves with other activities, thoughts, emotions and sensations can allow our focus to shift from a negative, stressful place to a place that feels more tolerable. The same can be said for avoiding distressing events, people, tasks, etc.

However, if we constantly avoid and distract ourselves from things that cause us distress, we inadvertently give those things more power and allow them to appear bigger, scarier and more stressful than they may really be (see On Vulnerability). This can also lead to unintentional inattention in other areas of our lives (see Procrastination).

Avoidance
Noun
The act of keeping away from, keeping clear of; preventing from happening

Temporary use of avoidance and distraction as coping skills works well, but they shouldn’t become a “way of life”. If we constantly avoid and distract ourselves from things that cause us distress, we never allow ourselves the ability to work through them and, hopefully, overcome them.

We also might be missing out on some very pleasant experiences that just happen to accidentally get overlooked.

I’m not saying to be reckless. Or put yourself in the way of obvious danger. But if you constantly distract yourself from feeling negative emotions or experiencing potentially distressing events, you’re doing yourself a disfavor.

Distraction
Noun
The act of drawing away or diverting; separating or dividing (such as one’s attention)

In order to ever truly live fully, we must at some point face the things that distress us. I know you don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to either. I’d much rather go on believing that if I avoid it, if I distract myself from it, if I pretend that it doesn’t exist that it cannot effect me.

But it does.

Think about something you’re avoiding. Start with something small – a paper you need to write, a task you need to complete, a phone call you’ve been putting off…

Just thinking about it, I can feel a knot in my stomach forming. A sickish, uncomfortable feeling. It’s much easier to avoid or distract myself from thinking about it. The sickish feeling goes away. I can breathe easier and go about my day.

Until the distressful thing comes up again. Someone mentions it. My mind wanders to it. I’m confronted with it face to face. Now, the sickish feeling is worse. The know in my stomach has grown.

I can keep avoiding it seemingly forever, distracting myself to better tolerate the feelings. But it still exists. And it will keep popping up, often at horrible times, the sickish feeling constantly growing.

Avoiding something makes it easier to tolerate, but it doesn’t make the distress go away. At some point you need to face the thing(s) that causes you distress.

When you choose to do so is your choice. So is how. And how much. But as long as you avoid it and distract yourself from it, it’s still there. And it will still cause you distress.