This past month and coming months the mental health community is marking several important dates:
October: Depression & Mental Illness screening month; ADHD Awareness Week (Oct. 13 to 19); OCD Awareness Week (Oct. 14 to 20); and National Bullying Prevention Month. This coming month also marks the Survivors of Suicide Day (Nov. 23) and in December International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Dec. 3).
Unfortunately, mental health illness is still stigmatized in our society even though with the new parity law – health care reform - hopefully different status of a medical illness and a mental health illness will start to be lessen.
I personally struggled with mental illness all my life. I know how devastating it can be when you feel hopeless and feel like you are the only one who does not have it all together. Growing up in Slovenia, there was even less mental health awareness so I was left to my own devices. My escape was journaling and music and having a few close friends who understo0od me and encouraged me. Also, my grandmom was my “guardian angel.” When I moved to the US at the age of 29, I was fortunate to find supportive friends and social groups, spiritual in nature, so that I was eventually able to heal from the emotional trauma of my childhood and adolescense.
Healing myself from trauma was a long journey; however in a way was also a blessing in disguise as I have learned a lot about our behavior patterns and emotions and how they influence each other. More importantly, I have always believed in non-medical, holistic, natural approach. I was fortunate that several years ago I met a psychiatrist who not only medicated people, but also gave them resources for healing naturally, such as L-Theanine.
However, at times medication is needed along with psychotherapy. Research shows that in 2006, suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming 33,300 lives per year. Suicide rates among youth (ages 15-24) have increased more than 200% in the last fifty years. The suicide rate is also very high for the elderly (age 85+).
Did you know that four times more men than women kill themselves; but three times more women than men attempt suicide.
The good news is that suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems. Most suicidal people give definite warning signals of their suicidal intentions, but others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them. Often people will be more optimistic, and start doing new ventures, or start giving their clothes away. Most people really don’t want to end their life; pain has just become too unbearable and they don’t see a way out. They erroneously think that it will be like this forever.
Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal. Actually, it is just the opposite. Good and caring therapist is essential to help people develop better coping skills to deal with the challenges in life.
Surviving family members not only suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide, but are also themselves at higher risk of suicide and emotional problems.
(Source: http://www.suicidology.org – American Association of Suicidology).
What can you do when you or somebody you know is experiencing a clinical depression?
- Get professional help; if you are more comfortable with your clergy member or a priest, do so.
- Talk with someone every day, preferably face to face. If you don’t have a trusted friend, find a support group.
- Make a safety plan. Develop a set of steps that you can follow during a suicidal crisis. It should include contact numbers for your doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
- Make a written schedule for yourself every day and stick to it, no matter what. Keep a regular routine as much as possible, even when your feelings seem out of control.
- Get out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes a day. Connecting with nature can be very healing.
- Exercise is one of the best remedies for depression. If you don’t like going to the gym, walk around a block or go biking or take dancing lessons.
- Make time for things that bring you joy. Even if very few things bring you pleasure at the moment, force yourself to do the things you used to enjoy.
- Remember your personal goals. You may have always wanted to travel to a particular place, read a specific book, own a pet, move to another place, learn a new hobby, volunteer, go back to school, or start a family. Write your personal goals down.