Saturday, May 19, 2018

Guest Post: Help for Teens Struggling with the Darkness of Suicidal Thoughts: A Prevention Toolkit

The most common underlying cause of suicidal thoughts is depression – a medical condition that affects millions of people. It’s not a brain defect and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is simply a condition that, like other medical issues, can be treated and managed through treatment, counseling, and various lifestyle changes. For both boys and girls, depression increases the risk of suicide 12-fold, and can lead to negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. In order to get to the heart of thoughts of suicide, it’s important to tackle what’s likely causing them. 

Use this toolkit for helpful resources and tips as you navigate this journey to the top.

Helpful Resources

When you are struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, it can make you feel as if all hope is lost. The funk your brain is in is tricking you into thinking you can’t do this, but you can! When your mind is playing games, here are some resources to reach out to:

      Access help 24/7 with the Crisis Text Line.
      Put the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on speed dial.
      Reach out to other teens.
      Browse helpful information at the SPTS website.

      Educate yourself about depression.

Steps to Take If You Are Having Suicidal Thoughts

Stop and Think.

First and foremost, if you’re currently thinking about harming yourself the first thing you should do is take a step back. Commit to at least 24 hours to let your emotions settle. Suicide is permanent, while emotions can be fleeting. Take some time to think. It’s vital that you know that you are not alone. Some of the most admired and accomplished people have been overwhelmed by depression and contemplated ending their life. Rest assured that your depression can be treated, driving away thoughts of suicide and that feeling of hopelessness.

Build Your Network

Do not try to deal with your suicidal thoughts by yourself. Reach out to someone. If you want to talk to someone other than a friend or family member, there are many suicide lifelines out there that will help you any day of the year, any time of the day. Talk with your parents or caregivers about your thoughts. Your biggest ally during this time will be your support network. If you are worried about how they will react, or don’t feel comfortable talking to them, consider using one of these letters and simply sign your name at the bottom.

If you need a number right now, dial 1-800-273-8255.

Get Professional Help

Building your support network is a great start, but depression is a mental illness that is best treated by a professional. They will be able to create the treatment plan that works best for you, and become yet another member of your growing network of support.

Extra Tools to Tackle Your Depression

      Get up and get moving.
      Practice deep breathing and yoga.
      Adopt a service dog.
      Get a good night’s sleep.
      Fuel your body with the proper nutrition.

When it comes to depression and suicide, there is an established link. Untreated depression is a leading cause of suicide attempts and completions. If you are feeling depressed, talk to someone. Seek help from a mental health professional. You are not alone and you can get through this.

Photo Credit:

By Mariah Kaye Williams
Ever since her daughter-in-law was suicidal three years ago, Mariah Williams resolved to fight stressors in her own life and encouraged those she loves to do the same. Mariah now researches and writes daily to promote self-care. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How Sleep Deprivation Affects You and Your Mental Health

Sleep deprivation can seriously affect all parts of your body - physically and mentally. You weaken your immune system. You can become more vulnerable to respiratory infections.

Sleep deprivation can cause digestive issues that result in weight gain, and possible diabetes issues. Along with weight gain, you are at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Sleep deprivation impairs you mentally with memory issues, cognitive function, moodiness, hallucinations, depression, that can make you more accident prone, and yes, it can even result in accidental death.

NOTE: If you drive or do anything else that can cause injury to you or someone else, it can be devastating. 

According to the Sleep Association Organization, Sleep Deprivation is defined as not getting adequate total sleep.

Even though relatively few studies have been done on total lack of sleep over a long period of time in humans, long term sleep deprivation in lab animals has resulted in death.

What is a Typical Night for You?
  • Fall asleep but wake an hour or so later, check the clock, roll over, try to sleep? Toss and turn, check the clock again? A never ending cycle until the morning alarm sounds?
  • Ready for bed, but when the lights are out, you can't sleep? You toss and turn, dozing fitfully until the morning alarm blares?
  • Working late into the night, ignoring your body's cries for sleep?
    Forcing yourself to stay awake with caffeine-laden beverages? Your body's desires for sleep overcome your desire to stay awake, yet you feel like you didn't sleep at all?
  • Your mind won't stop recycling the day's events, tomorrow's possibilities, or random racing thoughts that won't go away and keep you awake?

What are the Effects of Sleep Deprivation?

If you experience long term sleep deprivation you can begin to hallucinate or trigger a mania episode in those with Bipolar Disorder. Other psychological risks include: impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia and/or suicidal thoughts.

Other affects on your body can include:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Accidents from Lack of Attention
  • Moodiness
  • Hunger
  • Other Health Dangers such as:
  • Diabetes
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Suppressed Growth Hormones
  • Memory Lapses
  • Depression
  • Weight Gain or Loss

Read this article about how Sleep Deprivation affects your body.

For more information, read Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body

Read this article to learn the 11 Signs You're Sleep Deprived.

Have You Tried These to Help Fall Asleep?
  • Prescription sleep medication?
  • Over-the-Counter sleep medication?
  • A Sound Machine or Room Air Filtration System?
  • Something Herbal like Melatonin? Valerian? Chamomile?
  • Meditation?
  • A warm bath?
  • Reading a book?
  • Playing a game (or six) on your Smart Phone?
  • Tea or Warm Milk?
  • Self-Hypnosis?
  • Letting the TV stay on?
  • Listening to music?
  • Something else not listed here?
Did you know that overuse of some OTC Sleep Medications can actually cause you to get less sleep?

What Can Cause Sleep Deprivation?

  • Sleep Disorders that reduce Sleep Time such as Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, others
  • Poor Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep Disorders that Interfere with Brain's ability to Stay Awake such as Narcolepsy or Primary Hypersomnia
  • Insufficient Total Sleep Time

Are there Some Positive Ways to Help Eliminate Sleepiness if You Suffer from Sleep Deprivation? From 10 Best Treatments and Cures for Sleep Deprivation

Sleep - Too obvious, right?

ActivityResearch studies have shown that a five-minute walk can improve excessive daytime sleepiness as measured by multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT). Unfortunately, this increased alertness may be a transient benefit that comes and goes rather quickly. 

Bright LightThe exposure to bright light has important effects on your body's circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a pattern of body functions, including sleep and wakefulness, that is timed to the day-night cycle. There are some conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)and circadian rhythm sleep disorders that are helped by appropriately timed exposure to bright light. In addition, bright light may help you become more alert if you are sleep deprived.

NoiseWhen we hear something, our brain responds by making us slightly more alert. This can be problematic when we have a noisy sleep environment, but it can be helpful if we are trying to stay awake.

TemperatureUnfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that temperature changes do much to improve our alertness and decrease excessive sleepiness. Studies of extreme temperatures (either very hot or very cold) have an effect for only a few minutes. 

PostureSurely it is harder to fall asleep when you are standing up, so posture clearly can have some beneficial effects on sleep deprivation. 

CaffeineAside from simply getting more sleep, the best single treatment for sleep deprivation may be caffeine. This naturally occurring stimulant is found in many common foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, soda pop, energy drinks, and chocolate.

StimulantsAside from caffeine, there are other stimulants available as prescription and over-the-counter drugs that might be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

MotivationYou might consider that you are more likely to stay alert and attentive if you actually care about the activities you are engaged in. A boring lecture or meeting at work may be just the thing to put you right to sleep. However, spending time with your loved ones or pursuing a favored hobby may keep you wide awake, at least in the short term. 

Group Effects - There is some belief among anthropologists that the effects of sleep deprivation may be lessened when they occur in the context of a group. You might imagine that a handful of sleep-deprived people are able to engage one another in ways to maintain alertness.

What are the Treatments for Sleep Deprivation?

Get more sleep!

Easier said than done, right?

The best answer is to treat the cause of the Sleep Deprivation. Is it a sleep disorder? You won't know unless you see a sleep specialist who can diagnose your sleep condition. I suggest if you are experiencing sleep deprivation, you see a sleep specialist immediately. They can rule out other medical issues, find the cause, and treat the real reason for sleep deprivation. Then, you can experience that benefits of adequate sleep and wake refreshed and ready to tackle your day.

Photos Courtesy of Storyblocks

Friday, December 15, 2017

Guest Post: Even Workaholics Need to Take their Travel Days, Science Tells Us So

The most successful professionals know the value of hard work. Often, workaholism and professional success go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, workaholism and good mental health don’t go hand-in-hand. The facts tell us that travel provides fresh perspective and mental health benefits that everybody – especially those who never seem to take time off – could use. 

To keep stress levels low and to help mental well-being, spouses of workaholics, and the worker bees themselves, should engage in non-business related travel from time to time.


(Photo via Pixabay)

The Dangers of Overworking

The health consequences of overwork can’t be overstated. The dangers that come with long hours and shift work – such as the abnormal hours hospital employees face – are many, and they’re not to be taken lightly.

A milder consequence of pushing oneself too far at work is reduced job performance. Even when you think you’re doing a good job for your employer by staying longer or taking the graveyard shift, studies show that this is most often not the case. Running on fumes means a product or service that is worse in quality than if you were properly rested or were able to manage your workload more reasonably. But poor performance pales in comparison to the health risks associated with overworking.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information publishes many studies on health, and one in particular shows that overly long work hours carry the risk of obesity, on-the-job injury, and chronic disease. In Japan, approximately 30,000 suicides per year are thought to be related to economic and work-related pressures. This is not fear-mongering, it’s factual, and it should help inform why taking time off from work for vacation is so important.

The Flipside: Benefits of Travel on Mental Health

 (Photo via Pixabay)

PsychCentral has detailed the benefits of travel on our mental health. The neurological benefits of taking your mind completely off of work-related responsibilities are immense.Travel forces us to use different parts of our brain, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory. For example, if you travel somewhere outside of the States where poverty or other factors mean a challenging quality of life, you’ll gain perspective on your own problems. Consider too the benefits of navigating a foreign language or city, tasting new food and experiencing different cultures.

Our biological functions are improved when we travel, too. The Perfect World Project references a study from the University of Surrey which showed that people experience more happiness when anticipating an upcoming vacation. New experience helps to sharpen the mind, and travel has also been proven to reduce stress, which increases our blood pressure and is common in the overworked population.

Traveling is also synonymous with a fortified immune system. According to CBS, your relationships may emerge stronger, too. The monotony of our daily routine is not always conducive to romance, and taking a trip with your partner has the opposite effect; it’s spice for your love life.

The best part is that when it comes to travel, your options are limitless. Not to mention that there are myriad ways to find the perfect vacation online. Some quick research will yield plenty of results and make booking your travel that much easier.

(Photo via Pixabay)

When you’re planning your trip, part of your travel arrangements should be securing your home and arranging care for your pet, especially if you’re a dog owner. Having these pieces of the puzzle in place will help keep worry and stress low during your absence. Even if it means hiring a pet sitter, it’s smart to shell out a little extra dough for your dog’s benefit.

It’s often more difficult for us to have fun than to remain stagnant. Breaking a routine, especially one that allows us to pay bills and provide a better life for our family, is not always easy. Understanding the dangers that overworking pose to our health and conversely the proven benefits that travel has on our mental and physical well-being is key. It helps us to understand that money pales in comparison to our health and happiness. So stop grinding your fingers to the bone, plan a vacation, and start enjoying the perks which begin even before you head to the airport.

Jennifer Scott has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. She shares stories about the ups and downs of her anxiety and depression at SpiritFinder. With, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.