Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mental Health Series - International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

According to findings on Wikipedia, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is celebrated every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in the United States. It was designated by the United States Congress as a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. 
In 1999, Senator Harry Reid , a survivor of his father's suicide, introduced a resolution to the United States Senate which led to the creation of National Survivors of Suicide Day. As citizens of other countries began observing the day in their local communities, it was renamed International Survivors of Suicide Day.
Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a program that unites survivors of suicide loss across the world. At events in hundreds of cities spanning six continents, survivors of suicide loss gather together to remember their loved ones and offer each other support. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention produces a program shown at these events that features personal stories and advice from other survivors and psychiatric professionals. These events help survivors cope with the tragedy of losing someone to suicide.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to USA Today there is a suicide every 13 minutes in The United States of America. Stated in an article by USA Today, there are far less homicides than suicides. In fact, homicide rates have fallen by half since 1991.
According the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it says this about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day:
"International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day can change your life. It’s the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.
Survivor Day 2015 takes place on Saturday, November 21. All gatherings will include a screening of the new Survivor Day documentary produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, titled Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after a Suicide
Additional programming is specific to each event. The programming may include presentations by loss survivors and mental health professionals, as well as small group discussions that bring together people who have experienced similar losses.
For many loss survivors, attending a Survivor Day event is the first time they realize they are not alone. Just hearing the stories—from people at all stages of healing—can be helpful. The gathering also provides participants with a chance to share their own stories with those who understand firsthand the challenges of living in the aftermath of a suicide loss."
If you'd like to find a Survivor event near you click here 
Currently, in 2010, in the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 13.7 minutes. Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 15 and 24. Did you know that depression is more common than AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined? Every year, in the U.S. nearly 400,000 people attempt suicide. However, although it’s a serious and common problems, -- suicide and depression – many people don’t know about these great risks – including who’s at risk, why, and when they’re most vulnerable.

What this means is, that during a crisis, people aren’t able to find the information they need. But, by using the information below about suicide and depression you may save the life of someone you know.


  • For many years, the suicide rate has been about four times higher among men than among women. In 2010, men had a suicide rate of 10.9, and women had a rate of 5.2. Of those who died by suicide in 2010, 78.9% were male and 21.1% were female.

  • The highest suicide rate was among people 45-64 (18.6) years old. The second highest was 85 years old. (17.6)

  • Young adult ages 15-24 had a suicide rate of 10.5.

  • At particularly high risk are white men over the age of 85 who have a suicide rate of 49.8 deaths per 100,000 in the general population.

  • Did you know that three times more women than men attempt suicide?

  • Four times more men than women actually kill themselves.

  • More than half the suicides in the U.S. are completed with guns. This violent and usually irreversible route is the choice of men.

  • The most common method of women is poisoning; typical an overdose of medication the result of which is lethal.

  • Suicide cuts across ethnic, economic, social and age boundaries.

  • Surviving family members are not only one to suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide, but are also themselves at a higher risk of suicide and emotional problems.

  • “Anyone can call the hotline 800-273-TALK and press "1" for advice, even if they are worried about someone else," adds Dr. Valenstein.


  • Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.

  • Two of every three people who commit suicide are depressed at the time they take their life. However, alcoholism plays a role in one in three completed suicides.

  • The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.

  • People who have had multiple episodes of depression are at greater risk for suicide than those who had had one episode.

  • People who have had a dependence on alcohol or drugs in addition to being depressed are at greater risk for suicide.

  • People who are depressed and exhibit the following symptoms are at particular risk for suicide:
 Signs and symptoms of depression include:
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex.  You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

Major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide.

    Suicide rates were the highest in the West (13.6) followed by the South (12.6) the Midwest (12.0) and the Northeast (9.3)

    Did you know that writing style is linked to suicide risk?
    Creativity, depression and suicide have been linked for a long time. So it comes to no particular surprise that some of history’s most creative persons suffered from a mental illness. Depression affected some of the greatest minds such as Charles Dickens, John Keats, and Tennessee Williams. Several famous writers committed suicide, including Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and David Foster Wallace. 

    Guest what? There’s something even more special about them. This group also has something else in common. They all wrote in the first person, which has been suggested to be a sign of a suicide risk.

    The Impact of Suicide on Those Left Behind

    Suicide is a fact. The numbers are above from reputable sources. But, what happens to those left behind? Of course, they grieve. Their grief for the loss of a loved one is evident, but what else happens to those family and friends who are left behind to pick up the pieces after a loved one's suicide?

    There is a stigma surrounding suicide. For the person who committed the act and the family and friends afterwards. There is a shame associated with suicide that makes even family and friends want to cover up their loved one's real reason for dying and use excuses or labels to reason their way through their loss. They use words such as "accident" or "illness" to cover up the suicide. The investigation or coroner's inquest that can occur afterwards embarrasses them. Why?

    A very good question and one that those left behind should ask a professional counselor or therapist. Possibly, they feel guilt or shame, maybe even feelings of rejection. All of these feelings can be worked through with professional counseling.

    Many of those left behind may even suffer from depression. Studies from John Hopkins University found not only that those left behind have an increased chance for depression, they also have an increased risk of committing suicide themselves.

    For these reasons alone, it's even more important for those family and friends who are feeling and grieving the loss of a loved one after suicide seek professional help as soon as possible.

    Anger, self-blame, grief, confusion are all feelings associated with the effects on family and friends after a loved one commits suicide. Unlike an illness or other type of death, suicide is sudden and unexpected, leaving those behind to have much stronger and even longer lasting feelings of grief.

    Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, it may be difficult for family and friends to talk about their feelings. This is normal. But, it must be impressed upon them how important it is to process those feelings with a therapist.

    For family and friends, processing those feelings can be done in a journal as well. Writing through your emotions and feelings can be cathartic and healing in their own way. Writing does heal. It's been proven time and again through scientific study that the process of writing your strongest emotions and feelings in journal format helps you heal fro your personal traumatic challenges.

    Don't be ashamed to talk or write about your feelings. Seek professional help. Grieve in a healthy way. Process your feelings and don't blame yourself for your loved one's death. Take care of yourself. It's your health that matters the most.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Mental Health Series - Helping Others Cope with Mental Illness

    Helping someone you love, who has a mental illness, can be difficult. Providing the support the need may not always be easy.

    Many family members blame themselves for the illnesses of their loved one. Don’t do that. It’s not your fault.  It’s important for families “to learn that they didn’t cause [their loved one’s disorder] and they can’t cure it,” according to Harriet Lefley, Ph.D, professor at the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine who’s worked with families for 25 years.
    However, how you treat them can have a major impression on their well being. Here are some tips to follow when supporting someone you love with a mental illness.

    • Educate yourself about the illness
    • Seek resources
    •  Be realistic about your expectations
    •  Reach out to family and friends for support
    •  Work closely with your loved one’s medical support team

    Learn all you can by talking to doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and any one else on your loved one’s medical support team about the type of illness and what to expect.

    There are many Internet and community resources available for your support as well as the support of your loved one. You can locate them, interview them, and determine if they’re a suitable resource.

    When being realistic about your expectations, understand that there is no cure for mental illness. If your loved one has to stay in the hospital for any length of time and released, they are not “cured”, only stabilized to some point.

    Don’t try to do everything on your own. You can’t be there 24/7 for your loved one as well as keep up with a job, family, children, social life, house, and other responsibilities. Ask for help. Ask family and friends to step in and be there for you. Ask for an afternoon off so that you can do some shopping or get a manicure or pedicure. Find some time to yourself so that you can recharge your own personal batteries.

    Have a hobby that you can continue to do, even while supporting your loved one. It’s important for you to stay mentally and physically healthy as well. Don’t give up seeing your friends. You need that social interaction to motivate you.

    If necessary, keep a journal. It will not only be beneficial to your loved one’s medical support team to know about all the ups and downs of his/her mental illness, but to understand how you are coping as well. Use the journal to vent your emotions and record your own ups and downs with supporting a loved one with a mental illness. Getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper can bring a great relief.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    Support for Veterans

    Today is Veteran's Day. A day to remember our brave women and men who served in the military.

    From the Almanac website here is a bit of history about Veteran's Day.

    "Originally Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the agreement that ended World War I at 11:00 A.M., November 11, 1918, this federal holiday was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. At that time, it became a day to honor all the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States. Each year, special ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Consider spending some time on-line learning more about our nation's veterans. The Great War Society has developed a Web site devoted to World War I educational materials. The World War IIMemorial celebrates the victory of “the greatest generation” with a design that uses moving water to harmonize with its natural surroundings. Visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial online; this moving memorial, dedicated in 1995, is the latest addition to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. See a registry of all the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington. Learn more about the military men and women who are on duty today."

    It's important to support and honor those who served our country and put their lives on the line to save yours. Whether they served in wars, built military equipment, or ran the Mess Hall, each one of those people should be honored.

    Veterans coming home bring back some unimaginable memories. Memories that they'd like to forget. Some come back without limbs or even worse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Here are some tips on Supporting Veterans.

    Transiting from the armed forces to civilian life may not be as easy as it could be for some people. Some Veterans need some support to help them find their way in the civilian world. There are resources for that in your community and on the Internet.

    You may need to find a job, find a place to live, or even find health care to help you in your time of need.

    Veterans perform a job with the military that can reflect no other. Their courage, strength, and fortitude are matchless. We must not forget the sacrifices they and their families made while they were serving our country.

    One of the first places someone can turn to is the Department of Veteran Affairs. Not only will they help you establish your GI Bill, if need be, but they can help you with establishing a VA loan for housing and obtaining medical benefits.

    Not every veteran who returns from a tour in the military finds their footing. There are organizations and community resources to give you a step up and a helping hand, if necessary.

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious disorder afflicting many of our veterans. It’s a serious, silent illness that can keep a person from pursing the happier moments of being home and among family. There is support for PTSD as well in the form of therapy, counseling, and hospitalization depending on the severity.

    Things that a newly returning veteran can do are establishing a routine. Don’t become complacent or discontent with your situation. Work to make a change for the better. If you need to find a job, look for one in the local papers, use your network with the VA, and join community services that help you locate employment.

    If finding a place to live is your priority, you can do that as well. Use your VA resources, your ability to purchase a home with a VA loan, and other resources available in your community to locate housing.

    If healthcare is your priority, you can definitely use the VA resources to find medical care at a Veterans Hospital or clinic. If one isn’t currently available in your area, contact the Department of VeteranAffairs to find the one closest to your area.

    It’s important to stay positive and upbeat. You are a survivor. You are a hero. You are confident and strong. Use the help of family and friends to establish your civilian life and before you know it, you’ll be telling stories of the time you were in the military to your friends over a nice barbeque in your new backyard.

    Semper Fi, from a U. S. Marine Corps Disabled Veteran. 

    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Mental Health Series - Mental Health Support

    Having a Mental Health Disorder is not the end of the world. Many people function quite well in society in spite of it.

    The first thing you have to understand is that you didn’t cause this to happen to you. Nor should your family members blame themselves. There are many people with mental health problems; you are not the only one. It’s not a defect in your personality, or an ethical limitation. It’s a health condition. And like other health conditions, it’s rarely caused by one specific thing. As far as Mental Health Disorders, lots of various factors can be involved, such as:

    ·      Your family history
    ·      Stressful events – loss, conflict, childbirth
    ·     Stressful life situations – low income, poor housing
    ·     Other health problems – substance abuse, other mental health issues
    ·      Environment – seasonal changes and related seasonal issues
    ·      Personality and thinking style – how you look at the world, how you deal with troubling events or situations, learned behaviors of watching others cope

    Sometimes you may have been diagnosed with more than one Mental Health Disorder. It’s very common for people to have more than one disorder at a time. For many with mood problems, they also experience mental disorders. 

    Sometimes your diagnosis will change over time when new information comes along or new symptoms occur. For some, your diagnosis may be longer lasting. It’s best to let the professionals who are treating you determine your diagnosis, what are true symptoms, and treatment plans.

    As for you, it’s important to be as knowledgeable, cognizant, and absorbed as you possibly can in your own mental health. You must get involved in your treatment plans and share the decision making with your support team.

    Your support team should consist of close family members or friends. A faith leader, health care provider, your psychiatrist and either your spouse or other trusted person should also be included.

    Your support system should give you good advice, help when you need it, allow you space when necessary, listen to you, respect your need for confidentiality, work with you on figuring how what to do the next time you experience a bad episode, and always have your best interest in mind.

    Keeping a journal is a way for you to have some control over your thoughts and feelings. You can write them down in your journal along with any symptoms you may experience, as well as mood changes. These will all be beneficial to your psychiatrist in keeping current with your treatment plan.

    Turn to God. He is always there to comfort you. Spend time in prayer and in listening to God's message. Become involved in your church functions. You can't find amy better support than your brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Finally, join a reputable and safe online Mental Health community that supports each other  and provides up to date information.