The holidays can be extra difficult for folk living with mental illness. And, yes, mental illness is a real illness. Most everyone knows someone dealing with it in a very real way everyday. So, let’s attempt to raise our awareness to the subtleties of mental illness and attempt to “be there” for our friends, family, and neighbors. Here’s a great article to help us get started!
Thanks to BP magazine for shining a bright light on a dark topic. I am glad to be a part of a support group that helps prevent suicide. For over 13 years our group has served the Jackson, Tn. community faithfully. "Thank you" to , A Better Tomorrow inspirational support group.
TAKING SUICIDE PREVENTION UPSTREAM
Across the country, school districts are providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention training for teachers and school personnel. Some are mandated or encouraged to do so by state law, others are motivated by recent incidents, and some introduce this kind of education because suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24.
Teacher and parent training are key components in any plan to address teen suicide. Increasingly, however, communities are recognizing that kids need to learn about mental health, too. Social and emotional learning across the lifespan reduces risk factors and promotes protection factors for violence, substance abuse, negative health outcomes, and suicide. One way to provide universal student training is by including a mental health component in the standard wellness or health curriculum. School districts and individual schools can implement individual, more targeted programs as well.
Knowing how to cope and developing resilience are at the core of mental health awareness and suicide prevention efforts being implemented in Massachusetts with children as young as elementary school. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts places a high value on suicide prevention, with dedicated line-item funding in the state budget for the Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program. With support from state officials, the DPH has launched suicide prevention programs across the state and for people across the lifespan.
Some of the skill-building and suicide prevention programs in Massachusetts schools are
There are dozens of programs that schools can use to promote skills development while fostering students’ mental health and their willingness to seek and accept help for mental health concerns. SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center Best Practices Registry include searchable descriptions for a wide variety of educational programs. For high school students, the SAMHSA Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools has a comprehensive list of programs, but a search of the NREPP and BPR may yield programs added since the Toolkit was published.
What can you do? Find out how your school district handles mental health training and emotional skill building for students. If there is not currently a program and there is no interest from school officials, you might work with the parent-teacher organization, local mental health groups, and the local board of public health to raise awareness of the issue, then advocate for implementation of one or more programs. There may be grants available to cover the cost of training or there may be organizations in your community that would help subsidize the program.
The bottom line is that suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach. It’s never too early to start and everyone – families, schools, communities, and peers that create supportive environments; individuals who learn and leverage positive coping skills; and mental and public health systems that treat and prevent risk factors – plays a part.
Editor’s Note: The Families for Depression Awareness Teen Depression Webinaris an accessible, free resource for training parents, teachers, and others who work with youth to recognize depression, talk about depression with parents and youth, and know what to do to help a young person struggling with depression. Register for the Teen Depression Webinar live with Dr. Michael Tsappis on September 30.
Thanks to the MA Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for their support in developing this post.
After the diagnosis, I have had to walk through a grieving process. I grieve for the “death” of who I was, for the person who I am, and for my future self. Confusion and loss of self are huge players in this grief process. Of course, sadness does too, much sadness. I believe it is the same type of journey we go through when we lose our loved ones. Except this time, the person is me.
Those five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I would imagine the denial stage is probably the most difficult to move out of after being diagnosed with a mental illness. It has been for me. The denial phase looked similar to this: I cannot believe I am bipolar; all I went in for was for ADD; the doctor can’t be right; I don’t even know what bipolar is, how is that ME? As Gru’s minions say “Wha???” It even looks like: these meds are making me worse; I’m not sick or have mental problems; maybe I was misdiagnosed; maybe I’m really not bipolar since the medicines are not working. On and on and on…
Since I am still fairly new with the diagnosis, I can see the reoccurrence of denial throughout the past few years. Thankfully, I am not stuck in the vortex of complete denial. It helps to read, to learn, to use the internet, to search for others who are walking the same walk. Thankfully, you are out there for me to glean from and from you I have hope.
The big payoff of well-chosen words
By Stephen Propst
You may think that talk is cheap. But, when words are used thoughtlessly, carelessly, or hurtfully, they can take a heavy toll. Like an arrow, “wrong” words can be sharp, piercing a person’s spirit, ripping away at self-esteem, and making a person feel belittled or even betrayed. Ill-chosen words can strain friendships and create stress. And especially vulnerable are people who have bipolar disorder.
Now, let’s be honest. Dealing with bipolar disorder is not only tough for the people who have the illness, but it’s also a challenge for those who live with them. Taking time to consider the impact of what you say before you “fire away” makes it easier. Choosing your words carefully can strengthen relationships, fuel recovery, and make for a better quality of life for everyone.
“Never tell anyone that he looks tired or depressed,” says H. Jackson Brown Jr., in his book Life’s Little Instruction Book (Rutledge Hill Press, 1991). That’s good advice! Now, let’s look at 10 more comments to avoid making to someone who has bipolar disorder. These observations come from more than two decades of dealing with the illness and from years of leading support groups and consulting with families. The goal is to help family and friends to more peacefully coexist with those of us who have bipolar.