#EndTheStigma

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The Emotional Ripple Effect of Someone’s Suicide

I have a tough subject to talk with you about: the extreme and extensive impact of a loved one’s suicide.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on November 20th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

I have a tough subject to talk with you about: the extreme and extensive impact of a loved one’s suicide.

Suicide is always shockingly sad anytime we hear of it, whether we know the person or not.  When it happens to someone we care about, like our spouse, parent, a brother or sister, a child or teenager, a neighbor, cousin, uncle, aunt, coworker or friend, it knocks the wind out of us, like a punch in the gut.  It is hard enough to lose someone in the normal course of living, but to lose them to suicide is immeasurably hard to grasp.  It is an unexpected ending and our lives are suddenly changed.    

When someone is the one left behind by a suicide they experience so many emotions, unusual circumstances, awkward conversations, and they have so many questions, most of which have no good answers.  If this were to happen to you, here are some things you may experience:

You may have to endure a police investigation. A police investigation can be unsettling, especially when you’re grieving.  The police have to investigate and they are looking for information, but because of the shock and confusion, giving answers may be difficult.  

You may feel confused, forgetful, or exhausted. A typical reaction to traumatic events is to feel confused or forgetful. You may forget to do your usual routines, like eating or brushing your teeth.  You may feel like you can’t think straight.  You may experience extreme exhaustion (as is typical with emotional pain), yet sleep can be elusive.

You may feel abandoned, left alone by someone you thought cared.  You may wonder, “Didn’t they care about me?” and “Why wasn’t my loving them, enough? Why didn’t they come to me?” Children may wonder what they did wrong.

You may be in denial and not believe that this actually happened, and that it was actually a suicide. 

You may feel numb and feel nothing.  You may even think you have gotten over the event.  Then, suddenly, you are living it with intense emotion.

You may have regrets about not having known they were in serious trouble.  Some people present as fine on the outside and are torn-up with despair on the inside.  Sometimes they work really hard to hide these feelings from loved ones.  I have known many people who say “I wear a mask.”

You may feel guilt or responsibility.  “If only I had…” and “If I would have/could have done something, they would still be here.” 

You may be angry.  You may be very angry–at the person (“How could she do this?” “How could he throw away his beautiful life?”) or at those who you feel should have helped (“Why didn’t the doctor/the school/the counselor do something?”) It is no one’s fault, and certainly not yours.

Your faith may be rocked. “How could God let this happen?”

You may feel shame about it and not want it to be public knowledge.  There is stigma which makes us not want to share when we or a loved one struggles with mental illness.  Our society has equated emotional suffering with weakness.

You may feel relief, which often leads to feeling more shame because you do feel relief.  When someone is depressed to the point of suicide it affects everyone around them.  Their depression can make us feel hopeless and anxious.

You may feel depressed, and alone in your grief.

Emerging after someone’s suicide takes time.  It is best to allow yourself time to grieve, to feel what you feel, and to talk about your questions with a counselor, pastor, or a caring friend.  Don’t do it alone.  If you feel depressed, or in spiritual despair, seek help.  If you feel suicidal, seek help. 

This person you have loved was part of your world.  Talk about your loved one by remembering the good times, as well as the bad times.  This can help with healing.  Say their name.  It keeps them alive in your heart.  Eventually you will come to your own acceptance and peace.  Be gentle with yourself.

 

Suicide Hotline:  1-800-273-8255             Maine Crisis Hotline   1-888-568-1112

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”

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Teen Suicide: It’s Not Just Drama

Adolescence is a time of change, change that is often frightening and confusing for teens. Their bodies are changing. Their minds, too, are changing, but they are not yet ready for all of the decisions they face.

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on March 5, 2019 by Mary A. Gagnon, LMFT; Health Affiliates Maine

“She’s such a drama queen.”

“All he wants is attention.”

“They’re not serious.”

These words—and others like them—lead to the dangerous belief that a teen who is talking about suicide should be dismissed or, even worse, purposely ignored. Those beliefs can sometimes lead to tragic results.

Adolescence is a time of change, change that is often frightening and confusing for teens. Their bodies are changing. Their minds, too, are changing, but they are not yet ready for all of the decisions they face. It’s important to understand this because teens often act without thinking and have little experience in managing their emotions. These are two risk factors for suicide. Other risk factors—mental health issues, poor coping/social skills, perfectionism, unrealistic parental expectations, family conflict, abuse, and more—heighten the risk for teens already struggling to learn how to become adults. 

As adults, it’s easy to brush off a teen’s behavior as “dramatic” or “attention-seeking.” So how can we tell the difference between a teen having a bad day and a teen who needs more support? Look for some of these signs:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Making plans to kill themselves
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Displaying extreme distress or emotionality (more than is typical for a person their age or for the teen in general)
  • Increase in agitation, irritability, anger (more than is typical, or an extreme change)
  • Withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy

What can you do if you suspect that an adolescent is thinking about suicide? First, you show them you care. Ask them how they’re doing. Ask them what’s going on in their lives, who their friends are, how their academics are going, how they’re feeling. And if they tell you, listen. Teens know if you’re not being sincere, so don’t make it an interrogation—make it a curious, genuine inquiry. Second, you ask the question—Are you thinking about suicide? Yes, it’s direct, and yes, it’s scary. However, it’s the only way to get the answers you need, and the consequences of not asking could be dire. Don’t worry—you won’t put the idea in their heads. That’s a myth. And third, you get them help. If they say yes, you make sure to connect them with a mental health or medical professional right away, and do not leave them alone. If they say no, it’s still a good idea to help them connect to a mental health professional because even if they aren’t planning to take their own lives, chances are good that they could use some extra support.

One of the major factors in preventing suicide is the presence of caring adults in the lives of teens. Truly, adults can make the difference for adolescents considering suicide. Be the difference. Show you care.

*Credit to the Maine Suicide Prevention Program (www.namimaine.org) for information regarding signs and risk factors for suicide.

Mary Gagnon is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Training and Clinical Development Specialist for Health Affiliates Maine.  Mary has worked in private practice as well as a variety of community mental health settings throughout her career.  Her most recent work at Health Affiliates Maine includes oversight of clinicians in private practice and development and facilitation of trainings for schools and conferences throughout the state.  She is also trained to provide Suicide Prevention Awareness sessions for the Maine Suicide Prevention Program.

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Play Ball!  Join us for the Inaugural #StrikeOuttheStigma Co-Ed Softball Tournament.

We are pleased to accounce Health Affiliates Maine is partnering with NAMI Mainein support of raising behavioral health awareness in our community.   Let’s #StrikeOuttheStigma together!

This day will be filled with some friendly team competition and family fun! Bring your family and friends and cheer the softball teams. 

100% of all proceeds from the sale of food, beverage, baked goods and raffles will be presented to NAMI Maine. 

 Support your community.  Support #StrikeOuttheStigma

Join Us!

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Hi again! I am back with another blog. I was re-reading my first one “Shame: Managing Stormy Days” the other day and thought it was, “to my surprise” not bad.

I say this not with an ego. I say it as “An Adult Child Of An Alcoholic” who can still slip back to that spot of low self-esteem. Not for long and for sure not as often BUT the feelings don’t change. In that spot, I was quite nervous about my first writings here.

The thought or the fear was…..

“Will I write something worth reading? A thought not new to me. I shared those same feelings with my wife Linda when she first asked me to write our book “Weathering Shame”. Remember when I talked in that first blog about the Lack Of Awareness Around How I Grew Up? I also noted that Growing awareness during the beginning of my “Journey Toward Wellness” helped build successes and to make better choices. All true!

However the biggest change along the way is a growing confidence in myself and that has helped me feel more positive about ME!

I got there by being very aware of both my Strengths & Weaknesses and accepting both. 

 

  • Re-reading my first blog has me feeling that I made several good points that I am really proud of.
  • I have heard and taken in positive feedback from you the public and the folks at “Health Affiliates Maine”.
  • A new habit, replacing the old habit of discounting kind words. That was around how I felt about myself.
  • I am  growing and learning of being able to acknowledge small successes.
  • Being less concerned about what other people think of me including not going to a negative place with it.

The most important change happening is a True Feeling of Self-Worth!

Not being in such a rush to finish tasks. Being a better listener and offering support not solutions and the most important realization..“DON’T BE INVESTED IN THE OUTCOME!” If you have read our book “Weathering Shame” you know how much of a problem I had around these issues. Has it gone away completely? Of course not! But I do feel a strong shift in feelings and my behavior.

So at this point in my journey, I do believe that what I am saying around the issues of Shame and stigma is helping those who hear or read my words to maybe begin sharing their own stories and struggles with someone they trust.

In closing, MY THANKS to those who have thanked me for my role in Health affiliates Maine TV and Radio campaign. The recovery stories being shared by others are amazing and powerful.

ACCEPTANCE IS ONE IMPORTANT STEP ON THE JOURNEY TOWARDS WELLNESS

AuthorKevin Mannix, Weather Forecaster,WCSH 6, NEWS CENTERS and co-author of “Weathering Shame”

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If you’ve read my blog on What Is Mental Health Anyway? then you will know that everyone has mental health concerns at time’s throughout their life.  Truly this includes every person, every family, relatives, everyone in school or college, at work and in their home. Everyone! 

Mental Health issues could be due to:

  • a life change
  • losing a job, a home, or not having enough money
  • a death in the family
  • a pet dying
  • being abused
  • having some kind of trauma – including physical injury
  • being diagnosed with a physical illness or mental illness
  • genetics
  • or a host of other reasons.

Why is there a stigma attached to mental health issues and seeking mental health treatment? 

What we learned and incorporated into our “social thinking” from history.

Historical accounts and treatment of mental health, show that people labeled as mentally disturbed were locked up, treated poorly and many even died as a result.

How we were brought up and what our parents or relatives thoughts were on mental health.

Did your family demonstrate understanding, saying “she/he is going through a rough time in their life” or did they use negative labels like “crazy”, “dangerous”, someone to stay away from?

What the community, church or others felt and acted when mental health issues were discussed.

Did people talk about how they were getting help and hoped they would be back soon or was there a silent disapproval, with a “don’t talk about it or that person” implied?

How television, movies and other media portray those with mental illness.

Do the actors portray people with mental health as strong and working through “tough times” or experiencing a “bump in life’s rocky road”? Or does the script show them as sad, someone to feel pity for, angry and abusive, or showing no emotion and doing terrible or horrifying things to others?

Do talk-shows discuss and help those that they interview or do they play “media circus”, putting people with mental health difficulties on stage to entertain the viewers?

The notoriety that is focused on for those, that while a small part of society, do horrific acts.

For instance, school shootings, the “made-famous” psychopaths (ie. Hannibal Lector), mothers who kill their children. Reality is, the vast majority of people with mental health issues are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.

How do we end the Stigma?  How do we change our thoughts about mental illness?

  • Be aware and share positive and helpful stories that counter the negative. Luckily, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others) has allowed people who are struggling, recovered, or have gotten support to share their information with others. 
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) advocates for changes to be made that assist rather that stigmatize mental health. Get more information or get involved.  
  • Be a friend. If you know of someone who is experiencing a mental health concern, check in with them, say “hi”, compliment them on something they said or how they look. If possible, be sociable, invite that person out, share a meal, or have a conversation with them.
  • Counter negative comments that you hear. Substitute words or phrases like “we all go through tough times now and then”, “anyone would have a difficult time if …”, “he/she is still a wonderful…” or “I hope I am that strong if ever I get into a similar situation.”
  • Consider writing an editorial with the local paper urging others to be aware of their neighbors needs and help each other during tough times.
  • Overcome your fears and anxieties, know when you need additional help, and make an appointment with a mental health therapist.

Here at Health Affiliates Maine, we truly are concerned for your welfare and the welfare of your family.  We are knowledgeable, highly trained, and really do know a lot about how to help you and your loved ones cope with your emotions and to get the skills to help yourself!

Everyone needs help now and then…Don’t wait. Call today for services. 

 

 

Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine

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Hi, everybody! I am attempting my first blog for Health Affiliates Maine. They say it simply. ”Everyone needs help now and then” and in my experience, that has certainly been true.  What I like is that they offer help statewide – just as I forecast the weather statewide, when I fill in at NEWS CENTER. In this space, from time to time, I will share some thoughts and feelings around my journey of recovery.

I talk a lot about reaching out for help. In the beginning, I was not even sure that I needed any help. I did not have any awareness that, how I grew up – living with an alcoholic Dad and a depressed Mom – affected so much of my life.

Two things I remember when I first reached out for help.

  • One was the shame I felt around the thinking that I should be able to figure this out on my own. To me, it felt like a sign of weakness. I have come to see now that asking for help is really a sign of strength.
  • Two was the feeling I was betraying the family. My Dad and Mom’s problems were not talked about inside the home and FOR SURE not outside the home! It was a secret and I felt a lot of guilt about letting “the cat out of the bag”.

Today, I am aware that everyone owns their own bag of stuff.

In order for me to start feeling better, I had to start speaking my truth. The truth about how I WAS affected by what I grew up with around me. Not to blame but to accept this truth and figure out what I own in order to start a true recovery for me.  This was a lesson that was tough for me for a long time but over the last 5 years my wife Linda has shown me, by example, and I am learning for myself, how to weave this into my life. It takes practice to change old habits but I keep at it and I do see change. No shame in that!!

In the beginning, I was not even sure that I needed any help.

That said, shame can creep in so effortlessly.

It came up for me at a ‘Weathering Shame” book talk recently – this feeling of shame – for wanting to come to a talk. Being seen in the crowd can feel shameful because it might carry the stigma of a problem – personal or in a family. This shows the work we still need to do around making it more comfortable and acceptable to reach out for help.

This is why I am so happy and proud to be a part of the Health Affiliates Maine TV and Radio public service campaign around shame and stigma, where more stories of recovery are being shared.  

Talking and sharing is an important part of the journey towards Mental Wellness.

 

Author: Kevin Mannix, Weather Forecaster,WCSH 6, NEWS CENTERS and co-author of “Weathering Shame”

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Depression has been called having “the blues”, “feeling down”, “sad” or “in the dumps” but that doesn’t begin to cover what depression is and does. Depression affects the body, mind and spirit.  It can be devastating and life changing. It affects not only the person’s life, but can impact significant others, family members, employment and even the community as well.  It can last for weeks, months or years without treatment and it can end in death by suicide.

Depression is a serious illness.

What causes depression?

Depression has its roots in chemical changes in the brain. There are many factors that can combine to cause depression.  The person’s temperament and personality, early grief and losses, trauma, stressful life events, the change in seasons or any time the body’s internal clock is out-of-sync. Medical problems such as a thyroid imbalance heart attack survivors, immune diseases, cancer, and nutritional deficiencies can also play a part. The presence of persistent pain, women associated with having their premenstrual cycles and some medications and their side effects are all contributing factors. Substance abuse issues and associated withdrawal symptoms can also result in depression.

Genetics plays a part. If someone on either side of the family was depressed there is a better chance that this would be passed on to the next generation.  Depression also affects the brain and is negatively affected by stress.  The more stress and longer the stress occurs, the more the brain and the body is affected.

Are there different types of depression? If so, what are they? 

There are a number of different types of depression. The most common is Major Depressive Disorder which can be mild, moderate, or severe, in partial or full remission.  Other types can include 

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder, known as Dsythymia which occurs for at least two years.
  • Disruptive Mood Dsyregulation Disorder includes temper outbursts with irritability or anger that occur daily and is seen in children between 6-18 years old.
  • Premenstrual Dsyphoric Disorder is associated with the menstrual cycle, starting a week before and ending in the week afterwards. This brings mood swings, crying, irritability and anger, depressive symptoms, tension and anxiety.
  • Substance or Medication Induced Depression associated with taking a substance or medication.
  • Depressive Disorder due to another medical condition. 
  • Specified Depressive Disorder, which is when full criteria cannot be met but most symptoms are present.
  • Unspecified Depressive Disorder. This diagnosis may be made when there is not sufficient information or time to make a specific diagnosis.

In addition, depression can be a symptom of other diagnoses such as Bipolar Disorder, anxiety disorders with depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and sadness, which is not a diagnosis, but a natural part of our existence.

Can depression be prevented? 

Depression is complex. It can’t be prevented for everyone yet, but it can be treated. That is why one pill won’t work the same way for everyone, and why medication usually takes weeks before a change in symptoms is noticed.  For some people taking their medication as prescribed, being proactive when participating in therapy and actively making changes in their lifestyles can greatly reduce symptoms over long periods of time. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be effective in changing thoughts and feelings that are associated with depression and in helping to identify, and make lifestyle changes that reduce depressive symptoms.

How can we help someone who may be struggling?

The first part is to become aware that there has been a change.  The change includes having a depressed mood, a loss of interest or pleasure and feelings of hopelessness or despair.  Remember, depression can be sneaky.  It can start by a person feeling “off”, more sad than usual, or having low energy, and may be perceived as the onset of a flu or cold when no other flu or cold symptoms appear.

Be aware of changes in routine, difficulty with starting tasks, staying in bed longer, or increased feelings of not caring about anyone or anything.  Family members or friends who notice these symptoms should talk to the person about it and suggest that they get help. 

Above all, don’t ignore the symptoms.  Be patient, encouraging, understanding and support the person who is depressed. Talk to them and, more importantly, listen to them. Encourage them to be more active, don’t push too hard, but continue trying.

Are there resources to seek help?

If there are ever any suicidal thoughts or feelings, the person should immediately call their therapist, doctor, or the crisis hotline 1-888-568-1112.  Above all, if the person is a danger to themselves or others, hospitalization may be necessary.

If the person is not suicidal, a doctor’s appointment can help to determine if there is any physical cause for the depression. Depending on the severity, a psychiatrist or doctor may prescribe antidepressants. This can help reduce depressive symptoms and may be given in combination or alone. If there are any side effects noted, encourage the person to call their doctor and go to their appointments. 

Seeing a therapist or clinician, whether on medications or not, has been proven to be effective in helping reduce symptoms of depression. There are a number of psychotherapies treatments that can help.

Research has shown that getting treatment sooner can relieve symptoms quicker and reduce the length of time of treatment. In other words, try to encourage the person to seek therapy.  For the person that cannot get out of the home there are also telehealth services, so getting therapy is easier than ever. The best thing to do to treat symptoms of depression is to get help as soon as possible.

 

Author: Cynthia Booker-Bingler, LCSW, Health Affiliates Maine

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