Tag: Mental Health

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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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.


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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That’s a good question isn’t it? Most of the time when people talk about mental health they are talking about mental health treatment or a person who was given a mental health diagnosis, (which is a fancy name for describing what symptoms a person has), but that isn’t what mental health is either.

Mental Health has a lot of different parts. It is our sense of well-being. How we think, how we act and how we feel about ourselves.  It is looking at the complete picture of who you are, what is happening around you and how it does or does not change your thoughts about who you are.  The most important part is that EVERYONE has mental health.  It is a part of who we are as human beings. 

How do we figure out what our mental health is?

Let’s look at the different parts…think of it like a circle with all of these things around it.

circle2Emotions:  Do you spend a lot of time being happy, smiling, laughing?

Your mind:  Are you satisfied, content, at peace with yourself and others? Do you like yourself and who you are?

Your thoughts: Do you think about how happy you are with yourself? Are you proud of yourself?  Do you say to yourself “way to go”, “I am wonderful”, “I am a great person”, “I really did well”, “I did the best that I could and that’s okay” or other thoughts that make you feel worthwhile?

Your Body:  Is your body physically fit? The correct weight?  Does your body feel calm and at ease?  Are you okay with your body?  Is it good enough, pretty/handsome enough? Does it do what you want it to do when you want it to?

Your immediate world:  Do you have family/friends that cheer you up and that you feel you can talk to about anything?  Is everything going well at school/work/your family/your neighborhood?  Do you have beliefs or a religion or go to a church, synagogue, mosque, prayer group or other where you are accepted for who you are?  Do you follow certain beliefs about your culture – learned from your family, by following certain holidays -Christmas, Hannukah, Ramadan,…or by celebrating 4th of July, having a birthday party to celebrate another year of life; being raised to know what foods to eat or not to eat, what clothes to wear, how to talk to others, etc.?

Your greater world:  Are you satisfied how your State or how the government is being run?  With the environment and climate change?   With how your country and other countries deal with each other?  Do you think about this at all? A little?  A lot????

In General:  Do you feel that life is okay or even great!  Do you feel okay with yourself and who you are?  When you do get upset – sad and cry, angry and throw a tantrum or yell or when you are frustrated raise your voice, throw things, hit something or not want anyone to be around you, is it only for short periods of time and then you feel better? As you grow older do you change how you react to others?  Do you feel in control of yourself and your actions?

In the circle, all of these things coming together to change how you feel about yourself, which changes how you behave, which affects your mental health.  The wonderful part is that your mental health changes daily and, if you are not satisfied, you can change. 

So, if you are doing well, can control yourself, talk to others and feel happy with yourself, then your mental health is fine.  If however, you are not and that ongoing worries, are sad or upset most of the time, don’t feel alright with yourself, you are not alone. There are many people that have difficulty with their mental health. A mental health specialist – therapist, counselor can help get you back on track and feeling better about yourself.


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

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