Mental Health Blogs
“My mom is a preacher and she never made me feel like it would be weird [to go to therapy]. But internally, you kind of just have that feeling,” said Jamir Milligan (“Why is it Still so Hard for Young People of Color to Get Therapy,” VICE, June 4, 2019).
Jamir was a 19-year-old student when he first thought about suicide and tried to find a therapist. But it wasn’t easy. He didn’t have any friends or family who had seen a therapist before, so everything was self-directed and self-motivated. On top of that, he faced growing mental health stigma from his community.
“That feeling, as I and so many other black and brown people know, is centuries’ worth of shame surrounding mental illness – especially depression. Depending on your background, depression and other mental illnesses have been addressed in a plethora of ways, including praying it away in Black, Latinx and South Asian cultures, self-medicating or just ignoring it.”
For many communities of color, there is strong resistance against thinking of mental illness in the same way as medical illness, and seeking help is often seen as weakness. The stigma has grown over many years, and now young people like Jamir are facing the consequences.
And Jamir isn’t alone.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health, depression is reported as the most common mental health condition across all minorities. The numbers are disheartening :
Many young people of color who are facing mental health or substance use challenges don’t seek therapy because of the stigma and shame associated with mental illness in their communities. When they do, they have very limited access to the help they need.
Some struggle to find a therapist who understands their cultural background or specific concerns, while others can’t find a therapist within their budget.
According to research from 2016, Black and Latinx Americans have had “persistently lower insurance coverage rates at all ages” and those who do have insurance are more likely to lose it compared to their white counterparts. Then, they have to choose between spending more money than they have or getting the mental health help they need.
Mental Health First Aid can help.
Mental Health First Aid teaches people, including young people of color, how to identify the signs and symptoms of a mental health or substance use challenge, where resources can be found and how to address stigma and talk about it.
After multiple meetings and phone calls, Jamir found a therapist who understands his concerns and fits within his budget. But it shouldn’t be this hard and nobody should have to do it alone. Get trained in Mental Health First Aid and join a community of 1.7 million people who understand and value mental health. Together, we can #BeTheDifference and help each other in the journey to recovery.
How – After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is more you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.
Why – This type of contact can continue to increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. There is evidence that even a simple form of reaching out, like sending a caring postcard, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide.
Studies have shown a reduction in the number of deaths by suicide when following up was involved with high risk populations after they were discharge from acute care services. Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention. Please visit our Follow-Up Matters page for more.
How – Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
One way to start helping them find ways to connect is to work with them to develop a safety plan. This can include ways for them identify if they start to experience significant, severe thoughts of suicide along with what to do in those crisis moments. A safety plan can also include a list of individuals to contact when a crisis occurs. The My3 app is a safety planning and crisis intervention app that can help develop these supports and is stored conveniently on your smartphone for quick access.
Why – Impact of Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline found that individuals that called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline were significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by the end of calls handled by Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training-trained counselors. These improvements were linked to ASIST-related counselor interventions, including listening without judgment, exploring reasons for living and creating a network of support.
How – First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a specific, detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access to do they have to their planned method?
Why – Knowing the answers to each of these questions can tell us a lot about the imminence and severity of danger the person is in. For instance, the more steps and pieces of a plan that are in place, the higher their severity of risk and their capability to enact their plan might be. Or if they have immediate access to a firearm and are very serious about attempting suicide, then extra steps (like calling the authorities or driving them to an emergency department) might be necessary. The Lifeline can always act as a resource during these moments as well if you aren’t entirely sure what to do next.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal means (or chosen method for a suicide attempt) is an important part of suicide prevention. A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline. Research also shows that “method substitution” or choosing an alternate method when the original method is restricted, frequently does not happen. The myth “If someone really wants to kill themselves, they’ll find a way to do it” often does not hold true if appropriate safety measures are put into place. The Keep Them Safe step is really about showing support for someone during the times when they have thoughts of suicide by putting time and distance between the person and their chosen method, especially methods that have shown higher lethality (like firearms and medications).
November 2, 2020 | By Emily Mulligan, via NAMI Blog
It’s simple. Be there for them.
Treat them like a human being, look them in the eyes, and let them know that their disorders do not define them. Tell them that you love them.
Make them a cup of coffee just the way they like it on the days they can’t remember how to work the coffee machine. Pick up their medication from the pharmacist on the weekends when they can’t get out of bed. Ignore those weeks where they might smell a little “funky” because they haven’t had the energy to shower. Do not judge their eating habits during weeks when they’re using food as a crutch.
If they happen to lash out at you in anger, let it go as best you can, and talk them down to a safer level. Lend them a shoulder to cry on, no matter how tear-stained that shoulder may be. Respect their boundaries and do not expect them to readily tolerate things that make them uncomfortable. Learn their body languages, facial expressions and vocal tones, because it’s different for every person.
Most importantly, do not, and I mean do not, be afraid of them. As difficult as they can be during their worst times, they are almost always more of a threat to themselves more than anyone else. Behind all their symptoms, there is usually a loving, breathing, feeling and sad individual who only wants to be understood like everyone else.
Be kind. Be caring. Be respectful and affectionate, just like you would be with anyone else who you are fond of.
Lastly, this is not to say that you shouldn’t have a backbone while dealing with a sick loved one or that you should simply put up with ugly behaviors and compromising situations from them. At times, you will certainly have to stand your ground and let the other person know that they may be overstepping a certain boundary or making you feel uncomfortable, just like with anyone else.
I also am fully aware that sometimes, for your own mental health and well-being, you may have to step away from a relationship with someone who is struggling. Just know that mental illness can make a person unpredictable at times and that person genuinely may not be in control of themselves during periods of psychosis or deeper levels of certain diagnoses, and they may need your help to get out of that dark pit.
It’s not for everyone. Some people, no matter how understanding or loving they may be, just cannot handle a person who is facing this type of illness. I get it. But if you are that special someone, you can be a beautifully shining beacon in that person’s life.
My name is Emily Mulligan. I am 29 years of age, and I have spent my entire life suffering from severe mental illnesses. As I have gotten older, I have felt the need to share my personal story more and more. I have chosen what I believe to be one of my best pieces to submit, and I hope you all enjoy it.
Depression can wear you out at the exact time you need all of your strength to fight. Trying to cope is extremely tiring — and it’s often difficult to know when others are suffering. That’s why, during October, we observe National Depression Education & Awareness Month. This important holiday helps teach us about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for depression. It also lets all of us know that seeking help — either from a counselor, a trusted friend, or your community — is a sign of hope and strength.
One of the best ways to observe this holiday is to reach out to friends, family, and those in your community. A listening ear, a comforting hug, empathy, and asking questions while withholding judgment can go a long way to comfort others.
Share your story
Don’t be afraid to tell those who are struggling about your own experiences with depression. Depression is extremely common, and helping others know they are not alone can be very encouraging.
One of the best ways you can help yourself (and those around you) is to learn about common symptoms and effects of depression. The more you know, the better you can recognize when someone may need your love and support.
Those who suffer from depression often have more compassion for others, as they are able to more readily understand the hurt and sadness others feel.
Those who struggle with depression are typically less judgmental of others, and tend to believe others when they say they’re “doing their best.”
Studies show people with depression are able to break down complex problems into smaller segments more easily than those who don’t (and they even perform better on certain tests).
It sparks conversations
Talking about depression and removing the stigma around it can do tremendous good. This also helps normalize depression (which is important, considering over 16.2 million people have experienced a major depressive episode). Chat with those in your community and use hashtags like #depressionawareness and #DepressionEducation&AwarenessMonth on social media to start the conversation.
It encourages others to reach out
Coping with depression is something nobody should have to do alone. By being open about the signs and symptoms of depression, and erasing the shame, we can encourage others to speak to a trusted friend, parent, doctor, or therapist about what they’re experiencing.
It ignites national change
Countless celebrities, politicians, and average citizens alike struggle with depression on a daily basis. As such, this opens many doors to change. Donating to a depression support group/organization, joining an awareness walk (such as NAMI), and following celebrity mental health advocates on social media (such as Lady Gaga, Kristen Bell, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Michael Phelps) can help us change the way our culture thinks about and responds to depression.
Mental Health America’s screening tools provide an anonymous, free and private way to learn about your mental health and if you are showing warning signs of a mental illness.
A screening only takes a few minutes, and after you are finished you will be given information about the next steps you should take based on the results. A screening is not a diagnosis, but it can be a helpful tool for starting a conversation with your doctor or a loved one about your mental health.
It’s aggressive, mean, and potentially life-threatening. Bullying comes in many forms, none of which are acceptable. According to a recent federal survey, nearly 20 percent of U.S. high school students reported being bullied on school property within the past year. (Fifteen percent reported cyberbullying.) So how can we help? We can start by launching a community-wide educational effort that focuses on celebrating our differences.
October’s National Bullying Prevention Month reminds us that students, parents, teachers, and school administrators all play a role. Positive change comes as we begin to emphasize respect and inclusion on campuses across the country. Source: National Day
Incidents of school violence demonstrate that bullying can have tragic consequences for individuals, families, schools and entire communities. Bullying is painful, lasting and related to low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, anger, and other mental and physical health problems. Because of the increased risk of suicide associated with bullying–for victims and perpetrators alike–open dialogue and support are crucial in ensuring safety for our children and teenagers. Source: Mental Health America
You can find more helpful information about bullying at Stopbullying.gov.
Check out this online Guide to Bullying and Cyberbullying.
The five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention.
How – This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person –
do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
Why – Being there for someone with thoughts of suicide is life-saving. Increasing someone’s connectedness to others and limiting their isolation (both in the short and long-term) has shown to be a protective factor against suicide. Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide highlights connectedness as one of its main components – specifically, a low sense of belonging. When someone experiences this state, paired with perceived burdensomeness (arguably tied to “connectedness” through isolating behaviors and lack of a sense of purpose) and acquired capability (a lowered fear of death and habituated experiences of violence), their risk can become severely elevated.
In the Three-Step Theory (or more commonly known as the Ideation-to-Action Framework), David Klonsky and Alexis May also theorize that “connectedness” is a key protective factor, not only against suicide as a whole, but in terms of the escalation of thoughts of suicide to action. Their research has also shown connectedness acts as a buffer against hopelessness and psychological pain.
By “being there,” we have a chance to alleviate or eliminate some of these significant factors.
The five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention.
How – Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for effective dialogue about their emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps need to be taken. Other questions you can ask include, “How do you hurt?” and “How can I help?” Do not ever promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.
The flip side of the “Ask” step is to “Listen.” Make sure you take their answers seriously and not to ignore them, especially if they indicate they are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Listening to their reasons for being in such emotional pain, as well as listening for any potential reasons they want to continue to stay alive, are both incredibly important when they are telling you what’s going on. Help them focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to impose your reasons for them to stay alive.
Why – Studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. In fact, studies suggest the opposite: findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.
Have you ever observed someone so afraid of germs that they must wash their hands excessively? Seen someone step over cracks because they think something bad will happen to them? Watch someone repeatedly check to see if they left the lights on? These are all examples of people suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a highly intrusive problem that affects over two million people in the United States alone. Click here to read more about OCD and what can be done to treat this invasive disorder.
If you are having a crisis, please dial 911, or call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Sisters Taking On the Prevention of Suicide does not provide its own crisis hotline nor its own counseling services.
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